Pentecost Homily

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of Pentecost.  Pentecost is an extra special day in our Archdiocese.  It is on the vigil of Pentecost every year that the priests are ordained and then on the day of Pentecost the newly ordained priests offer their first Masses.  Today we thank God for the two newly ordained priests in our Archdiocese: let us remember to pray for them as they are offering their first Masses today and let us also pray that God will send more laborers into His vineyard.

The Solemnity of Pentecost brings the Easter season to a close: today we celebrate that day when the Holy Spirit descended upon Mary and the Apostles in the form of a rushing wind and under the appearance of tongues of fire.  Today we recall in a particular way the action of the Holy Spirit within the Church.  Pentecost is often referred to as the “birthday of the Church.”  This phrase intends to communicate the idea that after the Apostles received the gift of the Holy Spirit; they went out into the world, thus manifesting the Church to the world.

During Our Lord’s public ministry, He planted the seeds of the Church.  He had many disciples and He called twelve to be Apostles: setting them up as leaders and shepherds.  After Our Lord ascended into Heaven, the Apostles were gathered together in prayer in the upper room with the doors locked for fear of the Jews.  It wasn’t until they received the Holy Spirit that they had the courage to go out and preach the Gospel.  But once they received the Holy Spirit, not only did they go out and preach, but they went out and preached boldly: the Holy Spirit gave them the courage to endure many hardships and even to laid down their lives for the sake of the Gospel.

When the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles they received certain gifts: their faith was strengthened, they received courage and fortitude, and the Holy Spirit inspired them to share the faith that they had received.  The Holy Spirit also brings His gifts to our souls.  At our Baptism, each one of us became a temple of the Holy Spirit.  By His very presence in our souls, the Holy Spirit bears certain fruit: we posses the virtues of faith, hope and love due to the Spirit’s presence within our souls.  We need to ask the Holy Spirit to increase those gifts within us; we should also do our best to cooperate with the gifts that the Holy Spirit desires to give to us.  How do we cooperate and obtain those gifts?  God freely bestows His gifts upon us: we can’t do anything to earn them; but we must do our part to avoid sin and exercise the virtues.  God wants to give us His gifts, but we have to open our hearts to receive them.  We open our hearts through prayer; we open our hearts by rooting sin out of our hearts.  By choosing sin we reject God.  God will not give His gifts to hearts that reject Him.  Sin damages and can even kill the divine life that we have in our souls.  Mortal sin is that spiritual death that comes from freely, knowingly, and gravely sinning.

If we fall into mortal sin, we should run to the Sacrament of Confession as soon as we can.  Today in the Gospel we hear Our Lord establish the Sacrament of Confession: Jesus gave the Apostles the authority to forgive sins.  Jesus says to the Apostles: “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”  Jesus Christ gave His Apostles the authority to forgive sins: how could the Apostles know which sins to forgive and which to retain unless those sins were confessed out loud?  We come to the Sacrament of Confession, or Reconciliation, to confess our sins and be reconciled to God.

It is sometimes asked: “Why do I have to confess to a man, why can’t I go straight to God?”  When we come to Confession we do go to God.  It is only God Who can forgive sins.  Jesus Christ is God and He forgives our sins through the ministry of the priest.  It is not the priest who forgives you in the confessional: it is Jesus Christ acting through the priest.  When the priest is ordained, he lends his voice and his hands to Jesus Christ so that Jesus Christ can use them.  Whenever a priest celebrates a Sacrament it is actually Jesus Christ Who acts.  When the priest absolves your sins, he says the words: “I absolve you . . .” and yet we know that it is not the priest who forgives your sins, but Jesus Christ Himself.  When you hear the words “I absolve you . . .” it is not the priest, on his own authority, that forgives you . . . it is Jesus Christ who forgives you.  When you come to Confession, you come not to a man, but to a man who has been consecrated, that is set apart, to stand in the very person of Christ so that you may hear with your own ears and know beyond any shadow of a doubt that your sins are forgiven by God.

The Church requires us to go to Confession at least once a year; yet we should never look at this great Sacrament as an imposition or a mere obligation: it is an amazing opportunity to receive God’s grace and experience God’s mercy.  We should be grateful to God for pouring out His mercy upon us through the Sacrament.  As Catholics, we are required to confess all mortal sins.  Again, this is the minimum requirement.  We can come to Confession more frequently, especially to obtain the grace and strength to overcome those sins that are particularly working on.  Christ pours His graces upon us through the Sacraments.  Let us make frequent use of them and receive them with faith and devotion that we may have hearts that are open to all that God wants to do in us and through us.  Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Your faithful.  Enkindle in us the fire of Your love and You will renew the face of the earth.  Amen.