Sunday Homilies by Fr. Rudolf V. D’ Souza

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 Pentecost
May 11, 2008 Year: A
Acts 2:1-11; 1 Cor 12:3b-7, 12-13, Jn 20:19-23
WIND, FIRE, TONGUES

First Reading...
"When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from Heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because all heard them speaking in their own languages. Amazed and astonished, they asked, "Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own language? Partians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and converts, Cretans and Arabs - in our own languages we hear them speaking about God's deeds of power." [Acts 2:1-11]

Second Reading...
"No one can say "Jesus is Lord" except by the Holy Spirit. Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body - Jews or Greeks, slaves or free - and we were all made to drink of one Spirit." [1 Cor. 12:3b-7, 12-13]

Gospel Reading...
"It was evening on the day Jesus rose from the dead, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the authorities. Jesus came and stood among them and said, 'Peace be with you.' After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.

Jesus said to them again, 'Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.'

When He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.' [Jn. 20:19-23]

Helpful Event
I observed the father of a lad giving him Rs. 10 just before entering the Church. I asked him why he gave money to the lad before entering the Church? He told me that the child is trained to be generous towards God and people. I was impressed and was really appreciative of the attitude of the father.

Anecdote
There is a story of identical twins. One was a hope-filled optimist. "Everything is coming up roses!" he would say. The other twin was a sad and hopeless pessimist. He thought that Murphy, as in Murphy's Law, was an optimist. The worried parents of the boys brought them to the local psychologist.

He suggested to the parents a plan to balance the twins' personalities. "On their next birthday, put them in separate rooms to open their gifts. Give the pessimist the best toys you can afford and give the optimist a box of manure."

The parents followed these instructions and carefully observed the results. When they peeked in on the pessimist, they heard him audibly complaining, "I don't like the color of this computer... I'll bet this calculator will break... I don't like the game... I know someone who's got a bigger toy car than this..."

Tiptoeing across the corridor, the parents peeked in and saw their little optimist gleefully throwing the manure up in the garden. He was giggling. "You can't fool me! Where there's this much manure, there's got to be a Rose!"

The event of Pentecost was to fill the pessimist disciples with the Spirit of courage and joy. In our life there are so many things that happen. We tend to take them simply without analyzing their importance to us. At times we are so accustomed that we do not even think that they are from God. Are we filled with the hope of the Resurrected Lord? Or do we worry about things that matter only concerning our material life? Are joyful? Or do we make things sadder as we pass through them?

There are events so wonderful, and so full of mystery, that ordinary language cannot describe them.  Such was the Pentecost event which we celebrate today.  In our first reading Luke, the writer, uses symbols to describe something beyond the power of words to portray.   The coming of God’s Spirit, he writes, was “like a strong driving wind.”  “Tongues as of fire” rested on these first Christians, who suddenly received power “to speak in different tongues.”  These three symbols – wind, fire, tongues – are not arbitrary.  Each tells us something about God and his mysterious work in the world.

1. Wind: The word used by Luke is used elsewhere in Scripture to designate a person’s “breath” or “spirit.”  (Cf. Gen 2:7; Acts 17:25)  At birth breathing begins.  At death it ceases.  The coming of God’s Spirit is said to have been “like wind” because the Spirit is the Church’s breath.  Before the coming of this Spirit-breath, the Church’s life was something like that of an unborn child in the womb. Only with the coming of this “strong driving wind” did the Church receive the fullness of divine life.

This divine breath gives the Church an astonishing power of self-renewal.  Again and again in history the Church has become so corrupt through the sins of its members that people have predicted its imminent demise.  Yet time and again the Church has risen, through the power of this divine Spirit-breath, renewed and purified.  For this recurring phenomenon there is but one possible explanation the fact that the Church lives not from its own strength, and certainly not from the strength of its members, but from the continual in-breathing of God’s Spirit, who is the Church’s life-breath.

2. Fire warms: When breathing stops, so does body heat.  Deep within the collective soul of this great family of God which we call the Catholic Church is the fire of the world’s greatest love: the unbounded love of God for all he has made.  That is the secret of the Church’s magnetism. People in the Church who are cold, hard-hearted, always ready to criticize, to complain, to complain, block the warmth of that love. They act not as heat conveyers, but as heat shields.  Which are you with regard to the Spirit’s fire?  Are you a heat conveyer, or a heat shield?

Fire warms because it burns.  If combustible material is nearby, fire spreads rapidly.  Christianity, it has been said, cannot be taught.  It must be caught.  Are you burning with that fire?  Are you handing it on to others?

Fire also gives light.  God sent his Son into a dark world to be the world’s light.  This light shines today through God’s continual gift of his Spirit to his Church and to each of its members. He wants us to serve as lenses or prisms of that light.  “Your light must shine before others,” Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount, “that they may see your good deeds, and glorify your heavenly Father” (Mt. 5:16).  And in John’s gospel Jesus warns: “Bad people all hate the light and avoid it, for fear that their practices should be shown up.  The honest person comes to the light, so that it may be clearly see that God is in all he does” (John 3:20f).

