Deacon Cornell’s Homily


Acts 2:1-11
1 Corinthians 12:3b-7,12-13
John 20:19-23


May 26-27, 2012, Pentecost, Cycle B

The Pentecost story we just heard from Acts is a very familiar one. But as with so many familiar stories, sometimes it is hard to see ourselves in it. For the St. Isidore community that changed 8 years ago. Pentecost 2004 was the Sunday after we heard the news that St. Isidore parish was being suppressed but the church would remain open as a mission church of one of the surrounding parishes. That weekend it was easy to identify with the disciples huddled in fear and confusion in that upper room. That Pentecost story was no longer something that happened 2000 years ago but one that we were living in the moment. And while I was not aware of any great wind or tongues of fire (well maybe some of those), over the next 13 months, we let the Spirit guide us to a point where in June 2005 the decision was made to leave St. Isidore parish intact.

We are at a point in our parish, and the Archdiocese in general where the lessons of today's feast are equally important. This is such a great feast that we can take many different lessons from today's reading but I would like to focus on just 3: unity, gifts, and forgiveness. The Spirit is that experience of God that urges us to unity. That scene in Acts where the disciples run out into the streets and are heard proclaim the mighty works of God by all the visitors from the known world dramatically reverses the disunity expressed in the story of the Tower of Babel. When humans attempt to play God, they cause disunity; when they open themselves to the workings of the Spirit, they foster unity. Today's readings remind us that unity is not the same as uniformity. All you have to do is look around creation, especially here in New England at this time of year, to see that God loves diversity. The passage we heard from Paul's letter to the Corinthians reminds us that we need many different talents, skills, and temperaments to be the Body of Christ. And just as the rain that falls on the earth is the same, it has different effects on an apple tree and an asparagus plant; the rain produces different growth in a spring lamb and a human being.

All of these different gifts are given to us to help us carry out the mission we have been initiated into, in Baptism, and Confirmation, and week after week after week in the Eucharist. As that passage from John's Gospel tells us, as Jesus is sent by the Father, we are sent by Jesus. We are the agents of Jesus. In Jesus' culture an agent had all the authority of the one who sent him. Legally and morally, the agent was the equivalent of the sender. Jesus makes it pretty clear that the heart of the matter is forgiveness. It would not be shortchanging the Church to describe her as the agent of God's forgiveness in the world.

As anyone knows who has tried to bring people together who are in a dispute, the first step is to find the path to forgiveness on both sides. The Church, and therefore the baptized who make up the Church, are to be God's agents of forgiveness to bring about God's plan to bring all things into one under Christ. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that the last 1000 years or so of history have left the Church in a very weak position as agents of forgiveness. From the split with the East to the splintering of Christianity starting with the Reformation to the hatred and vitriolic language we find so prevalent in the Christian blogosphere, we are hardly identifiable as agents of God's forgiveness. Yet that is what we have been sent forth to be.

As I said in the beginning, these are important lessons as we move forward in very uncertain times. In the coming weeks, we are starting on our 3rd temporary administrator and, hopefully, our third resident priest. We are starting to work with St. Elizabeth's to put shape to our proposed collaboration in the midst of changes in the Office of Pastoral Planning. I know that change is hard for most of us but we have to face it. I have heard rumblings of people saying that this is something being forced on us from the hierarchy. That is simply not true. The staff here and many of the PPC and PFC council members have been working many hours over the past few months to ensure that everyone has a chance to learn more and to have their voices heard. The proposal by the APPC has already been reshaped by the feedback given in the dozens of consultation meetings. If you still have questions or doubts I urge you to talk to anyone on the staff or the councils to work those out. What has been proposed is a frame work. It will be up to each collaborative to work out the details of how we implement it.

I f we approach this change, as we did as a parish community 8 years ago, with an openness to the Spirit, as agents of forgiveness blessed with many different and wonderful gifts, we will come through this and be a thriving community. We will be a parish whose very life proclaims the mighty works of God for all around us to hear in their own language.

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