Homily of Bishop Dermot Farrell
Feast of Pentecost
KCLR96fm, 31st May 2020, 9.30am
The journey to God is a journey of discovery, newness and promise, and it is full of surprises. Whatever happened, at Pentecost the irrepressible power of God’s presence in the apostles and their disciples, became their power and ours on the journey of life. The New Testament continually points to this transforming power.
What did the risen Jesus promise his apostles just prior to his ascension, to make their word and witness effective? “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). How did Paul win adherence to Christ from the Gentiles? In his own words, “by the power of the Spirit” (Rom 15:9). At the resurrection, God raised Jesus from the dead in the power of the Spirit. Whenever God reveals himself, he brings newness – God always brings newness and promise; this demands our trust. Trust involves risk and courage; the apostles, huddled fearfully in the Upper Room, empowered by the Spirit, go forth with courage to proclaim the gospel. They embrace the risk, their worlds are transformed. Resurrected life is not only what happened to Jesus, but it is already lived by us, whose lives empowered by the Spirit are “hidden with Christ in God”, as St Paul says (Col 3:3).
Newness and promise always makes us a bit fearful, because we feel more secure if we have everything under control, if we are the ones who build, programme and plan our lives in accordance with our own ideas, our own comfort, our own preferences. This is also the case when it comes to Christ. Often we follow him, we accept him, but only up to a certain point. It is hard to abandon ourselves to him with complete trust, allowing the Holy Spirit to be the soul and guide of our lives in our every decision. We fear that God may force us to strike out on new paths and leave behind our all too narrow, closed ….horizons—horizons frequently only concerned with ourselves—in order to become open to His ways (see Homily, Pope Francis, 19th May 2013).
If a parish is to live and thrive, that parish, that community, can in the end, only live and thrive by the power of God’s Spirit. If we are to maintain a vibrant community that will grow a new generation of Catholics, we must live in the power of God’s Spirit. Nothing else will permit us fruitfully to come to our end. If others are to drawn to our life of faith, we must let our community be guided by the life of the Spirit. Without the Spirit of God we are just another organisation, we are just another social gathering, just another club. But with and in the power of the Spirit, we are the Church of Christ, the Body of Christ, the People of God who have been sent forth into the world to proclaim the Gospel. As it was for the Apostles, so it is for us, it is the Holy Spirit than turns us from being caught up with ourselves, to being people and communities who look outwards, and who look out for the other. It is the Holy Spirit who thrusts “us out of our ecclesiastical nest into mission” (see Timothy Radcliffe, Why Go To Church? The Drama of the Eucharist, p 198). This Pentecost Sunday, the Word of God calls us to reflect on the role of the Spirit in the missionary work of the early Christian community and in the life of the Church today. At Baptism the water is poured over us, the Holy Spirit is poured into us: that we might be transformed into the likeness of our risen Lord. At Confirmation we are anointed with the oil of Chrism – receiving again the power of the Holy Spirit to live the Christian life with the courage of Christ.
The change occasioned by the Spirit comes from within. It is gentle and organic, not some violence visited on us from beyond. It is patient, it waits—it stands at the door and knocks (Rev 3:20). It knocks so gently that it can only be heard in silence; only in silence is heard the beating of the heart of God. That is where Jesus heard it—“early in the morning while it was still very dark” (Mark 1:35), and “early in the morning of [that] first day of the week” (Mark 16:2).
It was in a darker hour when the Apostles heard it—locked in, afraid, unsure, nervous, their world turned upside down. In these dark and difficult pandemic days, may we embrace the silence, may our wounds be healed, our strength renewed, our grief consoled, our life restored. Come Holy Spirit ..fill the hearts of your faithful…fill my heart.. and kindle in us… kindle in me….the fire of your own Pentecost love.. Send forth your Spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth…. Renew Ossory and Kildare and Leighlin… Renew us.