This homily was for the Mass of the Holy Spirit, celebrated at the beginning of the new school year.
Readings: Isaiah 42:1-3; 1 Corinthians 12:4-13; Matthew 5:1-12a
I’m grateful that we can come together as a community to celebrate Mass on this second day of the school year. It’s good that we begin our year with Mass, and that we begin by asking for the help of the Holy Spirit. That’s why we are celebrating a Mass of the Holy Spirit today. A Mass of the Holy Spirit is a traditional way to begin a school year.
So I once heard a story about a priest who was walking through the jungle. At one point, he comes face to face with a very hungry lion. The priest, of course, is very frightened and he makes the sign of the cross and prays, “Lord, if you can hear me, please fill this lion’s heart with the Holy Spirit. The lion stops right in his tracks and a bright light begins to shine all around him. The priest is relieved until he sees the lion fold his paws, bow his head, and say, “Bless us, O Lord, and these thy gifts…”
But of course, that’s not what the Holy Spirit is really like. We know that the Holy Spirit is God: the third person of the Holy Trinity. The Holy Spirit is the One who fills us with grace and helps us to do the really hard things in life, helps us to do the things that are really worth doing, those things that are part of who we are, those things that are our life’s vocation.
I really don’t think we spend enough time praying to the Holy Spirit. And that’s too bad, because we have to do really hard things in life, and we aren’t ever expected to do them all by ourselves. In fact, if we do them by ourselves, we will very rarely be successful. God the Father calls us to an amazing life, and wants us to shine and do great things, but when we insist on doing them ourselves, it can be very disappointing.
Just think about the Blessed Virgin Mary. She was called to do maybe the hardest thing anyone has ever been called to do: to be the Mother of God. Raising Jesus was probably very hard. There was a lot of danger, and lots of people didn’t agree with the way Jesus was practicing the faith. We know that she eventually had to watch her Son die on that cross. How could she do all that and still have faith? Well, she did it by relying on the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The Gospels tell us that she was filled with the Holy Spirit, and that’s how she conceived our Lord. And she relied on the Holy Spirit to help her do her part in God’s plan.
The Blessed Virgin is amazing. Her faith is incredible. But we are called to have that same faith, too, and we can get it the same way she did, by letting the Holy Spirit come into our lives and bring great things to birth in us. We aren’t called to give birth to our Savior, but we are called to give birth to great ideas, to important technology that will save lives, to social programs that help those most in need. And all of that starts now, with you learning in our school and especially by inviting the Holy Spirit into your life.
That Holy Spirit will make demands of us, just like he made demands of Mary and even Saint Joseph who was the father of Jesus. But he will never demand anything of us that we cannot do with the help of his grace. Just as Mary was full of grace, which helped her to be the Mother of God, so that same Holy Spirit can give us grace to make the world a better place.
Our second reading today tells us about the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We all aren’t filled with all of the gifts, and we all don’t have the same gifts. But the Holy Spirit gives us all different gifts that serve the world and make it better. It’s important to remember that those gifts aren’t for us alone: we are given gifts to share with others and help others and to continue to let God create great things in our world.
So, this school year, we should rely on the Holy Spirit. We shouldn’t expect him to give us answers to the test we didn’t study for. We shouldn’t expect him to finish the homework we never started. But we can expect him to help us to understand new things that seem hard. We should expect him to make new ideas spark creativity in our souls. We should expect him to inspire us to be there for our friends and classmates so that we can do our part in making our school a grace-filled place.
All we have to do is to let the Spirit into our lives so we can be filled with his gifts. Then our reward will be great in heaven!