Homily: Are We Prepared to Receive the Holy Spirit?

June 5, 202- Pentecost Sunday

I delivered the following homily on Pentecost Sunday BACK 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:

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No Further Comment Needed

June 4, 2022

There are also many other things that Jesus did,
but if these were to be described individually,
I do not think the whole world would contain the books
that would be written.
(John 21:20-25)

Sometimes scripture needs no additional commentary.

The above passage is a poignant reminder for us.

Tend My Sheep

June 3, 2022

Each day, I reflect upon a word or phrase from the readings of the day. I encourage you to do the same and perhaps incorporate that word or phrase into your daily prayer.

Tend my sheep…(John 21:15-19)

TEND MY SHEEP: Today we see some of the first signs of the passing of the torch from Jesus to Peter and the disciples. Jesus had been hinting that He will not be with them much longer. There was still much work to be done. His post-resurrection time on earth was nearing an end, so it was clear that others would need to continue His work.

Jesus was clear. He asked Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” When Peter replied in the affirmative, Jesus gave His command: “Tend my sheep.”

Jesus’ message: If you love me, you will continue my work.

As faith-filled people, we do many things to strengthen our relationship with Jesus. However, nothing we do is as important as continuing the work He started while here on earth.

If we love Him, we will tend His sheep.

Given the Glory

June 2, 2022

Each day, I reflect upon a word or phrase from the readings of the day. I encourage you to do the same and perhaps incorporate that word or phrase into your daily prayer.

Jesus, speaking to His Father, “And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one…” (John 17:20-26)

GIVEN THE GLORY: In John’s Gospel today, we are reminded once again we are part of the Body of Christ. Together, all of us as one, make up the Body of Christ.

We have been given the glory, this honor of passing on the message of Jesus Christ. This is a tremendous responsibility. It is work that needs and deserves our attention.

I find it interesting, and frustrating, how quickly I can be distracted from this work. One minute I am focused on doing the work of Jesus, the next minute I am focused back on me.

We give so many things generous portions of our day. Time at the gym, lunch with a friend, time checking out our Facebook account, watching our favorite television show…

Why is it that our “Jesus time” is usually the first thing to get cut out of our day?

When we start our day with prayer today, we should ask Jesus for an increased awareness of our responsibility to do His work. Pray that we may do our fair share in upholding our part of the Body of Christ.

Do Not Belong to the World

June 1, 2022

Each day, I reflect upon a word or phrase from the readings of the day. I encourage you to do the same and perhaps incorporate that word or phrase into your daily prayer.

They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. (John 17:11-19)

DO NOT BELONG TO THE WORLD: In today’s Gospel, John distinguishes between being in this world and of this world.

We were placed on this earth. Good or bad, like it or not, we are in this world. We hold out hope for eternal life in heaven; but for now, we are in this world.

Modern society invites us to be of this world: to embrace self-centeredness, to focus on things rather than people, to lose sight of the dignity of all human beings, and to rely on ourselves rather than on God.

However, we have a choice. We have been given the gift of free will. We can make the decision to hold on to trust in God, to live out our faith, and to answer the call to love God and others.

We can make the decision to be in this world, but not of this world.

Believe

May 31, 2022 – Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Each day, I reflect upon a word or phrase from the readings of the day. I encourage you to do the same and perhaps incorporate that word or phrase into your daily prayer.

Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled. (Luke 1:45)

BELIEVE: The words above were spoken by Elizabeth to her cousin, Mary. Mary listened to the words of the Angel Gabriel – “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus” (Luke 1:31) – and believed. She not only believed, she acted.

Today’s Gospel issues a challenge: God is speaking to us. Do we believe? More importantly, do we act upon His words?

When God speaks to us, he may not do so through his angels, but His word is still available to us. It comes to us through Scripture. It is made known to us in our interactions with others. It speaks volumes through the beauty of nature.

The message comes through loud and clear: Nothing is possible without God. Nothing is impossible with God.

If we believe, then we must act. Our actions are clear as well: Love God with all your heart, and love others as yourself.

Blessed are we if we live this Gospel message.

