June 5, 2022: Homily- Solemnity of Pentecost

What makes you tick?

If I polled each of you (and myself) I’d almost certainly get a wide variety of answers.  Some of us need all sorts of people around us all the time, while some of us need lots and lots of alone time.  Some of us want our days packed from sun-up to sundown with countless activities, while some of us love having absolutely nothing on our schedule.  Some of us want a hundred friends, while some of us just want a couple of great ones.  Some want to be close to family, some want a little more distance.

Some like really high-pressure careers, and some people want their job to be completely stress-free.  Some of us are thinkers, some are doers, and some are both.  Some like the competitive nature of our society, and some wish we could get out of the rat-race.  Some of us need black and white answers to things, while some of us like things to be more nuanced, more gray, less defined.  And some of us “need” more money than others, or power, or popularity, while some of us are okay with having much less – less wealth and less notoriety.

I guess we really are all different.  So many different likes and dislikes.  So many different personalities.  So many different ways of relating to others.  So many different goals and priorities.  So many different strengths and weaknesses.  And so I guess it’s safe to say that there really can’t be one answer to the question, “What makes us tick?” – one answer that fits us all.

Or can there be?  Or more importantly, should there be?

One of the tragedies of humanity (if you’ll permit me to use such strong language) is our obsession with our differences.  And I don’t mean in a good way – don’t mean that we have an obsession with “celebrating” or “appreciating” our differences.  (Although we sometimes do give lip-service to it, or embrace it in a half-hearted way at times.)  No, the sad truth is that, in a great deal of the time we use our differences in a negative way – to separate and divide, to categorize and give labels to, to blame or scapegoat or demean or disparage.  At times we even use our differences as an excuse to hate.

And the ONE THING that we all share in common somehow gets ignored, gets forgotten, gets dismissed.  I guess it’s easier to give-in to the ugly parts of ourselves and find reasons to not be kind, to not forgive, to not show compassion, to not be generous, to not trust, and to not love.  ONLY focusing on our differences can sometimes lead us down that path.  Humankind has been doing this for a very long time – playing the “us” vs. “them” game.  And it gets us nowhere.  And gains us nothing.  But we do it anyway.

What makes you tick?

For people of faith, there can really only be one answer.  And you know what it is.  What makes us tick?  God.  It’s as simple and as profound as that.  And I’m not talking about just a few.  Or only certain groups.  Or certain faiths.  No – God is what makes every human person “tick” – believer and nonbeliever alike.  God holds each of us in being.  God sustains us.  God guides us.  God speaks to us through our consciences.  God helps us know what is good and right and true and life-giving.  And God gives meaning to it all.  And for all – no exceptions.

For Catholics and other Christians of course, we call this the Holy Spirit – the living God whom we celebrate this day – Pentecost.  We give voice to this truth in our Creed and in our prayers and in our teachings.  We do our best to express and articulate the seemingly inexpressible, by using simple human words such as wisdom and understanding and counsel and fortitude and knowledge and piety and fear of the Lord to describe the countless (almost indescribable) ways the Spirit of God shapes our hearts and minds and souls.

And so we gather this day to give glory to the Holy Spirit, to worship the Holy Spirit, to celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit and to declare our profound belief in something and someone we often struggle to get our minds around.  God is God after all, and we are not.  But it doesn’t end there.   You see, if we really want to give glory to the Spirit of God, we can’t simply do it in words.  That my dear friends is just not enough.  Rather we need to strive to embrace, at the very least, two things.

First, we need to open ourselves up to the Holy Spirt in such a way that all these other things that sometimes motivate us, that make us “tick” so-to-speak, take a backseat to the Spirit of God who wants to become fully alive within us – the Holy Spirit who wants nothing more than to shape what we say and think and do, shape how we see the world and one another, that is, wants nothing more than to be our everything.

And secondly, if we want to give glory to the Holy Spirit, we need to recognize the Living God as the one thing common to every human person, and (in a very intimate and explicit way) the life-giving reality shaping the life of every Christian.  This deep truth – that God dwells in and is at work in every man and woman in every corner of this world, is what trumps all of our differences.  And not barely, but resoundingly.

Our differences are a gift from our incredible God.  That much is certainly true.  And we need to believe it deeply.  But when we struggle to, and we will, let’s never forget the treasure we have in common, the one person who connects us in ways we can’t even think of or imagine.

In light of that – what else really matters?   Come Holy Spirit!  Come!

A Short Reflection

On Pentecost day, the apostles spoke a new language.

What was this new language?

It was the language of peace rather than of war;

The language of cooperation rather than of competition;

The language of forgiveness rather than of vengeance;

The language of hope rather than of despair;

The language of tolerance rather than of bigotry;

The language of friendship rather than of hostility;

The language of unity rather than of division;

The language of love rather than of hate;

Through the gift of the Spirit, people of different languages learned to profess one faith, to the praise and glory of God.

That is the real miracle of Pentecost, and it is a miracle which, thankfully, still happens.

Father Boat

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