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Sunday, June 9, 2019

A Homily - Pentecost


Alternative First Reading – Acts 2:1-11 ©
First Reading – Genesis 11:1-9 ©
Psalm – Psalm 32(33):10-15 ©
Alternative Second Reading – 1 Corinthians 12:3-7,12-13 ©
Second Reading – Exodus 19:3-8,16-20 ©
Canticle – Daniel 3:52-56 ©
Third Reading – Ezekiel 37:1-14 ©
Psalm – Psalm 106(107):2-9 ©
Fourth Reading – Joel 3:1-5 ©
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 103(104):1,24,29-31,34 ©
Fifth Reading - Romans 8:22-27 ©
Alternative, The Gospel According to John 20:19–23 ©
The Gospel According to John 7:37-39 ©

(NJB)


Remember this always, keep it in the forefront of your mind when you are reading scripture:

God is a God of law and order. God, the creator of the universe, God is not a purveyor of magic tricks, God does not dabble in the supernatural or trade in miracles.

The narrative in this reading from Acts is a metaphor. Do not take it literally.

It means this:

The Church had grown to include a great number of people from all parts of the Roman Empire, from Egypt and North Africa, From Arabia and Persia, from all around the Mediterranean, from North and South of the Black Sea.

In the company of believers there were speakers and translators capable of sharing the Good News and teaching the way, of sharing it in every tongue that was known; from Ethiopia to Brittania, from Carthage to India.

This was meant to illustrate the essential unity of the people, demonstrating for the nascent Church that by following the way we can regain a unity we lost when we began to live in cities, serving priests and anointing kings.

Consider the fable of the Tower of Babel:

This is the story of the beginning of agrarianism. It details an understanding about how cities came to be built in the large agricultural centers.

Where the agrarian life was established, larger and larger populations of people came to be supported.

They were able to build large communities, and for protection against others they were able to build walls around their cities.

The narrative surrounding the construction of the first tower, is the beginning of religion, and the division of the people into casts and classes.

In Mesopotamia these towers were called ziggurats, they served a variety of purposes. They were built as granaries. They also functioned as temples. They were under the management of the priestly cast, and from the top of these towers the astronomers watched the movements of the heavens, tracking the path of the stars in cycles that spanned years and decades, centuries and millenia.

The move to agrarianism created fissures among the people.

The division of labor ensued, a caste system came to be, and the people were separated into laborers, merchants, priests and royals. As time passed these castes became increasingly more rigid, and movement between them became nearly impossible for ordinary people to contemplate.

Jesus taught us the way, in it all distinctions of class and caste fall apart.

Listen to the psalmist, the psalmist is correct.

It is fitting to praise God. It is wise to trust in the God’s counsel, to have faith in God’s mercy; though do not expect God to rescue you from danger, and do not believe that God’s loves any one of God’s children more than any other, including yourself.

God knows all things, and understands all things.
You have heard this said.

God’s knowledge is not an abstract knowledge of particulars details concerning individual events. God understands our person, our choices, our lives; even as we understand them ourselves, only with a clarity that we could never possess.

Trust in God’s plan for you, in God’s plan for creation, but do not wait for salvation.

Salvation is already yours, go out and share the good news

Proclaim salvation, and the forgiveness of sins.

All have been forgiven.

Listen!

God’s salvation is close.

Have no fear.

The glory of God does not come and go according to our deeds and merits. God is always present, God is present in all times and all places. God is with you now

Have no fear.

God’s salvation reaches everyone.

God welcomes our participation in the work of the faithful, there is much work to do and there is a role for everyone to play.

Everyone of us comes to that work with different gifts, different abilities and talents, we are called on to use them for the benefit of our brothers and sisters, for those who share the same faith and for those who do not.

God’s salvation is close.

Have no fear.

All of those things which we imagine, the things which we hold in hearts and minds, those things which divide us one from another, those things are illusions born of fear and a lack of trust in our neighbors, a lack of trust in ourselves, and a lack of trust in God.

Pray to be released from them.

This is the understanding that you may take away from the Apostle’s words.

God; who created the Universe, the God of Jesus Christ, God is the God of all people. We are united to God symbolically in our baptism, and in our being ontologically, insofar as we are created in the divine image.

Baptism is a rite which ties us to each other in symbolic way, it binds us to the life of Jesus and his death through ritual; the ritual is a reflection of the actuality of our unity that prefigures creation, the essential oneness we have with God that is at the core of our being. It prefigures creation itself, it belongs to us from eternity.

The body of the Church is not the Catholic Church in communion with the Bishop of Rome, or with the Orthodox Church, or any other single group of Christians.

The body of the Church is greater than the entire number of self-professed Christians and people of the faith; protestant, non-denominational, what have you. Neither is the body the people of Israel; the body of the Church is not the old Israel or the new.

On earth, the true church is the whole of humanity, everyone in existence now, everyone who has ever been, and everyone who will ever be.

God has made us as a singular people, both here on Earth and to the farthest reaches of the universe, we are one body, all God’s children, here and everywhere.

Listen!

We must always be diligent regarding our basic commitment to expose false theology

We cannot let our imagination linger on fables and myths without at the same time naming them as such.

If we took these stories seriously, like the story today from Exodus we would have to uphold the tradition that human beings need an intermediary like Moses to pass messages back and forth between the rest of humanity and God, the creator of the universe.

We would have to accept as vital and necessary the institution of a priesthood.

We would have to accept the idea that God, who created the universe, has chosen one tribe out of the whole world, to represent God’s will to the people.

These are things we cannot accept.

We are all the children of God, and God dwells in our hearts.

God never did and we do need to see God descending on the mountain.

There are no intermediaries, God speaks to us directly, male and female, sons and daughters, Jew and Gentile, rich and poor, those with titles and those without.

God is not a king or a lord, God does not come in the pomp and circumstance of fire and trumpets, with drums and horns.

God speaks with the voice of love.

Remember this well!

God, the creator of the universe, God does not require or even desire our praise and exaltations, except insofar as those praises take the form of a merciful and generous bearing toward one other.

God does not dwell in a temple; God is present in all places, in everyone, to everyone.

God is not a king.

Serve God through the love and kindness you show one another.

This is the way. The way slips past the bounds of this world.

The bounds of death are no impediment for God’s salvific will.

God will go beyond any threshold to save God’s children.

Have no fear for the present time, for time itself is merely a tool of the almighty, a means for God to achieve God’s end.

Have no fear, there is nothing done that cannot be undone.

This is what Ezekiel’s prophecy means.

Listen!

Let us affirm our trust in God; that God, the creator of the universe is good.

God is not a partisan.

God made us in this world. God made us free, and the world itself is free from divine coercion.

Be mindful.

God, the creator of the universe, God does not require or even desire our praise and exaltations, except insofar as those praises take the form of a merciful and generous bearing toward one other.

Serve God through the love and kindness you show one another.

Remember this!

God is the creator of the universe, the eternal God is the first source and center of all things.

The infinite God engenders all potentialities, and yet interferes with none of them.

The universe that God created, God created it free from coercion. God does not coerce creation. And yet the entirety of what is, moves according to God’s eternal purpose.

Be at peace with this mystery.

It is wise and good to anticipate the coming of God. It is wise and good to desire to be in the presence of God.

Anticipate that moment, relish it, cherish it, but remain present to the people and events that are actually occurring in your life.

When you are in prayer, and your thoughts are unformed, when your feelings are unclear and no words come to your mind, or when the words that do come are inappropriate for prayer; then be silent, quiet your mind, still the murmurs in your heart, let go of the voices; be silent and listen.

Let your prayer be one of listening.

In the Gospel readings for today we are reminded of the feast of Pentecost.

It is a day that Christians celebrate throughout the world.

It is the commemoration of the gift of the Holy Spirit, given by Jesus to the church that was founded in his name.

For the Church, this moment marks the beginning of a new era. Jesus is gone, and the community of believers is now in the hands of his disciples; primarily, and others who have heard the call, like Saint Paul, who never met him (Jesus) in the flesh.

