Deacon Cornell’s Homily


Joel 3:1-5
Romans 8:22-27
John 7:37-39

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


May 14-15, 2016, Pentecost

Pentecost is often referred to as the birthday of the Church. And of course, what this refers to is that story from Acts of the Apostles describing how the disciples were all gathered in the upper room when the Holy Spirit appeared in the form of a rushing wind and tongues of flame, and the disciples were so filled with the Spirit that they all rushed out into the streets and began proclaiming the good news that God had become human and by suffering, dying and rising, had brought salvation to the world. All the people heard the gospel in their native tongues despite the fact that those who were proclaiming it were simple fishermen from Galilee. Some thought the disciples were drunk even though it was nine o'clock in the morning. But many others were moved to ask for baptism and some 3,000 were baptized that day.

So why is this event the birthday of the Church? Why not the Last Supper, or when Jesus tells Simon that he is Peter (rock) and upon that rock Jesus will found his Church, or that first Easter as we heard in the Gospel reading when Jesus gave the disciples the power to forgive sins?

After these past two years of being immersed in talk about the new evangelization from Pope Francis, and the Disciples in Mission pastoral planning from Cardinal Sean, it is clear to me why this event is the birthday. None of those other events resulted in the disciples doing something. It is only when Jesus sends His Spirit on those gathered in the upper room that the disciples became missionary disciples. The Church is the body of Christ who was sent into the world to gather all into one. The Pentecost event is the birth of that body; it is the new birth of the disciples into missionary disciples. A disciple is one who is learning from a master. As Catholics we have a responsibility to learn more and more about God, and Jesus the one God sent into the world. But just being a disciple is not our only responsibility. We must be missionionary disciples; we must be apostles which means one who is sent to bring Christ to those who yearn for Him.

It doesn't take all the polls and surveys that have been done about religious practice for those of us who come to Church regularly to know that the Church in this part of the world is not healthy. There are a very vocal few who want us to go back to older practices but is clear to anyone who thinks about it that the world has changed and the Church must adapt to that change if we are to recover our identity as missionary disciples. Over the last 1600 years or so, we have forgotten that. We have not been forming missionary disciples and so it is no surprise that we have forgotten who we are and what we are called to. For a long time it was hard to see what the consequences of that would be because for those 1600 years or so, we in Europe and in America have lived in a Christian culture. Other than the missionary efforts to newly discovered nations, people came to the Church for sacraments and for religious education. All that has changed in the last 50-60 years and the Church isnow slowly changing to adapt to the new cultural reality.

All you parents here, think about your families. You all work so hard and put so much love and effort and time into helping your children learn. Besides taking every care that they go to good schools and study hard and do well, you add on to that all the lessons you teach in the home, all the sports and music or dancing and scouting and other extracurricular activities that you support them in. Why do you do this? Is it so they can become brilliant scholars who know many things but end up sitting around the house for the rest of their lives? Never going off to live their own lives?

Of course not! We want our children eventually to leave home, take all that formation and use it to build a better world, and a new life of their own. The same is true of the Church. The Church wants to draw people into Christ's love so they may be filled with His spirit and go out to build the kingdom of God.

The Spirit that filled the disciples on that first Pentecost is still as alive and as active today, here in this very place. Our job as staff and volunteers at St. Isidore and St. Elizabeth of Hungary is to give all of us the tools we need to open our hearts and minds to that Spirit. Just as the lives of those fishermen and tax collectors from Galilee were changed dramatically by the Spirit, so must ours change if we are to carry out the commission we were given in baptism. To help us do that a group of about a dozen people have spent the last year writting down our pastoral plan. Everything we do over the next 3-5 years will be measured against this plan. If you have not yet read it, I encourage you strongly to do so, and to do so prayerfully. Every activity in the collaborative will be measure against the goals written here. Whatever supports those goals with measurable results will be strengthened and whatever does not support them with measurable results will be changed or eliminated.

The feast of Pentecost says being Catholic is not just about being good, or just praying or just going to church once in a while, or even every day. Pentecost is about being filled with the Spirit so that the Good News of our encounter with Jesus the Christ spills out of our hearts and lives in a way that people will notice. Some may make fun of us, or worse but others will be drawn to Christ. That is the only measure of the effectiveness of our being Church: that we are bringing people to Christ. It is God's power but our job to make sure that every day is a day when the Church is being born.

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