The Solemnity of Pentecost

posted in: Easter, Homilies | 0

Today’s readings

As the pastor of Saint Mary’s, I am grateful to Bishop Hicks for his leadership on this important issue of the protection of children and vulnerable adults.  I think a lot of us are almost weary of hearing about this, but as Bishop points out, an institutional sin like this can’t ever be forgotten until all of the damage, including the sadness in people’s lives, has been healed.  And keeping this issue at the forefront of our attention helps us to keep the victims in our prayers and keep us vigilant about providing an environment where this never happens again.

Also as pastor here, I sincerely apologize to anyone who has ever been harmed by the actions of a priest of this diocese, and in particular of this parish.  Please know that I pray for you in particular and sincerely ask for God’s healing in your lives.

I am grateful for the Charter and for the processes that, over the last few decades, have helped us to make strides in creating a safe environment for children and vulnerable adults, and I pledge as pastor to be certain that these policies and best practices are followed here at Saint Mary’s so that all of our ministries are safe places for everyone who calls Saint Mary’s their spiritual home.  Please check our parish website for more information, including all of Bishop’s videos and his official statement.

On this feast of Pentecost, I think it is important for us to know and see that the Holy Spirit continues to renew and purify the Church.  The Church not only needs to atone for its institutional sin, but it needs to be a beacon that encourages all of the institutions that involve children and vulnerable adults to do better.  Our world needs the Holy Spirit and the light given to us in the Church now more than ever.

On this day when there is more than a little sadness, we need to embrace the joy of the Spirit so that we can brighten a darkened world.  And we see that joy in our first reading today.  The first line, “Each one heard them speaking in his own language” has always amazed me.  As I pictured it, I could just see people standing there in Jerusalem, and all at once these men start preaching and everyone hears them in his or her own language.  It must have been an amazing experience.  Certainly the message had to be powerful, but for each to hear it in his or her own native tongue had to boost the power of the experience for each of them.  This was the power of the Holy Spirit on display for all the world to see.

That powerful experience helped to ignite the fire that was the early Church.  If not for this amazing experience, we wouldn’t be here today: there would be no Church.  But because Jesus returned to the Father and they sent forth the Spirit, those early apostles preached the Word to everyone and the Church was fostered that brings us the faith in our own day.  This is why Pentecost is often called the birthday of the Church.

What I think is important to note about that experience is that the gift of the Holy Spirit enabled the Church to speak the Gospel to everyone.  Not just those who spoke Hebrew, or even Greek or Latin.  That clearly was the work of the Holy Spirit.  That miracle continues today too: thanks be to God, the Gospel is preached all over the world in many, many languages every single day.  And souls continue to be won for the Lord.  But for that Gospel to be believed, for it to be adopted and lived, it needs to be backed up by the way that we live.  Many people may miss the words of our preaching, but they can’t fail to notice our living, our actions – one way or the other.  As Saint Francis once said, “Preach the Gospel at all times.  When necessary, use words.”

Sometimes words fail us.  We might not know the right thing to say in any situation, but in those moments, our actions can preach much louder than our speaking.  We often experience that when someone close to us has lost a loved one, or is grieving in some way.  Words aren’t going to make that all better, but our presence and being there for them says much more than our words could ever say.  That presence may be just the right thing to say at that time.

I think all of this pertains to the news Bishop Hicks spoke of today.  We have to be a Church that is so on fire for the Gospel  that we speak in our words and actions in ways that make our Church a safe place.  We have to be there for victims, helping them to heal.  We have to say something when we see something that isn’t right.  We have to educate ourselves so that we know what to look for.  And we have to commit to doing these things so that the abuse of children and vulnerable adults never happens again.  If the Gospel is to mean anything in the world today, we have to be people who inconvenience ourselves to love others before we do anything else, or our preaching will continue to ring hollow.

And we have no better example for this than our Lord Jesus Christ, who took on the worst in us because he saw the best in us.  He it is who took our sins – our sins – to the cross, and rose to everlasting glory that we might gain that same glory.  He it is who returned to the Father and with him sent their Holy Spirit upon the earth that we, the Church, might be purified and renewed.

This broken world needs to hear the preaching in our actions, in the way we treat every person, so that this world can become the Kingdom of God.  We may well be the only time someone ever sees Jesus; may the preaching of our lives be so strong that they can’t fail to see Jesus in us.

Come Holy Spirit! Renew the face of the earth! Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

Note: You can find all of the information about our response to the Attorney General’s report here.