Friday, May 25, 2012

May 27, 2012: Pentecost

Click to hear Audio Homily

One day this week as I was leaving the Ascension office for the day, two young couples approached me and asked if the church was open. They were travelers from Vienna, Austria and as they were passing through our quaint town, they saw the huge steeple and had to stop by. When we entered the church for an impromptu tour, they exclaimed, “wow!” and they were mesmerized by the expansive and beautiful space. I wondered if they attended church as I remembered that Cardinal Schonborn of Vienna said that barely 15% of Catholics in Europe attend church. I was impressed that the beauty of the church attracted these young people to stop for a visit and that they were touched deeply by the experience. I pray that they realize that the expansive and beautiful space of this temple of God is a reflection of what their soul is like.  How many of us understand that our soul is the temple of the Living God, the Holy Spirit, and that God dwells in our hearts, always, even when we do not respond to Heavenly Father’s love?

Sometimes we realize who we are and what we have through a negative experience. A few days ago, I was called to the parish jail because two young ladies wanted a priest to hear their confessions. As I was waiting near the visiting area for entry into the main prison, I noticed a curious sight. There were two visitation rooms, one where the inmate could visit through a window using a telephone handset, and another room where the inmate could speak through a computer monitor much like Skype video chatting. I could tell by the facial expressions that the inmates cherished the time they had to speak with their loved one; however, they had to be separated by a barrier. Although the family members missed them dearly, they knew that their loved one in jail needed that time to come to realize the seriousness of their lifestyle and choices. Somehow the small, tight, stale, and musty concrete rooms inhabited by angry, resentful, and unforgiving people have a way of convincing inmates that they don’t belong there and that they were made for something greater.
As I was listening to the two young ladies and their confession, I noticed something different. They did not speak as though they were imprisoned in some awful place. They spoke of their daily scripture reading and prayer with their prayer group, and how they encouraged one another. They spoke about their desire for true peace in their heart, both desiring to make amends for hurts that they’ve caused, and wanting their life to be a life dedicated to God. I could sense that something was bubbling up in their hearts. Something unseen was moving them.
In today’s Gospel, we hear again about an evening of the first week of the Resurrection, when the disciples were in a place not too different from the Ascension parish jail. The doors were locked, and the disciples were further imprisoned by the fear they had for their lives. Jesus came and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” Something unseen began to move the disciples, to open wide the doors, to preach boldly, and to affect change in other people’s lives. That’s what happens when we begin to be guided by the Holy Spirit.
Was the Holy Spirit given to only a select, privileged few? Is this transformation possible only for those who are the spiritual giants? No. Each of us received this Holy Spirit when we were baptized, and this Spirit dwells in us even when we do not respond to the Heavenly Father’s love. We experience true peace when we allow the Holy Spirit to enliven us and guide our lives. How do we allow the Holy Spirit to guide us? A prayer from St. Francis of Assisi teaches us how to do exactly that!
Lord, make me a channel of thy peace.
That where there is hatred I may bring love,
That where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness,
That where there is discord, I may bring harmony,
That where there is error I may bring truth,
That where there is doubt I may bring faith,
That where there is despair I may bring hope,
That where there are shadows I may bring light,
That where there is sadness I may bring joy.
Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted,
To understand than to be understood,
To love than to be loved.
For it is by forgetting self that one finds.
It is by forgiving that one is forgiven,
it is by dying that one awakens to eternal life.