The final departure of Jesus, and the bequeathment of the Holy Spirit, is the beginning of the age of prophecy, it is a time of discernment; it is the dawn of the Apostolic age. In it the Church evolves and becomes a new creation. It is no longer merely a sect of Judaism, the Church becomes an international movement, it spreads throughout the Roman Empire, and the new way is preached in new languages, in new tongues, in new stories; such that Jesus himself had never imagined.

Jesus preached the way of love, of service, of caring, of justice, of mercy; the way of Jesus can be lived in silence, it does not require words.

The myth of Pentecost, as related here in the Gospel of Saint John, narrates some of the struggles of the early Church. It was written more than one hundred years after the death of Jesus, and decades after the Romans destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem. It was written for the Church; in an era when the differentiation among Christians and Jews was concrete, and when the leaders in the new movement were trying to establish their bona fides, as the heirs to Jesus’ ministry.

The gift of the Holy Spirit, released in a breath of ritual remembering; is not the reception of something new, for the Spirit of God animates all living beings, it is the acknowledgement of that reality in the passing on of Jesus’ mission to the next generation.

The mission is this:

To love and care for, to serve those in the greatest need, to love justice and be merciful in the face of the world’s horrors, to do good.

The passage from John would have been a fine place to end the gospels; except for the final words, which were meant to cement the authority of the church in the lives of the followers. This naked grab for power, marks the new creation as one firmly rooted in the sinful world, and while that is simply the way of things, it was not the way of Jesus.

Listen to Jesus!

Let the thirsty come.

Trust in Jesus and come, your thirst will be relieved.

This is the way.

Do not be confused on this point; belief is not the coin you exchange for access to God, no one is standing by to punch your ticket at the door, simply come if you are thirsty.

Come and drink, and be restored.

Jesus will bring you into the way, and the way is life, trust in him and keep to the way.

Do not muddle around in the rhetoric of John, do not let John’s confusion stop you. When John attempts to qualify the hopeful message of Christ, John deviates from the way.

Remember this!

The spirit has always been with us, all things come into being, in the spirit of God, all things are sustained by God’s spirit, and to God’s spirit all things will return.

We will return to God like the rain fall to the sea.

There is no escaping it, no matter how we meander on the way.


Alternative First Reading – Acts 2:1-11 ©

They Were All Filled with the Holy Spirit and Began to Speak

When Pentecost day came round, they had all met in one room, when suddenly they heard what sounded like a powerful wind from heaven, the noise of which filled the entire house in which they were sitting; and something appeared to them that seemed like tongues of fire; these separated and came to rest on the head of each of them. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak foreign languages as the Spirit gave them the gift of speech.

Now there were devout men living in Jerusalem from every nation under heaven, and at this sound they all assembled, each one bewildered to hear these men speaking his own language. They were amazed and astonished. ‘Surely’ they said ‘all these men speaking are Galileans? How does it happen that each of us hears them in his own native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; people from Mesopotamia, Judaea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya round Cyrene; as well as visitors from Rome – Jews and proselytes alike – Cretans and Arabs; we hear them preaching in our own language about the marvels of God.’


First Reading – Genesis 11:1-9 ©

The Tower of Babel

Throughout the earth men spoke the same language, with the same vocabulary. Now as they moved eastwards they found a plain in the land of Shinar where they settled. They said to one another, ‘Come, let us make bricks and bake them in the fire.’ (For stone they used bricks, and for mortar they used bitumen). ‘Come,’ they said ‘let us build ourselves a town and a tower with its top reaching heaven. Let us make a name for ourselves, so that we may not be scattered about the whole earth.’

Now the Lord came down to see the town and the tower that the sons of man had built. ‘So they are all a single people with a single language!’ said the Lord. ‘This is but the start of their undertakings! There will be nothing too hard for them to do. Come, let us go down and confuse their language on the spot so that they can no longer understand one another.’ The Lord scattered them thence over the whole face of the earth, and they stopped building the town. It was named Babel therefore, because there the Lord confused the language of the whole earth. It was from there that the Lord scattered them over the whole face of the earth.


Psalm – Psalm 32(33):10-15 ©

Happy the people the Lord has chosen as his own.

