Homily for Pentecost 2007
There is so much happening in our Parish that I sometimes wonder if we spread ourselves too thinly. We can if we are not careful loose sight of the wood for the trees. On the other hand, I do believe that we should use every opportunity to provide ways in which people can make contact with Christ. It may be a World Youth Day or it may be an Art Show or a raffle or a tray of avocados given away. Each seen in perspective can provide an opportunity for the Spirit to work. And they are evidence of the richness of the gifts of the Holy Spirit amongst us. We all do not have to do everything. People, even within the Church, have various degrees of attachment to the Christ. Someone who is deeply involved in community life may seem an impossible ideal for someone else. So for some it may be just "touching the fringe of Jesus cloak" is all they can hope for (Matthew 9:20). That too is as it should be.
We have listened to the account of the disciples gathered in the upper room waiting (Acts 2:1-11). As we read the Gospels we realise that they were very like us in their struggles to understand Jesus. In the upper room they gathered each with their own thoughts and needs and prayers. They had been through some highs and lows together. Perhaps some were still enthusiastic about what was happening and wanting to get on with things. Some maybe were doubtful unsure of what Jesus meant when he said that they should wait for something. Some of them were probably shattered by all the things that had happened to them. Some of us certainly have been shattered by life's tragedies.
Some of them might even have been cynical about it all thinking that they have been conned by all the promises. Some of us, too may have grown disheartened or disillusioned by the Church and religion in general. Some like us were simply worried about the future and what it might hold. And probably as well some were bored by it all just waiting for some excitement to liven things up! Some of them like us, too, lived with a deep hope and confidence, trusting God.
So if you find yourself identifying with any of those situations or others we can take heart. For it was to such a motley crew that God sent the Holy Spirit. This greatest of gifts God did not give to those who had all the answers or who had their lives all together. Rather his best gifts are given to those who sincerely struggle with the realities of life.
So Jesus promises that he will ask the Father to send another "Advocate". Another advocate like Jesus himself. An advocate is someone who speaks on our behalf. A bit like a lawyer in a court defending us. But that is not the whole meaning of the word "paraclete" used in John's Gospel. So the word "paraclete" has a variety of translations (Literally the word in Greek means "the person called to the side of one in need of assistance". cf J McKenzie, Dictionary of the Bible, p 636). It is rich in meaning and you will also see it translated as "comforter", "helper", "intercessor". Because of this it is sometimes not translated at all and the Holy Spirit is simply referred to as the Paraclete. Like the wind that blows were it will the Spirit cannot be pinned down to what we would like.
Paul tells it in another way in Romans 8:26, 27 that we read at the Vigil Mass:
"Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God."
Elsewhere he says we cannot say "Jesus is Lord" except by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3). Our prayer and our life comes from God. Our very prayer is the Holy Spirit speaking in us.
There is nothing that those disciples received on that first Pentecost that we have not received also! Like them we have every confidence to live the Gospel in our world. Just as God breathed life into Adam so God breathes life into us. How do we live as a consequence of this enormous gift?
It is this very same gift we want to celebrate with our children as they are confirmed in two weeks time. Please keep them in our hearts as we pray:
Come Holy Spirit, and fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in them the fire of Your Divine Love. Send forth Your Spirit and they shall be created, and You shall renew the face of the earth. Oh God, Who by the light of the Holy Spirit instructed the hearts of the faithful, Grant, that by the same Spirit we may be truly wise and ever rejoice in His consolation. We ask this through Christ Our Lord. Amen.