I had a Pentecost homily ready to go … and then two stories broke yesterday, so I threw it away. The first story was the successful launch of two American astronauts from US soil, something we hadn’t done in a decade. I was glued to my phone watching the whole thing. The second was the unrest and outright riots, around the country and in our own city, as a reaction to the killing of George Floyd. I truly wondered whether this was 2020 or 1969 all over again.
It is naive to simply call Pentecost the “birthday of our Church.” It misses the point with visions of cake and ice cream. The reality is that the disciples were hiding in fear that first Pentecost because of unrest and persecution, but the Holy Spirit became alive in their hearts. But it was not just a blessing - it was a commission. The disciples were compelled to overcome their fears and go out into the world to proclaim the words of the gospel by their words and actions. To seek justice. To practice perfect love as Jesus did.
This Pentecost, we should contemplate the idea of the Spirit being alive in our own hearts. At our Baptism we, too, became vessels for the Spirit. As adults, we are faced every day with the choice on how we will use that gift. Will we keep it inside ourselves - hoarding it like a five-year old not wanting to share his toys? Or will we accept our own commission and go out into the world to proclaim the gospel by our own actions? Justice doesn’t just happen. It requires active involvement from each of the baptized. Love doesn’t just happen. Each of us needs to take the risk of putting ourselves out there to give and receive love unconditionally.
This world is broken. It didn’t break yesterday. It didn’t break when Jesus was crucified on the Cross. It’s been broken for a lot longer than that. But Pentecost should give us hope because we now have the tools within us to go out into the world and spread a tiny bit of light. It’s what we were made for.
Black Americans have been marginalized for far too long. Half of our black children live in poverty, compared to only 15% of our white children. Almost 30% of our black American brothers and sisters will live the entirety of their lives in poverty, compared to less than 10% of whites. One could waste away years debating the reasons for these disparities. But as Pentecost Catholics all we really need to know is that this is an injustice that can no longer stand.
I could dramatically say that we are at a crossroads, but every day is a crossroads for us Catholics. Using the gift of the Spirit, or withholding it because of our fear, is a choice we make every time we put our feet on the floor as we step out of bed.
So little has changed in fifty years, and it has little to do with “them” - it’s all about us. It’s about me. Is this the Pentecost that I will finally live the gift of the Spirit? The world quite literally depends on my answer.