Deacon Cornell’s Homily


Genesis 11: 1-9
Romans 8:22-27
John 7:37-39

Acts 2:1-11
1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13
John 15:26-27; 16:12-15


May 23-24, 2015 Pentecost, Cycle B

Come Holy Spirit and fill the hearts of your faithful. And kindle in them the fire of your love!

Pentecost is often referred to as the birthday of the Church. I would like to reflect on that a little with you. First, I would like to point out that this makes more sense to me if, instead of thinking of it as a celebration of something that happened 2,000 years ago, we think of it as a celebration of the Church being born right here and right now.

My youngest child Rebecca and her husband are expecting their first child in August. About half way through her pregnancy, Rebecca came to a stark realization that between being pregnant and being parents was this thing called birth, and it involved pain. Never the one to understate things, Rebecca had a few interesting conversations with various people about this. The birth of the Church is no different.

I think that the St. Isidore community knows a thing or two about this pain associated with birthing. 11 years ago, Pentecost 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. 3 years ago, Pentecost was right after we learned that we were getting our 3rd administrator in 6 months, and we were hoping we would be getting our 3rd priest in residence in those same 6 months.

Here we are again at Pentecost. We are at a point in our parish and collaborative, in the Archdiocese, and in the Catholic Church in general where the lessons of today's feast are again something that we are experiencing here and now. So how do we open ourselves to the Spirit, and where the Spirit will lead us. I think it is hard to understand who the Spirit is. Jesus is easiest for us to understand because he is a human being, like us. Jesus gave us a very human metaphor of parenting to help us understand God the Father. But who is the Spirit?

I had an experience almost twenty years ago that gave me some insight into the Spirit, especially in the context of this feast of Pentecost. Anyone who knows me, know that I like puns. I most enjoy seeing a pun in the midst of a conversation. As a father, I have learned to judge the success of my puns by the groans of my children. The better the pun, the louder the groans. My son Matthew, who was a senior in high school at the time, was on the phone with his older brother Justin who was away at college. I was sitting a few feet away from him at the kitchen table, doing some work. At one point, something Matt said caught my attention, and I twisted it into a pun loud enough so that Matt could hear it. Matt doubled over with the phone, groaning and exclaiming in mock pain. When he finally was able to compose himself, he explained that Justin and I had both come up with the very same pun at the same time. It was too much for Matt. For me, it was a warm feeling to know that Justin had caught some of my spirit. I could see in that punning a reflection, a recognizable bit of me.

We are to let the Spirit transform us so that God, and others, can see a reflection, a recognizable bit of God in the way we live. In a way, our mission is to be punsters in the Spirit. We are to show the world around us a different meaning for almost everything. Start with God: most people understand God as strict and judging and demanding; we are to show them God is loving and forgiving. Most people think that to overcome evil we need to use force and to dominate and control; we are to show them that the only way to overcome evil is by loving and forgiving. Most people think the ideal person is independent; we are to show them that we are made for unity and interdependence. We are to turn the groaning of creation from one of pain and suffering to that groan that comes from a deep recogition of the pun that God is speaking by His Word.

Pentecost is a feast for real disciples, such as all of you gathered today. We can celebrate Christmas and Easter in a way that puts all of the focus on what God is doing but ignores what we are called to in response. That's why we have C & E Catholics. But Pentecost puts a lie to all the rationalizations we use to avoid being disciples. At Christmas we can marvel at how God became human, and a cute human baby at that. At Easter we can move right past Holy Thursday's washing of the feet, and Good Friday's dying on the cross to rejoice that Jesus was raised from the tomb. But Pentecost says it is not about being good, or just praying or going to church once in a while. Pentecost is about being filled with the Spirit so that the Good News spills out of our hearts and lives in a way that people will make fun of us, or worse. It demands we respond to the gift of the Spirit by building up the Body of Christ so that the kingdom of God comes here as it is in heaven.

All of that sounds exciting, and it is, just as the birth of a child is exciting. But we first have to go through the pain of childbirth or in the case of St. Isidore, churchbirth. No one but my daughter Rebecca can give birth to my 7th grandchild. And I dare say that no one will experience as much joy as she will by that birth. No one else can bring this parish community to the birth that the Spirit is leading us to. And if we enter fully into that birthing, no one will have greater joy at what the Spirit will bring to life. So I invite each of you and all of you to a wonderful birthday celebration.

Come Holy Spirit and fill the hearts of your faithful. And kindle in them the fire of your love!

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