HOMILY PENTECOST SUNDAY – YEAR A
Living the Paschal Mystery as a Personal Pentecost
(Acts 2:1-11; Psalm 104; 1 Cor 12:3-7, 12-13; John 20:19-23)
A missionary in China was approached by an elder who told him, “Reverend Father, I have no trouble understanding God the Father, and I have no trouble understanding God the Son, but I am having a difficult time understanding the Honourable Bird!”
Traditionally, Pentecost is celebrated as the beginning of the Church. The apostles receive the promised Spirit of Jesus and they are transformed, go out to all nations, spread the word and the Church is born.
Pentecost is also an invitation to live the Paschal Mystery and be the Body of Christ here on earth. During Holy Week we are in a way spectators –we just sit and watch it all happen to him – his passion, death, resurrection, appearances and ascension.
Pentecost, however, dynamically inserts us into that pattern. We receive the Spirit of Jesus, who now takes us through what happened to him, and it happens to us. We are empowered to go back into our own passion (our past hurts and pain), our deaths (our personal losses), our resurrection (we are survivors), our appearances (our need to grieve and mourn our losses) and finally our ascension (we forgive the hurt, and accept the losses). In and through the Spirit of Pentecost, we are propelled to follow Jesus through our own cross to resurrection and new life.
This new life is striking in contrast to the way most people live. Peace, Jesus’ first word to his disciples, is the sure sign of resurrection faith. Joy is their reaction – and that can be our daily bread as Church, as part of the risen body of Christ. Forgiveness is our work, our daily activity. Healing of life’s hurts is the bread and butter of the Church’s role in the world.
What is your experience of Pentecost? How has the Spirit been at work in your life? Albert is an example. During a sabbatical renewal program, his spiritual director encouraged him to see a counsellor, as he would never have that kind of opportunity again. Though very resistant, he obeyed, found a counsellor and started telling him his experience of his struggle to forgive his father for the way he raised Albert and his siblings as children. The counsellor stopped him cold when he interrupted him to say, “Albert, arguing with your dad for all those years out of anger is not the same as sitting down with your dad and sharing your feelings of anger with him.”
Albert was stunned, but knew exactly what he had to do. He did a one-day retreat and wrote a seven-page letter to his deceased father sharing with him all the feelings about how he had raised them that he had never told him when he was still alive. He then read the letter out loud to a pillow, imagining that his father was listening. When the counsellor asked him during his next session if it was more like an adult-to-adult relationship with his father now, Albert was stunned. That was it! They were friends now, who had shared feelings together, and no longer Albert the child and his father the big daddy.
As Albert drove home, he marvelled at how the color of the world had changed, had become brighter. It was as if he was wearing amber motorcycle goggles – so amazing an experience was this. He felt like he had received his father’s Spirit, and that his father was now with him in a new way.
What a powerful experience of the communion of the saints that was – if Albert was healing in his relationship with his father here on earth, then Albert believed that his father was healing in his relationship with him, wherever he was. He had a sense that because of this act of reconciliation, he was helping his father enter into heaven. Albert felt energized and excited – this was truly faith alive. This experience was a priceless gift for Albert. It is a gift that this gospel is inviting us all to share with Jesus in his relationship to the Father.
Pentecost fills us with the Spirit of the Rise Lord, and makes us one family in Christ. The Spirit is the blood that makes us all brothers and sisters in Christ, and challenges us to move beyond the constrictions of family and kinship clans.
What do we need to do? Pray daily for the Spirit. Bishop Sheen did that every day, and joked that if he was still selfish on the day he died, it would be God’s fault, not his, because he daily prayed for the spirit of healing.
The Eucharist that we now celebrate is a powerful gift of the Spirit that nourishes us and strengthens our minds, hearts and bodies in Christ.
So, remember – today is the first day of the rest of your life. Live the Paschal Mystery – be the Body of Christ here on earth.