Homily – May 23

The Jewish feast of Pentecost was a harvest feast of thanksgiving. Pentecost celebrated the ripening of the spring wheat and grains. Pentecost was the occasion when farmers recognized their radical dependence on God’s care as God sent sun and rain to bring about the fruitfulness of the land. On Pentecost grateful farmers offered to God what earth had given and human hands had made.
We don’t known if the apostles were celebrating this feast. From our first reading from Acts it appears not. They were hiding away behind locked doors. They didn’t dare go near the Temple to pray and celebrate this feast for fear of being spotted by the authorities and arrested as followers of the trouble making Jesus of Nazareth. All that was about to change.
Luke tells us of a violent wind roaring and swirling around the room, he tells of strange tongues of fire resting on each person, he tells of the group being filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. That power of the Spirit was a transforming power, for these people life would never be the same. The Holy Spirit gifted each of them with a deeper insight into all they’d experience during the horrible days of Christ’s passion and death. Now they knew why the Christ had to suffer, die and be raised. Now they knew that they were to tell anyone and everyone about God’s great deeds of power. There would be no more hiding behind locked doors, no more fear of the authorities. They were compelled to speak, compelled to proclaim what God had done for all of us through the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus.
To make our celebration of Pentecost, this coming of the Holy Spirit more personal, maybe each one of us could ask ourselves, ‘what does the Holy Spirit mean to me?’ Have I ever experienced the Holy Spirit in my life? Do I ever think of the Holy Spirit? How do I relate to the Holy Spirit? We can image God as father/mother. We know Jesus was one like us in all things. But the common image of the Spirit is that of a dove and it is difficult to relate to a bird.
Have you ever been asked, “have you received the Spirit?” Always answer ‘yes.’ At our baptism the same Spirit they’re talking about was poured into our hearts as water was poured over our head and that Spirit gives us the power to call God, Father/Mother. That Spirit binds us together as one in the body of the Church of which Christ is the head and we are members. But how do we experience the Holy Spirit, how have we known the Spirit’s power or presence in our lives? Maybe you know someone who has been slain in the Spirit, maybe you’ve heard of people speaking in tongues. Maybe all you can say to such people is, ‘that’s nice’ but I’ve never had such an experience. As they say in golf. “It’s different strokes for different folks.”
Luke’s description of Spirit’s work at Pentecost is powerful, forceful and transforming. That rush as of a violent wind and those tongues of fire changed the Apostles lives forever. Most of us never experience such a wonder. Maybe we wish the wind and fire of the Spirit would hit us, change us for the better. Wouldn’t it be great if the Holy Spirit gave us the courage to unlock the doors of our closed minds so we could see our relationship with God in new ways? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the Spirit’s wind swept away the fogs of our prejudice and broaden the horizons of our minds to see the good in neighbours of different faiths and cultures and lifestyles? Wouldn’t it be great if the Spirit’s wind would bend and break our rigid, judgmental ways of relating with those who think differently from us? Wouldn’t it be great if in the light of the Spirit’s fire we would see the beauty and wonder of God’s good creation and our place within creation?
From personal experience I’ve never had the Spirit work this way. I think that for the most part the Spirit has changed from being a rushing wind to being more of a gentle breeze or a nudger. I think it’s the Spirit that helps us bite our tongue rather than make a caustic, hurtful remark to someone. It’s the Spirit who helps us think twice before we react to someone cutting us off in traffic. It’s the Spirit who hints that we be more patient with elderly family members who may be confused or bewildered. It’s the Spirit who reminds us we could make a phone call or a visit to family member of friend. It’s the Spirit who helps us be more patient and understanding of other’s faults and foibles. It’s the Spirit who helps us to embrace the different personalities that make up a family. It’s the Spirit who nudges us to stop and be still and turn our minds to God in praise and thanksgiving at any moment of the day or night. It’s the Spirit who helps us challenge any racist or sexist remarks. It’s the Spirit who helps us try to be more like Christ-like in the way we live our lives.
The grace of God works from the feet up. We may not feel it or sense it but however and wherever we are, God’s living Spirit is with us giving us the grace to live no longer for ourselves but for Him and complete His work on earth and bring us to the fullness of grace. May our lives always be open to the gentle nudges of the Spirit.