Homily for the Solemnity of Pentecost

In Scripture, we hear, "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."[1]

Soon after he became Bishop of our diocese, I had an opportunity to sit down and talk with the late Bishop John Marshall.  In the course of our conversation, Bishop Marshall began to talk about the many differences that exist between so-called liberals and so-called conservatives in the Catholic Church.  Bishop Marshall spoke about how people might lean one way or the other, but he cautioned that people who are entrenched in the extreme on either end of the spectrum run the risk of rejecting Christ. 

What Bishop Marshall meant by this, was that when people become so caught up in and focused on their own perceptions, opinions, and positions, they tend to reject people who have any other opinion that deviates even slightly from their own and, in turn, they reject the work of Holy Spirit who works through all people.

I thought of this conversation as I reflected on our Scripture readings for the day and on the events that we celebrate on this Solemnity of Pentecost. 

Scripture tells us that the Holy Spirit is alive in and works through every person.  This doesn't mean that everything a person says or does is correct, but it does mean that every person has gifts of the Holy Spirit that can be used in positive and constructive ways in the Church and in the world.  It means that every person, imperfect as we all are, must be seen as a temple of the Holy Spirit; as an instrument of God's love and action in the world.  If we completely write off someone because we disagree with one particular aspect of the person's life or one particular opinion, then we ignore the many ways that the Spirit works through that person and, in so doing, we reject God and the action of God in our world. 

To say this in a more positive light: Everyone has access to the Holy Spirit and the Spirit has access to everyone.  This includes those who are very religious and even those who are not so religious.  John’s Gospel tells us, "The Spirit breathes where He will."  It is through the individual, with his or her unique gifts, that the Holy Spirit operates in our world. 

Everyone who lives has, at some point in time, experienced the promptings of the Holy Spirit.  We may not always recognize that these promptings have the Holy Spirit as their source but that is how the Spirit works: gently; quietly; unobtrusively. 

While all people experience the movement of the Spirit, recognition of the Spirit comes only with the eyes of faith.  But whether we recognize the movement of the Spirit or not, the Spirit is still alive and active in each one of us.

As Christians, we are called upon to recognize the presence of the Spirit in ourselves and in others.  We are called upon to work with that Spirit; to work with the gifts of others and to recognize our own gifts, to develop them, and to use them for the greater glory of God.  We do this by proclaiming our faith; we do this through our actions; we do this through our words; we do this through our attitudes. 

In making the Gospel a real part of our daily lives, we take an active part in the Church's mission of preaching the Gospel to all people. This is our call; this is what we celebrate on this Solemnity of Pentecost. We cannot answer that call wholeheartedly without the help of the Spirit, as God’s Spirit works in our prayer lives and in our interactions with one another. +


[1] 1 Corinthians 12:4-7

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