19th/20th May

posted 21 May 2018, 06:06 by Parish Office   [ updated 21 May 2018, 06:08 ]

Homily for the Solemnity of Pentecost, Year B (19 & 20/5/18)


How do we distinguish right from wrong?  And how do we make sure that we actually do what is right and avoid what is wrong?  It’s a lifelong task, trying to get it right.  And the Holy Spirit comes to our aid.


But we have to be careful, because as well as the Holy Spirit, there is the evil spirit, Satan, the deceiver.  St Louis Marie de Montfort wrote that Satan is just like a forgerer of coins – no one bothers to forge coins of little value.  How many forged 1p coins have you heard of?  Probably not a single one.  Meanwhile, the Royal Mint has changed the £1 coin because there were so many forgeries in circulation.  The same can be true with our faith, and our sense of right and wrong.  There is the truth, and there are forgeries, deceptions, spread by the Evil One, on some quite big issues.  How do we know which is which?  It’s not always easy.


Christ gives us some help today in the Gospel:  “But when the Spirit of truth comes / he will lead you to the complete truth … he … will say only what he has learnt … since all he tells you will be taken from what is mine”  (Exerpts from John 16: 13 and 14).  There is one truth.  Truth does not contradict truth.  So the Holy Spirit brings deeper understanding, not contradiction.


In the year 156, a recent convert to Christianity, Montanus, claimed that he was receiving special revelations from the Holy Spirit, that were going to add to and complete what Christ had revealed.  Many were seduced, including the theologian Tertullian.  Montanus and his followers claimed that the Church was lax, and lengthened the time of fasting.  They said that people were not to flee from martyrdom, they discouraged marriage and said that those who had been widowed were not allowed to get married again.  They also said that the heavenly Jerusalem was going descend on the Earth in a plain between the two villages of Pepuza and Tymion in Phrygia.  It never happened, of course, and the followers of Montanus were finally excommunicated by the Church.  They then became a separate sect, setting up their headquarters in Pepuza.  The movement eventually faded away.


Instead, today, we have an opposite trend.  Instead of an overly-strict moral code, we have the opposite.  In the second reading, St Paul reminds us that self-indulgence is the opposite of the work of the Spirit.  Self-indulgence leads to fornication, gross indecency and sexual irresponsibility; idolatry and sorcery; feuds and wrangling; jealousy, bad temper and quarrels; disagreements, factions, envy; drunkenenss, orgies and similar things.  It sounds like something on the Jeremy Kyle Show.  Meanwhile, the Spirit brings love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control.  He then underlines this and says, “You cannot belong to Christ Jesus unless you cruficy all self-indulgent passions and desire” (Galations 5:24).  Ouch!  He has to be strict with us because otherwise we can start to deceive ourselves into thinking that “self-indulgence”, as he calls it, isn’t so bad after all.  So if we know where we need to go, how do we get there?


Well, firstly, before we get discouraged, let’s remind ourselves of a few things.  Firstly, St Paul is speaking about “fruits” of the Holy Spirit.  The fact that they are fruits means that they take time to grow.  It also means we can draw an analogy with fruit trees.  At the moment, many of the trees are in flower.  They look nice.  But flowers are not fruits.  The flowers are a bit like when someone is first baptised and confirmed.  The initial enthusiasm.  But with flowers on trees, after a while, the petals fall off, and then they don’t look quite so interesting.  After the initial enthusiasm with converts, things can then begin to settle down a bit.  With trees, it’s only then in the months that follow that we see the fruits grow and ripen, and then finally they’re ready, if someone doesn’t knock them off the tree first, or the late frost damage them, or the birds get them.  In the same way with us, the fruits of the Holy Spirit require us to keep the danger of self-indulgence away, the tempations of the world, the flesh and the devil.  Just as a tree needs the warmth of the sun, so we need the warmth of the fire of the Holy Spirit to help us to ripen as Christians.  Or we can put it another way.  We need the Holy Spirit to be the motive power in our lives, like the petrol for a car.  In the first reading, the Apostles knew what they were supposed to do (in theory, a little bit, at least), but they needed the Holy Spirit to empower them into action.  We too need the Spirit!  Oh yes we do!  And being the month of May, we can ask Our Lady, the Spouse of the Holy Spirit, to intercede for us, to join her prayers to ours as we pray for the gift of the Holy Spirit on ourselves, the Church and the world.


So if we are to remain faithful, if we are to grow, if we are to go from strenth to strength, we need the Holy Spirit.  Without him, we’re like tourists without a sat nav and fruit trees without sunlight.  We might as well be flogging a dead horse.