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Deacon Raymond Chan’s Homilies

The Solemnity of Pentecost A – Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love.

May 28, 2023

            The liturgies of the Easter season bring home to us the work of the Holy Spirit in the Saviour’s Paschal Mystery. In this Sunday’s first reading, Luke’s account in the Acts of Apostles of the coming of the Spirit upon the apostles (2:1-11) associates this coming with the ‘day of Pentecost’, a Jewish festival celebrated fifty days after Passover – a harvest festival that later became a celebration of the giving of the Law to Moses. The basis of Luke’s vivid dramatization may well have been the fact that, on this popular festival, the apostles – still uncertain how to undertake the enormous mission they had been given – joined the pilgrims crowding Jerusalem, and for the first time found the courage to proclaim their faith in the Risen Lord. In their joy and success they recognized the ‘baptism with the Holy Spirit’ they had been promised. In the Acts of the Apostles Luke tells the story of the Church of the beginnings dramatizing them in a way that brings out their far-reaching significance. Thus, in Luke’s account, what begins as an event in one room of the city – ‘a noise that filled the whole house’, ‘something that seemed like tongues of fire’, the apostles ‘speaking in foreign languages’ – suddenly involves the whole crowded city, as faith in the Risen Lord is preached ‘to devout men from every nation under heaven’. As Luke’s dramatization continues in the passage that follows our reading, Peter’s preaching leads to the baptizing of three thousand people – a number designed to bring out the momentous nature of what is taking place, and the universal mission that will flow from it. As we know, Luke is writing a sequel to his gospel: the story of the Holy Spirit’s life-giving guidance of the early Church in the Acts of the Apostles. In later ages, we celebrate Pentecost as the birth of the Church. In this Sunday’s gospel reading (20:19-21), John reminds us that the Holy Spirit was given on the evening of Resurrection Day itself. ‘Peace be with you’, Jesus repeats, and breathing on themhe says, Receive the Holy Spirit’. John’s gospel reminds us that if the Spirit is responsible for the great things in which God is present in the life of the Church, the Spirit is also evident in our personal lives, in the true ‘peace’ and contentment that comes to those who give themselves generously to the Lord. In John’s gospel, Jesus, at the Last Supper, associates the gift of the Spirit he promises with a peace that is his special gift: My own peace I give you, a peace the world cannot give this is my gift to you (Jn 14:27). How varied are the gifts of the Spirit. In this era of change and renewal, let us become more aware of our dependence upon them.

            The apostles, Our Lady, and Jesus’ disciples gathered in prayer after Jesus’ ascension, praying for the coming of the Comforter or the Advocate as Jesus called the Holy Spirit (John 14:16.26). The Holy Spirit came and transformed them. After receiving the Holy Spirit, they had the power of Jesus and had the courage to continue Jesus’ ministry. One person who experienced the Holy Spirit coming to her in a profound way that totally changed her life was Sister Emmanuel in Medjugorje, the founder of an organization called Children of Medjugorje (COM). Inspired by Our Lady, COM strives to encourage and maintain Christian formation of conscience everywhere. Sister Emmanuel grew up in a good Catholic family but as a teenager while attending a boarding school in Paris she began mixing with girls who were using spirit boards and Ouija boards. They did it for hours every week. It was a fascination for them. At this time, Emmanuel began losing her sleep. She used the boards with her companions for two years until she left boarding school. Sometime afterwards, she went to India setting up some business between India and Paris. She was asked to go to an astrologer to see if the business plans were good. He interpreted everything in her life as if it were all controlled by the movement of the planets. She said the astrologer sowed seeds of despair in her heart because he implied everything in her life was written in the sky instead of being a gift from God. She said that interpretation of her life cut her off from the love and care and tenderness of God. She couldn’t care less what way the planets moved, and she felt like an orphan. In the months after that, she experienced things she had never experienced: nightmares, words of hatred against her family and friends, she wasn’t attracted by food anymore, and she was tortured more and more by anxiety. She became suicidal. Her sister came to her and said that she had been to a Catholic prayer group in Paris and that everything in the Acts of the Apostles is real: the miracles, the coming of the Holy Spirit, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and that it happens now also. The next day was Pentecost. Emmanuel went to the prayer group and noticed that the young people there were so full of joy and the Holy Spirit. She said there was something heavenly about them but as she sat beside them, she felt like hell beside heaven; she felt imprisoned. She remembered a prayer she had said a long time ago when she was young: she had prayed that here on earth she would meet people like those in the Acts of the Apostles. If she met people like them, she would go with them and give herself to God 100%. But now that she met them, she felt it was too late. During the prayer meeting, a woman spoke under the influence of the Holy Spirit saying there was a woman present going to death because a long time ago the devil took hold of her when she began to use Ouija boards and divination, and the speaker asked her to go to the leaders and ask for prayer since God has the power to free her from Satan. Emmanuel went to them for prayer and the woman said that Jesus through his cross and resurrection has the power to heal her and make her joyful, happy, and peaceful. It was the first time she had heard someone say that Jesus could touch her heart now. They prayed powerful prayers of liberation over her invoking the name of Jesus and she felt her anxiety and torture and despair going. She felt rivers of cleansing water going through her. In this she experienced her first deep encounter with the living Jesus. She said she had been doing her will instead of God’s will which was why Satan acted with such power in her life. Then she gave her life to God 100% and that was her first commitment to Jesus.

            Sister Emmanuel received new life through the Holy Spirit just as the apostles and disciples gathered in prayer received new life at the first Pentecost. She had previously wanted to meet people like those in the Acts of the Apostles and on that Sunday afternoon she met them during the prayer meeting. Her life was changed from hell to heaven by the power of the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit, we have no life in us; with the Holy Spirit, we have the life of Jesus. Without the Holy Spirit, we become closed in, with the Holy Spirit we reach out in mission to others. Without the Holy Spirit, we return to the Upper Room in fear and anxiety, with the Holy Spirit we leave the Upper Room and witness to Jesus to the ends of the earth. Today we pray for ourselves and the entire Church that we may all be renewed by the power of the Holy Spirit.

            In the First letter to the Corinthians, Paul wrote  “Now there are varieties of gifts but the same Spirit, and there are varieties of services but the same Lord, and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone.” (1 Corinthians 12:4-7). He wrote about how it’s the Spirit who makes the church work. The starting point for accepting the gift of the Holy Spirit is to increase our prayer life, which helps put us into a loving relationship with God (the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles while they were at prayer). Once we discover our own special talents and the particular role we are called to play in the mission of the church, then there is an obligation on us to use them in the building up of the Body of Christ. That’s why we’ve got folks willing to be lectors, some extraordinary communion ministers, some facilitators and hospitality ministers. Others are willing to teach RCIA class, or Sunday school, some like fixing things or cutting the grass or shovelling snow. Some volunteer in Soup Kitchen or visit people in the hospital. We may think it’s not a big deal just attending the Catholic Women’s League or Knights of Columbus monthly meeting, nor is it a big deal holding a sick child all night long or attending to a parent with Alzheimiers for months and years, nor holding up a sign on the street to spread the pro-life message. But all these, even in the hugs of two toddlers, are necessary in building up the Body of Christ.  We are all proclaiming the coming of God’s kingdom in the best way God has suited us to proclaim.  The Holy Spirit enriches the faith community to work together. Where there is love, there is the Holy Spirit!

            “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. Holy Spirit, continue your good work in us and help us to be faithful to you in our thoughts, our words, and our deeds. In Jesusname we pray. Amen


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