May 23, 2021 – Pentecost Sunday
I will be delivering the following homily at St. Pius X Parish today:
Ten-year-old Tommy unwrapped the birthday gift from his parents and was delighted to find the newest Pokemon video game. He was beyond excited since he had been hinting at this gift for several months.
Tommy’s dad was also pleased as he considered himself quite the gamer and looked forward to playing the new game with his son.
Tommy’s younger brother, Nicholas, was equally excited. Tommy had told him that if he got the new game for his birthday, he would give the old Pokemon game to Nicholas.
Tommy’s mom may have been happiest of all. She knew that with all her boys tucked away in the basement with a new video game, she would have a few hours of peace in the house.
The family dog even found enjoyment as she played with and chewed on the box the game had come in.
One gift with varied benefits to all.
The liturgical seasons are marked by gift-giving. On Christmas, Christ was born; he was God the Father’s gift to us. Jesus served as an example of how to live a life of holiness and directed us to a love of God and others. It was a gift given freely to us, with no obligation attached, simply a willingness to receive it.
The passion, death, and Easter morning resurrection of Jesus were a gift to us. Through his sacrifice, we were freed from sin and offered the sure and certain hope of eternal life. It was an undeserved gift to be used as we see fit.
And then there is Pentecost, considered the birthday of the Christian Church. We are given the gift of the Holy Spirit. This gift, while still given freely by God and undeserved, is not realized until it is put into use.
In other words, if after receiving the Holy Spirt, the apostles had decided to remain behind locked doors, was it a gift at all? The gift gave birth to the Church; the Christian Church is not passive, but active.
The gift of the Holy Spirit appeared to each of the apostles in the form of tongues of fire. However, the true beauty of the gift, like Tommy’s new video game, was that it gave each of the apostles just what he needed.
In the second reading, from St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, we heard: To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.
For some of the apostles, the gift of the Holy Spirit gave them the courage to unlock the door and step outside once again, suddenly unafraid of what awaited them. And it was raw courage; not slowly-sliding-back-the-lock-and-peering-out-the-door courage, but kick-down-the-door courage.
For others, the Holy Spirit gave them their voice. Up to that point, their faith and their love of Jesus Christ had been kept within the community or held in the silence of their hearts. Now they felt the need to proclaim it. They now realized their faith, while personal, was not private. It was meant to be shared.
In today’s gospel, we heard, “…the Spirit will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming.”
God will speak to us through the Holy Spirit. When we embrace the truth we hear, we become the voice of God.
For some of the apostles, the gift of the Holy Spirit offered hope. For them, the hope of the resurrection was tenuous. They clung to the hope that Jesus would do as he promised. He had assured them he would send help. It is written in the Gospel of John: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth…I will not leave you orphans…” (John 14:16-18)
With the coming of the Holy Spirit, the promise of Jesus was fulfilled. Jesus said he would rise from the dead and he did. He said he would send an Advocate and he did. This instilled confidence and hope that everything Jesus had said was indeed true.
For still others, the gift of the Holy Spirit provided the armor needed to carry on the work to which they were called. Jesus had already provided them their marching orders: “Go out into the world and preach the gospel to every living creature.” Jesus had also been clear that doing that work would put them in harm’s way. Now, they could strap on the armor of the Holy Spirit and enter the battle.
It is Pentecost Sunday and the gift of the Holy Spirit sits in a wrapped box on our table. Before we open it, we should consider what we want to find. What is it we need?
Do we need courage? Is fear holding us back from doing the work of God? Fear of the response we may get from others or that we are unworthy? Fear of our shortcomings? Fear of failure? The Holy Spirit will provide kick-down-the-door courage.
Do we need a voice? We know the gospel message and believe it. We also know we have an obligation to proclaim it. All we need is a voice. The Holy Spirit gives us that voice – a voice that will allow us to proclaim in words and the voice of our hearts that will allow us to proclaim by the love we share with others.
Do we need hope? These past two years have certainly challenged us in ways we’ve never been challenged before. Many of us have begun to see the world as a glass half full, or perhaps even a glass nearly empty. Jesus said he would send us an Advocate and he has. Open the gift of the Holy Spirit and embrace a renewal of hope.
Do we need armor? Perhaps we have the courage to kick down the door and the desire to proclaim the gospel in full voice from the rooftop, but simply feel ill-equipped. The world may not want to hear what we have to say. Despite our courage and desire, we won’t last long without armor to protect us. The Holy Spirit provides the armor needed to enter the battle for the long haul.
Whatever your own personal need may be, open the gift of the Holy Spirit and embrace it. Know that it was designed specifically for you by a loving God who knows you better than anyone.
That alone should provide you, like Tommy’s mom, with a few hours of peace.