Saturday, June 11, 2011

Homily – Pentecost Year A June 12, 2011

Acts 2: 1-11 Corinthians 12:3b-7,12-13 John 20: 19-23

The images of Pentecost:
the disciples gathered in the upper room in fear;
the frightening wind; the ominous tongues of fire.
Meanwhile there was the hustle and bustle
of the crowd outside; it was the feast of Pentecost,
the Jewish celebration of the first fruits of the year’s planting.
There were many different cultures, some enemies and
the chaos of many languages simultaneously;
In among all of this the disciples were speaking in tongues,
telling of the mighty acts of God
AND yet everyone was hearing of these mighty acts of God
in his or her own language.

This is how the Church, our Church, was born;
So today we wish “Happy Birthday” to all Christian Churches.
But today represents much more than just an anniversary.

I’ll explore two points:
What was the real essence of that day, Pentecost,
AND what does it mean for us?


The wonder of wonders, the miracles of miracles, was not
the wind and the tongues of fire.
The miracle of that day was understanding.
This is the essence of Pentecost;
we celebrate the fact that the many and diverse peoples
could all understand the message.
The salvation taught by and bought by Jesus,
which was in the process of being understood by his disciples,
could now be understood by all.

The gift of Pentecost overcame the curse of Babel.
At Babel,
the people were unified in their earthly ambition and pride.
There was a unity of purpose to frustrate God’s plan for salvation.
God’s plan was that the people should follow him.
But the people at Babel decided that the way to get to heaven
was to build a tower to reach heaven,
so that they could get to heaven by themselves,
without the help of God.
And they were determined to do so.
Their unity of purpose was broken by God
as the people were made captives of their own languages.
God made it so that each person spoke in a tongue
not understood by any others,
and the project of the construction of the tower failed.

At Pentecost, a diversity of culture was brought to unity of purpose
by the power to understanding
in one’s own language, accent, dialect, whatever,
the mighty works of God.
This unity of understanding did not diminish the diversity.
The people were still Medes, Parthians or Elamites.
They did not become less than they were,
but rather more than they were.
They heard that God was alive and active in the world,
and that God was eager that they, all of them,
should participate in His work of salvation.
The gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost
brought them together in a fellowship, a COMMUNITY.

God’s plan that all might be one,
one with him and one with each other,
was being carried out on Pentecost.
The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of community,
the community of all Christians, all Catholics,
all of the Cathedral Parish.


What does that mean for us?
We, the Catholic Church, are also diverse.
Our ancestors could be German, Irish, French, Polish, Lebanese, Hispanic, Ukrainian, Philipino, African American, Vietnamese.
We might be lawyers, accountants, pilots, plumbers, electricians
doctors, teachers, engineers, scientists.
We are lay, clergy, religious, senior citizens, middle aged,
adolescents, infants, single, engaged, married, widowed.

We are a diverse parish, a microcosm of a diverse Church.
As Americans we occasionally celebrate our diversity,
Italian Fest in Newport, the Greek Festival in Cincinnati,
OctoberFest in Covington.
Yet this diversity, which we celebrate, can also be a curse,
a curse to maintain differences,
a curse that erects walls to hide behind,
walls we use to “protect” us from others.
We are diverse,
but we must remember that we are also brothers and sisters,
who share and hear in our own tongues
the mighty works of God.
It is BY the power of the Holy Spirit,
the spirit of understanding, fellowship and grace,
that we gather around the Lord’s table.
We are the modern Pentecost community!

This diversity and unity is taken up
in the familiar image of the Church
as St. Paul described in the Second reading of today
to the Corinthians.

We are each members of the Body of Christ, the Church.
We each hear God’s call in our own way.
We are each given our special part, to play,
just as each member of the human body
has a unique part to play,
the legs carry us along, the arms reach out,
the heart pumps the blood, the eyes send visual signals to the brain.
We are each equipped to carry out our particular form of service,
because we have each received,
the graces to do so at Baptism.
Those graces are made manifest in
what we know as the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit,
and these gifts were further strengthened in us
by the graces of the sacrament of confirmation.

The gifts are wisdom, understanding, knowledge, council,
fortitude, piety and fear of the Lord.
Wisdom is a sense of what things are and what things are not.
By wisdom we can discern our TRUE abilities,
what we can and cannot do.

Understanding can enlighten us about the consequences
of our uses of our abilities,
especially consequences as related to others.

Knowledge assists us in determining what it is that we are to do,
just how we are to use our abilities.

Council assists the intellect in pondering,
in weighing different possibilities, in making decisions.

These first four gifts help our intellect to determine
what we might contribute to the Body of Christ,
how our contributions might affect others in the Body of Christ
what our role will be
and how that role might change in the face of different
modes of action.

Fortitude is the gift of strength,
the strength of a steady conscience in the face of evil,
and the strength of recovery when we fall into sin.

Piety encourages us to prayerfully listen to God
and live out what we hear.

Fear of the Lord helps us to have the proper respect
for the Great Giver and the Creator of all
and for all his handiwork in creation.

These last three gifts of the Holy Spirit describe the proper manner
in which we each carry out our roles in the Body of Christ


Several Sundays ago we heard Jesus say
that he came to be the Good Shepherd for us, his flock.
The next week he said that he was leaving us
to prepare a place for us.
But the Good Shepherd does not leave his flock.
On the week after that he told the disciples
that, where he was going, they knew the way.
They protested that they did not know the way.
Then he said that he would ask the Father to send an Advocate.
And last week we heard Jesus say
that he would be with us until the end of the age.
It seems a bit confusing.
How do we bring this all together?

Jesus is truly the faithful Good Shepherd,
always with us, his flock, the Body of Christ.
Yes, he bodily left us,
but still is with us as the Head of the Mystical Body of Christ.
He invites us to follow him
to become members of His Mystical Body,
and, yes, we should know the way.
In recent weeks, we have heard the path to salvation
laid out for us.
But,just in case the disciples may not have been paying attention,
and just in case we also might find difficulty
in following the path of Jesus,
He said that the Father would send an Advocate,
one who is called to stand by us to support us.
That Advocate is the Holy Spirit.
God is true to his word and unfailing in his love.
Through the power of the graces of the Holy Spirit,
God has given us the gifts whereby we can fruitfully
occupy that place reserved for each of us
in the community of the Body of Christ.