Sunday, May 13, 2007

Where's the Holy Spirit? (Sunday homily)

Where’s the Holy Spirit?

In the Gospel, the Lord promises “the Advocate,”
who “will teach you everything.”
Doesn’t that sound like what our moms do for us?
Never doubt the Holy Spirit often speaks through mom!

In the Book of Acts, we see the Holy Spirit
working through the Apostles, as they build the Church.

In Revelation—the final book of Scripture—
we see the Spirit has completed his work:
A glorious City, full of God’s Light.

So, what about us?
How, in our time, is the Spirit at work?

Consider things we usually think are important:

· How many nuclear bombs do you have?
· How did your stock do this week?
· Which actress is Brad Pitt going out with these days?
· How is your favorite sports team doing?
· What’s on sale, and where can I buy it?

In other words, if we don’t see the Spirit at work,
could we be looking at the wrong things?

So let’s look again. And let me tell you,
this is where being a priest is so great.
I get a ring-side seat!

Someone comes to confession,
someone comes to our 24-hour chapel—
what draws them there?

When people forgive—what power enables them to do it?

You visit someone in prison—and he tells you,
he’s never felt freer, or more at peace, in his life.
Because he has nothing left…except the Holy Spirit.

So, where do you see the Holy Spirit at work?
May I suggest, you see him in surprises.
When what happens is what no one expects.

A lot of us remember the Cold War.
Conflict between freedom and communism? No surprise.
That the Cold War eventually ended,
or that the Free World won, was also, no surprise.

But how it ended—that, no one expected.
One day, someone knocked a hole in the wall,
and everybody poured through—
and nobody fired a shot!

Is the Holy Spirit at work today…in the Church?

If you look for what’s wrong, you will always find it.
If you look for what’s right, I think you’ll find a lot more.
Yes, we had some bad priests and weak bishops,
and they did a lot of harm. But we’re cleaning that up.

One result is not only that the whole Church
expects more from her priests and bishops;
but also, we expect it from each other.

One of the things the Second Vatican Council
emphasized was a universal call to holiness—
so it’s not just priests calling the people to holiness,
but the people calling their priests to the same thing!

One final thought.
Discovering what the Holy Spirit is doing might be
as easy as turning off some things:
The TV and the Internet.
Take off your watch, and forget about
where you think you need to be next.

When everything is silent—including your own thoughts…

What might you see, and hear, then?


Adoro te Devote said...

Great reference to Vatican II! I wish people really did understand that the "renewal" envisioned by the council is a call to holiness. Not a systematic dismantling of the liturgy or a disregard of timeless devotions and observances, as was put into practice by the confused.

More and more, I'm beginning to see the call to holiness emphasized. Don't let up, Father!

Anonymous said...

We will always have weak priests and bishops, and people too and the world has been cleaning up messes from the past and in the years to come will clean up our messes too. I don't see the things that were done in the past as being wrong, it was the interpretation of the Vatican II documents that was needed at the time. That interpretation was done with the Holy Spirit guidance or I don't think they would have taken as strong a hold as they did. Did and do we have fanatics about the changes? Yes, most definitely on both sides. But those changes brought people to the Church and more importantly to God. So, they couldn't have been so bad after all.

Today, too, is being influenced by the Holy Spirit, but, that doesn't make the past wrong, it makes it the past.

I did like your comparison of the Spirit's guidance to what a mother does. One way I used to teach the Holy Spirit to young ones was that (s)he is that little nagging voice that tells you something is not right. I believe the Holy Spirit is our conscience and that is so heavily formed by Moms - and Dads - that how could they not be "gifts of the Spirit."

Father, please don't put denegrate the people who liked the church in the past 30 years. It has helped form many of us to be the good, kind, faith-filled people we are today. So, when you say that you are righting the wrong of the past it seems that you are denying the legitimacy of the basis of our faith that was formed through what are now called the extremes of the post-Vatican era.

I am proud of being a person who was formed in those years. I am proud of the church that saw a need and interpreted it for what it was - a chance to grow in their relationship and fellowship with Christ and His people. I can't and won't see today as a correction of the things done in the past. Today is today, and addresses the issues facing the faithful just as the church has for the last 2000 years and, my guess, will continue to do so for many more years to come.


Tom S. said...

I love this homily, Father.

"Be still and see that I am God"
Psalm 45hsens

Anonymous said...

Fiu fiu

Tim Lang said...


I always look forward to your homilies and this was another good one.

Because you have solicited feed back from time to time I'll tell you what I have a problem with and why.

First some of us that see so much of what is wrong in the Church have seen it when we were looking for the good or smacked in the face with it even when we tried to look the other way.

I now "look" for the "wrong" every time a leader from my parish or my kid's high school mocks the holy Father,touts a pro-abort, encourages liturgical abuse etc.

The cynicism and distrust I and others have is not without good reason. More important than looking for what is "right" in the Church is BELEIVING the Church is right especially when what we see is so much "wrong".

The part of your homily that I have the biggest problem with is your description of "some bad priests and weak bishops". It is bad that I am typing this at 1:20 am when I need to be up at 6:00 am to complete a work project. What so many priests have done was not bad but the worst kind of EVIL and the percentage of bishops that committed the same filthy crimes was as high as priests but you minimize their role with the word "weak".

At least a dozen U.S. bishops have credible charges of sex abuse since the early nineties. Without offending the sensibilities of children you should be able to use a more accurate word than "weak".

Heck, why not say "bad priests and bishops" rather than let bishops get off with being merely "weak".

Father Martin Fox said...


How did I denigrate anyone? I don't see that.


My purpose in this homily was not to focus on that one point, but to make the point along the way to another point. So I chose not to hit the point as hard as I might, had the subject of clerical sin been my focus.

Also, in describing priestly and episcopal misbehavior differently, I wanted to acknowledge, in a few words, the different dimension of their wrongs.

Finally, there are times in a homily, and any public address, when only a few words on a subject suffices. It's a lot like conversation -- many times, when talking with someone with whom we've talked before, we come to a subject where one or a few words will recall a previously discussed subject, and it isn't necessary to rehash everything.

I believe there are times in this sort of communication when understating a point serves better. Many times, if the speaker seems to overstate a point (I emphasize "seems"), the listener is going to stop on that point, and think about whether the speaker went too far. The result is that the listener is no longer listening to what the speaker said -- the speaker has moved on. It may be the listener will miss everything that follows.

The goal of the speaker, of course, is to get the point exactly right -- neither to over- or under-state it. But that presupposes everyone listening has precisely the same understanding or view of the point; of course, they don't.

So, that means either you never use anything contentious or disputed as a supporting argument -- because you can't rely on everyone sharing the same evaluation, and therefore, they won't "move" with you to your main point (and, in fact, one doesn't use overly "radioactive" points in this way for this reason)...

Or, you make the point in a way that "brings everyone along."

And that is where some understatement can be useful, as in this case: because the person who says (as you did), "gee, father could have said that more strongly," can still agree with the main point; whereas the alternative does not follow: if the main point I'm making rests on an assertion that may seem to be over-made, then the main point is not supported.

Based on the foregoing, perhaps I'd have done better to omit any reference to priestly and episcopal sins, unless that were to be my main focus.

However, if you're going to talk about the working of the Spirit in the ("institutional") Church, then, in my judgment, you have to acknowledge the "but what about...?" question in many minds.

There are different "but what about" questions -- whether about the abuse scandal, or about events of history -- but fact is, listeners are likely to respond to a homily about the Holy Spirit at work in the Church with just such a question; and my view is that when a speaker acknowledges such questions, and tackles one of them, it's a way of tackling them all.