The Holy Spirit: The life of the Church

Homily for Pentecost Sunday year C 2013

PentecostWhen I was in the seminary in Melbourne, I was once appointed as the Chapel Convenor, which means I had to look after the day to day celebrations of the Liturgy, making Rosters for liturgical celebrations and setting up for big religious events. Part of it was to prepare for the Stations of the Cross every Friday evening in lent. Sorry to disappoint you but Friday evening was a bit of a thing for us- seminarians- then. Friday evening was always a time to look forward to not only because it means we have a break from studies among other things, but also because Saturday is day off. And usually we then would start our day off after dinner on Friday by going on a movie marathon until dawn, etc. One Friday in Lent, I said to myself: “I need to do something different that would make me focus more on the Stations of the Cross than thinking on what movie I might be watching for the whole night.” So I invited seminarians of different nationalities and language to lead in each one of the stations, in their own language. It was done in English of course, in Italian, Vietnamese, Filipino, Croatian, Maltese, even in Kiwi, would you believe. That went well. That really kept me focused on the Stations of the Cross. That was one of my favourite things I did in the seminary. That was a Pentecost experience for me when we were reflecting on one devotion of our Christian faith through different languages reflecting different cultural backgrounds too. I might not have understood what they were saying but I know we were united in our reflection on the Stations of the Cross. That was really an experience to attest that the Holy Spirit is really at work.

Friends, my dear brothers and sisters, I’m sharing my experience of Pentecost this is what we celebrate today as a Church. We are celebrating this day as the birthday of the Church, the moment when the Church is being enflamed by the Holy Spirit and empowered to proclaim the Gospel to all the world, to all peoples, regardless of skin, nationalities and social status. Because of the gift of the Holy Spirit, we are one in Christ. We are one in faith, and here we are expressing that oneness in faith through this Eucharistic celebration. We may not have the same opinion. We may not have many things in common. In short, we may be different from one another, as we are all unique like everyone else so they say, yet we are one in Christ by virtue of our baptism. Thank you all for making a statement (by coming here) to the world that God is real, that the Holy Spirit is at work, and that Jesus is still alive among us and in each one of us.

And this is my prayer for you: That the event of Pentecost would happen again in all of us right here today. I pray that we would have the courage to go out and proclaim the ‘marvels of God’ to all people, starting from our families, friends and neighbours. One way I do this is through Facebook and Twitter.

I urged you too, to pray with me, together with the Psalmist: “Lord send out your Spirit and renew the face the earth.” Let us pray for the gift of the Holy Spirit to give us life, to sustain our faith and to give meaning to our hope.

We need the Spirit of God in our lives. We need the Holy Spirit because as one priest said the other night: ‘The Holy Spirit is the life of the Church.’ If the Holy Spirit is out of the picture, there is no point in everything we do as a Church now.

We need the Holy Spirit for many reasons. One reason is that like the disciples’ experience, it is the Holy Spirit that takes our fear away and gives us courage to proclaim the good news of Jesus despite threats of death, persecutions or even indifference. Our First Reading today is just a beautiful piece of evidence for this work of the Holy Spirit. The disciples were hiding in the upper room. The doors were locked. They were afraid of the authorities now that Jesus has left them on their own. He has ascended into heaven. But as God would have it, he fulfils his promise. He sent them the Holy Spirit as Jesus has promised them. Because of that, they went out of their comfort zones and went to the streets, preaching about God, telling others of Jesus Christ. This same Spirit is still at work even in our time and will always be. Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador would be one witness for this. He was so vocal against the injustices and corruption in his time on the 80’s, that he was threatened many times of death. One time he was asked: ‘Archbishop, with all these death threats around you, are you not scared?’ The good Archbishop answered: ‘I am. But even if my knees are shaking, I know I am standing on the right and firm ground.’ That was a Spirit at work in him.

Another reason we need the Holy Spirit today is because of the Mission that Jesus left for us to do. As Christians we are called to be the enduring and the living presence of the Risen Lord in the world. And this is possible if the Spirit of Christ is really in us.  It is a big call because of the many options people now have to face and to take, including God for that matter. Our time is characterized by commercialism and materialism- wherein the name of the game is: ‘If it doesn’t benefit me, or if it doesn’t suit me, or if I wouldn’t get anything out of it, why bother?’ As Christians we are to counter-act this prevailing attitude by allowing the Holy Spirit to work in us and through us. How we might do this? We don’t have to Google for answers. Let us just look around us. God has offered us many ways, many channels of his graces, for us to know and understand  that he is there, that his Spirit is at work. One example of this is what Pope Francis has been doing so far as the Pope. He is, as I have heard from many people “a breath of a fresh air for the Church.” His gestures are revealing to us some of the ways of the Spirit reminding us that real service is not knowing all, or being a jack of all  trades to everyone, but by fidelity to the message of the gospel and by loving selflessly and unconditionally. In a way the Pope is really carrying out what Jesus said in our gospel today: ‘If anyone loves me, he will keep my commandments.’ He is inflamed by the Spirit.

St Paul would also offer us another way to be the enduring presence of Christ in the world today, and that is: Our interests and ambitions must be deeper than just fulfilling our worldly ambitions and yearnings. It must be different from what the world’s expectations (glory, fame, honour, wealth, influence, etc). It must be a longing for heaven, a longing for eternal happiness, a longing for God. And this can be possible only if we allow the Holy Spirit to work in us, and to allow the Spirit of Jesus to be our motive, our goal and our reason to believe, to live and love.

So let us pray: Come Holy Spirit and renew the face of the earth.



6 comments on “The Holy Spirit: The life of the Church

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