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He is the Spirit of Love between the Father and the Son

Homily by Archbishop Wenski on the Vigil of Pentecost

Homily by Archbishop Thomas Wenski at Mass with the Scouts on the Vigil of Pentecost. St. Mary Cathedral, May 18,2013.

This evening we celebrate the vigil of Pentecost –the day on which Jesus as he had promised sent the Holy Spirit upon the disciples who were gathered in prayer in the Upper Room together with Mary, his mother.  This day can rightly be considered as the “birthday” of the Church – for though she was born in the Blood and Water that flowed from the pierced side of Jesus on Good Friday, today on Pentecost she receives her mission, and the power to carry out here mission in the world.

That mission is simply to tell the world the good news about Jesus Christ – and today the Spirit is sent by Jesus so that we might understand him better, so that we might understand his word, his life, his sufferings in their true depth. The Holy Spirit as we say in the Creed every Sunday “proceeds from the Father and the Son”.  He too is true God of true God.  He is the Spirit of Love between the Father and the Son – and it is the Holy Spirit who introduces us into that love, for as St. Paul says “No one can say Jesus Christ is Lord unless in the Holy Spirit.

Let us conduct a short experiment:  everyone hold their breath and don’t breathe until I tell you. What would happen it you did not breathe – you would die.  Our bodies need oxygen in order to live.  If you cut off our air supply we will suffocate and then die. Just as our physical bodies need oxygen to live, so we too, in our lives as Christians, we need that “breath of God” which is the Holy Spirit to make us live in Christ. 

Today we could say that the Church draws her first breathes – and comes to life in the Spirit. The Spirit infuses in us the inspiration and power of Jesus so that we might have the courage to follow in his footsteps.
In Baptism we are incorporated into the Body of Christ – in other words, we become members of his Body.  The Spirit is given to us that we may be “living” members of his Body – for it is only to the degree that we are alive in Christ, it is only to that degree that we can witness to him both in the Church and in the world.

If the world was divided since Babel – and this division is exemplified in the confusion of tongues, on Pentecost the world is reconciled again – Babel has been defeated by Pentecost, the confusion of tongues with the new language the Spirit gives Jesus’ Church to speak:  the language of love.

Today, as we commemorate that first Pentecost, we pray for a new Pentecost in our world and in our Church today.  We pray that the Spirit and his gifts will heal in the world the divisions that still beset us as a human race, divisions that spawn war and strife.  We pray also that the Spirit and his gifts will heal the Church, the Body of Christ whose unity is broken by schism and by sin.  Just as the Spirit filled the Apostles on the first Pentecost with fire to boldly proclaim Christ crucified and risen from the death to the people of their times, so too we ask the Spirit to strengthen us to re-propose in a New Evangelization the good news of Jesus Christ, who is the “same, yesterday, today and forever.”

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful – and renew the face of the earth.

And, on this vigil of Pentecost, we recognize Catholic scouting. 

Catholic scouting is an effective way to help Catholic youths to do their duty to God and to their country. Scouting builds character and teaches devotion to God in an environment that provides wholesome fun under the guidance of strong adult role models. The scouting programs provide a wonderful channel to involve youth in the life of Catholic parishes.

Young people experience Scouting as a growth into personal maturity and social responsibility. They learn to assume their role in life with a high degree of commitment, and to care for others who are less fortunate. They develop a strong desire to build a culture of goodwill, respect for the environment and acceptance of duties. In this sense, Catholic scouting has been – and can continue to be – a Spirit filled means of helping young people today to embrace the challenge of building a more humane world – a challenge that we will rise too only when we understand that such a world must be built on following the will of God.

Today, we single out many of our scouts for special recognition – but in doing so we also must remember that when one scout is honored, all scouts are honored – for the credit belongs to all. For the Spirit gives us his gifts – not for our own personal advantage or interest but for the sake of building up the Body of Christ.

On this vigil of Pentecost, we ask God to give all of us who have been baptized in the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ the light to walk in the truth of Jesus; we ask God to give us the fire to love as Jesus loved; we ask God to give us the freedom of the Sons of God so that overcoming our fears, our cowardice and our selfishness, we might be for this time and in this place “disciples in faith and missionaries of hope.”

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