Seventh Sunday of Easter
Feast of Pentecost
May 31st, 2020
Pentecost Sunday Homily by Fr. Carré
Dear brothers and sisters,
Today, we celebrate the feast of the Pentecost, the day when Jesus sent the Holy Spirit upon his disciples. This is what we call the birthday of the Church, an institution that has survived for more than 2,000 years, despite attacks from without and divisions within.
In today’s first reading we learn how the Holy Spirit managed to create unity out of a diversity of peoples. Out of confusion, the Holy Spirit produced understanding and mutual acceptance among foreigners from every part of the then-known world. However, the work of the Holy Spirit did not end on that Pentecost Sunday.
In his letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul describes how the Holy Spirit continues de create a unity among the diverse peoples that make up the human family. To describe the unity that the Holy Spirit achieves, St. Paul uses as his model, not a business or a team, but the human body. This model adequately stresses the contribution of the individual and the good of the whole.
For a body to function well, all of its parts must remain united to the body. When a part is separated from the body, it loses its purpose and worth. The body also suffers when parts of the body are separated from it. Many of you may have seen the documentary “The March of the Penguins”. The penguins make a yearly march from the South Pole to the Antarctic circle and then return to the Pole. When temperatures approach 80 degrees below zero and winds exceed 100 miles an hour, the penguins huddle together as tight as possible, to form one compact body to survive.
They regularly take turns standing on the outer perimeter, so that no one will suffer and die. Individually, they could not possibly survive the storm, but collectively they are saved. The film also shows that the male and female penguins have distinct responsibilities.
The female lays the egg, but the male takes responsibility for keeping it warm and keeping the chick warm, after it is hatched. However, the female then takes over the feeding.
So it is in the Body of Christ. Responsibilities are shared within the body, the Church. It is important to note that the Spirit came directly to each individual on Pentecost. All members of the body receive the Spirit directly from Christ and transmit the gifts of the Spirit to each other. Jesus does not entrust the riches of Salvation to some members of the Church who represent him and then pass on his message and grace to those they consider worthy. This teaching is emphasized in baptism, when the baptized person is anointed with Chrism and becomes priest, prophet and king.
The Pentecost event is the completion of the Easter event. At Easter, we celebrate the return of Jesus to the disciples in another form. His post-resurrection presence is different from his previous presence. The work of the Holy Spirit is what creates this presence in the world by forming the Body of Christ, the Church.
The Body of Christ that St. Paul describes is not a stand in for Christ, but is Christ himself in another form. This is made clear in today’s gospel, when Jesus delegates to the disciples the power to forgive sin. “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiving them, and whose sins you retain are retained. Consequently, there is no further need of Jesus’ physical presence in the world, because He is present physically in and through his Body, that is, in and through us. We are the hands, the eyes, the feet of Jesus.
This identity with Jesus is renewed every time that we celebrate the Eucharist together, when we come here to enter into communion, not just with Jesus, but with all the other members of his Body, the Church. So, we pray “Come, O divine Holy Spirit enrich our souls with your gifts and kindle in us the fire of your love.” Amen.
Philippians 4:6-7 Revised Standard Version (RSV)
Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.