Vigil of Pentecost
Catholic Charismatic Renew Mass
St. Joseph, Fullerton
May 22, 2021
The Gifts and Fruits of the Holy Spirit
It is a special joy to return here to St. Joseph Parish, on this occasion, to celebrate the Vigil of the Solemnity of Pentecost: that defining moment in salvation history when the Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles and the Blessed Virgin Mary, to inaugurate the Church’s mission to preach the Gospel to all the nations.
Celebrating the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, each of us should give God thanks and praise, for we received the Holy Spirit first in the Sacrament of Baptism, and then the fullness of the Holy Spirit in the Sacrament of Confirmation. The Holy Spirit imparted to us his gifts of wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord – gifts that we need if we are to open our hearts to the Lord and live as his disciples in the world. Pentecost reminds us that we must not allow the Spirit’s seven-fold gifts to remain dormant, undeveloped, unused in our spiritual lives.
On the contrary, Pentecost is exactly the right moment for you and me to ask the Holy Spirit to stir these gifts into flame, to reactivate them, so to speak, such, that the gifts of the Holy Spirit will produce in us the fruits of the Holy Spirit – that is, a way of life thru which we come to resemble the Christ of the Beatitudes, a way of believing, thinking, acting, and relating to others that reflects his goodness. Just to remind ourselves, the fruits of the Holy Spirit are the following: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and chastity. By prayerfully asking ourselves if these fruits of the Spirit are evident in our lives, we can discern how open we have been or how closed we have been to the activity of the Spirit in our hearts. Have we given the Holy Spirit permission stir into flame the gifts which he imparted to us in Baptism and Confirmation, gifts which the Spirit renews every time we worthily participate in the Holy Eucharist?
As we prayerfully examine our hearts through the light of the Holy Spirit, may the words of Jesus in this evening’s Gospel resonate within us: “Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink. As Scripture says, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from within him who believes in me.’” The living waters to which Jesus referred was his promised gift of the Holy Spirit, for the Spirit flowing thru our hearts continually renews us in the image of Christ.
The Catholic Charismatic Renewal
All this you probably remember hearing as you prepared for Confirmation. You have also heard other homilists say something similar, whether on the Solemnity of Pentecost or on other occasions. Yet, to tell the truth, for many this teaching of the Church remains a dead letter. Even if this teaching remains in the mind, it is no longer alive in the heart. For sadly, far too few of us have allowed ourselves to experience the Holy Spirit, especially in moments of quiet prayer before the Eucharist, when we lay aside the problems and distractions that occupy most of our waking hours. When we allow the Spirit access to our hearts, amazing things begin to happen. The Holy Spirit will indeed speak to our hearts, giving us a deep longing truly to know Jesus, to love Jesus, and to hope in Jesus, in a new and intimate way. At the same time, the Spirit will impart to us a newfound love for the Church, the Church which is the Body of Christ, the Church of which we are vital members. If we pray in the Spirit, no longer will our prayer be a mere torrent of words or a thinly repackaged version of our wants, needs, and worries. Rather, the Spirit will enable us to pray, as disciples of the Lord ought to pray. The Holy Spirit will intercede for us with the Lord who searches our hearts and in this way we open ourselves in newfound freedom to God’s will for our lives.
Dear friends, in the decades following the Second Vatican Council, the Church here and elsewhere has been blessed by a renewed and personal experience of the Holy Spirit in the lives of many of her members, including and especially members of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. In an address delivered in 1998, Pope John Paul II said this: “Whenever the Spirit intervenes, he leaves people astonished. He brings about events of amazing newness; he radically changes persons and history.” The Pope went on to speak of the presence of the Spirit at the II Vatican Council and added that, “under the guidance of the same Spirit, the Church rediscovered the charismatic dimension as one of her constitutive elements.” This means that the manifestations of the Holy Spirit, seen at the beginning of the Church, remain a vital part of the Church today, including gifts serving exhorting, giving, administering, showing mercy, gifts of prophecy, healing, miraculous powers, distinguishing of spirits, speaking with human and angelic tongues and much more. It is the same Spirit who has raised up Apostles (and their successors), for we do not witness to the Lord Jesus unless we do so in the Holy Spirit. C. Hearing this, some of you may be saying to yourselves, that’s not for me! I’ll stick with what I know, the Church’s teaching, the Church’s orderly structures, the manner in which the Mass and the Sacraments are celebrated, and so forth. All these other charisms or gifts and the direct experience of the Holy Spirit – all that seems too wild and wooly, and fraught with dangers to my spiritual life. Even if those would not be your exact words, I am aware that many are reticent. Yet, these extraordinary gifts given by the Spirit are given, not to tear down the Church and certainly not to make the Church disorderly – but quite the opposite, to build up the Church, to make the Church come alive, and to ensure that the constitutive parts of the Body of Christ function, as they should.
Even if you have not experienced these extraordinary manifestations of the Spirit, nonetheless, each of us should be experiencing God in our lives. This is surely in keeping with the Church’s teaching and practice through the centuries. Writing in the 4th century, St. Hillary of Poitiers says, “We who have been reborn thru the Sacrament of Baptism experience intense joy when we feel within us the first stirring of the Holy Spirit.” St. Augustine also spoke of the experience of the Holy Spirit when he said, “Thanks be to him to whom we have been singing with devoted hearts . . . because we can feel the holy love of him deeply ensconced in your hearts.” Indeed, because many have never experienced the joy of God’s love, they are, in my opinion, more inclined to resist being evangelized, and sadly, many walk away from the faith without really knowing what they left behind. So we may say that a dogmatic faith without an experience of God is listless, whereas an experience of God that shuns Church teaching will go astray – How marvelously God in his Providence has provided for his Church with gifts of the Spirit that are both charismatic and hierarchical!
In the Power of the Holy Spirit
In these days when the Church ministers in an increasingly secular and hostile world, we do well to attend to the activity of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in our Church. Today, the Church looks out upon a culture not unlike that which the Apostles faced when they were sent forth by the Spirit to proclaim the Good News. We will not break down barriers to faith with mere logic and good will but only insofar as the Holy Spirit speaks in and through us, transforming us from teachers into witnesses, empowering us not with human strategies, but rather with a strength and a wisdom that comes not from us but from God, putting in our mouths, not the godless language of the world’s babel, but rather the language of love and glory, the language of the Spirit. Only in the Holy Spirit will we renew the face of the earth. Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of the faithful! Amen.