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Pentecost Sunday - 24 May 2015 - Fr John's Homilies

Pentecost Sunday - 24 May 2015
  1. The first magnificent stone temple of the Jewish people was built in Jerusalem in around 950 BC. On the day of the dedication of this "Solomon's Temple," the shekinah, the glory of Yahweh, fire and cloud from heaven, which had been covering the Ark of the Covenant Mercy Seat in the Tent of Meeting, descended into the inner sanctuary of the new stone Temple.

 

  1. This became the assurance of the enduring divine presence of Yahweh that made Solomon's Temple both the centre and cantering place for the chosen people of God. The Temple was where God lived! The Seat of Mercy from which God spoke to the people.

 

  1. 500 years later, the Babylonians tear down the Temple and take the Jews into exile. By this time the Ark of the Covenant has disappeared from history and the visible shekinah of God’s presence no longer resides with the people.

 

  1. This results in a crisis of faith. So Ezra, Nehemiah, and Jeremiah convinced the people that they must go back to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple so God can once more be with them. But the visible sign of God’s presence no longer fills this new temple.

 

  1. This explains the growth of Pharisaism during the Second Temple period. The belief strong in Jesus' time that if they obeyed laws more perfectly; following absolute ritual, maintaining Sabbath purity; then the Glory of God would return to the Temple.

 

 

  1. As Richard Rohr explains; this is the common pattern in moralistic religion: our impurity supposedly keeps Yahweh away. They tried so hard, but the fire never returned, "what are we doing wrong; are we really God's favourite and chosen people?"

 

  1. Knowledge of this history now gives new and even more meaning to what we call Pentecost Sunday. On that day, the fire from heaven descended, not on a building, but on people! And all peoples, not just Jews, were baptized and received the Spirit (Acts 2:38-41).

 

  1. Paul understood this and drew out the immense consequences. He loved to say, "You are that Temple!", and of course this develops into his entire doctrine of individual humans as the very Body of Christ. We are all "walking around like the sun" as Thomas Merton says.

 

  1. On this great day of Pentecost, the 50th day following the Lord’s resurrection from the dead, we celebrate and experience once again the descent of the Holy Spirit in the form of fiery tongues.

 

  1. The Spirit is here for the same reason it was at the creation, for the same reason that it filled the prophets, for the same reason it overshadowed the Virgin, for the same reason that it is here to bring us the presence of Christ. The Holy Spirit is here to bring to us the One Who is Emmanuel; God with us.

 

  1. When the Holy Spirit descends at Pentecost, the Church as we now know it comes into being even though it is actually eternal, because Christ is a member as Head. We become the Body of Christ..”

 

  1. We say “Body of Christ” because we should think of His body. We should think of His incarnation. We should think of Him as the Head of the Church, while we are His Body. The Holy Spirit comes for no other reason than to extend the Incarnation.

 

  1. The presence of Christ is not limited only to His physical body as it walked this Earth and now sits on the Father’s Throne. Christ’s incarnation extended into those Apostles and the other disciples when the day of Pentecost came and the Holy Spirit came upon them.

 

  1. Christ’s incarnation is extended when those 3000 souls are baptized into Christ on that day. Christ’s incarnation is extended into the Body and Blood that will come forth from this holy altar today.

 

  1. Christ’s incarnation is extended in every one of the sacraments. Christ’s incarnation is extended directly into you and into me, because we put on Christ in baptism and because we eat and drink His flesh and blood.

 

  1. We are called “Christians,” brothers and sisters, because we are what that word means: “little Christs.” We are the extension of His incarnation because the Holy Spirit has come upon us in our baptism and chrismation and in our life of receiving all the sacraments.

 

  1. Christ has not left us! He did not go away so that the Spirit could be here “instead” of Him. He sent us the Holy Spirit precisely so that He might become everywhere, so that He might become the fullness of Him Who fills all things. Christ in all, and all in Christ. To the extent that we are in Christ, we become Christ by the power of Pentecost, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

  1. Christ has not left us! When we receive all the holy mysteries from our bishops and priests, we receive them from Christ, for in their ordination they have become Christ, and it is by the Holy Spirit that this has happened.

 

  1. The incarnation has extended into them, and through them, by the Spirit, the incarnation extends into us. By the energy and power and operation of the Holy Spirit, we become by grace what Christ Himself is by nature.

 

  1. Christ has not left us! This is why everything we do here in this holy place matters, why what you do when you leave this place matters, why every moment of every day has the possibility for conveying the awesome presence, power and glory of God into every place. The Holy Spirit has come, and He is extending Christ into us, and we by the Spirit extend Christ into this world.

 

  1. Christ has not left us! This is the wind and fire of the Spirit, and He is bringing Christ into us with power and with glory. We are by grace becoming what Christ is by nature; the very presence of God on Earth. We do not become the one and only God; only the Father, Son and Spirit are God. But we may grow to the fullness of the stature of Christ, partakers of the divine nature.

 

  1. What a wonderful and beautiful and comforting and encouraging Gospel the Holy Spirit preaches to us: Christ has not left us! He gives Christ to us, for Christ sent the Spirit to us for precisely that reason.

 

  1. Though we are sinners, though we are unworthy and have blasphemed God, though we so often ignore Him and put Him last, we who are the Body of Christ have become the extension of the Incarnation of Christ. We can dare to say with the saints that, because of the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the Church is nothing less than the whole Christ; Head and Body.

 

  1. What however has all this beautiful theology to do with the reality of our lives and our communities in this present times?

 

  1. When we look around us there is more distrust, division and disunity than ever before in our history. There is a crude enforcement of conformity that seeks to destroy the beauty of our diverse languages and cultures.

 

  1. Following a six year study over 120 counties, the Franciscan General in Rome spoke last week of “facing a Tsunami both from within and from without over which we have little control…” He spoke also of the individualism and materialism that has its roots in a “spiritual anaemia.”

 

  1. There are three great prophets of our time that speak to us of this situation; the theologian martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer who spoke of a “cheap grace without repentance that blocks our transformation”… a spiritual blindness that leads us to call evil, good, and good, evil.

 

  1. The second prophet is the hermit, priest and mystic, Thomas Merton, who predicted that as long as we point the finger at evil outside of our own hearts, we will continue to tear apart the Body of Christ, sowing disunity and committing murder.

 

  1. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, priest, philosopher, palaeontologist and geologist spoke of the unfolding of the cosmos and the evolution of energy through matter and consciousness to humanity to an ultimate reunion with Christ, the Omega point.

 

  1. Teilhard warns us however of the problems of isolation and marginalization that block our transformation, especially since this evolution requires a unification of consciousness.

 

  1. Jesus’ promise is to lead us to the Truth that will set us free; but first there must be within us a sense of our need, a deep sorrow of our actions, an urgent move away from our compromise with the shadows, a repentance and a humble return to grace through surrender and obedience.

 

  1. Transformation cannot take place from any position of pride or power or control; transformation into Spirit filled and animated people must always start from the bottom; from the edges. We need to be on our knees before the Mercy Seat. Now is the time of repentance.