Spoke in Tongues

May 30, 2022

Each day, I reflect upon a word or phrase from the readings of the day. I encourage you to do the same and perhaps incorporate that word or phrase into your daily prayer.

And when Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. (Acts 19:1-8)

SPOKE IN TONGUES: The concept of speaking in tongues can be confusing. The disciples in today’s reading, and the Apostles at Pentecost, are suddenly able, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to speak the language of whoever may be listening to them.

This is very difficult to understand. I’m sure if I had asked about this as a child, I would have been told, “It’s a mystery” – the catch-all phrase used by adults when they didn’t understand something either.

Perhaps what is really going on is that the followers of Jesus, once given the gift of the Holy Spirit, had the courage to speak the universal language of Jesus Christ, the universal language of love.

When I went to Haiti, I was unable to speak Creole, the language of the Haitians. But we certainly communicated. They certainly understood a smile, a hand taking theirs, a hug, and a nod acknowledging that we were there to help them.

Filled with the Holy Spirit and motivated by the love of Jesus Christ, we are all capable of being understood. We are all capable of speaking in tongues, as long as it is the language of love.

Homily: Don’t Be a Bystander

May 29, 2022 – The Ascension of the Lord

The following is a homily I delivered at St. Pius X Church in Indianapolis back in 2019 on the same readings we have today: Acts 1:1-11, Ephesians 1:17-23, and Luke 24:46-53

When I was a classroom teacher, one of the subjects I taught was Psychology. For one lesson on perception, I conducted an experiment. Before I share the story of the experiment with you, please keep in mind it was 1987 and school safety and security concerns were much different than they are today.

I asked a friend of mine to enter my classroom as I was teaching. He was instructed to knock whatever I had in my hands to the floor, rummage through a couple of drawers, push books and papers off my desk, all while mumbling incoherently throughout. He then walked to the back of the room, looked out the window, returned to the front of the room and exited.

The purpose of the experiment was to record the students’ perception of the event, how much detail they could recall, and what variables affected their perception and recall. However, I discovered something else.

I told the students the police would be notified and would need as much information as possible. I said if they were comfortable doing it, I wanted them to put their name on a piece of paper and write down as many specific details as they could recall.

Of the thirty students in the class, only about half turned in a paper to me. Of those that did turn in a paper, several simply wrote that everything had happened too quickly or gave some other excuse for why they could not provide any details.

There were thirty witnesses to the event, but only twelve felt comfortable sharing what they experienced.

I am sure you have heard of instances of crimes, sometimes horrific crimes, taking place in front of a handful or even dozens of witnesses, and yet no one calls the police to make a report. Eyewitnesses took it all in, were appalled by what they saw, and yet did nothing. Those who were eventually identified as witnesses said they did not report the incident out of fear – fear of getting involved, fear of repercussions, fear of the unknown.

On the other end of the spectrum, each day we are witnesses to the presence of Christ in our lives. We experience beauty in nature – a beautiful sunrise, a soft breeze blowing, flowers blooming. We feel warmth in our heart as we pray. We see the face of Christ in others. We are witnesses to all these things. We take it all in, are amazed by what we experience, and yet do nothing. What is our excuse for not sharing these experiences with others? What are we afraid of?

As we celebrate the Ascension of the Lord, our readings focus on the call to be witnesses. Before ascending, Jesus told his disciples, “It is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead for the forgiveness of sins. You are witnesses of these things…you will be my witnesses to the ends of the earth.”

In order to understand what it is that we, as today’s disciples, are being called to, let’s first take a look at the formal definition of witness: A witness is someone who has personal knowledge of something and can attest to that knowledge.

Jesus would take this definition a step further. Rather than “can attest to that knowledge,” Jesus would say, “must attest to that knowledge.” A witness to the faith is someone who has personal knowledge of Jesus Christ and must attest to that knowledge.

If we have the knowledge and don’t attest to it, we are merely bystanders. That’s why the two men dressed in white garments said to the disciples, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky?” That was their way of encouraging the disciples not to be bystanders, but rather to share the good news.

In accepting the role of bystander, we are allowing fear to dictate our actions.

