Practical Sign of Hope

(Homily for Pentecost)

Message: The Holy Spirit gives us hope in a very practical way - by pouring out gifts on the faithful and encouraging each believer to use his God-given gifts.

Today is Pentecost Sunday. For us Pentecost culminates our journey to hope. The journey began with Easter. We saw that the modern crisis of faith is ultimately a crisis of hope. Although we all have certain hopes (a pleasant vacation, a fulfilling career, a soul-mate), the question is: Do I have a great hope? A hope that will give meaning and purpose to all we do - and all we experience?

Many people say that their great hope is to build a better world for their children. For sure we Christians want to do our part to make this world better, but that cannot be our great hope. We do not believe in the possibility of creating heaven on earth. Those who made heaven on earth their goal soon committed terrible atrocities and wound up creating the worst hells in human history.*

Our great hope does not involve a belief in human perfectibility nor do we trust in our own righteousness. No, we hope in God's mercy opened for us by Jesus' suffering death and resurrection. By our union with Jesus we become connected with every other believer. We form part of a family that will endure. That is our hope and as we saw in recent Sundays, that hope enables us to maintain a sense of perspective in the face of disappointment and even persecution. We share this hope with others not by showing them our good works - although works are important as a sign of hope. But our own goodness is limited and often contradicted by our sins. We share the faith, then, not by pointing out our good deed, but by humility and compassion - a deep compassion that not only feels the other person's pain, but helps him take that suffering to Jesus.

OK, deep breath. On Pentecost we receive the Spirit of hope. As one song says, "sometimes I get discouraged and think I've fought in vain, but then the Holy Spirit revives my soul again." As we hear in the second reading, the Holy Spirit gives hope by pouring gifts upon us. In her book "Forming Intentional Disciples" Sherry Weddell observes:

"The Holy Spirit is planning charisms and vocations of amazing diversity in the hearts of Godís people. Like the graces of the sacraments, they are real, but they are not magic. Just as the gifts of children must be fostered deliberately and with great energy by parents if their children are to reach their full potential, so vocations must be fostered in the Church. In this area we are not asking for too much; we are settling for too little. God is not asking us to call forth the gifts and vocations of a few people; he is asking us to call forth the gifts and vocations of millions. Our problem is not that there is a shortage of vocation..."

Sherry Weddell has developed the Called & Gifted process to help people discover and apply their gifts. I hear that it is a wonderful program and want to learn more about it when Sherry Weddell speaks to priests of the Archdiocese next week. You do not have to wait for a course, however, to start using your gifts. Rick Warren writes:

"You have dozens of hidden abilities and gifts you don't know about because you've never tried them out. So I encourage you to try doing some things you've never done before. No matter how old you are, I urge you to never stop experimenting. Over the years, I have met many people who discovered hidden talents when they were in their seventies and eighties. In fact, I know a woman in her nineties who runs and wins 10K races; she didn't discover that she enjoyed running until she was seventy-eight! Don't try to figure out your gifts before volunteering to serve somewhere. Just start serving. Try teaching or leading or organizing or playing an instrument or working with teenagers. You will never know what you're good at until you try. When it doesn't work out, call it an 'experiment,' not a failure, because it will help you eventually learn what you're good at."

The Holy Spirit gives us hope in a very practical way - by pouring out gifts on the faithful and encouraging each believer to use his God-given gifts.

In the coming summer months I will address ways we can discover and apply the gifts of the of the Holy Spirit. For today I would like to conclude with this prayer:

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.
O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.


*The Thousand Year Reich and the Soviet workers' paradise. Remember that although we now look at those experiments with dismay and horror, they began with good impulses - just as our current efforts to engineer society by bending human nature.

Spanish Version

From the Archives (Pentecost Sunday):

2016: Led by the Spirit
2015: Disciple Makers Week 8: Holy Spirit Make It Possible
2014: Practical Sign of Hope
2013: Even Greater Things
2012: Our First, Most Cherished Liberty
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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