Fr Ronald's Homily 31.05.20

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Pentecost Sunday – 31st May 2020

Introduction 

It’s interesting to recognise the way in which the Holy Spirit enters into the lives of the disciples today. If it’s to impact on our own lives, then it’s important we see that Holy Spirit as a ‘both/and’ manifestation. A both/and reality that has a deep influence in our lives, that guides and directs us.

What I mean by ‘both/and’ is that the Spirit is both extremely unique and personal to each one of us and it’s also communal – it can be experienced within our own hearts and also when we are gathered together as one body of Christ. We’re given vivid imagery of these 2 manifestations of the spirit in our readings today.  

Gospel – a breath

In the Gospel, the Holy Spirit is given to the disciples by Jesus breathing on them, there’s a gentleness about this and so we might think of this as the more personal receiving of the spirit, specific to each of us in the complete uniqueness of our lives with both its blessings and challenges.

Jesus breathing on each one of us individually reflects the intimate relationship that we have with him. In this breath, the Holy Spirit is received, and contained within the Spirit are the unique gifts given to each of us.  

In our Novena to the Holy Spirit which we’ve recited for the past 9 days, we’ve gone through the common gifts of the Spirit that he gives to all of us – gifts such as wisdom, understanding and fortitude.

But the gifts available to us through the Spirit is not exhaustive – ‘there is a variety of gifts, working in all sorts of different ways in different people’ St Paul tells us today.

Precise definitions of the gifts that each of us receive are impossible. It’s up to us to recognise the gifts we each have and to nurture them. 

It’s a joy when we discover this, we now know that these gifts are things we couldn’t possibly have gained on our own and so it should help us to realise the very personal love and care that God has for us. This helps to build up our self-worth, self-respect and our value while also guarding us against pride and self-importance, knowing that this is a gift freely given from God, not a reward or something we’ve earned.

Office of Readings

The Divine Office or the Office of Readings is the official prayer of the church. It’s made up of psalms, prayers and readings for praying with at different hours of the day. The Church encourages all the faithful to use it for prayer and there are prayers for the morning, during the day, evening and night – and when Deacons are ordained they make a promise to say these prayers daily. I feel that it gives me a good structure for my prayer life.

Sometimes, it can be a slog and the prayers and psalms are little more than words on a page. On those occasions I try to remember it’s as much a prayer for others, for all who have asked for my prayers, for all the members of our church and our world. It’s not a personal salvation project.

At other times I can gain deep insights and something inside me tells me this is God speaking directly to me in this moment and something he wants me to hear.

What I’m coming to realise is that both these times of prayer – the slog and the more uplifting – are gift. God is speaking powerfully in both.  

 

 

 

 

 

Getting the gift

And so the way we discover our gifts and recognise them is through prayer.

Only by making time and space for prayer do we establish the gifts that we have through the Holy Spirit. It’s here that we allow Jesus to enter in and continually breathe new life into us and show us the gifts that he knows we need for the particular juncture in our lives.

Very often we won’t be able to put into words what that gift is. It’s enough to say that it’s an indwelling, a deep sense that Jesus is saying ‘peace be with you’ in ‘sighs too deep for words.’

And as he does with the disciples today, he repeats it to make it clear he is talking to us in the uniqueness of our own life ‘peace be with you.’ It happens to us when we pray – a word, phase or thought strikes us and then it might come back – maybe much later in the day. This is God speaking to us, this is a gift.

And when we receive that, when we accept the gift, our hearts burn and that’s when the fire can take hold and a wider manifestation of the spirit can happen.     

Strong wind and fire

If the Spirit coming to each of us is the gentle breath of Jesus, then the dramatic reading in Acts, where the spirit comes in the form of wind and fire can be thought of as the power of the spirit to spread throughout the world to all people.

The Gospel scene is no less dramatic – the Risen Christ appearing to the twelve, but it feels calmer.

While in Acts we have a strong wind, tongues of fire and then lots of different languages being spoken all at once.     

It sounds pretty chaotic and different from the serene feeling of the Gospel scene. But both scenes again mirror our lives as people who live in the spirit.

We need both the serenity, calm and the solitude of prayer time balanced with being with others so that the spirit catches fire in all parts of life – even the noisy, messy and chaotic parts – because even here God is telling us something and offering us a gift.

Conclusion

I saw some lovely pictures of Rome this week with people beginning to be able to socialise after weeks apart. And this is perhaps a good image for us to take into this week.

We’ve been isolated, in many cases alone. We’ve had the solitude, but now we can begin to spend time with others – a gentle easing and a small spreading of the spirit.

We have hope that spending time with one household, will become, 2, 3, 10 just like the empty café tables in Rome as the fill up more and more. Like the disciples experienced, this is the spreading of the spirit.

The gift of friendship, laughter and common care and love for one another that grows and grows and which will renew the face of the earth.

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love.