Homily for Pentecost Sunday
Happy Feast Day to the wonderful people of Holy Spirit Parish! If you had asked me a few months ago, what our feast day would look like, I would have said something such as, “we will probably have great crowds with great energy… everyone wearing red and lots of food!” However, this year is much different. Perhaps our responsorial psalm for today gives us a clue to what we need to be focusing on as a faith community…as Christians: “Lord, send forth your Spirit and renew the face of the earth.” Perhaps we need to open our minds and hearts to the ‘renewal’ that is going on within us and around us. Or be bold and ask, “what is the renewal we seek from the Lord today?” Is it a simple face-lift for our world? Or is it something deeper than that needed?
The face of our world has changed these past few months in ways that we never expected. We know it well… people sheltering at home, silent streets and some store shelves that are bare, empty spaces between people and worried faces hidden behind masks, closed up shops, silent businesses, daily news updates of more positive cases for covid 19, and the death toll rising all around us in our country. But there have been other reports as well: a remarkable surge of concern for one another, a spontaneous spread of mask-making industry at home, efforts to make and distribute food, heroic first responders and those on the front lines and medical care-givers being cheered. These uplifting stories have almost muted the news report of political and international squabbles. Are these stories glimmers of hope that this new outbreak of human kindness will survive in whatever the new normal will be?
The disciples of Jesus had suffered a devastating loss when he was crucified. The world they knew was gone, too. But their world was renewed far beyond what they could have imagined. Acts tell us the story. Gathered in Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost (Shavuot) with people “from every nation under heaven,” the disciples were overtaken by the Spirit Jesus had promised to send them. In the mighty wind, they felt the Spirit’s full power and in the tongues of fire that came and rested on them, their own tongues were set ablaze with the energy of the Spirit. They found the courage to leave their place of shelter, to go out and boldly proclaim the gospel of Jesus. And as today’s preface tells us, their hearers were “brought together from the many languages of the earth in the profession of one faith.” Three thousand were added to the community that day!
In the Gospel reading, we heard that Jesus had already breathed the Spirit on the disciples when he appeared to them as they huddled in their locked room on Easter day. The gift of the Spirit was part and parcel of what John calls the “hour of Jesus’ glorification. What happened in that closed room? Jesus reaffirmed the mission that had been given to them at the Last Supper: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” They were called to carry on the work of spreading God’s love and mercy. In other words, the Holy Spirit gave them full authority to renew the lives of all people.
So, what hope and charge does that give us for the renewal of our world today? Can we Christians not fan into full flames the spark of renewal human kindness we now see around us and make that our life-long mission?
Yes, this is our feast day and yes, things are different but the message is still the same: that we will truly be instruments of Jesus and his Holy Spirit in ‘renewing the face of the earth.’