Homily 06 04 2017
It was Pentecost Sunday. As the congregation filled into the Church, the ushers handed each person a bright red carnation to symbolize the festive spirit of the day. The people listened attentively to the reading of the Pentecost story from the Book of Acts about how the disciples had heard what sounded like a powerful wind from heaven; about how the Holy Spirit had appeared like tongues of fire.
Then came the sermon: The Spirit of the Lord is upon us, the preacher began. “Like the powerful wind from heaven!” shouted a woman sitting in the first pew. Then she threw one of the red carnations toward the altar. The preacher began again: The Spirit of the Lord is upon us. The same woman’s voice rang out again, “Like the tongues of fire, the tongues of fire!” Again, she threw a red carnation toward the altar. The preacher looked straight at her and said, “Now throw your pocketbook.” To which the woman replied, “Preacher, you have just calmed the wind and put out the fire.”
I am so grateful that I was able to be here for Pentecost since it’s always been one of my favorite liturgical celebrations. 46 Years ago my First Mass was on Pentecost. Pentecost is the day when God pulls out all the stops, goes overboard, holds nothing back.
I’ve always felt that Pentecost more than any other feast gives us permission to be reckless. Take risks, dare to dream, throw all caution to the wind! And why is that? Because the Holy Spirit frees us from whatever binds us, holds us back from God who is love, Christ who is love incarnate, made flesh.
For a few moments, we imagine the world the way God wants it to be, a world where all understand each other without judgment or critique, without distinctions that create barriers between us and them.
Easter, Christ’s victory over sin and death, becomes Pentecost, ‘God’s Spirit breathing that resurrected life into each of us, forming us into a community of faith.
Reckless it’s a word that has a negative connotation. People who are reckless are not using good judgment. So why would I use that word?
Hmm…I guess it’s because there is something about Pentecost that wants to let everything go and trust that it’s ok to let the Spirit be in charge. I guess it’s because I’ve been reckless as your pastor, defying the gravity of the Church and at times listening to the Spirit over the law.
And there’s always something there to remind us of God’s seeking and searching for us, liking and loving us, despite our imperfections.
I know I’ve been pretty reckless over these past 46 years saying ‘come one, come all’ when we know that the church has its codes and canons….my heart has told me always to be inclusive.
God wants you here no matter what. God really does delight in your presence and your response to the call. If I have been reckless in my words and actions, I’ve learned from the best.
Isn’t our God the most reckless of all? Is there anything more reckless than loving? Trusting yourself to the other, entering into another’s chaos. That is what Pentecost is really about: It’s the release of love in its purest form symbolized by fire, wind, sound and silence.
When love is set free, extraordinary things happen...
There is reconciliation where none was thought possible. There is hope where there was only disappointment and despair.
I wonder if any of you have already figured out why I chose the word reckless as a key word for my Pentecost homily.
We all know that life is about beginnings and endings. I can hardly believe all the days I have spent here, all of the people who have been gifts to me, all the Eucharists, baptisms, weddings, confessions, funerals I have celebrated, how many special liturgies I have tried to use my creativity to help us celebrate.
As we read Paul’s letters, we realize that the early Church had many problems as the Church now, and the Church in Corinth, to whom Paul wrote that beautiful passage about the gifts of the Spirit, had more problems than any other church Paul founded.
So I ask you to pray that this community with the other parish, called to join together, may receive a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
During the Season of Easter, which concludes today, our first reading at each weekday and Sunday Mass was taken from the Acts of the Apostles. It is a beautiful account of the early Church being led by the Holy Spirit.
Nevertheless we also see in that account that the Church had problems to overcome.
The Acts of the Apostles says that after Jesus’ ascension, Jesus took his seat at the right hand side of his Father and from there he poured out the Holy Spirit on the Church. I ask you to pray to Jesus asking him to continue to pour the Holy Spirit out on the Church so that the Church may fly!
And so a band of cowering fishermen and tax collectors is transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit into preachers, missionaries, converters, apologists, who charge out into the world out into the market place---to turn it to Christ. They explode upon the scene and with a Spirit that can only come from God.
This Pentecost Sunday they begin a many thousand year campaign to bring the whole, unknowing, unbelieving, misbehaving world to a knowledge of the Law of Christ which is the Law of love.
And so if the Ascension of Our Lord into heaven was how we realized we needed a Church Pentecost tells us how that Church will be. The Church will be His presence and voice in the world and it will be fearless and relentless and furious. It will be fueled by the Fire of the Holy Spirit.
Two communities are being drawn together. And the voice of God will continue to go out to the world from here in new ways.
The lesson of Pentecost, fifty days after the Resurrection, is that the Word of God will not be contained or diminished or reduced but will go out in the language and dialect of a new unity... and with the Universal Church in every corner of the world until the end of time because it is the word of Love, the Law of Jesus wants us to make this song known to the ends of the earth especially to the poor.
He has promised us that his Holy Spirit will be with us to help us.
Pope Francis will not let us forget that Jesus is good news and can make the world a better place. We’ve been given at our own experience of Pentecost, via the sacrament of Confirmation. We are Jerusalem, the Jerusalem Jesus wishes were already ablaze.
So how do we go about fulfilling Christ’s cry for us? I go back to that question time and again, what is an experience with the Holy Spirit?
Call out and ask the Holy Spirit to Come and fill the hearts of the faithful, and enkindle their hearts with your love and let ourselves be tapped on the heart by the third person of the Trinity love…the gift of God Himself.
On this celebration of Pentecost we are winding down the Annual Catholic Appeal. Have you gone reckless with your commitment? Have you done anything at all to show you are a part of the Archdiocese or this Parish that is in Transition?
You are invited to look at Christ and to be his hands, to reach out to the needs in our parish and Archdiocese. The money raised this year will help fund the 63 ministries in the Archdiocese. Envelopes are still in the pews and a letter has been sent out this weekend which was also a reminder.
Every gift no matter the amount will be gratefully appreciated The Archdiocesan Goal has been reached but we’re hoping to top last year’s figure once again.
I’m thanking those who already contributed this year, and asking in follow up for the support of all parishioners. I’m calling out to those who have not given in the past or this year. Your support can be in the form of a one-time donation or a monthly pledge spread over 10 months.
I know each one of you will open your hearts and help reach to greater goal.
There’s a story about a young man who was surprised to find his sick and elderly grandfather planting a small peach tree in his backyard. When the young man asked his grandfather why he was planting the tree, the old man replied, “Son, all my life I have eaten the fruit from trees that other people have planted. I figure I have an obligation to make sure there is some fruit around for others to enjoy.”
We have been given much by parishioners from the Archdiocese of Seattle who went before us. Have you done your part to leave a legacy for the future and our archdiocese? Are you witnessing your faith by being a part of this year’s Annual Catholic Appeal?
Our faith is a living faith, one that moves from listening to doing something. When you give a gift to charity both the giver and the receiver are blessed.
You can help. Please do it.
Allow the Holy Spirit of Pentecost to direct you in your own spiritual renewal and respond with a giving heart.