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Homily for the Solemnity of Pentecost

The Holy Spirit, like a strong, driving wind, came down in tongues of fire.

By Bishop Larry Silva
May 20, 2018

[Immaculate Conception Church, Ewa (Confirmation)
Mary, Star of the Sea Church, Honolulu (Confirmation);

Newman Center/Holy Spirit Parish (Confirmation)]

Thunderous sounds and strong winds.  Tongues of fire.  Recreating the face of the earth.  Changing lives.  All of these terms could very well refer to the volcanic eruptions taking place even as we speak on the Island of Hawaii.  Of course we know that the world renowned beauty of these islands is only possible because of volcanic activity in the past, before there were human beings living here.  And even though what is taking place now on the Big Island is awesome to watch, we know how dangerous and disruptive the eruptions can be to the people living in the rift zones and around them.  Homes and livelihoods have been lost.  Many more are threatened.  With floods or hurricanes, once the clean up is done people can go back and rebuild, but in the case of lava covering the land, they lose even their land.  In many cases, even though they no longer have their lands or homes, people are still required to pay their mortgages.  What can be viewed in the long term as land-building, or from a distance as an impressive and awesome natural phenomenon, will change lives in a very dramatic way.

Thunderous sounds and strong winds.  Tongues of fire.  Recreating the face of the earth.  Changing lives.  All of these terms also apply to the feast we are celebrating today, the feast of Pentecost, in which the Holy Spirit, like a strong, driving wind, came down in tongues of fire.  The Spirit radically changed the lives of the fearful followers of Jesus into fearless prophets of his love who went out boldly, and, speaking in different ways the same language of love, they changed the face of the earth.  That day of Pentecost was like a volcanic eruption in which the faith that had lain dormant was shared explosively with a power that would ultimately touch every nation, every people, and every language on earth.

We are always tempted to view the Scriptures primarily as a record of past events in which God interacted with his people and from which we can draw valuable lessons.  But the Word of God is living and effective today, and what happened back then in such a dramatic way God wants to happen continually, whether with the drama involved in that first day of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit or in the daily, rather undramatic -- but no less powerful -- ways the Spirit continues to work in the world today.  And what is described in such dramatic terms on that first day of Pentecost is happening right here today, perhaps in a less dramatic way, but no less real.  The Holy Spirit is to be poured out into the hearts and souls of our sisters and brothers in the sacrament of Confirmation.  And just as those ordinary disciples went out boldly, miraculously speaking the same message in different tongues, so will our newly confirmed be able to do by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Some of you may see a classmate being bullied, and rather than just feeling sorry for the person, you bring together others to reach out and support this classmate or even to let your fiery love flow over the bully so that the hatred in his or her heart can be buried and burned away.  Some of you may visit a friend, a relative, or a neighbor who is sick and suffering and bring them hope by your presence, your prayers, and perhaps your offer to help them with housework.  Some of you may see someone struggling with studies in school and reach out to help that person have self-confidence, better study habits, or the understanding needed to be more successful.  Some of you may know of someone who is depressed for any number of reasons, and rather than allow that person to become isolated and to be covered over by that suffocating depression, you reach out with a listening ear, an open heart, and a committed presence that allows joy to finally seep through and build within that person.  Some of you will be able to speak the language of the homeless, some of the elderly, some the language of little children, but all will be able to proclaim the language of love that God has first taught you.  That love may remain hidden away, but it will glow within the heart of the person you touch.  Some love may erupt more explosively and dramatically, causing an earth-shaking change in the person.

But you will be given the ability to do these things as long as you stay in intimate contact with the Lord Jesus who sends us the gift of his Holy Spirit.  You stay in contact by daily prayer and reading of the Scriptures, by coming here to be nourished by his own Body and Blood in the Eucharist, and to commit yourself each day to be on fire with his love, a fire that will burn away sin and renew the very face of the earth.