He frustrates the designs of the nations,
  he defeats the plans of the peoples.
His own designs shall stand for ever,
  the plans of his heart from age to age.

Happy the people the Lord has chosen as his own.

They are happy, whose God is the Lord,
  the people he has chosen as his own.
From the heavens the Lord looks forth,
  he sees all the children of men.

Happy the people the Lord has chosen as his own.

From the place where he dwells he gazes
  on all the dwellers on the earth;
he who shapes the hearts of them all;
  and considers all their deeds.

Happy the people the Lord has chosen as his own.


Alternative Second Reading – 1 Corinthians 12:3-7,12-13 ©

In the One Spirit We Were All Baptised

No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord’ unless he is under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

There is a variety of gifts but always the same Spirit; there are all sorts of service to be done, but always to the same Lord; working in all sorts of different ways in different people, it is the same God who is working in all of them. The particular way in which the Spirit is given to each person is for a good purpose.

Just as a human body, though it is made up of many parts, is a single unit because all these parts, though many, make one body, so it is with Christ. In the one Spirit we were all baptised, Jews as well as Greeks, slaves as well as citizens, and one Spirit was given to us all to drink.


Second Reading – Exodus 19:3-8,16-20 ©

Moses Led the People Out of the Camp to Meet God

Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, ‘Say this to the House of Jacob, declare this to the sons of Israel:

‘“You yourselves have seen what I did with the Egyptians, how I carried you on eagle’s wings and brought you to myself. From this you know that now, if you obey my voice and hold fast to my covenant, you of all the nations shall be my very own, for all the earth is mine. I will count you a kingdom of priests, a consecrated nation.”

‘Those are the words you are to speak to the sons of Israel.’

So Moses went and summoned the elders of the people, putting before them all that the Lord had bidden him. Then all the people answered as one, ‘All that the Lord has said, we will do.’

Now at daybreak on the third day there were peals of thunder on the mountain and lightning flashes, a dense cloud, and a loud trumpet blast, and inside the camp all the people trembled. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet God; and they stood at the bottom of the mountain. The mountain of Sinai was entirely wrapped in smoke, because the Lord had descended on it in the form of fire. Like smoke from a furnace the smoke went up, and the whole mountain shook violently. Louder and louder grew the sound of the trumpet. Moses spoke, and God answered him with peals of thunder. The Lord came down on the mountain of Sinai, on the mountain top, and the Lord called Moses to the top of the mountain.


Canticle – Daniel 3:52-56 ©

To you glory and praise for evermore.
You are blest, Lord God of our fathers.
To you glory and praise for evermore.
Blest your glorious holy name.
To you glory and praise for evermore.
You are blest in the temple of your glory.
To you glory and praise for evermore.
You are blest on the throne of your kingdom.
To you glory and praise for evermore.
You are blest who gaze into the depths.
To you glory and praise for evermore.
You are blest in the firmament of heaven.
To you glory and praise for evermore.


Third Reading – Ezekiel 37:1-14 ©

A Vision of Israel's Death and Resurrection

The hand of the Lord was laid on me, and he carried me away by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley, a valley full of bones. He made me walk up and down among them. There were vast quantities of these bones on the ground the whole length of the valley; and they were quite dried up. He said to me, ‘Son of man, can these bones live?’ I said, ‘You know, Lord.’ He said, ‘Prophesy over these bones. Say, “Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. The Lord says this to these bones: I am now going to make the breath enter you, and you will live. I shall put sinews on you, I shall make flesh grow on you, I shall cover you with skin and give you breath, and you will live; and you will learn that I am the Lord.”’ I prophesied as I had been ordered. While I was prophesying, there was a noise, a sound of clattering; and the bones joined together. I looked, and saw that they were covered with sinews; flesh was growing on them and skin was covering them, but there was no breath in them. He said to me, ‘Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man. Say to the breath, “The Lord says this: Come from the four winds, breath; breathe on these dead; let them live!”’ I prophesied as he had ordered me, and the breath entered them; they came to life again and stood up on their feet, a great, an immense army.

