Pentecost Sunday – The Homily
Let’s look at Pentecost in the context of Jesus’ “Great Commissioning:”
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20
This reflects the journey of the Church as well as the journey of individual believes reflected in four steps:
- Where you were,
- Where you are,
- The Direction you are going,
- The Purpose of the trip
- Where you were.
“Be sealed with the Holy Spirit.” Remember those words? They were spoken to you by the bishop on the day of your Confirmation. What does the Catholic Church say about that phrase? In the Catechism (#1293-1297) we read:
Christ declared that He was marked with his Father’s seal. Christians are also marked with a seal. It is God who has establishes us as Christians and has commissioned us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. This seal of the Holy Spirit marks three items:
- Our total belonging to Christ,
- Our enrollment in his service,
- The promise of divine protection especially in the midst of great trials
2. Where you are
God doesn’t care if you’re a nice person. God doesn’t want you to be “nice.” God doesn’t want you to be “good.” God doesn’t want you to be “ok.” God wants you to be Holy (different, set apart). Why? Think about a what you enjoy. God want’s THAT to be bigger and brighter and deeper and juicier. Deep down we’re made for more and God made us to be hungry for more.
3. The Direction you’re going
Thomas Merton wrote about this seal in his book, Seeds of Contemplation:
By themselves souls have no special identity. SOULS are like wax waiting for a seal pressed upon them. Their destiny is to be softened and prepared in this life, by God’s will, to receive a seal of their own particular likeness to God – what the person was meant to be. Wax that has melted in God’s will can easily receive this stamp of its identity. Wax that is hard and dry and brittle and without love will not take the seal. The hard seal, descending upon it, grinds it to powder. Therefore if you spend your life trying to escape from the heat of the fire that is meant to soften and prepare you to become your true self, the seal will fall upon you and crush you. You will not be able to take your own true name and countenance, and you will be destroyed by events that were meant to be your fulfillment.
Remember the promise of divine protection especially in the midst of great trials.
4. Purpose of the trip
Sherry Widdell, from the Catherine of Siena Institute tells the story about a presentation on “fruitful discipleship” that she gave to an unusual setting of Catholic leaders. She recounted that several “leaders” came to her afterwards saying things like:
- “I know what you are talking about” … or
- “When I first read your book, I hated it. This stuff about discipleship, relationship, growth in spiritual maturity and charisms just didn’t make sense. But now I get it” … or
- “I used to be like that one story you told – I just did church stuff out of obligation, without any kind of a relationship with God.”
When it came to talking about a personal relationship with a transcendent God, you could just hear the “code of silence.” Nobody asked questions about it – because nobody understood it – because so many of them didn’t even think it was possible. Almost everyone talked only in exclusively institutional terms about the Church. Hardly anyone mentioned God and relationship – and when they did it was in hushed tones to me privately. Most of those present had not read “Forming Intentional Disciples.” A number looked completely lost at sea at first but, then they started to “lean in” on the idea.
Sherry concludes by saying, “It was a good reminder for me that – not only is this where many faithful Catholics are – this is where many Catholic leaders still are as well.”
When you “lean in” – God begins to speak to you in a special language that only you can recognize and understand. Like the people mention in today’s reading from Acts, each person has a “language” that comes from the inside of who that person is – and expresses who they are. This is Merton’s “seal on melted wax.”
If you are able to listen, you can hear the voice of a loving a God telling you the characteristics of who you really are and what you were created to be. However, this is not just about you. And you were created and given a commission to go and get others – “The Great Commissioning.”
People are trying to “move from here to there” in their relationship to Christ – but they’re stuck. You’re being sent to un-stick them. People will magically appear in your life and begin to share characteristics of their God story with you. Jesuit Priest, Father John Foley, S.J. writes, “If you are able to hear, you can “listen into” these characteristics and enlist the loving knowledge of that person – even if they have no idea they are letting you in. One work of the Spirit is to listen for the “insides” of the other person and help them: recognize their own seal, understand the call of their name, realize how they are gifted by God and fulfill their mission and purpose which they received – in the fullness of the Holy Spirit – at their own Baptism and Confirmation.”
Audio version of the homily is here: