I offer this homily (and take off my hat) to any brothers who are celebrating Mass or live streaming during this crisis
Bottom line: Let's ask Jesus to pour the Holy Spirit as a healing river on our church and world: to heal memories and to wash away the stains of guilt - and lead us to eternal life.
Today we bring to a conclusion the strangest Easter season - at least in my 49 years as a priest. After all we have been through, one thing we can agree on: we need the Holy Spirit.
In this homily I'd like to talk about why we need the Holy Spirit. You can see that need dramatically in our current crisis. Faced with a pandemic you'd think we would pull together. Instead we pull apart. In spite of all our science and data, we've lost our ability to communicate.
Why is that? You have to remember the Tower of Babel. The people were so full of pride they tried to build a tower right up to the heavens, to make themselves into gods. Because of their arrogance a confusion of languages came over them. They lost their ability to communicate.
How do we recover our capacity to communicate? In our first reading, when Jesus pours the Holy Spirit on the apostles. When they preached, people who normally could not communicate with each other, said, "yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God". We need the Holy Spirit to recover our capacity to communicate.
This Sunday we are praying that Jesus will send the Holy Spirit like a healing river - on our world, our country, our church and our families. The Holy Spirit is Jesus' first gift. After his resurrection, he appears to the apostles. "Peace," he says, "Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them..." When a priest absolves a penitent, he says "God the Father of mercies...has sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins."
The Holy Spirit brings forgiveness and enables us to forgive others. It is not easy. Fr Morrow - a priest with a doctorate in theology - describes five stages of anger, which lock a person in a failure to forgive. The first stage is denial - a refusal to admit hurt. If a person, however, recognizes his hurt, he then can proceed to other stages which may include anger, bargaining and depression. The failure to forgive can cause paralyzing depression. By the Holy Spirit a person can move from depression to acceptance. You can read more in Fr. Morrow's book "Overcoming Sinful Anger".
The Holy Spirit enables us to forgive those who wound us and then to pray for those we have hurt. Fr. Robert Spitzer has a prayer that has become one of my favorites: "Make good come out of whatever harm I may have done." He tells about waking up at 3 in the morning concerned about what he had said to someone. He asked the Holy Spirit to help that person. The next morning he ran into the person who said to him "Fr. Spitzer, when you said X I really took it the wrong way. But the next day I woke up and got a very different insight into what you meant." Well, says Fr. Spitzer, It was the Holy Spirit.
If the Holy Spirit can heal the other person's memory, he can heal your memory and mine - even going back before birth. My mom told me about going to the doctor suspecting she was pregnant. The doctor said, "no, you have cyst that needs to be removed." My mom sought a second opinion. That second doctor confirmed what my mom knew that indeed, she was pregnant. It turned out that the "cyst" was me! Many people have been affected by negative energy even before birth. We can pray to the Holy Spirit for healing of memories from childhood, adolescence and the years beyond.
That healing can happen in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. People sometimes tell me about past or present cases of abuse. Abuse can take many forms. When the priest prays over that person, the Holy Spirit can heal those memories.
I've seen that healing often. Besides Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning Confessions, we have First Friday confessions beginning at 7 pm.
In confession the Holy Spirit heals our souls, including those wounds we inflict on our own selves. All of us carry some guilt. That guilt can become a crippling burden that leads to rage, addiction, suicidal thoughts and more. In the Sequence we pray:
Heal our wounds, our strength renew;
On our dryness pour your dew;
Wash the stains of guilt away
The Holy Spirit heals and washes away guilt. When all is said and done, why does he do it? So we will have peace in our hearts. For sure, but something much greater: The Holy Spirit heals to prepare for the eternal relation with Father and Son. We'll hear more next Sunday when we celebrate the Feast of the Trinity.
Today let's ask Jesus to pour the Holy Spirit as a healing river on our church and world: to heal memories and to wash away the stains of guilt - and lead us to eternal life. Amen.
This crisis, which has affected every person on the planet, should bring us together. Unfortunately it has exacerbated divisions and made us more suspicious of each other. Last week I had a somewhat humorous experience of this suspicion: I saw a friend - an old guy like me - with a nifty haircut. I asked him how he got such a nice haircut when all the barber shops are supposed to be closed! He related his adventure and left me filled with envy.
That of course is a fairly silly example. More serious is the fact that even though we have mountains of data, instead of using it to help each other, many prefer to use like a club. As I mentioned last week, we easily fall into judging and accusing each other. Like the people who built the tower of Babel: because of our pride we lose the ability to communicate with each other.
Audio Homilies for Pentecost Sunday:
Pentecost & First Communion (2018)
How to Take Advantage of Untapped Power (2017)
Led by Spirit - Example of Joey Ox from Church of Spies (2016)
Testimony of Carlos Orozco (2015)
From the Archives (Pentecost Sunday):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)
Are these homilies a help to you? Please consider making a donation to St. Mary of the Valley Parish.
Other Priests' Homilies, Well Worth Listening:
Fr. Kurt Nagel
Fr. Frank Schuster
Fr. Brad Hagelin
Fr. Jim Northrop
Fr. Michael White
Fr Pat Freitag (and deacons of St. Monica)
Bishop Robert Barron
Bulletin (St. Mary of Valley Parish)
Parish Picture Album
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru