Father Michael Mary’s homily for Pentecost
Today we celebrate the feast of Pentecost. It ends the Easter season. Jesus is giving the Holy Spirit on the Church. We see that Jesus told the Apostles to stay in Jerusalem to wait for the promise of the Father. “For John baptized with water but before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” So they stayed in the upper room. The entire church. More than just the Apostles, but the entire church with Mary was praying for this outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
He tells them just a few verses later in acts Chapter 1, “you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and to the ends of the earth”. Then he ascends to heaven to his heavenly Father and then sends the Holy Spirit nine days later on the Church.
The gift of the Spirit, we could say, fulfills the Jewish feast of Pentecost. It was their celebration of the giving of the law. 50 days after that Exodus Passover, they’re at Mount Sinai, God gives them the law. Now 50 days after Jesus’s Passover, we received the gift of the Holy Spirit poured upon, poured into our hearts. Written on our hearts. As those tablets of stone were written by the finger of God, we are told that finger of God is the image of the Holy Spirit, so now it is fulfilled. Written on our hearts, poured into our hearts and, as Jeremiah describes this new covenant, as he prophesies about this coming new covenant, he says, each man will know me and I will forgive their sins”. Through this divine indwelling, we will have this knowledge, this experience of God in a new way. A new communion with him. A new closeness. It is accomplished through Jesus’s death and resurrection, ascension, and sending of the Holy Spirit upon us. So the Holy Spirit leads us in truth. The scriptures teach us. Sanctifies us. Consoles us. Unites us. It is the spirit of Communion. It makes present the mystery of Christ.
He says today, in terms of the spirit of truth, he said, “when the spirit comes, he will guide you in all truth. Not speak on his own but speak what he hears. He will glorify me. He will take from what is mine and declare it to you.” I think some would see this that he makes present what is mine. He makes present the ministry of Christ. His redemption, his suffering, death and resurrection, His paschal mystery, and that is made present to us by the gift of the spirit through the sacraments of the Church. Through the mystery of the Church. The Holy Spirit has continued to be poured upon us in our Sacramental life and in the life of the Church. So in baptism we receive the Holy Spirit. It’s deepened in confirmation. We could say in a sense that the Church itself, the sacraments make the Church, the Church fathers say The Holy Spirit forms the Church. In this time, in this age of the Church in which we live, that the Holy Spirit is continually poured upon us today.
I would like to speak a little about the gifts of the Holy Spirit. And to cultivate in all of us a desire for them. It is the gift of God. That is what we are talking about. So in baptism, we are given the theological virtues of faith, hope and love. We are given natural virtues. The four cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance. And under those, we have all of these virtues categorized under those categories. And so all that is poured into us, given to us, we have them in our souls working. Now the gifts are distinct from that. The theological virtues are greater. Charity is greater than even the gifts but the distinction the theologians make as to their cause, that the gifts are acting directly upon us, and the virtues and even in the theological virtues, we have reason illumined by faith, illumined by grace. There is a cooperation there. There is always cooperation, but it is more present in these others in the virtues. The gifts though we are acted upon. That God is acting upon us in a very direct way. The spiritual writers have compared it to a rowboat and a sailboat. The rowboat we are participating and rowing and moving the boat. And the gifts, it is like the breath of God blowing us, filling our sales and directing us and strengthening us and empowering us in some way. So it is the difference in human mode of action versus the supernatural mode of action.
So these gifts, we have seven gifts taken from scripture. Four perfect the intellect. We have the gift of wisdom. Whereby the mind becomes docile in the movement of the Holy Spirit, in the contemplation of divine things. And in judging all things both human and divine as God judges them. This is actually considered the greatest of the gifts. When we contemplate God, we taste him, we could say experience God. We are made to relish the divine things. We are to beg for those gifts. Beg for the gift of wisdom. We speak of it as contemplation. This gift given to us by God to contemplate him and to receive him.
The gift of understanding. This is a gift enabling the mind to penetrate, to have deeper insight into the truths that God has revealed to us that we possess through faith but to penetrate them, to understand them, to see how they are linked together. Do you ever read theology or reading the scripture and suddenly like a light comes on and you see how things work more clearly and how things are connected? We can cultivate this just by a lively faith. A person who has never studied theology can have this deeper gift of understanding. I like to think of it also as helping our reason to engage, that we can submit to God more fully. Intellect and will. In the will we are obedient to God and the reason that we seek this understanding.
The gift of knowledge. This is a gift to judge created and human things in the light of faith. For this gift we share God’s own view of creation. To look upon creatures with the eyes of faith. I think that can gentle the soul. We in today’s age and I emphasize this, the technology, we can have so much power to do what we want to manipulate creation, even the psychological sciences to manipulate others but this gift of knowledge to see things all of creation with the eyes of faith, through the eyes of God in a sense that it is a beautiful gift given to us, and we are called to be stewards of the earth. We are called to care for creation. To use it in a responsible way. To use it in a way that benefits all. That builds the common good. Especially to look upon our brothers and sisters as fellow, as part of the family of God’s children of God as we are. It makes us a little more gentle , a little more understanding towards others. We see them as brothers and sisters.
