Homily – The Solemnity of Pentecost
A little background as to what makes the Pentecost event remarkable. “Then they returned to Jerusalem … Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.” (Acts 1:12-14) Following the Lord’s instructions they went to Jerusalem and waited in prayer at the foot of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The most qualified person on earth who had the greatest expertise on the Holy Spirit and the Son of God.
They didn’t sit idle. They went about the work of Church ministry. “‘You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this apostolic ministry from which Judas turned away to go to his own place.’ Then they gave lots to them, and the lot fell upon Matthias, and he was counted with the eleven apostles.” (Acts 24-26)
That is the prologue to today’s events in SS. Everything that they were doing, praying with Mary, teaching SS, and ordaining a successor to the Apostles was ratified today as we read, And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. It was approved. Everything they had done was in accord with God’s will and endorsed by the Holy Spirit. We have now a new entity in the world, the Church. Jesus sent the Paraclete, Counselor, Advocate, His Spirit, on this day 1,987 years ago. Our Lord promises that it is to be here till His return.
Most clearly the power of this entity is manifests itself in the institutional Church. The hierarchical structure designed to draw the world together and lead the world to heaven. Christ prayed that we might all be one. We mustn’t think that such a prayer is pie-in-the-sky. He gave us the means to accomplish His desire at Pentecost.
According to the Annuario Pontificio, the Statistical Yearbook of the Church, Between 2013 and 2018, there was an increase of about 6% of Catholics worldwide. We now number at 1,329,000,000, an increase of 75 million people. (https://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/it/bollettino/pubblico/2020/03/25/0180/00411.html) Some estimate that we are nearly 18% of the world population. That seems to be an increase from 2010 whereby it was estimated that we were 16%. (https://www.livescience.com/27244-the-world-s-catholic-population-infographic.html)
What accounts for this?
This growth should remind us of the power of the Holy Spirit that is still active. We’ve had some rough times as of recent. And quite literally the Church wasn’t there for us. Historically there are times of crisis where the institutional Church isn’t available. (interdict, war, pestilence) Nevertheless this doesn’t mean that Christ has reneged on His promise to be with us always. St. Paul explained what the Holy Spirit is to the Romans, “The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes with sighs too deep for words.” (Rom 8:26) Hopefully without the Church to help you keep holy the Lord’s Day in the usual manner you engaged in some of your own formal prayers. The Holy Spirit is available to help you form the domestic church too.
God needs to return to a prominent place in our lives. When I say God, I speak of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, yet on this day I explicitly remember that God the Holy Spirit, as promised by God the Son and sent by the Father, has birthed the Church. We must avoid considering the Holy Spirit, Christ, and the Church as separate powers going in different directions. The Holy Trinity is three persons yet one, similarly, the Church is one with Christ.
Through the Church we are more able to give God His due and build our lives in a Christian manner. A life of faith, hope and charity that is infused with supernatural grace from regularly participating in the sacraments.
Recently, I was asked by a diocesan bureaucrat, how might we repackage the church? You know the jive: mission statement, corporate logo, branding, marketing, blah, blah, blah. The idea is that we need to reinvent ourselves to conform to something formed by the corporate world or the market. I stated clearly that we needed the model established by Christ: a parish.
The Apostles today, get the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to proclaim the Gospel. They also got His special charismatic gifts to speak to the multinational group in their own languages. But this isn’t the model that sticks. With that commencement, they established churches in all parts of the world. They didn’t just preach inspirationally to a large group in a variety of languages. They baptized, confirmed, offered Mass, forgave sins, anointed the sick, sanctified marriages and ordained local men in these various locations to keep the believers in contact with the Spirit and His power, not just His inspiring stories.
This is the basic model of our Catholic Church: diocesan and parochial. It is a physical place, where people can come hear the Word of God, be sanctified by the sacraments and take solidarity in follow believers, those who are members of this Mystical Body of Christ. We might do well to nuance it a bit for each different community, but that is the basics that we need to start with. We need that for our SKD community and we at SSM need to get back to that model a.s.a.p.
In the midst of this disruption and anxiety we need the Holy Spirit’s consolation that comes through His gifts of Wisdom, Knowledge, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Piety and Fear of the Lord. You say to yourself that you remember a vague lesson in catechism class that spoke of those. How to we get them? Or rather, better said, how do we activate them?
Don’t overlook the great gift that the Apostles had and treasured, the Blessed Virgin Mary. On the first day of the Month of Mary our nation’s bishops invoked her intercession when they re-consecrated the US to the BVM and her protection. Here we are gathered for a our first Public Mass on the last day of May, a day that providentially has the double significance this year of being not only the day that we traditionally celebrate Our Lady’s Visitation, May 31, but also the day that marks the birth of the Church, a day that she helped midwife, Pentecost.
Pray the Rosary. It is the prescription for our age. Live-stream Masses are great, but don’t be a passive couch potato in prayer. Pick up the beads and get involved in the Mysteries of the Rosary, the mystery of our faith, the fruit, the evidence of the Holy Spirit at work in our world. Let her help you bring Him into your home.