Some level of fear is understandable. Expressing our faith leaves us vulnerable. How will people respond to us? How will we be viewed? Are we courageous enough to share our faith with others and acknowledge the role of Christ in our lives?

Jesus anticipated that the disciples would be afraid. That is why, in these weeks leading up to Pentecost, Jesus told the disciples repeatedly that they would not be alone in this effort. They would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise is repeated in all three of the readings today:

“…in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 1:5)

“God will give you a Spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of him.” (Ephesians 1:17)

“I am sending the promise of my Father upon you and you will be clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49)

It is clear when we speak and act on behalf of Christ, we do not speak and act alone. By virtue of our baptism, we have received the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Trying to wrap my mind around the concept of the Trinity gives me a headache, but I hold onto this simple image: God the Father is our creator; God the Son is our example; God the Holy Spirit is our voice.

This understanding of the Holy Spirit certainly ties in with our role as witnesses to the faith. Using our voice is what distinguishes witnesses from bystanders. However, for many of us, using our voice scares us the most.

It is important to understand that using our voice does not have to mean preaching from the pulpit or speaking into a megaphone on a crowded street corner. When Jesus instructed his disciples to be witnesses to what they had seen, he was not sending them off to give prepared speeches to the world.

Using our voices may indeed refer to talking about our faith. It might include preaching from the pulpit or speaking into a megaphone. However, it can also be casual conversations between friends, sharing God moments you’ve experienced in your day. It can be leading a prayer before you begin a staff meeting or before you sit down to a business lunch. It can be offering to pray with someone that has just shared a difficult situation she is facing in her life. It can be a personal, one-on-one discussion with someone whose beliefs are different than our own.

However, when it comes to being witnesses to our faith, we can also use our voice in other ways.

When we share our faith on social media, we are using our faith voice. When we read faith-based books, articles, or posts and then share them with others, we are using our faith voice. When we live life joyfully and show love and compassion for others, we are using our faith voice. When we stand up for the rights of those most vulnerable, we are using our faith voice.

To have a strong faith and not share it is selfish. By refusing to be a witness, we become a mere bystander. Don’t be a bystander. Don’t just stand there looking at the sky.

Ask and Receive

May 28, 2022

Each day, I reflect upon a word or phrase from the readings of the day. I encourage you to do the same and perhaps incorporate that word or phrase into your daily prayer.

ask and you will receive, so that your joy will be complete. (John 16:23-28)

ASK AND RECEIVE: What John describes for us in today’s Gospel is not a genie in a bottle granting us three wishes. Ask: He is not recommending that we compile a laundry list of things we need. Receive: He is not advising that we sit back and wait for the “stuff” we ordered.

So what is he saying?

Ask: Pray. Invite Jesus to be a part of your life. Live a life worthy of His presence. Acknowledge that He is in control, not you.

Receive: His presence in your life. Peace of mind.

Given this interpretation, John’s claim that your joy will be complete certainly makes sense.

Go on Speaking

May 27, 2022

Each day, I reflect upon a word or phrase from the readings of the day. I encourage you to do the same and perhaps incorporate that word or phrase into your daily prayer.

Do not be afraid. Go on speaking, and do not be silent, for I am with you. (Acts 18:9-18)

GO ON SPEAKING: There are many times that Jesus comforted his disciples with the words, “Do not be afraid.”

By saying, “Do not be afraid,” Jesus acknowledged their vulnerability. People don’t like to admit when they are afraid. They prefer to pretend they can handle anything. Yet somehow, when Jesus said “Do not be afraid,” it brought comfort. He was really saying, “I understand that you are afraid, and I am here to help.”

In today’s reading, He said these words to Paul. The Jews Paul was trying to evangelize were turning against him. His confidence was shaken. Paul feared not only rejection, but possibly violence and death.

Jesus gave him permission to be afraid, but He did not want the fear to immobilize Paul. Rather, he wanted the fear and the knowledge that Jesus will be with him to fuel his work, to give him new energy and drive.

Jesus knows that we, too, are often afraid. He tells us, as he did Paul, to go on speaking, and do not be silent, for I am with you. We can roll up our sleeves and get back to the work of spreading the Gospel message, finding comfort in the fact that Jesus will be with us when we do.