Sunday, June 09, 2019

The world is on fire: so is the Holy Spirit (Sunday homily)

Today you and I celebrate Pentecost. 
This is a big day – bigger, I think, than we realize. 

This is a day to celebrate, to be full of joy, because – 
It is the day God’s infinite Joy – the Holy Spirit – 
was poured out on the early believers. 

For the Jewish People, Pentecost coincided with the wheat harvest.
It was also considered the day God gave the Ten Commandments.

So consider what Jesus gave us on this day:
The Holy Spirit: God’s Law written, not on stone, but in our hearts.
And again, on that very day, Christ’s great harvest of souls began.

There is something about our Christian Faith we know about, 
but sometimes forget, and it is this:
Strength and weakness, exaltation and humiliation,
Good News and “bad” news, are all bound up together.

The king of heaven is born a poor child in a stable. 
His throne was the Cross.
To follow him is a path of glory, but sorrows first. 

Sometimes we get so steeped in bad news: 
about the world, about our society, about our Church;
that we forget this truth: Victory is often concealed in defeat.

So let’s talk about some bad news without flinching.
It is shocking to see our culture so rapidly turn pagan.
Churches are being vandalized by the hundreds across France.
Nearly one in four Americans report having “no religion.” 
No doubt some of this is a result of failed leadership 
and clergy who behaved as criminals.

One more data point: 2019 marks the highest tide of persecution 
of Christians ever – in 2,000 years.

Ah, but remember: On Pentecost, 
a tiny group of nobodies were set aflame by the Holy Spirit, 
and they started a blaze that continues to crackle and spread.

So disturbing was that first Christian explosion 
that the mighty Roman Empire declared all out war on Christ.
For three centuries, Rome sought to exterminate us;
right up until Constantine, the Emperor of Rome, 
saw the Cross in the sky, and bowed down before the King of Kings!

There is a reason for so much persecution that you never hear.
Did you know that in Africa and Asia, 
Many, many Muslims are converting to Christ?
This in countries where converting brings a death sentence;
where Christians are barred from entry, bibles are confiscated;
Christian worship and sacraments must be kept secret.

According to Father Mitch Pacwa of EWTN, 
Many of these Muslim converts report 
receiving visions and dreams of Jesus and Mary.
Pentecost Fire is still spreading!

This is what the terrorists are trying to kill. They will fail!
In China, we hear about churches being bulldozed and clergy arrested.
But again, this is connected to Christianity spreading.
From ten million in 1980 to an estimated 100 million today.

Sometimes the best of times for us are the worst:
When everything is secure and we are prosperous, we lose our way.
Meanwhile, when the sky seems to be falling, everything is dark:
The blood of martyrs, Tertullian said, is the seed of the Church.

Now, let me say a word about the tiny bit of earth 
called St. Remy Parish, which God has entrusted to you and me.
We’re not perfect, despite all that we have going for us.

Nevertheless, with God’s help, something good is happening here.
Last Sunday I talked about the good scores our students received.
But that’s just one indicator. 
We have lots of youth activities where they build friendships 
centered on faith. 
This is flowing into college, 
and our kids themselves are making things happen. 
We had a lot of people make a Marian consecration at New Years, 
and the result was two more Militia Immaculata groups.

It’s all a package deal: dedicated catechists, 
capable people who work for our parish, 
a community that wants to keep Faith at the center, 
and families that pray together 
and go to confession and Mass together.

But before this turns into a brag, let me give a caution: 
All this works, when we work it: 
that is, when kids really do show up at religious education;
when people really do take advantage of confession;
when folks really do get involved in prayer and faith activities.

But not everyone does. There’s a drop-off in high school years, 
and when the school year winds down. 
Sad to say, for some, sports trumps faith.

Look: there are winds of unbelief blowing harder all the time, 
and it’s becoming a raging storm. 
I have to ask: do you want your kids to stay Catholic? 
Marry as Catholics? 
Do you want your grandchildren to be baptized as Catholics?
Do you think this is going to happen automatically?

So yes, there are good things happening here, 
but the minute any of us becomes complacent, and rests on our laurels, 
we’re headed for a crash. Mark my words.

And if you wonder why we put so much time and money and effort
into reinforcing our kids’ faith, this is why!
This parish exists for one, and ONLY one reason: to make disciples!

So, we can look at the world and see all the ways it’s going crazy.
All the trouble brewing, especially for Christians. It’s true.
But look again: the Holy Spirit is also at work: 
Let’s you and I be part of it! 

No comments: