Homily On Pentecost Sunday
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday. It also marks the fiftieth and the last day of the entire glorious and joyful season of Easter.
Pentecost Sunday also marks the ‘birthday of the Church’ as it was on that day the Church, as scholars say, became tangible, visible and apparent to the world. The disciples, who were hiding of fear after the death of Jesus, courageously went forth and proclaimed the Goodnews without fear anymore. It was then the church took birth and became visible on earth as they began its mission of evangelization.
The church then gradually spread across the globe, reaching out various cultures and communities in the four corners of the world. Pentecost event not only energized the first disciples but also inspired the numerous missionaries down the centuries across the world. As the result of their great missionary work many more people came to know the Lord and saved through finding out the truth.
An important blessing the first disciples received on the day of Pentecost was the characteristic of unity. The Holy Spirit they received was the love that united them together, just as the Holy Spirit is the bond of love between the Father and the Son in our Trinitarian concept of God.
As we can imagine, how the 12 disciples who were from various backgrounds and who were of different characters were able to come together and work together for a common goal of evangelization. What made them to forgive and forget the differences among themselves was their zeal for proclaiming the good news. Today too the virtue of unity is all the more important, as it was in the time of first disciples.
Pope Francis has asked the universal church to reflect on a synodal church. The three main themes of the current synod on sodality are
Communion, 2. Participation, 3. Evangelization.
As we can see, communion and participation, the first two elements of the synod on synodality are mainly focused on the unity of the church. The third element, which is evangelization, is the final goal of the entire process of the synod on synodality. It is to say that that entire process on the synod on sodality has its final goal as evangelization, the spreading of the good news.
It is a model for our own personal life as well. It means all our activities both spiritual and temporal need to be focused on our main goal which is evangelization of oneself and others. In other words without the goal of evangelization, our coming together as one community and participating together in various activities of the parish may go fruitless except for the fact of some elements of socialization.
As some of you might be familiar, an expression that has become common in these days is “cafeteria Catholicism”. According to some writers in Catholic circles,
the expression “cafeteria Catholicism” has been used to describe an approach to the faith in which individual Catholics pick and choose the teachings of the Church they wish to believe or reject. In this view, the Church’s teachings, like food in a cafeteria, have no particular importance: they are all available to satisfy the individual tastes of the consumer. Everyone chooses according to his likes and tastes. The more pleasant teachings can be chosen. The more bitter ones can be left behind.” (On Faith and Cafeteria Catholicism, The Catholic Thing, Sunday, August 18, 2013)
As we continue to follow this type of Catholicism a certain amount of relativism might take root in our faith life. We take what we need and leave out unpleasant things. In order to avoid such a danger what we need is certain amount of unity in what we believe and what we do in our spiritual life and temporal life. There are certain objective truths which are not subjective to our personal likes and dislikes. At the end of the day the words of Jesus on the cross "Father, not my will, but yours be done." is our guiding light.
As conclusion, in the church we do have people from various cultures and backgrounds, with various gifts and abilities, with various characters and preferences. And that is the beauty of the diversity of the Catholic Church. It is very much applicable in our parish as well, especially since the community is very diverse here. At the same time there is an element that unites us all in one faith, which is the Spirit of God; the Holy Spirit. The event of the Pentecost united the first disciples and our great missionaries in the past as well. The outpouring of the Holy spirit helped them to forget all the differences between themselves and work together for the common goal, which was evangelization. Today as we celebrate the feast of Pentecost, let us pray together for the same anointing of the Holy Spirit on each one of us, so that we may all work together for our common goal, which is evangelizing one self and the world as well.
By Fr. Bony James, SJ