Pentecost

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Readings: Acts 2: 1-11, Psalm 104: 1, 24-34, 1 Corinthians 12: 3-13, John 20: 19-23

Today we celebrate the Holy Spirit. But what is the Holy Spirit?

The Spirit is usually thought of as that which makes us alive, the spirit – or the breath- of life. The spirit of a person is that which makes them uniquely a living being.

The Spirit not visible, but is compared to the wind. The wind blows and we see the leaves move, the dust is animated and we can see it rise up from the ground and whirl like a dancer.  The wind moves against us and we feel the cooling breeze in the summer and its icy fingers in the winter, making us shiver.  Our hat blows off our head; the rain and snow come with the force of the wind and sting our face.

In the summer we can see waves of warmed air rising from our car. The Spirit is not visible, but the reaction of the metal moves the air, just as the leaves and dust were moved.  Somehow we feel our vision has changed to allow us to see the presence of that which is not to be seen. The Spirit makes all our senses energized and alert.

We use the same word for alcoholic drinks – we call them spirits. We celebrate the life of Jesus with wine, not water.  We feel a sudden and quick livening, we feel exhilaration when we bring the liquid into our mouth, when it flows down our throat and enters our blood stream.  Warmth and a heightening of being tingle through our body.  It changes our perceptions of our relationships and surroundings.  Our tongues are freed from restraint. Little wonder that some people can find it addictive.  Cocktail parties are proof that we long for relationships, for freedom, for that tingle that makes us feel alive.  We add bubbles and mixers to give movement and increased excitement to our drink, longing to be released from the flatness we often experience in our daily lives.

We say that the Spirit dwells within us. What do we mean by that?  Again, it is something we sense.  I am awakened early in the morning to write this blog, but not by a child who comes to my bed to steal my sleep, looking for nurturing, whispering, “Mom, Mom, are you awake?” No, it is some other force which nurtures me, stirring me to wakefulness, and giving me words to share with you.  It is a feeling of understanding that comes from stimulation in my brain and inmost being, not generated by my own intelligence, but by some force beyond me which knits words and thoughts together in images which transcends my abilities.  It is a feeling of connection, of being part of that which is greater, which transcends my short time on earth, which is greater than learned knowledge, but deeper and more ancient.

Why have I written words for nearly 2 typed pages to describe something which is as elusive as the Spirit of God?   Because The Spirit brings to my existence more than just breath, more than just a heart beat.  It truly brings life, life which is created to give me a fullness which is more than the sum of my parts.  Even modern medicine still struggles to define life.  Is it brain waves; is it movement of air or blood through the body?  Is it movement of muscles or response of nerves?  Is someone alive because machines maintain certain processes which can be measured?  These are difficult questions that bring intense debate.  Still, the events of birth and death remain sacred to those who view them with reverence, events filled with the Spirit, that mysterious source of life, and whose absence brings spiritual or even physical death.

When we feel unable to grasp the enormity of an idea or event, we naturally try to break it down into parts. Instead of bluntly saying we cannot grasp the idea of God, we try to break down God into what seems like more easily understood parts.  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we say.

We have said that so many times that it rolls off our tongue as if we have finished studying that Trinity, thank you very much, and have moved on to greater things. Yes, we nailed all that down in confirmation class, we drew overlapping circles, we have learned that the Son is God, the Spirit is God, the Father is God, but The Son is not the Father and the Spirit is not the Son, the Father is not the Spirit, and so on.  It makes me dizzy!

It is a way of saying that our knowledge of God is incomplete, and that our vocabulary is inadequate for the job, that our minds are too small for the concept of God. We use labels that are familiar to make us sound smart, to make the concepts seem like things we know, but it is all a ruse.  Perhaps it makes us feel intelligent, or in charge, or less stunned but what we don’t know.  We have a fear of the unknown, of the powerful, of those things beyond us, so we compensate by easy formulas and false wisdom.  But does it serve us well?

Wisdom is another of those elusive words in the Bible. In some scriptures, Wisdom is personified as a woman.  I like that, that alone meets some needs of mine as a woman.  Christianity somehow, in a patriarchal culture, became very male.  “Father…son..”  Part of the issues surrounding the devotion to Mary, the Blessed Virgin, is not only the desire for purity and intentional and sustainable innocence, but for some of the feminine, something maternal in our worship of Divinity.  Perhaps some “Mother…daughter..”  Some authors suggest the ability to give birth brings women great power,  and men who find their strength only in might and force find that birth and maternity to be very threatening, something they must control.

