Homily – June 8, 2014

Can we hear the Spirit? Do we want to?

The feast of Pentecost was a powerful transforming event in the life of our church. Frightened and uncertain disciples became bold proclaimers of the awesome truth that Jesus Christ is Lord and Redeemer.

Different men and women were blessed with different gifts which were to build up the community of believers. These gifts, however unspectacular, were not meant for the benefit of the individual but for the welfare of all. The gifts of the Spirit must not lead to individualism but to the building up of the corporate body of the community. The church is one body through a common baptism and a common “drinking of one Spirit.”

Pentecost was not a one shot deal. The Holy Spirit is still alive and active in the life of the church and in the life of each one of us. This will always be so. We see the action of the Spirit in the words, the example and the teachings of Pope Francis. We see the presence and the action of the Spirit in the lived lives of family, friends and neighbours in their ordinary acts of kindness and support they offer us each day. We see the action of the Spirit in the dedicated lives of those family members who care every day for aging mothers or fathers or who cope with a challenged son and daughter. We see the presence of the Spirit in those who work for social justice for all men and women. We see the presence of the Spirit in the work of those who show us the injustices of our times, the exploitation in the sweat shops of the world, the exploitation of migrant workers and challenge us to live simply that others may simply live. We see the love of the Spirit in the work of those who try to bring about a world of economic justice in which men, women and children will have their basic needs met and no one lives in poverty, hunger or homelessness. These are all Spirit filled men and women though they may not see themselves as such. They enable the work of the Holy Spirit in our time.

On this feast of Pentecost we sing, ’Send forth your Spirit O Lord and renew the face of the earth.’

Can we see and hear the work of the Spirit in the efforts of scholars and scientists who warn us about the consequences of our abuse and misuse of the resources of Earth? Recently someone jokingly asked me ‘how can you talk about global warming after the terrible winter we’ve just had’? It is not about global warming it is all about climate change and the ways that change will affect our lives for generations to come. There is not a day goes by when we don’t hear of droughts, hurricanes, tornadoes, heavy and constant rain falls, glacier melting, air pollution and many other indications that all it not well with Earth. It would take a miracle for business tycoons and political leaders to hear the Holy Spirit calling the human family to heal its relationship with the rest of Earth’s community. As Joni Mitchell sings – they pave paradise and put up a parking lot.’ Canada is becoming an oil barrel for the Chinese, the Japanese, Koreans and other nations who need our resources. Companies will make lots of money exploiting and exporting our unrenewable resources but at what cost to our land, our air, our water and us. Sure we’ll make a lot of money out of all this. The taxes we collect will or might provide us with social, educational and health programs but do we consider the long term cost to our children’s, children’s, children’s? You’ve heard this before, ‘Earth does not belong to us; we belong to the Earth and what we do to the Earth we do to ourselves.’ When we pollute and diminish the beauty and richness of Earth we diminish and impoverish ourselves.

I spent last weekend out in Fort McMurray, the site of the Alberta oil sands. I attended a meeting at which the Athabasca and Chippewa Nations were trying to re-evaluate the treaties they made with the British, tricky treaties that were meant to last as long as the rivers flow. Many of these good people still live off the land, trapping, fishing and growing their own food. It is a life style and a world view far removed from our own. The impact the development of the oil sands is having on the health and quality of the air they breathe, the water they drink, the food and the fish they harvest is just beginning to be seen. I had an hour’s flight over the oil sands development. It is huge, it is amazing. Young people from all over the country find work there and make big money. It is a beehive of activity. Thousands of acres of forest have been peeled away to get to the oil sands. The sands are dug out twenty four hours a day, every day. We were told the oil companies will put it all back as it was before when they finished the mining. It’s taken thousands of years for these ecosystems to develop and we think we can duplicate it just like that. My trip to the oil sands was a learning experience.

On this feast of Pentecost let our prayer be; Send forth your Spirit O Lord and renew the face of the Earth. Send forth your Spirit O Lord and bless us with the gift of wonder and awe so that we might see in a new way the beauty of your creation and its fragility. Send forth your Spirit O Lord and help us realize we are one; we are family with every living being that shares Earth with us. Help us see that what we do to Earth we do to ourselves and those generations who follow us. Help us to be true stewards of your gift of Earth’s resources, may we develop these gifts wisely and justly for the benefit of all not just the wealth of a few. Give us insight to appreciate our need for a simpler life style, help us curb our consumerism. Help us to live simply that others may simply live.

We must know that the Spirit’s work of renewing the face of the earth must truly be our own. May the Holy Spirit gift us with the ability to be conscious of the environmental and ecological issues we live with and affect our wellbeing. Even in the smallest ways we can try to make a difference in the healing and enrichment of Earth. If not us, who? If not now, when?