Pentecost Sunday (A), June 12, 2011 Audio Homily

Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Anthony of Padua Church, New Bedford, MA
Pentecost Sunday (A)
June 12, 2011
Acts 2:1-11, Ps 104:1 24 29-31 34, 1Cor 12:3-7 12-13, Jn 20:19-23

To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click at the bottom of the page. The following text guided this homily:

REBIRTH AND RENEWAL

  • Pentecost
    • As he was ascending into heaven, Jesus told the apostles to stay in Jerusalem awaiting the promise of the Father, when, “before many days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” He told them, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.”
    • Today we celebrate the fulfillment of that promise. The apostles returned to the Upper Room and “with one accord devoted themselves to prayer together with Mary, the mother of Jesus” and the brothers and sisters in the faith. And on the ninth day of their prayer, suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, filled the Upper Room, appeared as tongues of fire that separated and rested on each of them, and they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in various languages. These men who 53 days before had betrayed the Lord out of human weakness were now filled with heavenly power in order faithfully to give witness to him. Together with the Holy Spirit, they burst forth from the upper room and began to continue Jesus’ mission, the mission he gave them at his ascension, to go out and teach all nations, to baptize, to save the world.
    • Today we are in the same Upper Room. Today the same Holy Spirit wants to come to upon us with power, to make us Jesus’ witnesses in New Bedford, in Massachusetts, in the northeast and to the end of the earth.” He wants to work a similar miracle in us that he worked in them. But, as with those in the early Church, he needs our cooperation. I’d like to focus on five things we have much to learn from that first Pentecost to help us to receive and respond to all that the Holy Spirit wants to do in us today.
  • The first is prayer
    • The Holy Spirit came down when they were praying, praying together with Mary. They were asking for the Gift of the Holy Spirit. They knew they needed Him. They knew they needed his help, as Jesus said he’d give, to remember all that he had taught them. They knew they’d need his help not to be afraid when they would have to give witness before civil and religious officials. They knew they’d need all that was prophesied the Spirit would give when he would come upon them, his wisdom, knowledge, understanding, prudence, courage, reverence, and help to fear the Lord with awe. They opened themselves up to receive the gift. So, too, we need to pray.
    • B16 WYD: Yet this power, the grace of the Spirit, is not something we can merit or achieve, but only receive as pure gift. God’s love can only unleash its power when it is allowed to change us from within. We have to let it break through the hard crust of our indifference, our spiritual weariness, our blind conformity to the spirit of this age. Only then can we let it ignite our imagination and shape our deepest desires. That is why prayer is so important: daily prayer, private prayer in the quiet of our hearts and before the Blessed Sacrament, and liturgical prayer in the heart of the Church. Prayer is pure receptivity to God’s grace, love in action, communion with the Spirit who dwells within us, leading us, through Jesus, in the Church, to our heavenly Father. In the power of his Spirit, Jesus is always present in our hearts, quietly waiting for us to be still with him, to hear his voice, to abide in his love, and to receive “power from on high”, enabling us to be salt and light for our world.
    • The Holy Spirit helps us to pray, because we don’t know how to pray as we ought. He helps us to cry out Abba, Father. He strengthens us to pray not just with words but with the heart, with inexpressible groanings, begging for what God wants to give. And Jesus tells us that whenever we pray for anything, God the Father wants to give us, in addition to or instead of what we’ve requested, the Holy Spirit.
    • B16 2009 Homily:  If we do not want Pentecost to be reduced to a mere ritual or to a suggestive commemoration, but that it be a real event of salvation, through a humble and silent listening to God’s Word, we must predispose ourselves to God’s gift in religious openness. So that Pentecost renew itself in our time, perhaps there is need — without taking anything away from God’s freedom [to do as he pleases] — for the Church to be less “preoccupied” with activities and more dedicated to prayer.
    • Today is a day for us to rededicate ourselves to prayer and to asking the Holy Spirit to pray within us.
  • Unity
    • But we note that the apostles, Mary and all the others were not all praying individually. They were praying together. St. Luke emphasizes this point twice: “They were all together in one place.” “They devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with Mary and their brothers and sisters.”
    • Likewise with us.  It’s not enough for us to pray alone for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the union between the Father and the Son, the love between them. He wishes to make us “one body, one Spirit” in Christ, as we pray in the Eucharistic prayer. But he’s not going to do it against our will. We need to desire to be one body, one Spirit in Christ with each other.