I bring this up because there is a way to have knowledge of God beyond our intellectual games with words and theories which have been elevated to “Doctrine”. That way is Wisdom.  Seek Wisdom, say the Scriptures.  Wisdom is the way to understanding of that which seems beyond us.  It is a more mystical path than those bound by scientific studies may seek.  It is a path which urges us to be still, to stop talking and listen.  To travel this path, words frozen in doctrine must be set aside, and the living warmth of the Spirit must indwell.  It is a way where the power of Truth transcends physical might and control, and freedom is found for all. It is where the wind blows freely, and that which is eternal, God (by whatever name you use), is ever present and brings life in the fullest.

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created and you shall renew the face of the earth.  O, God, who has instructed the hearts of your faithful by the light of the Holy Spirit, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may have a right judgment in all things and evermore rejoice in your consolations.  Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.

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Homily November 12, 2017- the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

32sun3 (2)As we approach the end of the year, both liturgically and really, the readings seem to get ominous and in a sense scary as they talk about the end of the world. None of us likes to think of our own mortality or the world around us falling apart or ending. Realistically, thinking of our death or the end of the world, isn’t really a wise thing to do or a wise way to start a day or to plan ahead. What is really wise is not to plan our departure but rather plan the present moment, the waiting as well. As Christians, we know that with Christ’s death and resurrection and ascension, and his sending of his Spirit, that God’s kingdom 32sun2is now. We are called to be present to others, to be Christians, to give, to share, to care. These are the things that last and benefit the kingdom. God’s kingdom is now, in our own lifetime. What we see and share and believe is only a preparation for what will be in another time and place. God’s presence is now and always. Many speak of wasting time as they rush through their daily schedule. Perhaps the rushing is the waste if we neglect interaction and caring along the way. How many people, friend or not do we rush by? How often do we step aside to pray? Or to just appreciate God’s gift of the world around us, a scenic 32sun4place, or a sunset or sunrise? Or to embrace and appreciate the family and friends we have?

All the above is important because death or the end of the world is not an end for us or God’s kingdom. Life will not end but change. That change is told to us by God but what it entails we don’t know. We do know that all who have died will rise and God will embrace all who are to be in his kingdom. But we as Christians are already in his kingdom if we are living as Christ asked us to do our passage should be a reunion of all those we have known and those we will come to know.

Homily July 30, 2017 the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time

17 sun1

The big score, the big treasure, the big jackpot is in some way a dream of many of us. All around us, we see ads for lottery, and casinos and all kind of contests promising a prize of some kind. We see rewards. Miles and all sorts of gimmicks. In Jesus’ time, there were no banks and people’s valuables and treasures would be buried for safety and later 17sun3access. If a landowner died, the treasure could remain and be unknown until found. The finder would try to purchase the land to make his find his own. So Jesus is telling us today that there is a dreamer in all of us to some extent. The treasure he speaks of is himself and of course his Father and the Holy Spirit. It is a treasure of everlasting life of union with Him. The price is the gifting of ourselves in believing 17 sun5and loving and committing to his word. It is a whole new way of looking at relationships and thew world and loving and caring for all. God after all is creator of all and looks after his creation as only a loving creator could. His love brought his presence to us of His Son Jesus and the Holy Spirit. It is through them that we can find the way and be with them forever. In this case, our treasure is real and our pursuit is one that should encourage and drive all the days that we have. Jesus’ life and death and resurrection were real, and so is our pursuit of the same life Jesus offers us with eternal life.

Homily June 11th, 2017 the Feast of the Holy Trinity

trinity3One thing we see out around us is John 3:16. We see it on signs, at sporting events and other places. People seem to use it to remind us of Christ’s presence and his life and death. God gave his only Son so that those who believe might have eternal life. What we must remember, is that in John’s thought eternal life was the age to come, an age begun with Jesus’ death and resurrection. trinity2Of course, no idea of the age to come is possible without the Holy Spirit and his coming as the new age dawned. In this way, we can see that the gospel is meant to reflect the idea of the Trinity. I think we are all acutely aware that we believe in One God, three persons, but explaining it is beyond what is possible for us. It is hard for us to conceive that God is not material and who and what He is will come to light at some future time of our existence. What we do have is an experience of three persons, Father(or a parental being), Son and Holy Spirit. We know the Son at an appointed time entered the world to give his life so that creation could be restored to union with the Trinity. At the end of his time, the Son left(sent) his Spirit to keep alive his Word and to aid and inspire his followers as they proceeded to walk in the new life given by the Son. This is why we always invoke the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Theologians for centuries have written and speculated about God and trinity5Theology including the Trinity. Yet Thomas Aquinas after a lifetime of writing and after a mystical experience concluded his work was straw.

Faith is what is needed. We come to know God by faith and experience by opening ourselves to him. Christ physically comes in the Eucharist, but the Spirit abides in us if we permit and helps us form an intimate and positive relationships as we walk the path and the way of the new life given to believers.