Monday, May 28, 2012
Pentecost - homily
In twenty years of youth ministry one of the things I've learned about young people is that they don't speak on their own, by and large. When I've talked with them about faith and morals and what they believe, they usually just repeat what they've heard from their parents, other adults, media, celebrities, or politicians. This is mostly true of kids in grade school, high school, and at the start of college. In college, they begin to make their beliefs their own and either separate from their "sources" or fine-tune what others have told them. Many of us adults still do the same thing - we don't speak on our own. This isn't a bad thing...although it does depend on the viewpoint and the source.
We celebrate the feast of Pentecost today. This is the solemn feast of the Holy Spirit coming down on the Apostles and beginning the Catholic Church. Jesus tells us in the Gospel that the Spirit doesn't speak on his own. Even the Holy Spirit doesn't speak on his own! The powerful Spirit of Christ who is from the Father and came down on the Apostles as tongues of fire, animated them and has continued to guide the Church for 2000 years, the Spirit of Truth who is the third divine person of the Trinity...He doesn't speak on his own. He speaks what Christ tells Him and Christ speaks what the Father tells Him. So, the Spirit speaks on the authority of the Father. The Father is the author of life, and so He is the true author-ity for all to base their beliefs.
"What is your authority?" This is a question I asked a Catholic couple with whom I'm good friends years ago when we were having a friendly debate about in vitro fertilization. I said my authority was Jesus Christ and His Church. They paused, and then said their authority was their feelings...and science. When I told them the science of IVF - that for every one embryo that implants on the mother's uterine wall, several other embryos die - they realized that they didn't have any real authority. They changed their belief on that issue by the end of the conversation.
Today's second reading helps us to see that we have a choice when it comes to authority: either the Holy Spirit is our authority on matters of faith and morals or the world is. The Spirit and the world are opposed to one another, St Paul writes. And, when we talk about the Spirit, we mean the Spirit that Christ sent...the Spirit of Truth that has guided the Catholic Church on matters of faith and morals for 2000 years. The Spirit continues to speak through the Church in keeping us rooted in Truth...rooted in Christ. We belong to Christ! We don't belong to the world. We don't belong to the Washington Post or Fox News or the Internet or the culture or a political party. We don't even belong to our parents. We belong to Christ. We speak on His authority and on the authority of His Church.
What we think and say will lead to how we act. If we think as the world thinks, we will act as the world acts. St Paul refers to these as "the works of the flesh" – some that he cites are immorality, impurity, lust,...hatreds...and selfishness. And, he warns "that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God". But, if we think as the Spirit thinks, we will act as the Spirit acts. The fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Life in the Spirit is what each one of us truly desires!
I have had that quote from Galatians 5 about the fruits of the Spirit next to my bed for many years to remind myself every day that that's the life I want. I recommend all of you to do the same - make Galatians 5:22 visible to you on a daily basis. Make the Eucharist the center of your life in the Spirit so that it will nourish all the fruits of the Spirit. Our lives are like trees bearing fruit. Hopefully, they are bearing the fruits of the Spirit in our speech and actions - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.