The Solemnity of Pentecost
Dear brothers and sisters,
On this great Solemnity of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles and strengthened them for the proclamation of the Gospel (cf. Acts 2:3-4). In our own day, when we set out to proclaim the Gospel, we generally only speak to those who are like us. The Apostles, on the other hand, spoke of the merciful love of Jesus to anyone who would listen; indeed, they preached to
Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya and Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs (Acts 2:9-11).
They were not so much interested in differences, but in bringing every person into unity in Christ Jesus by Baptism into his Body, the Church (cf. I Corinthians 12:13). This unity of faith superseded any differences that might otherwise remain.
Those great pillars of the faith knew well that, different as we all may be, we all share in one fundamental aspect of humanity, namely, that “If you [O Lord] take away their breath, they perish and return to the dust. When you send forth your spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth” (Psalm 104:24). For this reason, the Church has always taught that
the equality of men rests essentially on their dignity as persons and the rights that flow from it: Every form of social or cultural discrimination in fundamental personal rights based on the grounds of sex, race, color, social conditions, language, or religion must be curbed and eradicated as incompatible with God’s design.
Racism – in any form – has no place in the Christian heart. The protests and riots happening now in thirty or more cities across this land demonstrate that we, as a nation, have a very long way to go in recognizing the fundamental dignity of every person; we have a long way to go in allowing the message of the Gospel to purify our hearts through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
We do not often ponder the role of the Holy Spirit in the process of our salvation. We should frequently call upon the Holy Spirit, using the words of the Pentecost Sequence:
Where you are not, we have naught, nothing good in deed or thought nothing free from taint of ill. Heal our wounds, our strength renew; on our dryness pour your dew; wash the stains of guilt away: Bend the stubborn heart and will; melt the frozen, warm the chill; Guide the steps that go astray.
Our nation, which still claims to be mostly composed of Christians, is in great need of a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit, a new Pentecost, a new season of hearts set afire with the love of God. As we witness so great an absence of genuine Christian love in the hearts of so many people, we may feel powerless to bring about any change, but such a feeling is incompatible with the Gospel.
In 1910, the editors of the British newspaper The Guardian asked various authors for an essay answering the question, “What’s wrong with the world.” G.K. Chesterton, the prolific Catholic, wrote to the editors saying simply, “Dear Sirs, I am.” How many of us are willing to say, “I am what’s wrong with the world?” If we are not willing to acknowledge this, we must implore the Holy Spirit to enlighten the darkness of our hearts in order to be more fully converted to Christ.
Only if we first recognize our own sinfulness, only if we confess our sinfulness to the Lord, only if we receive the grace of his forgiveness can we become bearers of his merciful love to every person we meet. As more and more hearts are converted to the Lord, the darkness of sin is brought into the light and flees away. It starts with you. It starts with me. Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in them the fire of your love. Amen!