PENTECOST SUNDAY – Changed people
INTRODUCTION AND CONFITEOR
Pentecost Sunday homily and sermon. This is the day when Jesus, true to his promise, sent his Spirit on the apostles. The coming of the Spirit resulted in changed people and saw the launching of the new community (the Church).
This great day renews the gift of the Spirit in each of us and in the Church as a whole. Let us pause to dispose ourselves to receive the Spirit. [Pause]
Lord, your Spirit enlightens the darkness of our minds, and softens the hardness of our hearts. Lord, have mercy.
Your Spirit renews our strength and kindles within us the ﬁre of your love. Christ, have mercy.
Your Spirit heals the wounds of division in the Christian community. Lord, have mercy.
1st Reading: Acts 2:1-11
The Spirit of God gives energy to the apostles and sends them out on their mission
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.
Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs-in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.”
2nd Reading: 1 Corinthians 12:3-7, 12-13
It is through the Spirit that Christ works in his community, the church
Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus be cursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit. Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in every one. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body-Jews or Greeks, slaves or free-and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
Gospel: John 20:19-23
They disciples receive the power of the Spirit to continue the mission of Jesus
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
There is no doubt but that the apostles were changed men after Pentecost, and that the change that occurred in them was due to the coming of the Holy Spirit. Prior to his coming they were living in hiding in the upper room. They were filled with fear, and were gripped by a terrible sense of failure and inadequacy. A great task had been entrusted to them, yet they had neither the will nor the strength to begin it.
We say that after Pentecost the apostles were changed men. But what really happened to them? What was it that brought about this great change in them? Rightly we say that it was the action of the Holy Spirit in them. Hence we are dealing with a mystery. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t understand anything about it. Change in individuals and in communities is a wonderful thing and exciting to watch.
Jean Vanier is a man who knows a great deal about what helps wounded human beings to change. He has set up little communities around the world for mentally handicapped people. It is his conviction that when the handicapped are locked away in institutions they wither. Terrible hurt and damage is done to their hearts and spirits.
A hurt body will heal naturally, but not a hurt heart. It will harden, just to survive, and then ﬁll up with anger and bitterness. By taking them out of institutions where they are made to feel unwanted, and putting them in communities where they are loved, he has witnessed, over and over again, the miracle of change.
Vivian came to one of these communities when she was ten. Blind and autistic, she had spent nearly all her life in an asylum. She had never experienced a permanent relationship. In the asylum she had managed to survive but with a lot of pain. In joining the community she experienced more pain to begin with, for she found herself among more strangers and was even more insecure. Her anguish came gushing out. She screamed continuously, and tested the helpers by her crazy behaviour and ﬁts. But gradually, over many months, she discovered that she was loved. It is an extraordinary thing for a handicapped person to discover that he or she is loved. Little Vivian began to feel secure. She remains fragile, still ﬁnds relationships hard, but there is a peace in her heart that at least now and then shines in her face. She has a new spirit. The wounds of the heart are slowly being healed.
At Easter 1981, there was a ‘Faith and Light’ pilgrimage to Lourdes. There were about twelve thousand pilgrims there from Vanier’s communities. About a third of these were handicapped. The rest were friends and helpers. On Easter Sunday afternoon there was a great celebration in the basilica square. The various communities that made up the pilgrimage paraded to the meeting, wearing ponchos. It was a great celebration of the poor and the weak. They came in wheelchairs, or walking with difﬁculty, and with their various wounds and handicaps. But all, or nearly all, were smiling, cheering, or shouting their joy.
Next morning a television cameraman asked Vanier: ‘How do you explain this? I like my job. I have money. But they have something I don’t have. They have joy’. To which Vanier replied: ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the corner stone’. Those who were once rejected by society have become the building bricks of a new community, a community of love and joy.
Yes, Jean Vanier has seen the miracle of change in human beings. People change if they can get rid of their shame, guilt, and fears. They change when they are given hope. They change when someone believes in them and gives them a task to do. They change when someone takes an interest in them. Above all, people change when they are loved. They come out of their shells and begin to grow. New energies are released in them, energies they never suspected lay hidden and locked up inside them. The miracle of human change is beautiful to see. It is even more beautiful when it is experienced. Perhaps it is the only real miracle.
The apostles were changed at Pentecost. On that day they experienced the ﬁdelity of Jesus to his promise. They were suddenly overwhelmed by his love for them and trust in them. Then the Spirit launched them into the world to do the most exciting and worthwhile work of all – to be witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus and to preach his Gospel of salvation to all people. But I think it is a mistake to think that all this change happened in one day. Growth is a gradual thing. Pentecost only began it. Nevertheless, it was undoubtedly a red-letter day in their lives. It was to them what a sudden day of spring sunshine is to a frozen landscape. Which of us could say that we have no need to change? Of course we have. ‘To live is to change; to be perfect is to have changed often’. (Cardinal Newman). The power that was given to the apostles is given to us too. Therefore, salvation is no longer beyond our reach. What is needed is the faith to accept it, and the energy to put our faith to work in situations that may not seem to be promising. The Holy Spirit will do the rest.
From now on we no longer even think of ourselves as individuals who can save ourselves in isolation from others. We are part of one another. Pentecost not only witnessed the making of new individuals. It witnessed the making of a new community, the Church.
‘When I see changed people, I will look for a changed world’. (Emerson).
‘It seems to me as if the second half of a man’s life is made up of the habits he has amassed during the ﬁrst half’. (Dostoyevsky).
PRAYER OF THE FAITHFUL
Let us pray that we may cooperate with the work of the Holy Spirit, so that he may renew us as thoroughly as spring renews the face of the earth. R. Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on us.
For the Church: that the Holy Spirit may inspire and guide it in its mission to witness to Christ and to preach the Gospel. [Pause] Let us pray.
For the whole world: that the Holy Spirit may bind the human family in ties of love and friendship. [Pause] Let us pray.
For all those who are imprisoned by fears, doubt, loneliness, depression, or habits of sin: that the Holy Spirit may set them free. [Pause] Let us pray.
That the Holy Spirit may inspire in each of us a desire for holiness, and bind us together as brothers and sisters in a community of love. [Pause] Let us pray.
For local needs.
Let us pray:
Heavenly Father, the Holy Spirit renewed the apostles, and launched the Church. Help us to experience his presence in us and among us. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.
SIGN OF PEACE
Lord Jesus Christ, on Pentecost Day you sent your Holy Spirit on your disciples, and with hearts on ﬁre, they went forth to preach the Gospel to the whole world. And people of good will heard the good news and welcomed it. Send your Spirit of love on our world, to gather people of every race, language, and way of life, into the peace and unity of your kingdom where you live for ever and ever.
In the ﬁelds patches of green are appearing,
new patches on an old garment.
But, given time, spring will weave a completely new garment.
Yet Spring is only a facilitator.
It doesn’t make anything happen.
It merely creates the climate in which things can grow.
We too need to grow,
to grow as human beings and children of God.
But growth is- slow and painful.
We do not-easily let go of the old garment,
woven out of old habits and attitudes.
But we have been given a wonderful Facilitator,
namely, the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit awakens Us to the mysterious power within us,
bids us live, and helps us grow.
Spirit of the living God,
fall afresh on us.