Finding Your Pentecost Moment

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HOMILY FOR THE FEAST OF PENTECOST 2017

Readings:

Acts 2:1-11/1 Cor. 12:3-7, 12-13

Psalm: 104:1,24,29-31, 34

Gospel:  Jn. 20:19-23

The Feast of Pentecost is the one feast that seems to transcend faiths.  This was a feast in the Jewish calendar to celebrate the completion of the grain harvest.  This lasted 7 weeks starting with the harvest of the barley at Passover and the completion of the wheat harvest at Shavuot.  It was also to celebrate the time after the Hebrews left Egypt that God gave to Moses the Torah.  It was a time for the Jews to thank God for their many blessings, both in the fields and in their hearts. It is for this reason the Reading from Acts starts “When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled,” it means the end of the harvest. This day was a total day of rest and rejoicing for everyone.

Today, the Christian Church celebrates the feast of Pentecost, but for a different reason.  The disciples of Jesus were in the room where they had been staying since the Last Supper.  They received the Body and Blood of Christ at that feast.  They saw their Messiah nailed to a tree the next day and then rise from the dead three days later. Ten days prior, they saw him for the last time, but were promised that if they stayed in the city, the Holy Spirit would come down upon them like tongues of fire over each one of them.  This transcendent moment started a new movement in the proclamation of the Good News handed down by God.  First it was God the Father, then his angels and prophets.  Then came his son; and his son began the process of planting the new grain into the land and Pentecost was the day that the harvest of disciples was over and they went out to the entire world to continue the process of sowing and reaping. The two actions for the feast of Pentecost came together that day.  God’s message came to the land through the harvest that was planted by the Son.

With that in mind, the question we ask now is “What does Pentecost mean today?”  If we think it was just a moment in history, then Pentecost means nothing.  But if we listen to what happened in the First Reading, we hear that Pentecost moves on beyond the original meaning.  Because if it didn’t, then our faith becomes stagnant to the point that eventually it will become non-existent. What was once a living faith could very well turn itself into a hollow shell.  Without the Pentecost Moment, our faith is nothing but rubrics and ritual.  But with the Pentecost Moment, our faith becomes a true gift from God that we, in his grace, offer back.

As we continue to explore the Pentecost Moment, where do we look for it within the Church?  Pentecost is considered the Birthday of the Church.  At the moment the Holy Spirit came down upon the Apostles and settled into their souls, they stopped being who they were and became something more.  They were the extension of the ministry of Moses, of Isaiah, of Elijah, of John the Baptist and of Christ.  They were now “The voice crying out in the Wilderness.”[1]  That voice went out to all civilizations, not just the Jews.  When the Apostles left the room, it is said that the Holy Spirit enabled them to speak to all those who believed in God.

Those who were in Jerusalem for the Festival did not know what to make of this.  They had only heard the Jews speak Hebrew; now these Jews were speaking all languages.  This was proof that the Word of God was for all the world at all times, not just in Jerusalem spoken in Hebrew or Aramaic.  Pentecost became the inspiration for this new Church to spread the Gospel throughout the known world.

First, there was a Pentecost Moment in the faith.  Then there was a Pentecost Moment in the Church.  Now we ask of ourselves, “What has been our Pentecost Moment?”  Yes, we have received the Sacrament of Confirmation, but have we acknowledged this Sacrament in our words and actions?  Confirmation is our connection to the Apostles when they received the Holy Spirit.  We are asked to take part in the lives of all the faithful so we can make our world a better place.  Actress Dame Helen Mirren gave the Commencement Address at Tulane University.  During her speech, she spoke about, during her younger days, that she got a tattoo on her left hand.

At the time, she was trying to find something that would help her find the answers that would help her in her life.  She found a Mayan word that she felt sums everything up.  That word is “Inlakesh.”  It means:  “You are my other self.  We are one.  I am Another Yourself.”  Dame Helen explained this word further.  “Because if I’m you-I have a responsibility to you.  If you’re me-you have a responsibility to me.  The Mayans just had a more beautiful way of saying ‘we’re all in this together.’[2]  When we have our Pentecost moment, we become responsible for each other because we are a reflection of each other.  To hurt another is to hurt us; and if someone hurt us, they hurt themselves.  The Pentecost Moment brings us together because the more we connect with each other, the stronger we will be.  Our Pentecost Moments (in the faith, in the Church and in ourselves) allow us to understand the will of God and allow that understanding to be passed on through all generations.  This understanding starts in the family, the beginnings of our understanding.

The parents, like Mary and Joseph, who are the first teachers of the faith also learn from the children in how they understand what was taught to them.  The questions they ask help the parents delve deeper into our faith so that the child can gain a better understanding.  The teaching and the learning become a two way street. That instruction allows us to become strong in the faith and able to withstand any temptations the best we can.  Sometimes we are unable, but we understand and recognize from our instruction that from active participation in the Sacramental life of the Church can we get our lives back on track.  When we remain strong in the faith, then we become the examples that others are searching for so they, too, can gain strength and courage in their lives.

From that strength is the capacity to engage in activities within the parish itself that is needed so that the parish can thrive.  Through volunteering as an usher, reader, extraordinary minister, cantor, etc. we have the ability to enhance the Mass so that it becomes beneficial for everyone, not just a certain few who see the Mass as a way to gain notoriety in their participation or even in their criticism.

Lastly, the Pentecost Moment allows us to discern in what ways the faith can be best presented to the faithful.  The Diocese of Springfield, IL (of which I belong) has begun a year-long Synod in order to understand in what direction it should go in order to grow in the faith.  Of the points that were presented for discussion, two of them are linked in the how the faith is shared throughout our lives.  One proposal calls for a change in the way the Religious Education is offered from a model of Sacramental preparation to life-long formation.  This would entail having some sort of religious education being offered from youth through adult, not ending at Confirmation preparation or High School Youth Group.  This way the adults can assist the youth in their formation so that when they are adults they can offer assistance themselves.  The other proposal is that in order we view and understand the Sacraments as a way of growth and not of commencement, it is proposed to move the Sacrament of Confirmation in between Baptism and Communion. This was the original order of the Sacraments until over a century ago when Pius X in 1910 ordered that the reception of the Communion sacrament be lowered to the age of reason (around 7).  Unfortunately, Confirmation did not move along with Communion, which caused the order of the sacraments to be in the manner that we know today.

Now, while it has yet to be discussed at what ages these sacraments will be offered, the point today is that from our Pentecost Moment, we would be able to take a serious look at these points, provide competent commentary and help the diocese to decide what is best for us going forward.  On this Feast of Pentecost, let us allow the Holy Spirit to come into our hearts and hear the words of Christ proclaimed in the Gospel, “Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”[3]

MAY GOD BLESS YOU AND ALL THAT YOU DO THIS WEEK

 

[1] Jn. 1:23.

[2] Mirren, Dame Helen. “Commencement Speech at Tulane University” in Time May 21, 2017:   http://www.time.com

[3] Jn. 20:21.

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