Homily for the Solemnity of Pentecost in Year A 2020 at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta, 23 May 2021
Readings: Acts 2:1-11; Gal 5:16-25; John 20:19-23
Called to be messengers of peace, reconciliation and Gospel of life to all creation
If there was a time that the followers of Jesus were at their best, it would have been the day of Pentecost. A motley crew of assorted characters and mismatched individuals, they were somehow transformed into a dynamic, unified and mission-driven community.
We are told that after the harrowing events in Jerusalem, they gathered in a state of fear and disarray. The crucifixion of Jesus had shaken them to the core. Their dream of a messianic glory had turned into a profound disillusionment. They were confronted not only with the hostile world outside but also with a deep sense of guilt and recrimination from within. Yet, it was into this very moment of vulnerability that the Holy Spirit came and transformed them into a leavening force for the Kingdom. They underwent a complete metamorphosis.
The Acts of the Apostles describes this transformation for us in dramatic terms. A powerful wind filled the house where they gathered and tongues of fire came to rest on the head of each of them. In the Bible, these are signs of God’s revelation such as the wind and fire that accompanied the people of the covenant during the Exodus. Just as God had done in the past, life-giving spirit enabled the disciples to move beyond old boundaries to new horizons of universal fraternity.
At Pentecost, these new horizons stretched the limits of their understanding of what it meant to belong to God’s people. The Galileans, as the disciples were known, spoke in a way that the many cultures and nationalities could understand. Thus, Pentecost was the antithesis of Babel where people were divided on account of their differences. Pentecost was and is the celebration of unity in diversity.
The Church as a community of disciples is the embodiment of unity in diversity. We are given the task of bridging the gaps and bringing down the barriers that separate people. We are called to embody the Spirit who transcends all boundaries and divisions, be they of race, culture, social status, gender, ability or disability. Just as the predominantly Jewish Christian movement was forced to examine its assumptions, beliefs and practices, today we too must seek fresh ways of transcending artificially constructed boundaries and embodying God’s all-embracing love. It is our Pentecostal mandate.
No easy task in a world where the strong make the rules and the privileged hold on to the existing structures of power. No smooth sailing enterprise when the myth of individualism and self-made prosperity underpin the very foundations of our society. The pandemic has unveiled systemic injustices, inequalities and not to mention ecologically unsustainable ways of living.
The Pentecostal mandate means that we must be the leavening force for the common good and the strengthening of the sacred bonds that bind us all together. This means the Church cannot remain indifferent to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Nor can we cross over to the other side, when victims of injustice lie on the road. It is in everyone’s interest to challenge and address the root cause of all that afflicts the human family.
Similarly, we have a duty to be the messengers of peace, reconciliation and healing to all creation. The early Church was a pioneer leading humanity to new dawn of greater justice, equality and fraternity. Today, we Christians cannot forfeit this mandate if we fail to embody those Gospel values and advocate for those deprived of them.
At Pentecost, the motley crew was transformed and the Church was born. The Holy Spirit emboldened and launched them forward as a leavening force in the world. As we gather around the Eucharistic table, we are also bolstered by the fresh energy that the Holy Spirit. We model ourselves on the early Church in which all members contributed to the building up of the Body of Christ and the spreading of the Good News.
This morning, we commission the Diocesan Pastoral Council as an expression of a Church centred on the dignity and gift of the baptised. These representatives of the faithful of the Diocese will work collaboratively with me, the leadership team and other governing bodies in order to bring about the vision of the Church in mission, walking humbly, acting justly and serving the poor; the Church that is directed by the Spirit as St Paul tells us.
Pentecost propelled Christians to put concern for justice, inclusion, dignity and fraternity at the top of its missionary agenda. It was out of these concerns that the poor were cared for, the outsiders were welcomed and the rights of the minority were upheld. May we also be emboldened to go forward and witness to the reign of God, becoming the sign of hope and reconciliation for the people of our time.
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