Pentecost Sunday 2021

Emotions are interesting things. While there is no scientific consensus on a definition of what an emotion is. But I think all of us know what emotions are simply by experience. However, you want define them, they have the ability to well up inside of us causing us to do things we would never dream of doing otherwise. How often in our lives have we regretted acting in a certain way simply because our emotions got the best of us? You know emotions often cause us to act in a heightened sense, they cause us to take things to the extreme. But when emotions get so strong, they actually have the power to paralyze us. How many times has someone said that they were so scared that they just froze? How times in your life have you faced such stress at work or maybe at home and so you just shut down and you don’t do anything at all?

This is where the apostles are in today’s Gospel. For the past three years they have gone everywhere with Jesus. For the past three years they have learned from Him, they have watched Him perform all kinds of miracles. These apostles who left their life behind; they left their careers and families to follow Jesus and in an instant, He is put to death on a cross a buried. So all these emotions well up and we are told the apostles are locked away for fear. They are afraid that they might be next and so they don’t know what to do. I don’t know about you, but if I found myself in that situation, I certainly think I would be happy that Jesus showed up, I’d be confused but happy. But I don’t think I would be too excited about what He said. What does He do? He walks in and says “peace be with you.” I’m ok with that, but then He goes on to say “as the Father has sent me, so I send you.” I don’t know about you but if I am locked away fearing for my life, I don’t want to hear words that I need go back out into the streets of Jerusalem and be sent by Christ.

What was it then that 50 days later, as we hear about in today’s first reading, these apostles go from being paralyzed by fear to going out to the four corners of the world? What was it that ignited the apostles to move from fear to a point that 10 of them died as witnesses to the faith? Well of course, we know the answer to that. It is what we celebrate today, Pentecost. That great day 50 days after the resurrection and 10 days after the ascension, that the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles, and as He did, He left them those gifts.

My friends, what about us? You and I are sent out as well. But let’s be honest as Catholics we are really bad at this. It seems like only my protestant friends ask my how my faith is going. It is almost as though we are those apostles in the upper room. We know that Jesus is real. We know that He is the Son of God and we are willing to follow Him, but we are locked away for fear or for some other reason and we are not willing to go out and spread that message.

Well my friends, the world we live in today is not that much different than the world that Jesus lived in. Today our world still needs to hear that message of Jesus and so Jesus sends us out into the world. He sends us out into our homes, the places where we work, and our neighborhoods, out into the world, to redeem this world, one heart at a time. For the Church doesn’t grown by a mass movement, it moves forward one soul at a time, as each individual catches the fire of belief from another and is grafted onto the Body of Christ. So Jesus sends us out to be His messengers of peace and forgiveness. He sends us out to tell everyone the good news of God’s mercy and love; a good news that our world is in desperate need of hearing. Through our words but more importantly through our actions, we need to try to open the doors of heaven to everyone. Yet this isn’t always easy because, like the apostles, we are being sent out into the unknown. It is not always easy to know what you are going to encounter and if you are not prepared fear can sneak in very easily.

But this is the story of our life. All of us have had moments when we need to step out into the dark not really knowing what is next, not knowing where that step will take us. While it is never easy, I have come to learn that the Holy Spirit leads us through times of uncertainty. When our soul is filled with the Spirit, it is filled with Love Himself and since “love casts out fear,”[1] when we are filled with the Spirit fear can no longer cripple us. All of us have those moments, the question is do we have the courage to open our hearts to let the Holy Spirit in.

It is the Holy Spirit, the giver of courage, who gives us the gift to overcome our fears so that we too can carry out the mission that Jesus has given to each and every one of us. And so today, as we close out the  Easter season with the celebration of Pentecost, we need to ask ourselves where am I touched by fear, where am I sitting behind locked doors, and then we need to invite the Holy Spirit to touch those places in our hearts and beg Him to pour the gift of courage into our hearts. The readings show us how great of a conversion can come about when the Holy Spirit comes into our lives. The apostles were moved from being paralyzed by fear to going out and speaking to thousands of people and ultimately giving up their life. If the Holy Spirit can do that for the apostles, imagine what He can do in our lives. And so, as we celebrate the feast of Pentecost, we beg the Holy Spirit to come into our hearts praying, come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your spirit and we shall be created and you shall renew the face of the earth.

[1] St. Faustina Kowalska, Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska. Stockbridge: Marian Press. (2011) Pg 248.

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