June 4, 2017 Pentecost Sunday Fr Jim Miller

Pentecost Sunday 
Mass during the Day
June 4, 2017

Reading 1ACTS 2:1-11

Responsorial PsalmPS 104:1, 24, 29-30, 31, 34

  1. (cf. 30) Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.

Reading 21 COR 12:3B-7, 12-13

Sequence — Veni, Sancte Spiritus

Come, Holy Spirit, come!
And from your celestial home
Shed a ray of light divine!
Come, Father of the poor!
Come, source of all our store!
Come, within our bosoms shine.

You, of comforters the best;
You, the soul's most welcome guest;
Sweet refreshment here below;
In our labor, rest most sweet;
Grateful coolness in the heat;
Solace in the midst of woe.
O most blessed Light divine,
Shine within these hearts of yours,
And our inmost being fill!
Where you are not, we have naught,
Nothing good in deed or thought,
Nothing free from taint of ill.
Heal our wounds, our strength renew;
On our dryness pour your dew;
Wash the stains of guilt away:
Bend the stubborn heart and will;
Melt the frozen, warm the chill;
Guide the steps that go astray.
On the faithful, who adore
And confess you, evermore
In your sevenfold gift descend;
Give them virtue's sure reward;
Give them your salvation, Lord;
Give them joys that never end. Amen.


GospelJN 20:19-23

Homily— June 3 & 4, 2017

   This weekend we celebrate Pentecost.   Pentecost started as a Jewish feast.  Forty-nine days after the crossing of the Red Sea, the Israelites arrived at Sinai.  On the fiftieth day, God appeared on the mountain in the midst of fire and glory and offered a covenant to Israel.  Jews continue to commemorate this event today on the feast of Shavu’ot, Weeks.:  Greek-speaking Jews called the feast the pentekostes hemera, “the Fiftieth Day.”  It is by this name that the celebration came into the Christian tradition.

   The Jewish and Christian feasts both celebrate God’s action in human history.  Christians focus on the risen Christ still present in the church through the power of the Spirit.  Christ’s resurrection and ascension revealed new dimensions of Christ’s mission, but they did not change its character.  He remained at work in unseen ways, continuing to guide his disciples.  The only substantial difference was that his animating Spirit now became available to anyone who took up his mission.

   St. Cyril of Alexandria wrote “By the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, Christ’s Paschal Mystery was brought to its completion.  The Holy Spirit prepares us with his grace in order to draw us to Christ.  He manifests the Risen Lord to us, opening our minds.  He makes present the mystery of Christ.  And he reconciles us, bringing us into communion with God.  Saint Thomas Aquinas says that the Holy Spirit interiorly perfects our spirit, communicating to it a new dynamism so that it refrains from evil for love.  With the Holy Spirit within us, “it is quite natural for people who had been absorbed by the things of this world to become entirely otherworldly in outlook, and for cowards to become people of great courage”. (Saint Cyril of Alexandria)

   Pope Francis writes, “The Spirit, as Saint Paul says, unites us to Christ:  Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him (Rom 8:9).  Strengthening our relationship of belonging to the Lord Jesus, the Spirit enables us to enter into a new experience of fraternity.  By means of our universal Brother—Jesus—we can relate to one another in a new way; no longer as orphans, but rather as children of the same good and merciful Father.  And this changes everything!  We can see each other as brothers and sisters whose differences can only increase our joy and wonder at sharing in this unique fatherhood and brotherhood.

   Breath means life.  In case of a heart attack or drowning, the first thing a responder ought to do is begin CPR, an emergency measure intended to keep oxygen flowing through the victim’s system so the brain keeps functioning.   If the victim begins breathing again on his or her own, we are overjoyed that the person is given another opportunity at life.  Breath means life.   In the gospel for Pentecost Jesus breathes new Life into his disciples.  This breath-life is the Holy Spirit, a divine Person who recreates us into someone entirely new.

   In John’s gospel Pentecost takes place on Easter evening.  The giving of new Life on Easter and the giving of the Spirit on Pentecost coalesce in the one Body of Christ, the church.  Something entirely new has happened.  This Body is filled with the joy of divine Presence, the grace of risen peace, the eagerness of being sent forth, the breath of new creation, the power of forgiveness.  Forgiveness is the church’s CPR.   It gives us another chance to live our faith as a disciple of Jesus.

   But how do we interpret the Gospel’s mention of “retaining sins.”   John might have intended nothing more than to symbolize the trust Christ put in his apostles.  Augustine emphasized the medicinal value of this teaching:  the “retention” of sins leads to repentance.  While we may never find a fully satisfying way to understand this saying, it might be helpful to remember that discipleship comes as a cost.  Christ allowed the apostles to turn away anyone who did not take his mission seriously.  They “retained” their sins until they had the maturity to follow Christ.

   When we join Christ, God’s work in human history becomes ours as well.  We are to use our gifts, our talents for some benefit.  God continues to act in human history through the labors of Christians throughout the world.

   Our most important task is to reveal God at work.  Perhaps we become teachers of the faith; perhaps we make it our mission to point out moments of grace that others miss.

   We also join God at work.   We are invited to cooperate in God’s labor.  When we provide our hands or voice or heart at the right place and time, we give God new opportunities to transform human history.

   How might you be more inviting to the Spirit at work within you to ‘renew the face of the earth’—or, at least, your own little corner of it?

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