Then he said, ‘Son of man, these bones are the whole House of Israel. They keep saying, “Our bones are dried up, our hope has gone; we are as good as dead.” So prophesy. Say to them, “The Lord says this: I am now going to open your graves; I mean to raise you from your graves, my people, and lead you back to the soil of Israel. And you will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and raise you from your graves, my people. And I shall put my spirit in you, and you will live, and I shall resettle you on your own soil; and you will know that I, the Lord, have said and done this – it is the Lord who speaks.”’


Psalm – Psalm 106(107):2-9 ©

O give thanks to the Lord for he is good, for his love has no end.

Alleluia!

Let them say this, the Lord’s redeemed,
  whom he redeemed from the hand of the foe
and gathered from far-off lands,
  from east and west, north and south.

O give thanks to the Lord for he is good, for his love has no end.

Some wandered in the desert, in the wilderness,
  finding no way to a city they could dwell in.
Hungry they were and thirsty;
  their soul was fainting within them.

O give thanks to the Lord for he is good, for his love has no end.

Then they cried to the Lord in their need
  and he rescued them from their distress
and he led them along the right way,
  to reach a city they could dwell in.

O give thanks to the Lord for he is good, for his love has no end.

Let them thank the Lord for his love,
  for the wonders he does for men:
for he satisfies the thirsty soul;
  he fills the hungry with good things.

O give thanks to the Lord for he is good, for his love has no end.

Alleluia!


Fourth Reading – Joel 3:1-5 ©

I Will Pour Out My Spirit on All Mankind

Thus says the Lord:

‘I will pour out my spirit on all mankind.

Your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men see visions.

Even on the slaves, men and women, will I pour out my spirit in those days.

I will display portents in heaven and on earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke.’

The sun will be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the day of the Lord dawns,
that great and terrible day.

All who call on the name of the Lord will be saved, for on Mount Zion there will be some who have escaped, as the Lord has said, and in Jerusalem some survivors whom the Lord will call.


Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 103(104):1,24,29-31,34 ©

Send forth your spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth.

Alleluia!

Bless the Lord, my soul!
  Lord God, how great you are,
How many are your works, O Lord!
  The earth is full of your riches.

Send forth your spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth.

You take back your spirit, they die,
  returning to the dust from which they came.
You send forth your spirit, they are created;
  and you renew the face of the earth.

Send forth your spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth.

May the glory of the Lord last for ever!
  May the Lord rejoice in his works!
May my thoughts be pleasing to him.
  I find my joy in the Lord.

Send forth your spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth.

Alleluia!


Fifth Reading - Romans 8:22-27 ©

The Spirit Himself Expresses Our Plea in a Way that Could Never be Put Into Words

From the beginning till now the entire creation, as we know, has been groaning in one great act of giving birth; and not only creation, but all of us who possess the first-fruits of the Spirit, we too groan inwardly as we wait for our bodies to be set free. For we must be content to hope that we shall be saved – our salvation is not in sight, we should not have to be hoping for it if it were – but, as I say, we must hope to be saved since we are not saved yet – it is something we must wait for with patience.

The Spirit too comes to help us in our weakness. For when we cannot choose words in order to pray properly, the Spirit himself expresses our plea in a way that could never be put into words, and God who knows everything in our hearts knows perfectly well what he means, and that the pleas of the saints expressed by the Spirit are according to the mind of God.


Second Alternative, The Gospel According to John 20:19–23 ©

As the Father Sent Me, So Am I Sending You: Receive the Holy Spirit

In the evening of the first day of the week, the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, ‘Peace be with you’, and showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord, and he said to them again, ‘Peace be with you.

‘As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.’

After saying this he breathed on them and said:

‘Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained.’


The Gospel According to John 7:37-39 ©

'If Any Man is Thirsty, Let Him Come To Me!'

On the last day and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood there and cried out:
‘If any man is thirsty, let him come to me!
Let the man come and drink who believes in me!’
As scripture says: From his breast shall flow fountains of living water.
  He was speaking of the Spirit which those who believed in him were to receive; for there was no Spirit as yet because Jesus had not yet been glorified.


Pentecost

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