Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Pentecost: The Fire of the Spirit

(Note: This was originally a homily given at Pentecost on May 24, 2015. I did not have a script and so the written version is a near-facsimilie, but lacking the timing and effect I went for when speaking publicly).

On this holy feast of Pentecost I would like us to reflect on the Spirit and His work in our lives, namely that there are two ways which we use one: we can use it to mean “alone” and we can use it to mean “together.”

How is it that we’re alone? Paul in Galatians tells us that the works of the flesh rip us apart and isolate us. The works of the flesh are envy, greed, immorality, immodesty, lack of chastity, wrath and anger, rivalry, and hatred (cf., Gal 5:16-19). We see this in our own lives and we’ve all had these feelings. But we must recognize that these acts are acts of power and control where we seek to impose our will on the world and others, taking from the weak, the helpless, and those we consider less than ourselves. These aspects gather all things to ourselves, but isolate us and make us one and alone.

But the Spirit is something better and greater. Humility, patience, gentleness, faithfulness, and love. Each of these acts, paradoxically, ask us to give of ourselves little by little, lifting the other up in charity and peace.

I find no better example of this notion of alone and together than in families. If a spouse, or even indeed a child, is greedy, jealous, domineering, ungrateful, or mean-spirited, it tears a family apart. But if all members of a family are patient, patient with each other’s shortcomings, humble, knowing that they are not perfect or always right, gentle in chiding them to a better life in Christ, and loving—that is, self-sacrificing—than that family will stand firm for generations, in life and in death. We all know of our weaknesses, whether they are sexual, or matters of pride, jealousy, envy, gossip, or laziness. We all share in these weaknesses of the flesh, but through grace we share in the strength of the Holy Spirit.

It is the Spirit that affords us these graces which God pours out so generously upon us. It is the Spirit that allowed the Apostles to speak many languages, so that all peoples and ages might hear one message. That one message is the love of the Father, the victory of Christ Jesus over sin and death—a victory we baptized share in, the presence of the Spirit of truth, and that the Church, the bride of Christ, shares the glorious work of God on earth.

One more image that I think is useful for us is the very bread that we bless and consecrate at the holy altar. The bread that we use is made of many grains, formed into one with water, and then finally baked by fire.

We too, because of the work of the most blessed Trinity, are made into one. We are gathered, all of us varied and different, by the will of the Father. He calls us together and, through the blood of the Son, we are prepared as one. Lastly, the Spirit, who is rightly symbolized as a holy flame, perfects us in love and grace so that we might become holy, that is like God. Thus we, brothers and sisters, are prepared as a bread pleasing to almighty God, but not merely for Him, but for the whole world. The blood and water that poured from Christ’s side on the Cross prepare us for this task, and the Spirit strengthens us along the way.

Like Christ, we are one Body and one Bread, prepared for the world and given up for the sake of the world. For everyone, not only us Catholics, but for all of our brothers and sisters. We are given up for their sins, their weaknesses, and the evil that they do, for we know that we too share in all the same weaknesses and faults. We, nonetheless, rely on the power of the Trinity to make us an acceptable offering for the whole world so that all of us, so many scattered and alone, may be one in Spirit and in truth.