FR. TOM'S HOMILY FOR THE SOLEMNITY OF PENTECOST, May 31, 2020:
A priest that I follow on Twitter made an interesting observation about our Gospel today as we return to our first public Masses since going into quarantine. He wrote, “We open our church this weekend with the Gospel basically criticizing the disciples for staying home in fear, and then Jesus breathes on them.” Could there be a message more in violation of our CDC protocols?! Stay home, stay safe, save lives!
We heard from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans today, “We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now; and not only that, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, we also groan within ourselves…For in hope we were saved…The Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness…the Spirit intercedes with inexpressible groanings.”
As we gather for this celebration of the Holy Mass – the first time we have done so in person in nearly three months – these words of St. Paul have a strong resonance in our hearts. We are groaning in pain even until now. We groan in the pain of a world that continues to be rocked by a virus that has taken the lives more than 360,000 people and effected nearly 6 million people around our world. And we groan in pain as another sickness – this one not of the body, but of the heart and mind and soul – the sickness of racism once again rears its ugly head in grotesque fashion as we see in the horrible murders of Breonna Taylor in Kentucky and George Floyd in Minnesota. How many victims have racism and prejudice and hatred taken over the centuries? How many more will they take if we watch quietly, helplessly?
Our groaning over COVID19 will pass. Eventually there will be a vaccine. Eventually the scourge of this virus will leave us and this will become a historical note that we have survived. But there will be no vaccine for racism. There is no pill that we can take to rid our hearts of hatred. This is work that we must do ourselves.
Thankfully, as we gather on this beautiful day, we also gather to celebrate the cure. We celebrate Pentecost and the gift of the Holy Spirit, the promised Advocate. St. Paul tells us that the Spirit also groans at the pains that surround us. But, the Holy Spirit of God wants to do far more than groan. God’s Spirit wants to inhabit us; God’s Spirit wants to dwell within us; God’s Holy Spirit wants to lead us and guide us to rid this ugly sickness of racism and prejudice from our hearts. St. Paul also tells us in his Letter to the Galatians, “Through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus…You have clothed yourself with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male or female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
My friends, through the grace of our baptism, through the gift and the guidance of the Holy Spirit we know there is not black or white, or Asian or Hispanic, there is not gay or straight, immigrant or refugee – there is only son and daughter; there is only brother and sister.
Jesus breathed and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” My friends on this day, at this Holy Mass, let us take a deep breath. Let us breathe in the very Spirit of the living God who wants to mold us, change us, and make us His own. And let us breathe out all hatred and fear, all anxiety and doubt, all racism and prejudice that still holds space in our hearts – because they space they occupy in our hearts leaves increasingly less and less room for God’s Holy Spirit to dwell there. And let us not only breathe it out of our hearts, but let us stand with one another, for one another – each of our brothers and sisters, no matter who they may be. Let us choose respect, equality, acceptance, dignity, diversity, kindness, forgiveness, and love. Let us choose one another and say to everyone, “You are my sister. You are my brother.”
The story of Pentecost began in fear in the upper room, but with the gift of the Spirit, the disciples were given courage to leave that fearful place and proclaim the Kingdom of love and reconciliation with boldness. We can sometimes be afraid to stand up boldly. We can be afraid to speak up when we see injustice, prejudice, and racism around us. But, Jesus said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” not only to His disciples then, but you and to me today. And if we trust Him, He will equip us with the strength, the courage, and the words to rid our world of this darkness.
We have to wait for doctors and scientists – people more intelligent in these things than you or me – before we will rid the world of COVID19. But, we do not have to wait another second to rid our hearts and our communities of this sickness of hatred in our hearts. It begins with each one of us and then extends to all those around us. Breathe in God’s Holy Spirit today.
The Holy Spirit reminds us today especially that we have a mission to tell everybody the Good News that God is their Father, that God is the Father of us all –that in spite of all the differences of language and culture and status, we are one family and we can live as brothers and sisters. Our mission is to break down any barrier that divides us and to bring all people to speak the one universal language of love. This is possible only through the working of the Holy Spirit. And so, Jesus says, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
So, on this day of Pentecost, let this be our prayer, “Come Holy Spirit and fill the hearts of your faithful – fill my heart and your heart – and enkindle in us the fire of your love.” This is what the Holy Spirit does. When fear freezes our faith into silent submission, the Holy Spirit warms us up – enkindles the fire - and empowers us to go out and make a difference.
“Come Holy Spirit and fill the hearts of us, your faithful people, and enkindle in us the fire of your love so that we can spread the Good News of your Kingdom to all the world and at last put this sickness to rest.”
May the Lord give you peace.
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