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The gift of Jesus’ Spirit

By Bishop Terry R. LaValley

June 3, 2020

Editor’s note: The following is Bishop Terry R. LaValley’s homily for Pentecost.

On this Feast of Pentecost, we celebrate that remarkable event when the Risen Christ appears to His closest disciples and breathes on them, saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Every Christian is home to God’s Spirit. We’ve heard it so often before but, yes, every believer is a temple of the Holy Spirit. But does the presence of God’s very Spirit within me make any real difference in the way I live?

Sometimes I feel discouraged and think my work in vain. But then the Holy Spirit revives my soul again. These lines from the familiar spiritual, “There is a Balm in Gilead,” speaks to the condition of us all, especially these anxious days. My sisters and brothers these are days in which we need to be revived, renewed, recreated, if you will. “OK,” you say. “Just who is the Holy Spirit? How do I receive Him? Is it really possible that my soul can be revived and renewed and even recreated?”

Jesus received the gift of the Holy Spirit at His baptism in the Jordan. As far as the disciples were concerned, they didn’t receive the gift of the Holy Spirit until after the resurrection of Jesus. This was in keeping with Jesus’ promise on the last night of His life that through Him, the Father would send the gift of the Holy Spirit – a Comforter, an Advocate, a Counselor, a Paraclete. The disciples would receive a power from the Holy Spirit that would comfort, revive, restore, and renew.

You’ve probably heard of this scene before. Once upon an eternity, St. Peter greeted three new arrivals at the Pearly Gates. He began their heavenly orientation with the question, “What would you like most to hear your family and friends say about you at your wake?” The first replied, “I would like to hear them say, ‘He lived a very useful life as a physician and a family man.’ The second replied, “I would like to hear them say at my wake, ‘She was able to inspire students as their teacher and she was a wonderful wife and mother.’” The third person responded to St. Peter’s question, “I would like to hear them say at my wake, ‘Look, he’s moving!’”

Not at wakes, but here and now, at this Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral, what we should like to hear Jesus say is, “Look, all those folks participating through this livestreaming Mass, look at those very few in our pews, they’re, they’re moving!” Look, they’re following my directions. Look they’re engaging in the ministry of loving service to which I have commissioned them – As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” “What does it profit a person,” Jesus asks, “If he gains the whole world but loses his soul in the process?” It follows then that if we are not moving in the direction of ever closer union with the very Source of our lives, we have nothing. Jesus clearly stated that His call to follow Him and His appeal to us to transform our lives are inseparable.

To follow Jesus Christ is to change our lives, necessarily, from who I am to who I am meant to be – from what I am doing, to what I ought to be doing. Jesus’ faithful followers cannot be content with the status quo. Never. “Therefore, reform…repent…change,” says the Lord. It is not merely a once-in-a lifetime transformation Jesus is calling for. It’s not just – “I was saved on March 2, 1999 at three in the afternoon” and that’s the end of the story or “I was confirmed when I was in 10th grade and now I can leave all that Church stuff behind.” No, it’s an ongoing, continuing change; a process of growth and development; a constant movement that stretches out over our entire lives where we are never content with where we are in our relationship with Christ. The call to holiness, to sainthood, doesn’t end. And in the conversion process, through God’s Spirit, God keeps guiding, protecting and loving us. Such a process impacts powerfully all those with whom we live and work.

The gift of Jesus’ Spirit is so good for us, so life-enhancing, that we must put every part of our being, our whole self, into our response because it is truly an all-encompassing life-long project. I must allow the Holy Spirit of God to baptize my time, my talents, my feelings, my mind, my body, as I offer them to God in service to others. Our anointing with God’s Spirit enables you and me to make a difference.

My sisters and brothers, our world, our communities, our Church beg for you and me to make a difference. When we do, we will truly experience the peace Jesus came to give all the while knowing the joy of the Gospel. In the process, we are sure to hear Jesus say, “Look! They’re moving!” That’s the Spirit at work and come Judgement Day, we’ll be moving in the right direction. May God be praised…forever may God be praised!

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