PENTECOST HOMILY + GETHSEMANI + 6/9/19
We have a birthday today! Pentecost is our liturgical celebration of the birthday of the Church: Our Paschal Candle, which we lit at the Easter Vigil, is still here: symbolic of the Light of Christ … Happy Birthday everyone!
Thomas Merton put it well, “Our life is a powerful Pentecost in which the Holy Spirit, ever active in us, seeks to reach through our inspired hands and tongues into the very heart of the world. (Search for Solitude, 86) . According to Merton, “the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit takes place through those in whom the Spirit dwells. Life in the Spirit is a life of hope and freedom and love.” Merton was inspired to see the Spirit active throughout the world, especially in the work of his contemporary, Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker.
In fact, in the last nine years of his life, Merton wrote 29 letters to Dorothy Day, a woman he admired very much for her strong commitment to social justice, her deep concern for the poor, and her uncompromising pacifist attitude toward war.
In her book, Houses of Hospitality, Dorothy Day wrote, “Love and ever more love is the solution to every problem that comes up. If we love each other enough we will bear with each other’s faults and burdens. If we love enough, we are going to light the fire of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of others, and it is love that will burn out the sins and hatreds that sadden us … I cannot worry too much about your sins and miseries when I have so many of mine own. I can only love you all, poor fellow travelers, fellow sufferers. I do not want to add one last straw to the burden you already carry. My prayer from day to day is that the Holy Spirit will so enlarge my heart that I will see you all, and live with you all, in his love.”
In a letter of December 29, 1965, Merton wrote, “If there were no Catholic Worker and such forms of witness, I would never have joined the Catholic Church” (Hidden Ground of Love, p. 151).
Through their writings, Thomas Merton and Dorothy Day, were both “Beatitude Catholics:” i.e. peace-makers. They emphasized that the Christian is not only to witness to the presence of the Spirit to those outside the Church, but also to look for and to find the Spirit already present in other cultures, other religious traditions, and other human beings all of whom are made in the image and likeness of God. “The Holy Spirit,” Merton wrote, “certainly inspires and protects the visible Church, but if we cannot see the Spirit unexpectedly in the stranger and the foreigner, we will not understand the Spirit even within the Church. We must find the Holy Spirit in our enemy, or we may lose him even in our friend. We must find the Spirit in the pagan or we will lose him in our real selves, substituting for his living presence an empty abstraction “(384).
And so, Christians throughout the world believe and celebrate that the risen Lord, who has ascended to his rightful place next to God, the Father, has sent the Holy Spirit to teach us, to inspire us to reach out to the poor, to fill the earth with God’s power, to recognize our oneness with creation, to see everything is creation as subjects rather than objects. There is no Feast called “The Ascension of the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit will always be with us. We must never forget that the earth is renewed each time rivalries are resolved, distinctions are recognized as merely expressions of diversity, peace is restored, comfort and solace are offered, and forgiveness is expressed. We have all been baptized into one and the same Spirit … a Spirit who teaches us every day … a Spirit who strengthens us to go forth in the name of the Lord … “to renew the face of the earth.”
This evening, after Vespers, we will extinguish our Paschal Candle … and remove it from the sanctuary … a liturgical reminder for each of us … that we are to be the Light of Christ, the Easter Light, people ready to welcome all with the words, “Peace be with you.”
HAPPY BIRTHDAY EVERYONE! 😊