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Homily for Pentecost


Acts 2:1-11: 1 Cor 12:3-7, 12-13: John 20:19-23

Saint John Baptist de la Salle/Saint Stephen May 28, 2023

Back in the late 1980s, when I was in Charlotte, I met a young woman named Connie. Connie had a large, green parrot named Cracker, and all day long that bird walked around the house saying its name over and over again. The parrot lived in a very large cage and yet it spent most of its time following her around the house or walking back and forth across her shoulders from one side to the next.

One day, while Connie was cleaning the cage of her parrot with her vacuum cleaner, the phone rang, and as she turned to pick it up, she heard the horrible noise of Cracker being sucked into the vacuum. She put down the phone, ripped open the vacuum bag, and found Cracker there, stunned and traumatized but still alive. Since the parrot was covered with dust and dirt, she grabbed it and rushed it into the bathroom, turned on the faucet, and held the parrot under the water to clean it off. When she finished that, she saw her hair dryer on the bathroom sink. She turned it on and held the parrot in the blast of hot air to dry it off.

A few days later, I saw her and asked, 'How is Cracker doing?' She said, 'He just sort of sits and stares.' Today’s Gospel tells us that is what happened to the disciples. They too were stunned and traumatized but still alive. They were stunned by the arrest and crucifixion of their master, traumatized by his Resurrection, and bewildered by his command to prepare for the coming of the Holy Spirit.

Many people can identify with Cracker and the disciples. Life has sucked them down, thrown cold water on them, and blown them away. Somewhere in life’s trauma, they have lost their voice and now can only sit and stare.

Our feast, called Pentecost, means 50th. It was a special feast, celebrated by the members of the early Church on the day they believed to be the 50th day after the Resurrection of Jesus. However, we know what happened and why it is called the Birthday of the Church. The Holy Spirit descended upon the followers of Jesus and everyone else who was there. The frightened disciples were transformed into preachers who were given the gift of speaking about Jesus with confidence to whomever would listen.

Everyone in the crowd experienced the presence of the Holy Spirit and were given the gift of being able to speak about Jesus in their own language. These first followers of Jesus became powerful witnesses and brave martyrs of the faith. This became the role of the Holy Spirit in Christian life. The Holy Spirit, dwelling in us, makes us God’s living Temples.

As a strengthening God, the Holy Spirit strengthens us in our mission to bear witness to Jesus by our transparent Christian lives. God empowers us with the Holy Spirit through the Sacraments. Through Baptism, the Holy Spirit makes us children of God and heirs of Heaven. Through Confirmation, the Holy Spirit makes us temples of God and defenders of the faith. Through Reconciliation, the Holy Spirit enables us to recognize that God pardons our sins. Through Marriage and Ordination, the Holy Spirit makes the Community of Believers Holy. Through the Eucharist, the Holy Spirit nourishes us, changing the bread and wine into Jesus’ Body and Blood.

We need to permit the Holy Spirit to take full control of our lives. We need to allow the Holy Spirit to help us with our temptation to turn away from God and control our desires. By asking the Holy Spirit to help us to pray, by listening to God when we read the Scriptures, by talking to God in our personal prayers, we empower the Holy Spirit.

'It will always be Pentecost in the Church,' said Saint Oscar Romero, 'if we let the beauty of the Holy Spirit shine forth in us.' Our Church will always be young, beautiful to see, attractive to every age, if we, its members, reflect the Holy Spirit for all to see. Remember, Pentecost is not just one day, but every day.

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