    • Jesus, after all, told us to pray not “My Father who art in heaven,” “give me today my daily bread” and “forgive me my trespasses,” but to pray together with others and for others. He told us not that wherever you are, I’ll be there with you, but stressed “wherever two or more of you are gathered in my name, there will I be in your midst,” to emphasize the importance of praying together.
    • The reason for our praying together is because we’re supposed to be one body, one Spirit, in the Church. We’re called to pray together precisely because we’re supposed to be together.
      • B16 2008 Angelus:  In this baptism of the Holy Spirit the personal and communal dimensions — the “I” of the disciple and the “we” of the Church — are inseparable. The Spirit consecrates the person and at the same time makes him a living member of the mystical body of Christ, a participant in the mission to witness to his love.
      • 2008 WYD Message:  This icon of the nascent Church should be a constant source of inspiration for every Christian community. … For the mission to be effective, communities must be united, that is, they must be “of one heart and soul” (cf. Acts 4:32), and they must be ready to witness to the love and joy that the Holy Spirit instills in the hearts of the faithful (cf. Acts 2:42). The Servant of God John Paul II wrote that, even prior to action, the Church’s mission is to witness and to live in a way that shines out to others (cf. Redemptoris Missio, 26). Tertullian tells us that this is what happened in the early days of Christianity when pagans were converted on seeing the love that reigned among Christians: “See how they love one another” (cf. Apology, 39 § 7).
      • The family that prays together stays together and the family that truly united is united obviously in the most important thing it does, which is turn to God.
      • WYD 2008: You are already well aware that our Christian witness is offered to a world which in many ways is fragile. … Society today is being fragmented by a way of thinking that is inherently short-sighted, because it disregards the full horizon of truth– the truth about God and about us. By its nature, relativism fails to see the whole picture. It ignores the very principles which enable us to live and flourish in unity, order and harmony.  What is our response, as Christian witnesses, to a divided and fragmented world? How can we offer the hope of peace, healing and harmony to those “stations” of conflict, suffering, and tension? Unity and reconciliation cannot be achieved through our efforts alone. God has made us for one another (cf. Gen 2:24) and only in God and his Church can we find the unity we seek.  …  Unity is of the essence of the Church (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 813); it is a gift we must recognize and cherish. Tonight, let us pray for the resolve to nurture unity: contribute to it! resist any temptation to walk away! For it is precisely the comprehensiveness, the vast vision, of our faith – solid yet open, consistent yet dynamic, true yet constantly growing in insight – that we can offer our world.
      • B16 2010:  The Spirit triggers a process of reunification of the divided and dispersed parts of the human family; persons, often reduced to individuals in competition or in conflict with each other, reached by the Spirit of Christ, open themselves to the experience of communion, can involve them to such an extent as to make of them a new organism, a new subject: the Church. This is the effect of God’s work: unity; thus unity is the sign of recognition, the “business card” of the Church in the course of her universal history. From the very beginning, from the day of Pentecost, she speaks all languages.
  • Holiness
    • The Holy Spirit wants to make us, individually and as a church, his holy temple. He wants to help us to live according to the Holy Spirit and put to death in us a life according to the flesh, a life lived by the standards and desires of those who are worldly, instead of the standards, desires, and aspirations of God and the saints.
    • Today he has the power to do that in us. We asked him in the Sequence today before the Gospel to wash whatever in us is unclean, to water whatever in us is dry, to heal whatever in us is broken and wounded, to bend whatever in us stubbornly resists God’s inspirations, to warm whatever in us has grown cold, and to correct whatever in us is warm. If we give him permission, and continue to give him permission, he can do all of these things. He wants to do all of these things.
    • Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen used to say that even though we are God’s “chosen people,” we far too often behave like we’re his “frozen people”: ice-cold in our prayer life, frigid in the way we relate with one another, frozen in the way we celebrate our faith. We don’t seem to be happy to be in God’s house or in living; we are in a hurry to get it over and done with as soon as possible. We’re not happy in living the Christian life, but go through our religious duties as dry obligations, like someone who doesn’t love his job but needs the money, half-heartedly fulfills his work tasks. Today is the day in which those of us who are frozen, who go through the duties of faith without experiencing or reciprocating the burning love of God, say “Come, Holy Spirit, fill my heart and the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in us the fire of your love!” To say, “Come, Holy Spirit!,” means not just to say, “Come and pay a visit,” but “Come and make me a true temple of your holiness,” “Come, make me a saint,” “Come do in me what you did in the members of the early Church.”
    • He wants to make us a new creation. The same Spirit who hovered over the waters at the beginning and made “chaos” into the “cosmos,” (made something disordered literally something beautiful — we get the word cosmetic from cosmos, meaning beautiful), so the Lord wants to make out of the disorder of our lives something truly beautiful for God and for others. But unlike the world at the beginning, God has made us free and the Holy Spirit, the great cosmetologist, needs our cooperation to make us radiate all the beauty of God according to his new law, to make us as beautiful a temple as this Church in which he have the privilege to adore God and receive Him!
    • The descent of the Holy Spirit happened on the Feast of Pentecost which celebrated the giving of the Ten Commandments to Moses. This marks that we are called to live by a new law, precisely by the Law of the Holy Spirit, listening to him and allowing him who blows where he wills to blow us where he wills.  A law that is no longer written on stone tablets but on tablets of flesh, on the hearts of men.  God had promised through the Prophet Ezekiel,”I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, I will put my spirit within you and make you live by my statutes, careful to observe my decrees.”
    • Cantalamessa: “These considerations immediately provoke a question: Do we live under the old law or the new law? Do we fulfill our religious duties by constraint, by fear and habit, or rather by an intimate conviction and almost by attraction? Do we experience God as a father or a boss?
  • Apostles
    • The Holy Spirit wants to come to us with his power, as Jesus said, in order to make us his “witnesses” to the end of the earth, witnesses that Jesus is alive, witnesses that he has triumphed over sin and death, witnesses that he has the words of eternal life, that he is the path to happiness, holiness and heaven. We can’t understand this feast day without understanding that the Holy Spirit wants to make us great apostles of the 21st century, to help us to do today what the members of the early Church — not just the apostles, presbyters, deacons and Mary, but all the members of the early Church — did in becoming living advertisements of what God has done, can do, is doing, and wants to do in all those who accept him and give him permission. The Holy Spirit wants to give us the ability to “speak others’ languages,” not necessarily by making us polyglot linguists like diplomats at the UN but through being able to speak with our faith, hope, charity, patience, joy, trust in divine providence, understanding, meekness — by who we are and how we are — that God indeed is alive and saves, that God loves them in us, and wants to give them the greatest of all treasures.
    • B16 on apostolic courage (2008 WYD message):  The Holy Spirit renewed the Apostles from within, filling them with a power that would give them courage to go out and boldly proclaim that “Christ has died and is risen!” Freed from all fear, they began to speak openly with self-confidence (cf. Acts 2:29; 4:13; 4:29,31). These frightened fishermen had become courageous heralds of the Gospel. Even their enemies could not understand how “uneducated and ordinary men” (cf. Acts 4:13) could show such courage and endure difficulties, suffering and persecution with joy. Nothing could stop them. To those who tried to silence them they replied: “We cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). This is how the Church was born, and from the day of Pentecost she has not ceased to spread the Good News “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8)
    • That the apostles spoke all the languages points to how the Church is already “catholic,” universal.
    • As much as Jesus breathed on the apostles and said “Receive the Holy Spirit” on the day of the Resurrection, so Jesus wants you and me to receive the Holy Spirit today, so that as the Father sent him, so together with the Holy Spirit, we, like the apostles before us, can be sent out to fulfill his mission. Just as God breathed into Adam the breath of life at the beginning of the world, so Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit into the apostles so that they could help bring about the new creation.
    • How do we preach the Gospel? As we read in today’s first letter to the Corinthians, through baptism and confirmation, each of us has been given “the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” We have a variety of gifts, but it’s the same Holy Spirit that activates them in each of us. He’s given each of us particular gifts that the Church needs, that others need, that, in a sense, God needs for his plans for the salvation of the human race to come about. The greatest gifts are not, for example, our musical abilities, our intelligence, or our compassionate heart: the greatest gift of all is the gift of the Holy Spirit, which he pours out on all of us for the good of others.
    • We allow the Holy Spirit to preach within us.
      • B16 2010 Angelus:  The mystery of Pentecost, which we rightly identify with the event of the Church’s true “baptism,” is not, however, exhausted by this. The Church in fact lives constantly from the effusion of the Holy Spirit, without which she would exhaust her own powers, like a ship with sails and no wind.
      • B16 Angelus:  The Holy Spirit is the soul of the Church. Without him to what would it be reduced? It would certainly be a great historical movement, a complex and solid social institution, perhaps a kind of humanitarian agency. And in truth this is how it is considered by those who look upon it from outside the perspective of faith. In reality, however, in its true nature and also in its most authentic historical presence, the Church is unceasingly formed and guided by the Spirit of the Lord. It is a living body, whose vitality is precisely the invisible divine Spirit.
  • The Sacraments
    • How does the full power of the Holy Spirit come down upon us? Jesus said to his disciples as he was going up to Jerusalem, “ I have come to cast fire upon the earth, and how I wish for it to be kindled!” (Luke 12:49),” but we need to ask how an ongoing Pentecost can happen by which Jesus lights us on fire and sends us out to cast this holy fire of the Holy Spirit on the earth?
    • The answer, Pope Benedict tells us, is through the sacraments.  B16 WYD Message 2008:  You might ask, how can we allow ourselves to be renewed by the Holy Spirit and to grow in our spiritual lives? The answer, as you know, is this: we can do so by means of the Sacraments, because faith is born and is strengthened within us through the Sacraments, particularly those of Christian initiation. … It is through the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and then, in an ongoing way, the Eucharist, that the Holy Spirit makes us children of the Father, brothers and sisters of Jesus, members of his Church, capable of a true witness to the Gospel, and able to savor the joy of faith.
      • Confirmation
        • WYD 2008:  In a few moments, we will celebrate the sacrament of Confirmation. The Holy Spirit will descend upon the confirmands; they will be “sealed” with the gift of the Spirit and sent forth to be Christ’s witnesses. What does it mean to receive the “seal” of the Holy Spirit? It means being indelibly marked, inalterably changed, a new creation. For those who have received this gift, nothing can ever be the same! Being “baptized” in the one Spirit (cf. 1 Cor 12:13) means being set on fire with the love of God. Being “given to drink” of the Spirit means being refreshed by the beauty of the Lord’s plan for us and for the world, and becoming in turn a source of spiritual refreshment for others. Being “sealed with the Spirit” means not being afraid to stand up for Christ, letting the truth of the Gospel permeate the way we see, think and act, as we work for the triumph of the civilization of love.
        • The question for us is how we use that power:  WYD 2008:  Dear young people, let me now ask you a question. What will you leave to the next generation? Are you building your lives on firm foundations, building something that will endure? Are you living your lives in a way that opens up space for the Spirit in the midst of a world that wants to forget God, or even rejects him in the name of a falsely-conceived freedom? How are you using the gifts you have been given, the “power” which the Holy Spirit is even now prepared to release within you? What legacy will you leave to young people yet to come? What difference will you make?
      • Eucharist
        • B16 WYD Message 2008:  I would like to add a word about the Eucharist. In order to grow in our Christian life, we need to be nourished by the Body and Blood of Christ. In fact, we are baptized and confirmed with a view to the Eucharist (cf. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1322; Sacramentum Caritatis, 17). “Source and summit” of the Church’s life, the Eucharist is a “perpetual Pentecost” since every time we celebrate Mass we receive the Holy Spirit who unites us more deeply with Christ and transforms us into Him. My dear young friends, if you take part frequently in the Eucharistic celebration, if you dedicate some of your time to adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, the Source of love which is the Eucharist, you will acquire that joyful determination to dedicate your lives to following the Gospel. At the same time it will be your experience that whenever our strength is not enough, it is the Holy Spirit who transforms us, filling us with his strength and making us witnesses suffused by the missionary fervor of the risen Christ.
    • B116 WYD:  The power of the Spirit never ceases to fill the Church with life! Through the grace of the Church’s sacraments, that power also flows deep within us, like an underground river which nourishes our spirit and draws us ever nearer to the source of our true life, which is Christ. …
  • Conclusion
    • Jesus said at his ascension, “You will be baptized with the Holy Spirit”  and, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.”
    • Today we turn to Jesus and ask him and the Father to send that underground river to baptize us anew with the Spirit’s seven fold gifts. We ask him to come down as fire to light us on fire with the faith so that through us Jesus can ignite the fire on the earth. We ask for his power to help us to pray together, to become holy temples, to become Christ’s witnesses, to renew us in our Christian identity, our minds, our hearts, our souls, our families, our parish, so that through us, he may renew New Bedford, our state, our country, our Church, and the face of the earth.
    • It happened before in the upper room in Jerusalem. It can happen again today. Let’s give the Holy Spirit permission and the invitation: Come, Holy Spirit!

The readings for today’s Mass were:

Reading 1ACTS 2:1-11

When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled,
they were all in one place together.
And suddenly there came from the sky
a noise like a strong driving wind,
and it filled the entire house in which they were.
Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire,
which parted and came to rest on each one of them.
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit
and began to speak in different tongues,
as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem.
At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd,
but they were confused
because each one heard them speaking in his own language.
They were astounded, and in amazement they asked,
“Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans?
Then how does each of us hear them in his native language?
We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites,
inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia,
Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia,
Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene,
as well as travelers from Rome,
both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs,
yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues
of the mighty acts of God.”

Responsorial PsalmPS 104:1, 24, 29-30, 31, 34

R. (cf. 30) Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Bless the LORD, O my soul!
O LORD, my God, you are great indeed!
How manifold are your works, O Lord!
the earth is full of your creatures;
R. Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.
or:
R. Alleluia.
May the glory of the LORD endure forever;
may the LORD be glad in his works!
Pleasing to him be my theme;
I will be glad in the LORD.
R. Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.
or:
R. Alleluia.
If you take away their breath, they perish
and return to their dust.
When you send forth your spirit, they are created,
and you renew the face of the earth.
R. Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Reading 21 COR 12:3B-7, 12-13

Brothers and sisters:
No one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit;
there are different forms of service but the same Lord;
there are different workings but the same God
who produces all of them in everyone.
To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit
is given for some benefit.

As a body is one though it has many parts,
and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body,
so also Christ.
For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body,
whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons,
and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.

Sequence — Veni, Sancte Spiritus

Come, Holy Spirit, come!
And from your celestial home
Shed a ray of light divine!
Come, Father of the poor!
Come, source of all our store!
Come, within our bosoms shine.
You, of comforters the best;
You, the soul’s most welcome guest;
Sweet refreshment here below;
In our labor, rest most sweet;
Grateful coolness in the heat;
Solace in the midst of woe.
O most blessed Light divine,
Shine within these hearts of yours,
And our inmost being fill!
Where you are not, we have naught,
Nothing good in deed or thought,
Nothing free from taint of ill.
Heal our wounds, our strength renew;
On our dryness pour your dew;
Wash the stains of guilt away:
Bend the stubborn heart and will;
Melt the frozen, warm the chill;
Guide the steps that go astray.
On the faithful, who adore
And confess you, evermore
In your sevenfold gift descend;
Give them virtue’s sure reward;
Give them your salvation, Lord;
Give them joys that never end. Amen.
Alleluia.

Alleluia

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful
and kindle in them the fire of your love.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

GospelJN 20:19-23

On the evening of that first day of the week,
when the doors were locked, where the disciples were,
for fear of the Jews,
Jesus came and stood in their midst
and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.
The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,
“Receive the Holy Spirit.
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,
and whose sins you retain are retained.”