Pentecost – Mass during the Day
1 CORINTHIANS 12:3-7, 12-13
There are a lot of lame excuses for why we don’t do what we’re supposed to do. We’ve all heard them, whether they are from our children, friends, coworkers, ourselves, or whomever. “I can’t come into work today, my cat's got the hiccups.” “The dog ate my homework”, or the modern equivalent, “The dog was chewing on my computer power cord and shut it off accidentally right before I saved my work.” “I was late for Mass because I lost track and did six decades of the rosary before leaving home.” Of course, these are silly or at least harmless, but unfortunately there have been some people over the years that have used the Holy Spirit as an excuse to do something which was really what they themselves wanted to do, and this has caused too much division and divisiveness into our Church. This has usually been because someone loses sight of the totality of Christ’s teaching and focuses on one particular issue or bible passage, and takes it to illogical conclusions which often contradict, or at least diminish, other teachings of our faith.
For instance, there are those who believe themselves spiritual but not religious, believing that living a fairly moral life is enough, but ignoring the long tradition of teaching and worship as a community activity involving others. There are those who use the Gospel from last week, “They will pick up serpents with their hands and … it will not harm them” [Mk 16:18 NABRE] as an excuse to do dangerous activities, some small fringe churches actually handling rattlesnakes as part of their Sunday worship. They completely forget Christ’s admonition when Satan tells him that he can jump from the top of the temple and angels will save him, “You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test” [Lk 4:12 NABRE]. And although they have not been too active since their founder died several years ago, you may remember the Westboro Baptist Church spewing shocking attacks, such as at funerals of soldiers who died in war, all in an effort to gain publicity for their homophobic teachings they say is biblically driven.
The second reading today is the antidote for this way of thinking. Paul tells us very clearly that these ideas are not motivated by the Holy Spirit but instead are only sinful acts of the flesh which drive acts of hatred, rivalry, outbursts of fury, dissensions, and factions, among the other things we just read. Instead, Paul tells the Galatians that we know that the Spirit acts through “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, [and] self-control” [Gal 5:22-23]. The Spirit does not call us to tear down others, but to build up the body of Christ, His Church. An alternate first reading for the Pentecost Vigil Mass, which we did not read today, is the Genesis account of the tower of Babel. You will remember in that account that the people had become so proud that they thought that they could build a tower high enough to be like gods themselves. They were punished by God to speak different languages and thereby dividing them up into small sects and scattering them throughout the world. The first reading today which we did read, the account of the apostles receiving the Holy Spirit on that first Pentecost, is the opposite of this. Here we read that the Holy Spirit works on the apostles so as to bring the world with its many languages back together to understand the Word of God, the teaching of Christ. The sinfulness and arrogance of Babel brings division, whereas the gift of the Holy Spirit brings unity.
We should all remember our own confirmations, when we asked the Church to sacramentally mark us with the Holy Spirit, and kindle in us the fire to do the will of Christ that it gave the apostles. Just last week, with the celebration of the Ascension, we remember the great commission, to go and make disciples, and we do so by welcoming all to our Church, not making walls to keep them out. We must then teach them the Scriptures and the catechism. One way that we might truly live up to this commission is in answer to the call of Pope Francis for the strengthening of our Church through the ministry of catechist. The Holy Father wrote in “Antiquum Ministerium” (Ancient Ministry), his document released at the Vatican on May 11, just two weeks ago: “The Spirit is calling men and women to set out and encounter all those who are waiting to discover the beauty, goodness and truth of the Christian faith.” Due to the shortages of priests throughout the world, it is more important than ever that all the lay faithful play a role in making disciples and then teaching them the body of faith that is the Church. It often takes the gifts of the Holy Spirit to successfully navigate the obstacles represented in the Babel story which still exist today: the different cultures, languages, economic conditions, political outlooks, and the like. But it is our calling if we truly want to be joyful disciples.
As we continue now with the celebration of the Eucharist, we call upon the Holy Spirit to guide our efforts as we truly try to build one communion, one Church, one Body of Christ. We live in difficult times, where the forces of division and ill will are plentiful, so we must all resolve to do our part to counteract this culture of continual ideological warfare through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Christ call sinners to Himself, He forgave the adulterous woman, He promised heaven to the repentant thief on the cross next to Him. We too, with the nourishment that we receive at His altar, pray for the strength to do His will.