The Soul's Most Welcome Guest

(Homily for Pentecost Sunday, Year B)

Bottom line: The Holy Spirit is the soul's most welcome guest: He enables us to pray and empowers us to act.

Today we commemorate the sending of the Holy Spirit. In the words of the Sequence, he is the "soul's most welcome guest." We know his presence by an inexplicable joy he communicates. But he also supports us in times of discouragement. He empowers us to continue on.

Fr. Tom Euteneuer, president of Human Life International, tells a beautiful story about the presence and power of the Holy Spirit: Once he was with a group of people praying in front of a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic. That day eleven young women passed by them on their way into the clinic. Not one of the girls accepted their offer of help - or even acknowledged them. Naturally, the people praying felt disappointed. Some even wondered why God did not listen to their prayers.

Well, about a year later Fr. Euteneuer was again with a small group, praying in front of the same clinic. A young woman approached them. She held a bundle in her arm. Lifting a blanket, she showed them a beautiful baby boy. She asked if they remembered her. The people said, "no." She went on to explain that she had passed by them about a year ago. After filling out the papers in the clinic, she took a seat in the waiting area. All of a sudden, tears filled her eyes and she began sobbing uncontrollably. Other girls also began to cry. It took some time, she said, for the staff to establish order. She left the clinic and decided to keep her baby. She believes some of the other girls made the same decision.

When we pray, the Holy Spirit prays within us. Any results depend on him - not on our virtue. I've joked about that with those who participate in our pro-life prayer vigil here at Holy Family. Since the summer of 2002, a small group of us has prayed almost every Friday morning before the Planned Parenthood clinic, eight blocks away for our church. "As far as I know," I told them, "we have not rescued any babies. But a few years ago, we did rescue a stray puppy."

We called him Fabian, the Planned Parenthood puppy, because he followed us to that abortion clinic on the Feast of St. Fabian. I cared for that puppy for several weeks until we located the owner. And I took him as a small sign that our prayers did go unanswered. I do know for a fact that our parish Birthright has helped many young women in crisis pregnancies - some who were abortion-minded when they came. That change of heart happens only as a result of many prayers.

In his wonderful book, Mary, Mother of the Son, Mark Shea has a short reflection on The Coming of the Holy Spirit. It is the third of the Glorious Mysteries of the rosary - and it follows the mystery of the Ascension. Citing the verse from Acts where St. Peter speaks about Jesus taking his place at the right hand of the Father and then pouring out the Holy Spirit, Mark says:

"It is worth noting that the 'right hand' is the 'good hand' in antiquity. It's the hand that pours out blessings, the hand that holds the scepter, the hand that works, acts, fights. The hand is the locus of action. We do not theorize with our hands, we do things. Jesus, seated at the right hand of the Father, does things. And he empowers us to do things, too - by his Spirit."

Brothers and sisters, on this Pentecost Sunday, I invite to open your hearts to gift of the Holy Spirit. He is the soul's most welcome guest. He enables us to pray. The results depend on him - and he empowers us to act.


Intercessions for Pentecost Sunday (from Priests for Life)

Spanish Version

From the Archives:

Pentecost 2011: It Was the Holy Ghost
2010: The Power of the Holy Spirit
2009: The Soul's Most Welcome Guest
2008: Double Gift
2007: With You Always
2006: He Testifies to the Truth
2005: The Greatest Unused Power
2004: A Man Open to the Holy Spirit
2003: To Drink of One Spirit
2002: Healing of Memories
2001: Hateful Comparisons & Precious Gifts
2000: The Spirit & The Flesh
1999: Each in His Native Language
1998: Empty Rites?

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Footnote on World Civilization Course: There is a lot one could say about this high school textbook. It purports to be comprehensive, but it leaves a lot out. For example, its ample index does not have an entry for Mother Theresa or Pope John Paul II. Even from a secular point of view they are two people who had a deep and ongoing impact on our world. By way of contrast, the textbook did have a section on Betty Friedan! Subsequently I came across this quote from University of Wisconsin Professor Stanley Payne about the current state of history studies:

Major themes are replaced by comparatively minor considerations, which emphasize small groups, deviants and cultural oddities. Most studies are required to fit somewhere within the new sacred trinity of race, class and gender - the new "cultural Marxism." Research that does not conform to these criteria is increasingly eliminated from the universities, where hiring practices in the humanities and social science have become blatantly discriminatory. (from "Controversies over History in Contemporary Spain")