05 June 2022

Homily - The Solemnity of Pentecost - 5 June 2022

 The Solemnity of Pentecost (C)

Dear brothers and sisters,

“When the time for Pentecost had fulfilled” - that is, today, fifty days after the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus – “they were all in one place together” (Acts 2:1).” There is an important lesson for us in this. Those first disciples were not simply scattered about, each in their own home or on the lake or in the woods; no, they gathered because they knew the importance of being together. This is something we need to rediscover today if we ever hope to live out the call of the Second Vatican Council which urged us to strive “to encourage a sense of community within the parish, above all in the common celebration of the Sunday Mass.”[1]

It goes without saying that fostering this sense of community – of being in union with one another – is made more difficult, if not impossible, if each member of the parish does not come together for the celebration of the Holy Mass. It is within the celebration of the Holy Mass, through the invocation of the Holy Spirit and the words of Institution spoken by the Lord that we receive the Body and Blood of Christ Jesus. Whenever a Christian receives the Eucharist, we can rightly address to him or her the words of Saint Paul: “Christ is in you” (Romans 8:10)! Christ is not simply in me or in you, or you, or you, but in each one of us together; being united to Jesus we are united to one another.

Our coming together, our union with one another, is not brought about simply for sheer force our will; it is brought about by the action of the Holy Spirit. As we celebrate this great Solemnity of Pentecost, it is a good opportunity for us to consider who the Holy spirit is, who it is that unites us.

A few days ago, I stumbled upon a description of the Holy Spirit that immediately struck me as true, even though I could not adequately explain what it meant. The author described the Holy Spirit as “the light and fire of the Face of God” and said that his work is “to sanctify our souls, shining upon us the radiance of His light, transforming us into His own likeness.”[2]

As I struggled and searched to discover just what it meant to call the Holy Spirit the “light and fire of the Face of God” -  a captivating phrase, to be sure - I stumbled upon these words of Pope Saint John Paul II: “The Holy Spirit left the mark of his own divine personality on the face of Christ.”[3] I knew they, too, were true, but they did not help a great deal in my understanding.

Then, finally, while pouring over the writings of Saint Augustine, I found a reference to a verse I had not noticed before from Saint Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians: “For it is God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ who has shone in our hearts to give the light the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (II Corinthians 4:6). This, in turn, led me to the writings of Saint Ambrose, whose words and example converted Saint Augustine. (At this point, I felt like Gandalf scouring the ancient texts in the archives of Gondor.)

When he reflected on the notion of “the glory of God in the face of Christ,” he asked, “Who is it, then, who shined that we might know God in the face of Jesus Christ? Who else do we think but the Spirit who was made manifest? …For whose glory is said to give light but that of the Spirit?”[4] Finally, I understood! The Holy Spirit is the light and fire of the face of Christ because it is the Holy Spirit who reveals the glory of the God in Jesus. When the face of Jesus shone like the sun on Mount Tabor, it was because of the Holy Spirit who revealed the fullness of Jesus’ divine glory and power.

While most people at the time of the Apostles looked on Jesus and saw just another man, some looked upon him and saw him for who he truly is: God made flesh. They saw his divinity because their eyes had been opened by the Holy Spirit who revealed his glory to them. This is why we need the light of the Holy Spirit even today; we, too, need to look upon the Face of Jesus and see not just another man, but God himself.

The more we look upon the Face of Christ the more we become like him. The more we look upon the Face of Jesus, upon the Face of Mercy and of Love, the more the Holy Spirit can make us holy. And as we become holy, the light of the Holy Spirit will radiate out from us into a darkened world to give the light of the knowledge of God in the face of Christ in us. “May the Holy Spirit,” then, “who guides the steps of believers in cooperating with the work of salvation wrought by Christ, lead the way and support the People of God so that [we] may contemplate the face of mercy.”[5] Amen.

[1] Sacrosanctum Concilium, 42.

[2] Patricia Enk, “Restoring the Divine Likeness – Come Holy Spirit,” Illumina Domini, 27 May 2022. Accessed 23 May 2022. Available at https://illuminadomine.com/2022/05/27/restoring-the-divine-likeness-come-holy-spirit/.

[3] Pope Saint John Paul II, Wednesday General Audience, 28 March 1990.

[4] Saint Ambrose of Milan, The Holy Spirit, 3.12.86, 89.

[5] Pope Francis, Misericordiae Vultus, 4.

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