We have the gift of counsel. The gift which enables one to act with divine prudence especially in difficult circumstances. To show us what to do. Do you ever face questions in your life, what shall I do here?. We have some tough choices to make. When we need that gift of counsel. One of our brothers shared with us a story. He had spoken to a canon lawyer in Rome. He had very difficult cases. Trying to make rulings on everything. And probably the ugly parts of humanity to deal with that. And he said the only way sometimes it would work out is he got on his knees and prayed and asked God for light on what to do in this situation. It can be very difficult. The Church cannot be expected to give us ready-made answers to all the questions we have in life about how to act and what to do. We need that gift of counsel to guide us and direct us and make the best decisions.
The gift of piety. This is the gift whereby one is moved to honor God as one’s own father and the father of all. This perfects in us the virtue of religion. Religion takes a beating today. We have an exodus from organized religion. To embrace disorganized religion. Right? It seems like our culture is embracing superstition now. Other alternatives. Spiritualities. Designer spiritualities. Do-it-yourself. Do it the way you want. I need something more than what my mind and brain can come up with. Right? I need divine religion that shows us how to worship God, that shows us the path to draw closer to God. That I can glorify him. That I can love him. Do this, not that. We glorify God by living a moral life, by praising and worshiping and we come to the Eucharist and offer the sacrifice of our lives. We can praise him. That is all acts of our religion. It is the gift of piety that helps us to see God as our father. A loving father. We talk a lot about the father today. Maybe a distant father. An abusive father. Maybe one that tried but failed in different ways. This gift of piety can help us to recognize God as a loving, providential father who is guiding us to heaven to be with him for all eternity. That we can submit ourselves. We can live in obedience to him. It is a beautiful gift. Given to us.
The sixth gift, of fortitude. This enables the person to be moved by the spirit to do the will of God despite all obstacles and difficulties. Not to check out when things go a little bit hairy. They have some guts as Mother Angelica would tell us. Sometimes it can be difficult to do the right thing. To say something that is not popular. To stand up for something that is against the spirit of our age. We live in very secular times. There is incredible pressure just repeated in our culture. Different lies about morality and stuff that everybody feels this pressure to conform. You do not want to step out of line. Social media, you say one thing and you can be just taken to task and beaten. People lose their jobs. Beaten so to speak. But they can lose their jobs and things in an instant. We need fortitude to continue to do the right thing. We need that strength. Just in raising children today. So many pressures on them and it is easy just to compromise to give in and not seek the Gospel truth there. So we have to acknowledge our weakness and ask God for the gift of fortitude.
And finally, the fear of the Lord. The gift whereby one is moved to fear offending God and thus be separated from him. Paul the 6th would say, the sin of our age is the loss of the sense of sin. That we are constantly in the media shown behaviors that are sinful and contrary to God’s law. It is dressed up, it looks attractive and dazzling and those characters have the best lines. There is something compelling about them. We constantly have this in the very air we breathe. These promotions of sin. We need to ask for the fear of the Lord that we fear offending him and meditate upon grandeur, upon his majesty. I think especially in nature. We can see his works and recognize his power and glory there. It is like I want to worship that. Not the things but the one who made these beautiful things. It is always restoring to me to see something beautiful in nature and to recognize God’s work.
So we can open ourselves to dispose ourselves to receive the gifts by the practice of virtue by living a holy life, practicing the theological and moral virtues, and subordinating ourselves to God. Combat within ourselves the spirit of the world. When we live a Gospel oriented life, we open ourselves to his working in us. When we practice the faith, when we repent of sin and go to confession and come to Mass. We pray. All that opens us to the workings of the Holy Spirit. By practicing the evangelical councils, by living out a simple life. Not to get caught up in everything and having and doing more. To live a chaste life according to our state in life. Chastity today is under attack by an unchaste life. We are cutting ourselves off from grace. We’re cutting ourselves off from the spirit. Obedience and obeying the Church and her teachings today. Through a fidelity to a deep prayer life. A disciplined prayer life. To cultivate silence. The time where we turn off all the noise of the world and focus on God. Through direction. Maybe a spiritual director can help us to discern God’s movement in our souls of His Holy Spirit. And maybe most important is just to pray and say come Holy Spirit. To ask for it.
I was up at the shrine yesterday, beautiful event up there. The Fillipino feast day celebrated. I went down to Mother Angelica’s tomb, the mausoleum, and just prayed for the Holy Spirit through her intercession. She was a woman of the Holy Spirit. Right? She just did things that did not make logical sense. Obviously directed by God’s Holy Spirit and EWTN in all of its fruitfulness. Just pray that prayer. Come Holy Spirit, Invite the Holy Spirit into your life and to give you these gifts that you may walk by the spirit as Paul talks and to have a fruitfulness in your life of the spirit working in you.