June 9, 2019- Pentecost Sunday
Homily originally delivered on Pentecost Sunday in 2014:
Pentecost is our reminder that we’re not alone. Certainly the Christmas and Easter seasons are awesome, but for me, there is something special about Pentecost. With Christmas, our Savior comes into the world: a gift of hope from the Father to us. Through the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus at Easter, we are the recipient of the ultimate sacrificial gift. A gift intended to save us from ourselves.
Christmas and Easter are gifts for us. Pentecost is a gift to be used by us. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, we are given the courage to get to work.
In my theological studies, efforts to fully understand the concept of the Trinity nearly made my head explode. Three persons, one nature, triune God. The one thing I did understand was why it was called a mystery.
One concept I heard that gave me a greater appreciation of the Trinity was this: The Father is our Creator, the Son is our Teacher, and the Holy Spirit is our Voice. Together they are God.
The power of the Holy Spirit led the Apostles to set aside their fear and unlock their doors. The power of the Holy Spirit gave them a voice and the courage to use it.
The role preparation plays in our readiness to receive the Holy Spirit is often overlooked.
As part of our formation as deacons, we spent an intensive week at St. Meinrad learning how to preach. The homiletics instructor shared the following story:
A young priest, Fr. Joe, watched his more experienced pastor step away from the ambo each time he gave a homily. He brought no papers with him, no notecards. He would walk in front of the congregation, take a moment to gather himself, and begin speaking.
After watching this time after time, Fr. Joe finally asked the pastor how he was able to deliver a homily without having a script, or even any notes with him? The pastor responded, “It’s the power of the Holy Spirit.”
The young priest thought about how much time he spent writing homilies, struggling to put his thoughts into words, throwing away drafts and starting over again. Maybe he should simply rely on the Holy Spirit.
He decided to give it a try. The week leading up to his weekend to preach, Fr. Joe did nothing to prepare. When he read the Gospel, he was reading it for the first time. Afterwards, he walked away from the ambo to deliver a homily. He stepped in front of the congregation. He took a deep breath and gathered himself as he had seen his pastor do so many times.
Then he waited for the Holy Spirit to give him the words he needed, to supply him with the homily that the congregation needed to hear. And he waited. And waited.
Just as the young priest was beginning to panic, he felt a breeze and a soft whisper in his ear. The voice said, “Joe, this is the Holy Spirit. Why aren’t you saying anything?”
Fr. Joe realized he was on his own and stumbled through a miserable homily.
When he returned to his chair, the experienced pastor leaned over and said, “I guess I should have said the power of the Holy Spirit and hours of preparation.”
The moral of the story, our instructor told us, was that the Holy Spirit helps those who are prepared to receive Him.
The Apostles may have been afraid, and appeared to lacked courage, but they were prepared when the Holy Spirit came upon them.
Advent is a time of preparation for Christmas. Lent is a time of preparation for Easter. The Easter season is a time of preparation for Pentecost, for the coming of the Holy Spirit.
If you have been following along, you may have noticed that we have been hearing readings from the Gospel of John the entire seven weeks of the Easter season. Most of these readings are part of what is called the Last Supper Discourses, or Farewell Discourses. They are Jesus’ parting words to the Apostles. He was instructing them, preparing them for what was to come. Preparing them for His death, and for the certain persecution each of them would face because of Him. He prepared them by teaching them about love and sacrifice, and about the joy of eternal life. Jesus also assured them that they would not be alone. At one point, He said, “I will not leave you orphans. I will send you an Advocate.” He prepared them for the coming of the Holy Spirit.
I am sure that the Apostles could not comprehend all that was being said, since Jesus was still with them and they could not know all that was about to happen. But they listened and filed His words away for later. They were prepared when the time came.
Jesus did not say that He would send the Holy Spirit to do everything for them. He was not sending the Holy Spirit to do what the Apostles were capable of doing on their own. He said they would not be alone, that He would send an Advocate – a supporter, a counselor, a cheerleader, an affirmer.
The Holy Spirit did not give the Apostles the ability to live out the message of love, to preach to the people, or to baptize in the name of Jesus. Jesus had prepared them for over three years to do those things. The Holy Spirit gave them the support they needed to get out of their chairs, offered affirmation and eased their fear. The Holy Spirit unlocked the door for them. The apostles did the rest.
What does this mean for us? The Holy Spirit is fully available to all of us. The Advocate has been sent and is at our disposal. The question is, “Are we prepared?”
Are we grounded in our faith? Are we open to the gift? Or does our fear and doubt blind us to the gift of the Holy Spirit, and keep us locked up?
We are all sinners; but if we try our best to live the Gospel message, if we take time for prayer, if we love and serve others, then we are prepared.
There will be times that you are struggling. You will know the right thing to do or say because you are prepared, but you may be frozen with fear. You are not alone. The Holy Spirit is available to you. Reach out and ask for help. The gift has already been given and will be there at your side, supporting you and cheering you on. The doors keeping you from going out into the world will be unlocked.
The Holy Spirit is your voice.