Pentecost 1st June 2020

posted 8 Jun 2020, 03:29 by Parish Office   [ updated 8 Jun 2020, 03:32 ]

Homily for Pentecost, Year A (1/6/20)

The first Pentecost:  a day when the Holy Spirit moved with great power among the apostles, a real “wow” occasion when people were drawn to see what was going on.  They heard the preaching of St Peter, accepted his message, repented of their sins and were baptised.  “That very day about three thousand were added to their number” (Acts 2:41).  So why is today so different?  There are a few reasons:  here are some of them.

Clearly, at the birth of the Church, God the Holy Spirit decided to kick-start things in a big way with the powerful wind, the tongues of fire and the gift of simultaneous translation, as well as the powerfulness of St Peter’s preaching.  Since those days, we haven’t seen exactly the same manifestation of the Holy Spirit in the Church.  But God has still been at work.

But perhaps here is one of the problems we have today:  in today’s Gospel, Christ gives the apostles His own authority to forgive sins.  It’s a gift that is passed down through the Church with the sacrament of ordination to the priesthood.  But how many people use that sacrament today?

Connected with this is the fact that we have stifled the working of the Holy Spirit by a false form of human psychology.  Believe it or not, to feel guilty at times is a good and healthy thing.  It shows your conscience is still working.  Yes, our conscience needs correcting at times, but sometimes it is thought that all guilt is bad, and that it’s bad to make someone feel guilty.  But that’s not true.  There are times in our lives when the Holy Spirit prompts us by making us feel guilty.  This is the Lord calling us to repentance, to join the queue for confession, unburden ourselves and leave everything at the feet of the Lord.  But instead it can be easier, perhaps because we feel apprehensive, or ashamed, or awkward - and who isn’t at some point? - sometimes it can be easier just to try to ignore the feeling and hope it will go away, and tell ourselves that it is nothing to worry about.

Now we need to be careful here, because there is also such a thing as unhealthy guilt.  Sometimes, after we are forgiven by God, we still struggle to forgive ourselves.  Or it might be that in fact our conscience is a bit out of alignment and we over-react.  So how do we know which is which?  How

do we know which is the functioning of a correct conscience and which is down to scruples, or even the working of an evil spirit?  This is where we have a real gift as Catholics.  As Catholics, we don’t just read the Bible and decide for ourselves what it means.  There is a whole rich treasury of what it’s all about contained in the teaching of the Church.  1 Tim 3:15 says that the Church “upholds the truth and keeps it safe”.  So when it’s a matter of interpretation, or a moral question, we turn to the Church for the answer.  Sometimes it might mean reading up on something in the Catechism of the Catholic Church or some other official document, or it might mean asking maybe a priest or a sister for advice, or discussing it in confession.  One useful phrase I was taught in my training was that if I was unsure, then to say, “I don’t know, but I’ll find out”.

But part of the whole re-aligning of our lives is the sacrament of confession.  It is a sacrament of healing – healing our relationship with the Lord, and also giving us internal healing of sin, helping us to be the people the Lord is calling us to be, helping us to shine with the grace of God.  It’s when we shine, so to speak, that we draw others to the Lord, as St Peter did on that day of the first Pentecost.  That is how we renew and build up the Church – as each one of us individually is healed and restored by the Lord, others begin to say that they want to have what we have got:  they are intrigued by what makes us different and what is behind this great outpouring of love we have for God and for others.

So how do we put things right in the Church?  Well, it begins with us really.  Being faithful to what the Lord asks us means being faithful to what is passed onto us by the Church, and asking the Lord’s help in confession when it goes wrong.  They say that saints are sinners who know their need for God – and if we are to give God to others, we have to first receive Him ourselves.