Homily Hot Sheet
June 8th, 2014 Lourdes Deacon Thomas Winninger
Pentecost, John 20:19-23
Acts 2:1-11, 1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13

Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you... As the Father has sent me, so I send you."

Pentecost was already a great feast. The celebration was not initiated to remind people of the coming of the Holy Spirit. It was one of the three great Jewish feasts at the time. The Jewish event was similar to our celebration of Thanksgiving. It was an ancient celebration when many pilgrims would come from all over the Eastern Mediterranean into Jerusalem in gratitude to God for the yearly harvest about to be reaped. Later, another Jewish tradition added the remembrance of the Law given to Moses on Mount Sinai. It was celebrated 50 days after the Pasch. It was a time of great rejoicing.

For the 150 or so disciples crowded in the upper room it was not so joyful. Just 50 days before their leader, their friend, had been brutally murdered. But some of them had seen Jesus since then, he had appeared to them. There is a sense that the room was quiet, they could hear the noise in the street below. Many of them were hoping that Jesus would come to say farewell for he had indicated that he was leaving them and going to the Father.

Then "bam" there he was in their midst, Jesus their Lord. He said a few words then "bam" suddenly the rush of a mighty wind came and filled the house where they were sitting and tongues of fire came and rested on each of them. The visual images in scripture are wonderful, "wind and fire", elements which usually accompanied God in the Old Testament.

The key theme here is not just one of enlightenment. Yes, they were filled with wisdom of understanding, yes they were able to speak and be understood by all who heard them, yes, they were strengthened in their fear. But more than that they were commissioned in their purpose and formed into Church. Biblical scholars say that this was the beginning of the Church. Each individual disciple at that moment with the help of the Holy Spirit came to understand why he or she was created. They received the understanding of their unique gifts in which they were called. Now that is powerful. They came to understand the purpose of their lives. It is purpose that makes all the difference.

Each of us knows someone who lived all their life and never understood for what purpose they were created. They lived in ignorance, but not these disciples in the brief moment of time the reality of who they were and what they were meant to do became so real to them and no amount of fear of difference in language was going to stand in their way. Their purpose was to go forth to evangelize the world. They were Church, a community of believers, to go out as Jesus did sharing the good news of salvation.

WOW! In a time when many of us don't know who we are and what our purpose in life is, this is amazing. Well, some of us are good at defining ourselves purely in terms of what our job is or what our living situation happens to be. We even ask each other what we do rather than who we are. Let's not be too hard on ourselves, I find defining myself as Deacon or as a father of seven.

But that is not what the mystery of Pentecost is all about. It is about coming to realize what we are called to do, what our purpose is, based on our unique gifts. For example, if we followed the formulas of the gospel when we introduced ourselves, or better yet when one of the disciples in the upper room would describe himself it might go something like this, "I am a true believer in the message of salvation, called to tell others about the joy of living life conformed to the will of God." Now if you met someone in the hallway or even here in Church who introduced themselves that way we might think them strange. It is easy to understand that we would not say that as a normal part of conversation with others but the sad part is that we don't say that to ourselves, and sadder yet we don't live the purpose of that definition in our lives. We don't live the purpose of Pentecost, we don't live our call, our created purpose.

Don't we all wish we could have been in the upper room when the Holy Spirit came in wind and fire, but we are in the upper room? This is the upper room; the Holy Spirit doesn't operate in space and time. The Pentecost of 2000 years ago is happening at this moment. You say, Deacon Winninger I don't hear the rushing of the mighty wind and I don't see tongues of fire (Pause) and why not? (Pause). Because it is not happening out there, it is happening in here. The Holy Spirit is at work all the time, the Paraclete is in perpetual motion, just like parents who are always giving of themselves always guiding, guarding, feeding, praying for their children.

So what must we do if we want to experience Pentecost in our lives, if we want to understand our purpose, our call and experience the same joy that the disciples experienced. Augustine says that we must correspond with the Holy Spirit. Not unlike writing a note to someone we love. First, he says we must become docile to the reality of the Holy Spirit. Now that is not a word we hear in common usage. Docile means we must be open like the disciples to learn; it is a willingness to be teachable. For when we are we discover things. We discover God's dots in our lives; those are situations, people or circumstances that lead us to knowledge of our purpose, the knowledge of God's presence in our lives. We miss God's dots because we are making our own dots and connecting our own dots. Suddenly something changes in our lives, God gets our attention by erasing the lines we are drawing connecting our dots, forcing us to consider his dots. (Now dots are another whole homily). Second, we must come to reflective prayer, that is conversation with the Holy Spirit in such a way that we share ourselves, what we know about ourselves and what we would like to know about ourselves. Most of us fall into the human trap of just asking for more dots.

And third, we must come to union with the cross. The Holy Spirit follows the cross, it does not precede it. In other words, we must abandon our will to God, humble ourselves, get control of our will by a practice of abstinence when it isn't Lent. It opens space for the will of God to enter. Corresponding with the Holy Spirit is worth it for Augustine reminds us that the Holy Spirit brings many gifts that change our lives for the good including love, joy, peace, trustfulness, kindness, goodness, gentleness, patience, and self-control.

Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you... As the Father has sent me, so I send you."