Pentecost 2020

     One of the largest oil fields in the United States is located in the Permian Basin of west Texas. Since its discovery in 1926, 2 billion barrels of oil have been pumped from it and it is estimated that there is still another billion barrels of oil remaining to be pumped. The so-called Yates Oil Field is named after Ira Yates who traded his country store for the nearly 17,000 acres of ranching land in 1915. Struggling to survive on his new ranch, Mr. Yates made a last ditched effort to save his land by inviting an oil company to explore on his land. While experts didn’t believe there was oil that far west in Texas, two oil companies agreed to drill exploratory wells. Finally, in 1926 the 4th well struck oil and Mr. Yates realized he had been a multi-millionaire living in poverty. Overnight he went from nearly losing his land to making $180,000 a day from his front porch selling leases to drill for oil.[1]

     This story begs the question, when did Mr. Yates become a millionaire. Did he become a millionaire the second he bought the land, or did he become a millionaire, after he discovered the oil? Well of course Mr. Yates didn’t become a millionaire until they started pulling oil out of his ground. While he owned the oil beneath his feet the second he bought the land he did not actually possess the oil until he knew that it was there. Friends, I think if we are honest with ourselves most of us will recognize that spiritually we are like Mr. Yates. From the moment we were baptized we were given all the spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit. But how often do we own these gifts without possessing them? If someone told us that we had a million barrels of oil under our backyard, I guarantee most of us would start drilling. If we would do that for oil why don’t we do it for our own spiritual benefit?

     The Holy Spirit is like the supernatural oil that is waiting underneath our everyday lives. He is the one who stirs up faith in our lives. “The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are to the soul what seven sails are to a ship.”[2] It is the Holy Spirit who pushes us through this life and steers us towards heaven. He takes our personality, our gifts and talents, and helps us develop them so that we can truly love God above all things and our neighbor as ourselves. Yet so often we stay on the surface with the Holy Spirit. Sadly, most Catholics never pray to the Holy Spirit and if we do, we tend to only ever ask Him to get us out of trouble or through a difficulty, without ever taking the opportunity to welcome Him into our everyday lives. I’m afraid many of us are spiritually like Mr. Yates. We are living in spiritual poverty because we are unaware or unwilling to dig deep for the divine riches that are waiting below our feet.

     You see, the Holy Spirit is the bridge that connects us who are stuck below in this world with the kingdom of God in heaven. To do this he works in two ways; as our advocate and as our comforter. As our advocate he works from amidst this world to call us to the heavenly world. “Yet, unlike an advocate or counselor in this world, the Holy Spirit does not stand beside us to defend our cause. Rather, He dwells within us, as the soul of our souls. From within us He appeals to God.”[3] As adopted sons and daughters of Jesus Christ the Holy Spirit was sent to dwell in our hearts from the moment of our baptism to bring our prayers and defense before the throne of God. As St. Paul reminds us “it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God.”[4] Likewise dwelling in our hearts, the Holy Spirit works as our comforter. He brings God’s grace, peace, and love down to us on earth.

     If we are going to capitalize on the wealth of our faith we need to invite the Holy Spirit to make His home in our heart. He wants to be a welcomed guest, but He will not force His way into our lives. Just as Mr. Yates became a millionaire once he invited the oil companies to drill on his land, we need to pray “come Holy Spirit” if we want to be spiritually wealthy. This simple prayer is all He needs; nothing fancy, just a heartfelt invitation to make His home in your heart.

     Just as oil saved Mr. Yates’ property, the Holy Spirit is waiting to save us by leading us deeper into our faith. He is like the spiritual oil that is waiting underneath the ground of our everyday lives. Like Mr. Yates’ oil, what the Holy Spirit offers us is inexhaustible and free if only we are willing to dig a little deeper in our prayer, if we are willing to drill into the depths of our hearts. Friends, we have all the tools we need to become spiritually rich with the grace, joy, and peace that God alone can offer us, we simply have to find the courage to allow the Holy Spirit to be a part of our daily lives. So, today’s feast of Pentecost invites us to be fearless, generous and loving while inviting the Holy Spirit to be the center of our lives by praying “Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and renew the face of the earth.” Today’s Gospel shows the great change the Holy Spirit brought for the apostles once He entered their lives, just imagine what He can do in our lives if only we daily ask Him to come into our lives.

[1] Handbook of Texas Online, Lisa Kepner, “Yates, Ira Griffith, Jr.,” Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

[2] Reginald Garrigou-LeGrange, O.P. Everlasting Life. Rockford: Tan Publishing. (1952). Pg. 28.

[3] Fr. Paul Scalia. That Nothing May Be Lost. San Francisco: Ignatius Press (2017). Pg 128.

[4] Romans 8:16

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