Sunday, May 11, 2008

'The end of the beginning' (Pentecost homily)

At one point in the dark hours of the Second World War,
the allies had a rare victory in North Africa,
and Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of Great Britain,
described it this way:

“This is not the end;
it is not even the beginning of the end.
But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

That is a good way to describe this feast of Pentecost—
yes, it is the end of the Easter Season,
but far more, it is the “end of the beginning.”

The beginning of what?
The beginning of the final salvation Jesus has for us.

It helps to recall the meaning of Lent and Easter:
In Lent we acknowledge, we need a Savior.
In Holy Week we see what it took:
his suffering and death.
Easter Day: He rose from the dead!
For 40 days after: He finished preparing the Apostles.
Ascension: He took his seat on the throne of heaven!

So, when we come to Pentecost, everything is ready:
Ready for the Holy Spirit to be the spark of life.

I read something recently, but cannot recall where;
someone made the excellent point
that when our Lord ascended into heaven,
that wasn’t him leaving;
we often refer to when Jesus comes back,
but that’s a misnomer, because he never left!

Instead, Jesus remains here,
and his presence is growing in the world all the time—
the “final coming” is when his presence here is complete:

that’s the real “end” of this world of pain,
and the real beginning of the New Creation.

This is what Saint Paul refers to,
in his letter to the Romans,
when he says “all creation groans.”
Mothers, you understand that;
Paul is talking about “labor pains”:
something beautiful is about to happen,
yet it comes with pain and stress.

This image helps us understand
why things are the way they are.

Why isn’t the world a better place?
We have such abundance, yet so many are in want.

How many thousands have died in Burma,
because a government refused to let in outsiders?
How many children are lost
because they aren’t “wanted”—
because of so-called “choice”?

Why is there no peace in the world…
In our homes? In our hearts?

No, Pentecost was not the end,
not even the beginning of the end—
but it is the end of the beginning—the new Creation.

You and I are that beginning.
We are the New Creation being born.
The groaning, the struggle, that our world goes through—

it happens in our lives and in the Church.

We realize we, too, hardly measure up yet
to being the full Body of Christ.
We have so far to go!

There are so many others yet to be invited,
Yet to be drawn into the Life of Christ.

But next week, we will have an opportunity for that.
We will have a weekend celebrating the Eucharist.
Beginning Friday morning, we’ll have 40 Hours,
the Eucharist on the altar at St. Mary—
taking the place of exposition in St. Clare Chapel.

Then, next Sunday, after the Noon Mass,
We’ll have a procession with the Eucharist,
From St. Mary to St. Boniface,
Through the streets of our city.

What inspires us? The Holy Spirit!
What will we pray for?
“‘Lord, send out your Spirit,
and renew the face of the earth’—
starting here, in Piqua!”

Of all the mysteries of our Faith,
the Eucharist sums up all that we believe
and all that we hope to be.
The Eucharist starts as ordinary bread and wine.
You and I are that bread and wine.

But Christ is not content with that.
He takes us in his hands,
He lifts us up to the Father,
And calls down the Holy Spirit on us,
that we may become…the Body and Blood of Christ!

When Father Tom, Father Ang, and I,
carry the Eucharist in the monstrance through Piqua,
realize: that’s what each of us is meant to do,
with our lives: we are the “monstrance,”
the vessel that carries Jesus Christ,
and shows him to the world!

We kneel in adoration before the Eucharist—
rightly so, for this is Jesus, our Savior.
See, also, in the Eucharist what he has destined for us:
we become his Body, our lives are caught up in his;
we are the New Creation, united with Christ forever!

It seems so far away.
But we are only at the end of the beginning.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for another wonderful reflection. The fact that "[w]e have so far to go!" to transform this world to kingdom is sometimes daunting. My own Pentecost reflection this morning focused on the gift of fortitude, which helps us to forge ahead in our efforts to transform the world when the task seems too difficult. My reflection is posted on my blog here:

Anonymous said...

What do you mean that "we" become the Body and Blood of Christ?

Unknown said...

Thanks for reposting, Father!