June 12, 2011 - Pentecost Sunday Mass during the Day

Today's Readings

So when did the Church receive the Holy Spirit? Our readings today seem contradictory on this point. Was it at Pentecost, as our first reading suggests, when the tongues of fire came to rest on each of the disciples, when there was a noise like a strong driving wind? Or was it when Jesus breathed on the disciples and said “Receive the Holy Spirit”?

There is, of course, a third option: that there is no contradiction at all. We like to have such episodes in the life of the Church be neat and tidy, but they are not. Pentecost was not the first time the disciples had received the Holy Spirit. It would not be the last time that they received the Holy Spirit. It is not a question of having the Holy Spirit. They disciples at Pentecost would not have said, “No thank you, I have already received the Holy Spirit.”

The Spirit is not a possession or a tool. The Spirit does not obey us. The only sense in which we can say that we have the Holy Spirit is as a student says that they have a teacher. The teacher does not belong to the student. The student belongs to the teacher. The student says, “This is my teacher” but means “This is the teacher I belong to.” So a child says, “This is my mother.” So it is when we say, “This is my Church.” It is not really our Church – it is God’s Church; it is not our Church to change or destroy or do with it whatever we want, but as long as we choose to belong to the Church, to obey the Church, to love the Church, we can say “This is my Church.”

Since this is true of the Church of God, how much more is it true of God himself! I think sometimes that people forget that the Holy Spirit is God, equal to the Father and the Son. We all have the Holy Spirit if we choose to submit to the Holy Spirit, and to submit to the Holy Spirit is not to submit to a set of rules. A person who belongs to the Holy Spirit does not live their life freely within certain boundaries, as the Jews do with the Law. To submit to the Holy Spirit is to submit to a mission.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to go and make disciples of all nations. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to love every person created by God as God has loved you. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to establish the reign of God here on earth as it is already established in heaven.

Before you answer whether you accept this mission, you should know that you will be opposed by the world. Not only the world, but even you yourself will stand in your own way. And do not forget that all the powers of hell, the demons themselves, who exceed us in intelligence and ability, will be fighting against you.    

But if you do accept this mission, if you do accept the Holy Spirit, then the power of the Holy Spirit will fight for you. He will not be like a weapon in your hands, at your control. He will not even be like a bodyguard who fights your battles for you. He will be like a knight, because the mission is really his mission. You and I are like children who want to tag along. He agrees that we can come along, if we do not get in his way. We have to make his mission, our mission.  We go where he goes. We fight who he fights. We do what he does. Only then can we say that we have the Holy Spirit.

Perhaps this sounds too difficult. You received the Holy Spirit in Baptism and Confirmation, but perhaps you were not aware what it means to have the Holy Spirit. Some people think that having the Holy Spirit is like having central air conditioning. A person with central air lives their life as they normally would, but they are more comfortable. So these Christians live like they would have lived anyway, but they hope that their religion will make life a little more comfortable, preferably with low maintenance and expense. No more than an hour a week or so.

Other Christians think that having the Holy Spirit is like having a pet. They live as they would live anyway, but sometimes they stop to play with the Holy Spirit. They want a Holy Spirit who is fun to play and fun to show off in public: speaking in tongues sounds like fun, perhaps faith healing also.

Since accepting the Holy Spirit means accepting his mission, we will have to give up the idea that we are going to use the power of the Holy Spirit for our own purposes. We cannot. The Holy Spirit uses his power for his own purposes. We will not receive a manifestation of the Holy Spirit so that our life would be easier, or so that people will admire our new ability, or so that our life will be more interesting.

But if we conform our lives to the will of God, if we make the mission of the Holy Spirit our own mission, then we will see the power of the Holy Spirit. The mission of the Holy Spirit is an adventure. Everything written in fairy tales, every adventure story ever written, is only a faint shadow of the real adventure in this life. Every video game filled with monsters and quests, is only a cheap substitute for the real quest. If your life is boring, if your life is not going the way you wanted, you really should consider going on an adventure with the Holy Spirit. If your life is exciting and going exactly how you wanted, you really should consider going on an adventure with the Holy Spirit.

So today, and tomorrow, and the day after, you and I need to make a conscious decision to receive the Holy Spirit. We pray to God, “Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.” What good is such a prayer if we do not intend to get behind the Holy Spirit? God is going to win the war with or without us. He does not need me for anything, but I want to be at his side in every battle from here to the end of the world.