Pentecost Sunday May 31, 2020

Today, we cannot hide behind red vestments and hanging doves and so called, “Coming of the Holy Spirit” if our lives are not filled with the goodness, the love and the justice of a Holy Spirit.

For centuries, we have waved the flags of Pentecost each year, whoopee for the Holy Spirit, but then continue to live our lives and to think about our lives without the Holy Spirit.

We box up our Jesus, our church teachings, the fullness of our Christian faith and replace them with the political philosophy of parties that often suit our biases, our prejudices, and our greeds.  At times, our so-called “principles” step on the necks of others.

Surely not “I”?  Judas asked Jesus.  It is fashionable to curse the coronavirus and to pretend that we have conquered it.  Alternative realities help no one and do not stop a plague.

And when we become tired of being controlled, we lash out and demand our rights.  And we forget that at the heart of Catholic Social Justice Teaching is the right to life.  That is the only absolute right.  And all other rights derive from it.  Our objection to inconvenience is not an absolute right.

More than anyone else, St. Paul knew that you can say “Jesus is Lord” only because the Holy Spirit lives in you.

You can be a ritual Catholic, you can be a Catholic all your life and go to Church every Sunday, and not really say in your heart that “Jesus is Lord.”

St. Paul reminds us that we are part of the Body of Christ.  Jesus is not just my personal object of faith, nor is my interpretation of what Jesus says on my idea of what I think is the Catholic Faith is not necessarily the Catholic Faith, or how Jesus wants us to think, or to believe, or to act. “For in one Spirit, we are all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons” — and “we were all given to drink of one Spirit.” 

Today, we remember that we drank of the One Spirit.  And today’s Gospel reminds us that Jesus reminds that he has sent us, in his name, to carry on and to complete what he had to say about life.  We are not here to push each other around.  We are not here to shout louder as if any one of us has a preferred voice or possesses a clearer truth.

Jesus breathes on us once again today.  He tells us that his spirit lives in us.  Do we hear his voice in ours?  “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them” (John 20:23).  Do we recognize our own sins, humbly, so that we can reach out humbly to others?  How do we walk “The Talk” of Jesus?

There were plagues in Jesus’ day, mostly due to lack of sanitation and lack of medical knowledge.

There was ardent racism in Jesus’ day, the buying and selling of slaves, human degradation.  The inherent dignity of human life was a growing light, and expressed only through Jesus’ new way. 

Life was cheap, expendable.  These were classes of people who dominated one another.  There was no upward mobility… you were born into what you would remain.

And don’t romanticize St. Luke’s late 1st century description of Pentecost.  “All were filled with the Holy Spirit.”  The fact is that there is a difference between “being filled” and letting ourselves “receive.”

We have some hint at the confusion the Holy Spirit caused– people who never listened before to each other, began to listen and understood.  It is one thing to hear the mighty acts of God; it is another to be moved by them in an emotional and personal way, so as to be changed, converted, humbled and become a servant of those mighty acts of God.  Only when we become the servants of God’s mighty acts, do we live Pentecost.

For many years, the Catholic Church has promoted Pentecost, calling the event “The Birthday of the Church.”  But more than a historical moment and more than a birthday celebration, each baptized Catholic has received the mystical and personal presence of Jesus the Christ into the presence of their own lives.  What does that mean and what effect does that have?

Jesus knew that we would like to keep him in our own box of spiritual treasures.  That is when we get in a spiritual racism.  What do I mean by that?

My Italian Catholic religious heritage is better than your Irish religious heritage?  My devotions and prayers that I like are better than yours.  The latest popular Catholic devotion is the best.  The way I do it is better than yours.  Following the rules of how we have done things provides a necessary divine order to life and racial intermarriage?

It has taken 2,000 years for the Catholic Church to get where it is today.  For many centuries, the Church and the State were one and conspired to control society to benefit certain classes of people.  That never was the Gospel!

The curse of the Catholic Church is to promote a mindset that the Church and the spiritual life is static and will never change

It has never been so, and is not static, even though there are parts of the Church that want to make it so.

Where is the Holy Spirit?  Is the Pandemic a part of the Holy Spirit, calling us to live our lives differently?

Is the recurring call to end racism in all its historical forms the presence of the Holy Spirit?

Is the growing effects of Climate Change a wake up call of the Holy Spirit?

Is the Holy Spirit nagging us and provoking us to appreciate the mighty acts of God?

The Solemnity of the Holy Spirit, the Pentecost, is not about the color red, or the Sacrament of Confirmation, or flames of fire.

I can only imagine the frustration of Jesus.  “Would you please receive me into your hearts?  Would you please stop thinking your old selfish thoughts and start to think and to love and to appreciate life like I do?  For God’s sake, do the work that I asked you to do?”

Is that not what Jesus said on the night of the Resurrection? “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”  All of us together.  

While we may not be able to defeat the coronavirus, we can defeat selfishness, anarchy, and racism.

This Pentecost, we are still not speaking the same language of the Spirit!

2 thoughts on “Pentecost Sunday May 31, 2020

  1. Thank you, Father Richard.
    I have reached the point that I’m willing to lose family and friends for the sake of fighting racism, bigotry and hatred. I can only sign petitions and forward messages that it’s past time for all of us to wake up as to what is happening around us. I do believe that the pandemic, climate change, and the racial unrest which is still going strong, is a call from the Holy Spirit warning us to look at our lives, and how we live it.

    Like

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