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May 28, 2023

Watch this homily! (Begins at 41:30)

      Wonderful as this feast is, there could be a problem with Pentecost – not unlike with our other great feasts – Christmas, for instance, or Easter. The problem is that we may look at them more as historical happenings than here-and-now happenings.  They are both. God is timeless, after all, and the divine action, the divine energy unleashed in the Incarnation, the Resurrection, the Sending of the Spirit isn’t locked in the past: it’s ongoing, ever new. The Word of God took flesh in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary at a moment in time, true, but the Word is still taking flesh in our time, in our flesh. And Christ who triumphed over the power of death on Easter triumphs over death even now. And the Holy Spirit who burst forth upon the apostles in wind and fire on Pentecost is still fanning those flames, lighting those fires in our time. Pentecost may be history but Pentecost is also here and now!

      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 famine, terrorism, and war, the wounds of casual disregard for human life and human dignity, the wounds of sexism and racism, and the wounds that we mindlessly and selfishly inflict on 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 in the Pentecost story 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? We should never 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! 

      “Come Holy Spirit! Fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love.” Send forth your Spirit and we will be created, and in the fire of that Spirit we will renew the face of the earth!”

Father Michael G. Ryan





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Seattle, Washington  98104
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