Sunday, June 4, 2017

Homily for Solemnity of Pentecost

Homily for the
Solemnity of Pentecost
June 4, 2017
Acts 2: 1-11
John 20: 19-23
Holy Cross, Champaign, Ill.

“They were all filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2: 4).

From a medieval Liturgy of the Hours, ca. 1485
The Scriptures today offer us 2 versions of the gift of the Holy Spirit from Jesus to the Church.  We’re very familiar with both versions, St. Luke’s in Acts and St. John’s in the scene of Jesus’ appearance on the nite of his resurrection.

In either case, the risen Jesus sends the Spirit upon his apostles gathered in the upper room.  He sends the Spirit, it seems to me, for 2 purposes.  The 1st is to bind his disciples to himself, to our heavenly Father, and to one another.  The 2d is to enable them to carry on his work of human redemption.

Theologians speak of the Holy Spirit as the bond of love between God the Father and God the Son.  The Spirit is also the bond of love in our Christian lives.  This unity among believers is symbolized in the Pentecost story from Acts in the wondrous ability of all the listeners to understand the apostles’ preaching, regardless of their different languages:  Latin, Greek, Aramaic, Arabic, Farsi, and Lord knows what else.  The Spirit forges us all into one holy people of God, one universal communion of brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ.  “In the Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit” (1 Cor 12:13).

We’ve been given the same Spirit that came upon Jesus of Nazareth at his baptism in the Jordan.  At that time the Father voiced his pleasure in his beloved Son (Matt 3:17||).  The Spirit makes us, as well, beloved children of the Father, members of God’s family.  We are sealed or stamped as God’s own people, marked for an eternal destiny, heirs of the kingdom of God with Jesus Christ.  That gift of the Spirit was given to us in Baptism, was confirmed in our 2d sacrament of Christian initiation, and is renewed every time we commune with the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus.  We are one with all true believers in Jesus Christ in our time, in past ages, in time to come—this grand communion of saints bound together by the Holy Spirit.  As Fr. Dave would say, “How wonderful is that?”

On Easter nite, Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit (John 20:22), his Spirit, upon the disciples, huddled so fearfully in the upper room (20:19) where 3 nites earlier they’d all celebrated Passover.  With his Spirit he transmitted to them his mission of redeeming the world.  They were to go forth in the power of his Spirit and forgive sins, reconcile sinners to God (20:22-23).  That, pure and simple, is the work of the Church:  to reconcile sinners with the Father and the Son thru the Holy Spirit—not in any inherent power of bishops and priests to forgive sins but by the commission of Jesus and the gift of the Spirit.  In the power of the Spirit, the Church preaches the Gospel of Jesus and the Church celebrates the sacraments of Jesus in order to reconcile all of us with God, to fill us with God’s love—also called “grace”—to put us into that peace with God that Jesus bestowed upon his disciples on Easter nite.

“Come, Holy Spirit, come!  O most blessed light divine, shine within these hearts of thine, and our inmost being fill.  Heal our wounds, our strength renew, on our dryness pour thy dew; wash the stains of guilt away.  On the faithful who adore and confess thee, evermore thy sevenfold gift descend; give them thy salvation, Lord; give them joys that never end.  Amen!” (Sequence)

No comments: