May 23, 2021 – Pentecost Sunday
Acts 2: 1-11, 1 Corinthians 12: 3b-7, 12-13, John 20: 19-23
Pentecost is not a once-for-all feast, rather, it is an ongoing celebration of the gift of God’s Spirit, who is always with us, inseparable from believers. The fire that was ignited in the hearts of the disciples gathered in that upper room in Jerusalem continues to enflame the hearts of all who have been gathered together here. This Church is our upper room where we come together in a communion of faith and love. Pentecost came, for the disciples, after fifty days of uncertainty, not unlike the uncertainty and anxiety we have experienced during the COVID pandemic. Yes, Christ is risen from the dead. Yes, Christ conquered death by his death. Yes, Christ granted life to those in the tomb. Yes, the disciples touched him and shared meals with him, however, they were still overcome by their doubts and fears. They huddled together behind closed doors because they were uncertain about the future and were too frightened to publicly proclaim the risen Lord. Without a doubt, we have a lot in common with that first group of disciples.
We are locked down because of the pandemic. We are paralyzed with shame because of the abuse scandal. We are divided into liberal and conservative camps. We have become so committed to our private little wars that we no longer see ourselves as a communion of faith and love. At this time of sorrow, anxiety, and bitterness, I am reminded of the prayer offered by St. John XXIII: “Renew Your wonders in this our day, as by a new Pentecost. Grant to Your Church that, being of one mind and steadfast in prayer with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and following the lead of blessed Peter, it may advance the reign of our Divine Savior, the reign of truth and justice, the reign of love and peace. Amen. Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of the faithful and manifest among us the signs and wonders of a new Pentecost.” Claiming the efficacy of Good Pope John’s prayer, may we gain spiritual riches, uncover new sources of energy, and be able to face the future without fear. While we are pilgrims on earth, let us journey onwards towards our heavenly homeland. Being illuminated by the Light of the Holy Spirit may we help all our brothers and sisters discover their true nature, dignity, and purpose. May we experience the dawning of a new day and be bathed in the radiant splendor of the Spirit.
Saint Paul VI took up the theme of a new Pentecost. “The Church and the world need more than ever that the ‘miracle of Pentecost should continue in history’… Have we forgotten the Holy Spirit? Certainly not! We want him, we honor him, and we love him… It ought to rejuvenate the world, give it back a spirituality, a soul, a religious thought; it ought to reopen the world’s closed lips to prayer and open its mouth to song, to joy, to hymns, and to witnessing.” No matter how isolated we are; no matter how overwhelmed by guilt and shame we may be; no matter how stuck we are in our little worlds, the Holy Spirit can recreate us and renew the face of the earth. When the Holy Spirit manifests itself, worries disappear, and fear is overcome. When the wind of the Spirit blows, lives are changed, and hearts are enlarged to run the path of God’s commandments. It is the Spirit who makes Christ live in us.
This has been a stressful year. Our spirits need the refreshing touch by the Spirit, not just to survive, but thrive in faith. Every word of Christ that is received in the heart by faith comes accompanied by the breath of the Spirit; without it, there is no light no life. Without the Spirit, Christian life unravels because we lack the love that brings everything together. Without the Spirit, Jesus remains a person from the past; but with the Spirit, he is alive and present in our own time. Without the Spirit, Scripture is just an old piece of literature; but with the Spirit, it is a living and life-giving word. We need the Holy Spirit to regenerate us as Church, as the Chosen People of God, and as a human family. The Spirit gives us perennially young hearts. The Spirit frees hearts chained by fear. He overcomes all resistance. Where the Spirit is, something is always happening; where he blows, things are brought to life. Hearts of stone are transformed into hearts of flesh. Thus the Spirit revives our first love.
As we prepare to return to some semblance of normal, we need to keep in mind: “We never emerge from a crisis just as we were. We come out either better or worse” (Pope Francis). For this reason, we need to breathe in the breath of the Spirit that frees us from fear and gives us hope. May the Holy Spirit awaken our slumbering hearts and open our eyes, so that we may see and hear the Risen Lord and boldly proclaim his victory over sin and death. May the Holy Spirit blow upon our world the soothing warmth of peace and the refreshing cool of hope.
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.