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Bishop's Homily for the Solemnity of Pentecost

June 4, 2017

The Solemnity of Pentecost, Year A - June 3-4, 2017

[Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, Ewa Beach (Confirmation); Holy Ghost Mission, Kula (Confirmation and Holy Ghost Festa); Christ the King Church, Kahului (Spanish Confirmation)]

Strong driving winds can be very destructive.  Just this week, a bishop in Florida issued a prayer for protection during the hurricane season.  Fire, too, can be extremely dangerous, and many have lost their lives and their livelihoods in fires.  Yet, as dangerous as wind and fire can be, these were the elements chosen by the Holy Spirit to manifest his presence.  And this was a dramatic moment, in which men and women who had locked themselves away for a well-founded fear of being put to death as their Master had been, went out boldly to proclaim the Good News of Jesus risen from the dead in languages that would be understood by all who heard them.  Thousands were converted to the Lord, and so this feast day of Pentecost is often referred to as the birthday of the Church.  The wind and the fire of the Spirit set the world on fire and blew down walls of safety, so that Jesus could be proclaimed to the whole world. 

Of course, wind can also be welcome, as on a hot humid day; and fire, too, is essential for heat and warmth.  And so these elements can be quite common, ordinary, and undramatic as well.  In fact we see another sending of the Holy Spirit in the Gospel, in which Jesus simply breathes upon the disciples and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”  This is hardly the drama of Pentecost and might not have been notable at all, except for the dramatic fact that the one who said these things had just died and now was standing risen and very much alive before them.  It was the same Holy Spirit, yet in one case it was given in a simple way, and in another with great drama.  But even when Jesus breathed out gently upon them, he entrusted to them the same mission he had received from his Father. 

And so today we witness a beautiful outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the sacrament of Confirmation.  It seems undramatic, but beware!  It may become just as dangerous as strong winds and flames, if we accept the mission Jesus has entrusted to us. 

When we go out and speak the language of the poor and homeless by getting to know them, by trying to understand what makes them live without the dignity of a home, that may seem undramatic, but it can change lives and change a whole culture that is based on certain people being successful, even if it means others have to suffer.  To confront this attitude in ourselves and in our culture can make others feel they are suffering a hurricane or a fire, but it is what the Holy Spirit empowers us to do, even if criticism and persecution follow because we have upset somebody’s way of approaching life. 

If we let the Spirit teach us the language of the rejected and the bullied, we will be able to amaze people that we care enough to approach them, while everyone else seems to shun them.  Building such relationships with these people whom others laugh at or scorn may be appreciated, but it may also make us the objects of criticism or scorn.  But it is the Holy Spirit who can empower us to bring his cleansing fire to melt the hearts of those who have learned to harden them against their brothers and sisters. 

If we allow the Spirit to teach us the language of little children who need guidance, or of elders who are lonely, or of the self-absorbed so that they can see the beauty of others, the world can be set on fire and the winds of the Spirit can knock down the walls of hatred, indifference, and loneliness that so often lead people to turn to self-destructive use of sex, wealth, or power to fill up the pain they feel inside.  If we learn to always speak the language of the Holy Spirit, we will be able to melt the frozen and warm the chill. 

The world in which we live is often stagnant with a focus on “me” and with each individual acting as if he or she were a separate god.  To this world Jesus sends us to bring the fire of his undying love.  The world we inhabit is often cold and cruel toward so many people.  To this world Jesus sends us with his Holy Spirit to bring the warmth of his healing love.  We may do this as undramatically as breathing out a kind word or a smile on some darkened soul, or we may do it as dramatically as leaving the little rooms in which we often lock ourselves so that we can go out to proclaim the Good News of Jesus where it is so desperately needed, articulating it in a thousand different languages.  But today we celebrate the fact that this wondrous, awesome gift of the Holy Spirit is given to us so that we can be sent in the same way that Jesus was sent to lay down his life in love for all.