Homily for the
Solemnity of PentecostJune 12, 2011
Psalm 104: 1,24,29-31,34
John 20: 19-23
1 Cor 12: 3-7, 12-13
Ursulines, Willow Dr., N.R.
“When you send forth your spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth” (Ps 104: 30).
"Jesus has poured this Spirit you see and hear": mosaic in the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington, D.C.
The 1st 2 verses of the Bible speak of God’s creating the heavens and the earth “in the beginning,” and of a divine wind—or the spirit of God—sweeping over primordial waters as part of that creative process. I’m no paleontologist, but those who study the beginnings of life on our planet tell us, as I understand it, that all life forms emerged from the sea. The so-called Priestly Source of this section of Genesis had no idea how uncanny his description has turned out to be!
The point of the story, of course, is that God has given all order and all life and all goodness to the universe. God has literally “inspired” creation. God’s plan from “the beginning” was that all of creation should be alive and thrive in an orderly relationship with him. Again, the Psalmist picks up on that theme: “How manifold are your works, O Lord! The earth is full of your creatures” (104:24). St. Irenaeus gives us the patristic insight: “The glory of God is man fully alive.”
The sin of the 1st human beings introduced disorder and death in God’s universe, listening not to the divine Spirit but to the evil spirit: Sine tuo numine, nihil est in homine, nihil est innoxium, very freely rendered, “Where you are not, we have naught: Nothing good in deed or thought, Nothing free from taint of ill.”
So we may rightly claim that the divine Spirit intervened to restore God’s will for the universe: Mary conceived of the Holy Spirit, and the Word was made flesh. The 1st word spoken by the Word after his resurrection is “Shalom!” Peace be with you! The word of life is a word of peace, and that peace follows from the reconciliation between God and sinners: “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them” (John 20:23). The Spirit is life-giving, for it’s God’s most ardent desire that we be fully alive. “May the glory of the Lord endure forever; may the Lord be glad in his works!” (Ps 104:31). “The glory of God is man fully alive.”
As you know, water that just sits becomes stagnant, repulsive, dead. God’s Spirit isn’t stagnant. Jesus uses the image of flowing water to refer to the Spirit, especially in John’s Gospel: we must be born again of water and the Spirit (3:5); Jesus offers the Samaritan woman the gift of living water, flowing water (4:10); from whoever believes in Jesus will flow “rivers of living water” (7:38-39); from the pierced side of Jesus flow blood and water (19:34). So those who are filled with the Spirit, those who are fully alive in Christ, act accordingly. They flow, they move, they generate life. On the day of Pentecost, “they all began to speak in different tongues” (2:4) and then went out and preached Jesus Christ. Likewise, Paul says that to be able to proclaim “Jesus is Lord” is a gift of the Spirit (1 Cor 12:3), and the Spirit gives a great variety of gifts to the disciples of Jesus “for some benefit” (12:7).
The Cascade of Slid, a stretch of Pine Meadow Brook in Harriman State Park, New York
God’s dynamic Spirit impels believers to act on what they believe, in “different forms of service,” in “different workings” for the glory of God and the spread of the Good News that “Jesus is Lord,” for the reconciliation of sinners with God, for the restoration of goodness and order in the created universe. Lava quod est sordidum, riga quod est aridum, sana quod est saucium. Da virtutis meritum, da salutis exitum, da perenne gaudium: “Heal our wounds, our strength renew; On our dryness pour thy dew; Wash the stains of guilt away. Give us virtue’s sure reward; Give us your salvation, Lord; Give us joys that never end.”
Sisters, you are sent by the Risen Jesus to preach that Good News, to work with the Spirit of God to effect peace and reconciliation. The different spiritual gifts you have received—of virtue, of teaching, of prayer, of leadership, of wisdom, of discernment, of inner healing, etc.—bring them to your community; bring them to the people of God “for some benefit,” for building up the body of Christ. Fill the earth with the glory of God!