When we fear God’s light, we need to ask God burn away whatever causes us to shun the light, whatever stands in the way of our spreading the light, fire, and warmth of his Holy Spirit.

3. The Foreign Tongues: in which these first Christians spoke symbolize the Church’s work through history: proclaiming to all peoples, in all languages, the wonderful truth of God:

• That God is, that he is real;

• That he is a God of love, who looks for a response of love – for himself, and for our sisters and brothers;

• That God has made us for himself: to serve, love, and praise him here on earth, to be happy with him forever in heaven;

• That he is the God of the impossible, who can do for us what we can never do for ourselves: fit us for life with him, here and in eternity.

That is the message which we have to proclaim.  Does any of that message come through in your life?  If you were arrested tonight for being a Catholic, would there be enough evidence to convict you?  And if mere presence at Sunday Mass were not enough for conviction, would there be enough evidence then?

That we are Christians in a land undreamed of by anyone on that first day of Pentecost is proof that the Spirit’s “strong driving wind” did not blow in vain.  Those first touched by that wind were blown into places, and situations, they never dreamed of.  Even those who never left Jerusalem found their lives utterly changed.

This same wind of the Spirit is blowing in the Church today.  Is it blowing in your life?  Or are you afraid of that wind – of what it might do to you, and where it might blow you?  Cast aside fear.  The wind of God’s Spirit, like the winds of the sky, blows from different directions.  But in the end this wind blows all who are driven by it to the same place.  The wind of God Spirit blows us home – home to God.

The Spirit of the Lord has given us the spirit of love, truth, joy, peace, patience, generosity, kindness, goodness, self control and humility. We need to bear witness to them. Then perhaps we could say boldly that we are the children of God and children of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.

“[The laity] work for the sanctification of the world from within as a leaven … [making] Christ known to others especially by the testimony of a life resplendent in faith, hope, and charity. [Lumen gentium, 31]

“The laity are called in a special way to make the Church present and operative in those places and circumstances where only through them can it become the salt of the earth.”

There are people here who are doing those things every day. Are you? One day the Lord will examine us about how we have responded to the call to be his messengers to others. Here, ahead of time, are some of the questions in that examination.

God won’t ask what kind of car you drove; he’ll ask how many people you drove who didn’t have transportation.

God won’t ask the area and beauty of your house; he’ll ask how many people you welcomed into your home.

God won’t ask about the clothes you had in your cupboard; he’ll ask how many you helped to clothe.

God won’t ask what your highest salary was; he’ll ask if you cut corners to obtain it.

God won’t ask what your job title was; he’ll ask if you performed your job to the best of your ability.

God won’t ask how many friends you had; he’ll ask how many people to whom you were a friend.

God won’t ask in what neighborhood you lived; he’ll ask how you treated your neighbors.

God won’t ask about the color of your skin; he’ll ask about the content of your character.

The testimony of deeds before words is powerful. You probably know the saying: “What you are speaks so loud that I can’t hear what you say.” Words are cheap and our world is inundated by words. People today are more impressed by deeds than by words.

Bearing witness to Jesus Christ in daily life is difficult. If you doubt that, it probably means that you have never seriously tried it for any extended period of time. With our own resources alone, the task is impossible. But we are not alone. We have an unseen companion in the missionary task: the same divine master and Lord who is saying to us right now, as he said to that little band of weak sinners and doubters on a Galilean hilltop two thousand years ago: “Behold I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

   Click here for other Sunday Homilies 

A New book from Fr. Rudy :
Short review of the book: This book is an out come of a serious exegetical study on the important words and texts from the writings of St John of the Cross. The study deals with a short life and writings of the mystic and then does a complete study on GOD, MAN and WAYS to EXPERIENCE GOD. The book is available at: St. Joseph Church, Near Holy Cross Convent School, Mira Road East, Thane Dt. Maharashtra State - 401 107, India. Books can be ordered through email: rudyocd@yahoo.com or rudyocd@gmail.com

The cost of the book is Rs. 125/- pp.xviii + 234, The Title of the Book is: THE DYNAMISM OF SPIRITUAL GROWTH - An Exegetical Study on St. John of the Cross, author: Dr. Rudolf V. D' Souza, OCD, MA. PhD.

Dear friend, my homilies will be posted on Thursdays and you can benefit them and if you need more resources, you could contact me on rudyocd@yahoo.com or rudyocd@gmail.com

Let us make this ministry fruitful one so that the Word of God becomes a source of joy for me and for you and help people become more aware of its riches. You are also welcome to share your feedback with me. Thanks and God bless. 

 

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