Father Kastl's Pentecost Homily

Solemnity of Pentecost, Year C
~ Fr. Kastl~

This past Thursday I had the honor of presiding and preaching at the St. Mary 8th grade graduation. The theme of my homily was about the many transitions we make in a lifetime. In essence life is a connected series of transitions which begins when a child transitions from the safe confines of his or her mother’s womb into the beautiful world we live in all the way to the moment we take our last breath and transition from this life into the life to come… Transitions are a fact of life… something we can learn to embrace or resist.

This time of year truly is all about transitions… From ashes to Resurrection, from Resurrection to Ascension, from Ascension to the Solemnity we celebrate today, Pentecost, the sending of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostle in order to equip them to continue the ministry of Jesus Christ, which brings an end to the Easter Season transitioning and propelling us forwards into ordinary time where preschoolers are preparing to go into kindergarten, 5th graders are preparing to go into middle school, 8th graders are preparing to go into high school, seniors are preparing to go into college, college graduates are preparing to go into the workforce… This is a gitty, lively and exciting time of change and movement in our lives…

Yet in the midst of the many transitions and movements we make in our lives, I often wonder if we invest a proportionate amount of time and focus on the transitions of our spiritual lives, transitions that should be leading us closer to Christ…

As we get so caught up in the external transitions and rites of passage or even the more surface things we do like buying or building new houses, buying new cars, repainting and decorating rooms in our homes, taking summer trips, belonging to summer sports leagues or even vacation bible school… do these many transitions detract from or build up our spiritual lives to be more in line with the teachings and expectations of Jesus? Does the business that comes from these transitions form our Identity; or rather is the Holy Spirit, the animator of life forming us?

Our readings from the Acts of the Apostles takes place at the conclusion of the Jewish festival of Pentecost which was celebrated 50 days after the Feast of Unleavened Bread. It was a feast to commemorate the end of the harvest season, a busy and bustling time for the community. It was a pilgrimage feast which would have drawn devout Jews from every nation to Jerusalem… It was a time of transition for the Jewish people, a time of movement, a time to look ahead to the next season of life …

We hear… “They were all in one place together” In essence they had stopped, they were still, and they were receptive… “And suddenly there came from the sky a strong driving wind and it filled the entire house in which they were… They were all filled with the Holy Spirit.”

The striking reality of this encounter is that there was a before and an after… there is a transition… a “before” the gift of the Holy Spirit and an “after” the gift of the Holy Spirit… A “before” where life was ordinary and an “after” where life was extraordinary… A “before”when they were divided by language and sects and an “after” although they retained their different languages we hear… “At this sound (the devout Jews) heard them speaking in their own language.” They asked, “How does each of us hear them in his native language?”

The coming of the Holy Spirit became the binding agent of humanity, a diverse humanity that was redeemed by the one Lord and Savior Jesus Christ…

The Holy Spirit was and is the glue, animator and director of our lives…

In St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians we here… “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different forms of service but the same Lord. There are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone…” Why you might ask? St. Paul continues… “To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.”

These three lines from Corinthians are packed with theological meaning… “Different gifts”….same Spirit… “Different forms of service” … same Lord… “Different workings”… Same God… What we hear St. Paul telling us is that all gifts, all service, all workings… in essence all human activity finds its origin and completion in God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit… Every ounce of our being should be rooted in God… without being immersed in the essence and intention of God and filled with the spirit, then all of our doings are nothing more than busyness, busy fluttering transitions that are rooted more in earthly grandeur and gratification than a focus on heaven.

These words of Paul should leave us with more questions… What are my gifts, what kind of service am I being called to, what are the works that need to be done in order to achieve God's will for me?

Just as I told the 8th graders during their graduation homily, the only sure way to make it through this life and its many transitions is to know thy self… to know thy self in a relationship with God, trusting, truly trusting that He has a plan for you and He has equipped you with the gifts and talents you need in order to fulfill a mission which has not been entrusted to anyone else but you!

It is the Holy Spirit my friends, which is inside of each of us that allows us as individuals and as a Christian community to truly build up the Kingdom of God here in our midst… It was through the gifts of the Spirit that the Church was born and continues to exist, for the grace of the Spirit allows us to unselfishly and humbly put our gifts and talents at the service of others…

On mother’s day, I gave a homily that stirred many of your hearts… some of you liked it and others I know might have found it a little offensive as I spoke honestly about some of the alarming trends I am seeing in our society and within our faith community today… Things which I believe are the result of priorities that have “transitioned” and re-centered more on convenience and societal trends than on Gospel values… Several of you have asked… how do we reclaim or transition back to a more balanced way of life centered on Jesus Christ?

The answer…opening ourselves to the gifts of Holy Spirit… The gifts of the Spirit… wisdom, understanding, council, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord are the spiritual tools we need in order to live  fruitful, examined and faithful lives…

In our Gospel, after Jesus had breathed on them, and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” he gave them this commission… "Whose sins you forgive are forgiven, whose sins you retain are retained.”

In looking at all of our readings this Sunday it becomes clear the Holy Spirit helps us discern our Christian purpose, our vocation, by discerning what gifts and talents we have been given… the Holy Spirit helps us see where those gifts and talents can be put at the service of others… The Holy Spirit gives us the courage to reflect upon our lives, always asking if we are living in accordance with God's plan… The Holy Spirit enlightens us as to our sinfulness and leads us to our knees to ask forgiveness through the sacrament of Reconciliation… The Holy Spirit empowers us to get back up, brush ourselves off, not seeing ourselves as the sum total of our sinfulness… it encourages us not to surrender to the allurements that surround us in order to live as God intends…

You see dear friends, even in our spiritual lives, we must be aware of and open to transition… allowing the Holy Spirit to transition us into places we thought we would never go. It is the Holy Spirit that will strengthen us to rejoice and prioritize our lives in such a way to be faithful and authentic Christian witnesses before others.

“Come Holy Spirit fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your live. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created and they shall renew the face of the earth. Amen.”

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