Monday, 25 May 2015

Pentecost Homily - Mass with Sacrament of Confirmation (Part 2 - Unity of the Catholic Church)

 STM  Toronto, May 25, 2015

“For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.”  1 Cor. 12:12

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

At the time of Jesus, all devout Jews went to Jerusalem for the Jewish Feast of Pentecost as they celebrated the birth and the origins of God’s chosen people. In this way they recalled and celebrated the Covenant  given to Moses at Mount Sinai (Lev. 23:15-21; Deut. 16:9-11).

In today’s First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles the mysteries foretold in that feast are fulfilled in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon Mary and the Apostles (Acts 1:14).

The Holy Spirit sealed the new Law and the new Covenant that were established by Jesus, written not on stone tablets but on the hearts of believers, as the prophets had promised (2 Cor. 3:2-8; Rom. 8:2) so that all may be one, united in one body by the one Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is revealed as the life-giving breath of the Father, the Wisdom by which God made all things, as we sing in today’s Psalm: “When thou lettest thy breath go forth, they are made / and thou renewest the face of the earth”

In the beginning, the Holy Spirit came as a “mighty wind” sweeping over the face of the earth as we are told in Genesis (Gen. 1:2)  

In the new creation of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit again comes as “a strong, driving wind” to renew the earth and to give humanity the gifts by which we are fulfilled and through which we become what we were created to be:  

1.  Wisdom is the first and highest gift of the Holy Spirit, because it is the perfection of the theological virtue of faith. Through wisdom, we come to value properly those things which we believe through faith. The truths of the Catholic Faith are more important than the things of this world. Wisdom helps us to order our relationship to the created world properly, loving Creation for the sake of God, rather than for its own sake and bring us into the unity of Faith in the bond of peace.

2.  Understanding is the second gift of the Holy Spirit. While wisdom is the desire to contemplate the things of God, understanding allows us to grasp, at least in a limited way, the very essence of the truths of the Catholic Faith.

3.  Counsel is the third gift of the Holy Spirit and the perfection of the cardinal virtue of prudence. Through this gift of the Holy Spirit, we are able to judge how best to act intuitively. Because of the gift of counsel, Christians need not fear to stand up for the truths of the Faith, because the Holy Spirit will guide us in defending those truths.

4.  Fortitude is sometimes called courage, but it goes beyond what we normally think of as courage. Fortitude is the virtue of the martyrs that allows them to witness to Christ to the point of death. It is both a gift of the Holy Spirit and a cardinal virtue.

5.  Knowledge is the fifth gift of the Holy Spirit. The gift of knowledge is often confused with both wisdom and understanding. Like wisdom, knowledge is based upon the perfection of faith. Wisdom gives us the desire to judge all things according to Faith, but knowledge is the actual gift to judge correctly. Like counsel, the gift of knowledge is aimed at our actions in life. Knowledge allows us to see our life the way that God sees it. Through this gift of the Holy Spirit, we can determine God's purpose for our lives and live accordingly.

6.  Piety, the sixth gift of the Holy Spirit, is not just the external elements of our faith, it really means the willingness to worship and to serve God. The spiritual gift of Piety takes us beyond a sense of duty, so that we desire to worship God and to serve God and others out of love, the way that we desire to honour our parents.

7.  Fear of the Lord: This is the seventh and final gift of the Holy Spirit.  No other gift of the Holy Spirit is so misunderstood. We think of fear and hope as opposites, but the fear of the Lord confirms the theological virtue of hope. This gift of the Holy Spirit gives us the desire not to offend God, as well as the certainty that God will supply us with the grace that we need in order to keep the commandments.

Nine fruits of the Holy Spirit are listed in St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians.  He says:
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." Galatians 5:22-23 

Catholic tradition has added three more fruits including: generosity, modesty and chastity.

The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit and the fruit of the Spirit work together as a choir where many distinct voices come together in harmony to the honour of God and the betterment of the New Israel, the Church.

Love - Agape or in Latin caritas has to do with our will not our emotions.  This kind of love or true charity, caritas denotes a really undefeatable benevolence, an unconquerable goodwill, that always seeks the highest and best for the other person, no matter what he or she has done or will do. It is kenotic or self-giving, self-emptying love that gives freely without asking anything in return. This love does not consider the worth of its object does not evaluate but simply gives. Again, Caritas works  from our will rather than from feeling or emotion. Caritas is the unconditional love God has for the world and it is a gift from God for the unity of the Church.

Paul, of course, describes love in 1 Corinthians 13:
“Love caritas is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, (caritas) is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love  - caritas never fails.

Evelyn Underhill, the great writer of our Anglican patrimony, considered love to the "budding point" from which all the other fruits of the Holy Spirit come. She based this upon 1 John 4:16, "God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.”

As God fashioned Ad-am (human) from dust and breathed life into him (see Genesis 2:7), in today’s Gospel we see the New Adam (Jesus) who has become one with the life-giving Spirit, breathing new life into the Apostles (1 Cor. 15:45,47).

As J. H. Newman insisted, the Holy Spirit indwells each person both justifying and sanctifying the individual for the benefit of the whole Church (Lectures on the Doctrine of Justification 154). We receive and are strengthened by that same Spirit in the sacraments. We are made a “new creation” in Baptism (2 Cor. 5:17) and then sealed, with the chrism of anointing by the Holy Spirit at Holy Confirmation.

We then drink of the one Spirit in the Holy Eucharist (1 Cor 10:4) as we share in Holy Communion with Jesus and the Eternal Father through the action of the Holy Spirit. 

In Christ we are a united new humanity - fashioned from every nation under heaven, with no distinctions of wealth or language or race. The Church, the new Israel is a people born of the Holy Spirit – Jews and Greeks,  bond and free from all nations called into the unity of the one Holy Spirit in the bond of peace.

“For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.”  1 Cor. 12:12

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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