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Pentecost
June 4, 2017

Click here to listen to this homily! (mp4 file)

    I hope it won’t sound irreverent if I say that Pentecost can be a problem – in the same way that the Christmas and Easter can be a problem. The problem is seeing them as only in the past whereas they are also very much in the present. At Christmas, the Word that became flesh in a tiny baby now wants to become flesh in our flesh, and the Easter Christ who brought hope and joy by overcoming death is still bringing hope and joy. And the Holy Spirit who came upon the apostles in wind and fire on Pentecost is still fanning flames and lighting fires. Pentecost is past, but Pentecost is also present. Very, very present!

     But maybe I don’t need to spend a lot of time convincing you that Pentecost is happening right now because the Cathedral certainly looks like Pentecost, doesn’t it!  I mean, if you were to paint a picture of Pentecost, wouldn’t it look like this?  Pentecost is now! God’s Spirit is moving among us at this moment – prodding us, waking us up, stirring us, sending us!  The Veni, Sancte Spiritus, that lovely Medieval Sequence which we just heard, makes it clear that Pentecost is now. Listen again:     

Come, Holy Spirit, Come!
And from your celestial home
              Shed a ray of light divine….
Heal our wounds, our strength renew;
On our dryness pour your dew;
              Wash the stains of guilt away.
Bend the stubborn heart and will;
Melt the frozen, warm the chill.

     For a few moments, let me draw on those images to help bring Pentecost from the past into the present.

     “Heal our wounds, our strength renew.”  Our wounds are many.  Too many to count, really.  Who of us isn’t wounded, fragile, sinful, weak?  And our world is wounded, too. Think of the wounds of hunger and incurable disease, terrorism and violence, the wounds of disregard for human life and human dignity, the wounds of sexism and racism, and the wounds that we continue to mindlessly and selfishly inflict on the environment, God’s magnificent creation. Wounded we are. Healing we need. And healing is the Spirit’s gift, the gift only the Spirit can give.

     The Pentecost sequence continues: “On our dryness pour your dew.”  Do you experience dryness is your life?  I know I do. In one way or another we all long for the refreshing dew of the Holy Spirit.  The 63rd Psalm says this in remarkably beautiful poetry:  “O God, you are my God, for you I long.  My body pines for you, my soul thirsts for you like a dry, weary land without water...For your love is better than life.”  Beautiful, but do we believe it?  Believe that God’s love is better than life?  In our better moments we do; in our lesser ones we settle for lesser loves and drink from wells that only make us thirstier. Pentecost reminds us that only God’s love, a gift of the Holy Spirit, completely satisfies. “On our dryness pour your dew.”

     The Sequence goes on: “Bend the stubborn heart and will, melt the frozen, warm the chill.”  Stubborn hearts, frozen hearts - we know what those are.  How often do we cling to our cold, harsh judgments about people?  How often do we freeze people out of our lives, lock them out of our hearts: people who think differently from us, people who have hurt us, people we can’t bring ourselves to forgive?  The Holy Spirit of Pentecost wants to bend our rigid hearts, to break open our locked-up hearts, to fire up our frozen hearts. “Melt the frozen, warm the chill!” The Pentecost Sequence concludes with a plea:

              “On the faithful who adore
              And confess you, evermore
              In your sevenfold gift descend.”

     On the day we were confirmed the bishop extended his hands over us and prayed a solemn prayer, naming each of those seven gifts, and asking God to breathe them into us: “…the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of right judgment and courage, the Spirit of knowledge and reverence, the Spirit of wonder and awe in God’s presence.”

     My friends, each of those seven gifts is ours but sometimes they are asleep within us. Pentecost can fan them into fire. It can! Look at what happened to those frightened disciples on the first Pentecost when they found their voice and took to the streets!  Do you think that God’s Spirit is any less at work now than then? Let’s not sell the Spirit short!

     Look around you.  If you haven’t yet caught fire, look at those who have!  This community is alive with God’s Spirit.  Witness our prayer together.  Witness this prayer!  St. Paul told us in the first reading that “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.”  This liturgy and every liturgy we celebrate is our way of saying that Jesus is Lord, our way of telling the world that Jesus is Lord.  We can always say it better and we can always mean it more, but we would not be saying it at all were it not for God’s Spirit.

     The same goes for everything we do in this place: every child we teach, every stranger we welcome, every friend we feed, every searcher we encounter.  Everything we do here is a way of saying that Jesus is Lord and is therefore the work of the Holy Spirit.  Make no mistake, then, my friends: the Spirit lives in this place; the Spirit lives in each of us. Pentecost is not past.  Pentecost is present! 

Father Michael G. Ryan

 

 

 

 

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Seattle, Washington  98104
Phone 206.622.3559  Fax 206.622.5303