Sunday, June 8, 2014

Homily for Pentecost

Homily for
June 8, 2014
1 Cor 12: 3-7, 12-13
John 20: 19-23
St. Vincent’s Hospital, Harrison, N.Y.

“There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit” (1 Cor 12: 4).

In the Church at Corinth, it seems that there was a competitiveness concerning spiritual gifts, such as speaking in tongues, healing, teaching ability, etc.  St. Paul had to remind the Christians that “the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit” to the entire Church, the entire body of Christ, and not for the glory of one individual.

We don’t see spectacular gifts much in the Church, e.g., healing or speaking in tongues.  Certainly there are many gifted people who use their talents, theirs gifts from God, for the benefit of the Church:  singers, preachers, teachers, financial advisors, architects, decorators, cleaners, etc.  There are many different ways of serving Church, both humble and grand; what matters is to do it for the benefit of everyone.

But the most important gift of the Holy Spirit is the one we find in today’s gospel reading:  “Jesus said to them, ‘Peace be with you’” (20:21).  And this gift is available to everyone, not just a few.

The peace that Jesus offers isn’t a worldly peace like civic harmony and good will, or political bipartisanship, or an international treaty.  Jesus said something like that at the Last Supper:  “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  Not as the world gives do I give it to you” (John 14:27), words that we echo in the Communion rite at Mass.  Jesus grants interior peace, peace of soul.  That peace is something we all desire, something we all need, something entirely independent of our physical, political, and social circumstances.  That peace is found in a healthy relationship with God.

When we sin, we damage that relationship.  But Jesus restores it.  We hear him in today’s gospel giving to his apostles, and thru them to his Church, the power to forgive sins, to cleanse our guilt, to reconcile us with God:  “Peace be with you.  I send you with the Holy Spirit to forgive sins” (cf. 20:21-23).  Peace and forgiveness are linked, both flowing from the presence of the Spirit.

In one of Jesus’ arguments with the Pharisees, they said, “No one but God can forgive sins” (Mark 2:7).  Quite true.  It’s precisely God who acts:  “Receive the Holy Spirit,” Jesus tells his apostles.  By the Holy Spirit they forgive sins, and by the Holy Spirit the Church continues to forgive sins.

If you want to be at peace, turn to God.  Bring him your sins and let him erase them.  Filled with divine peace, bring peace and good will and forgiveness to your family, your neighbors, and the people you work with.  Led by the Holy Spirit, God’s gift to you, make your own little contribution to a more peaceful world.

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