Homily for Pentecost Sunday 2009

Image by Gisele Bauche

Homily for Pentecost Sunday
(Scriptures for Mass on the day of Pentecost)

So, the Spirit came upon the disciples as a strong driving wind
and as tongues of fire resting on their heads.

I wonder: if we had a new Pentecost
would you prefer to be knocked over by a strong wind
or have a flame settle just above the part in your hair?

Will it be wind strong and driving:
wind that forces you to lean into it as you walk;
wind so strong that if you don’t bow to it, you’ll be blown over;
wind strong enough strip a tree of leaves and branches
and strong enough to strip us of what we hold too tightly
what we reach for that is not ours…
wind strong enough to knock us down a peg or two;
wind strong to sweep us off our feet, like a lover driven to have us…

Or will it be tongues of fire, flames settling on our heads:
a flame strong enough to light our path in the dark times,
a flame bright enough to expose our hidden sins;
a flame warm enough to take the chill from a hardened heart
and melt our stubborn pride;
a flame of beauty drawing others to share our faith and hope;
a flame as pure as God: weightless yet weighted
by the Cross it brands upon our hearts…

So, which would we have? wind or flame? Neither?
Well, we need both - and God isn’t holding back on either.
But we have ways of sheltering ourselves
from the gusts of God’s wind moving in our lives
and ways of insulating ourselves from the heat of God’s desire
to light a fire under us to move us to speak and act as we ought.

The driving wind of God’s Spirit batters the injustices we tolerate
among nations, in our laws, at work, in our families
and in how we share what we have with those who have less.

The driving wind of God’s Spirit seeks to strip us
of our prejudice, our arrogance, our pride and resentments.

The wind of the Spirit comes to fan the flame of God’s presence in us,
such that our lives are warmth for those who need it,
light for those who seek the truth,
healing for the wounded,
and justice for those who are oppressed in any way.

Pentecost is meant to renew and refresh
the Spirit within and among us.

This day calls us to bow and to lean into the Spirit’s driving force
that we might go with it and not be left broken, scattered in its path.

Pentecost calls us to endure the heat of the inevitable friction generated
when the Gospel grates against our selfishness.

If all this sounds too daunting and demanding, keep in mind
that I’m speaking here of nothing more or less than
the gifts of the Holy Spirit we all received in Confirmation:
wisdom, understanding, right judgment, courage,
knowledge, reverence and awe in God’s presence.

Pentecost reminds us that we have gifts - already given to us -
though we may not yet have opened them.

At home, in my family, at work, at school, in our neighborhoods,
in this parish where and when and how is God’s Spirit
offering me wisdom to correct my foolishness?
understanding to curb of my stubbornness?
right judgment in the face of my bad choices?
courage to do and say what I fear doing and saying?
knowledge to open my mind and heart to truth?
reverence to help me to love what is pure and beautiful?
and awe in God’s presence -
all that I might grow in the life of the Spirit?

The gifts are all there and the wind and fire of God call me to open them.

In a few moments we'll pray for God’s Spirit to come upon our gifts,
the bread and wine we offer this morning in praise and thanksgiving,
and we'll pray that God’s Spirit make of them
the life, the body and blood of the risen Christ.

May the Spirit who makes holy our gifts
make holy and faithful the people who offer them.



  1. In our parish, a major part of the homily was personal testimony from one of our RCIA candidates, a baptized Catholic who made his Confirmation at this past Easter Vigil. He told everyone just how the Holy Spirit nudged and pushed and prepared his way through quite a journey, back to his Catholic roots and home. Then the pastor commented on how all could make a persoal testimony to the workingsof the H.S. in our lives. As I reflect on mine, I can see that quite clearly....although I may not have seen it at the time!
    The beauty of it is that the H.S. is not finished....we are all a work in progress.

  2. What a wonderful way to conclude the Easter season, APC!


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