THE BIRTHDAY OF THE CHURCH
Pentecost Sunday - Mass during the Day
My dear encountered couples:
You have throughout the years no doubt heard many homilies on Pentecost Sunday that speak of this day as the “Birthday of the Church.” Certainly, it is important we should see and understand that. The Church, after all, is not something constructed by human hands. The Church is not simply a legal and social institution (like the International Red Cross) that was brought forth by human impetus. The Church is from God; it is a work of the Holy Spirit.
Today, instead of putting focus on the nature of the Church, I want to take a look at the implications found in the second reading you just heard, words taken from the first letter St. Paul to the Church he established in Corinth.
In his letter, St. Paul reminded the Christians of Corinth that: “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. “
What can we draw from that letter that applies to us here today in America more than 2,000 years later? The principal thought that comes to me is that each one of us is a prism. God’s life, light and the Holy Spirit’s fire shine through us, radiating out to others in many colors, like the colors of a rainbow. Beautiful rays come forth from our Spirit-filled souls to reveal God’s beauty to others.
In another of St. Paul’s letters, one he wrote to the Church of Ephesus, likewise a very important and sophisticated city located in what we now know of as Turkey, he speaks of the “fruits of the Holy Spirit” and lists them as: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness; trustfulness, gentleness and self-control.
We could spend a lot of time on each one of these charisms, but just now I want to share only a few thoughts with you on each.
Love: Can we love people even when they are sinners? Can we love them when they hurt us or have animosity toward us? Can we give and forgive others even when they are nasty toward us? Love is, after all, something far more profound than simply having nice feelings toward someone. It is significant, very significant, that after He rose from the dead Jesus’ first gift to his apostles was the power to forgive sins. That’s what today’s Gospel reading is all about. Forgiveness is one of God’s greatest gifts to us. He expects us to share it with others as generously as He has shared it with us. Love and forgiveness are bound together.
Joy: Joy is the first thing that we lose when we sin. Remember how you felt immediately after you committed a sin? There was no joy within you. You experienced just the opposite. Joy is not pleasure. Alcohol and drugs don’t give you joy, they give you misery and depression. Nor is joy snuffed out by conflict or suffering.
You and I can’t help but notice people in hospitals who are suffering and yet are joyfully busy in boosting up the morale of others.
Peace: Peace is not the absence of conflict. The world sees peace that way. We don’t. Peace is far more profound; it is the presence of God’s Spirit. Even in the midst of troubles and trials we can be at peace just as Jesus was when He was going through His trial just before He was crucified. He stood before His accusers utterly at peace.
Patience: Patience is the willingness to suffer, to put up with others, to put up with pain while knowing that things will eventually get better. Patience gives us the willingness to open ourselves up again to others after they have hurt us, or after life’s storms have crashed down upon us.
Kindness: Only the strong can be gentle and kind. Only the strong can be meek. Only the strong can relate to others in kindness even when they hurt us and attack us.
Goodness: Goodness is more than simply being helpful. It is more than just being generous, far more than being nice. We have, because of the Holy Spirit, treasures and riches within us. Goodness consists in revealing and sharing them with others, even when they don’t deserve what we give to them. Goodness is revealed when we do good even when people don’t see us, even when others don’t notice.
Trustfulness: This gives us the power (and hence the freedom) to be loyal, to be reliable. When we live up to our promises and do what we say we’re going to do then people can rejoice in our trustfulness. Whoever wants to have an untrustworthy friend?
Gentleness: Gentlemen and gentlewomen can be angry, but only at the right time and in an appropriate way. A parent can be angry and yet gentle at the same time. Jesus was that way. God is that way. There are times when we must be angry, but only in a God-like way. This is the opposite of vengeful violence. It comes from a person of great strength and of noble character.
Self-control: We are surrounded by a culture of road rage, sports rage, and TV shows that flood us with images of people who are totally out of control. Being self-controlled is a marvel to behold in our times. Actually, we need to let God be in control, we cannot do it by ourselves. Control freaks make the lives of those around them miserable. But when God’s Spirit has control over us, we live in peace, harmony, serenity, and security.
And so, while today we thank God for the gift of the Church, we should not neglect to thank God for the gifts He has given us through the power of His Holy Spirit. We are, after all, not that much different from those early Christians who, through the power of the Holy Spirit, made Jesus known to those in the world around them. We are prisms that beam out the presence of Jesus, the Light of the World.
God sent us His Holy Spirit in order that we might in turn be sent – sent to share God’s presence with all those whom we meet in our world.
Pentecost is all about sending.