If you were to go out onto the water you have two types of boat you could use. You could use a powerboat in which you would have total control. You would start the engine, head off in a straight line toward your destination, and get there very quickly.
The other option would be a sailboat. Here you do not have the same control as the boat that is powered by an engine. Rather you must identify which way the wind is blowing and set your sails to catch the wind. You probably won't be able to head straight to your destination but will need to zig zag across the bay. And the speed at which you move will be largely determined by the strength at which the breeze is blowing.
The Holy Spirit in which we celebrate today on this feast of Pentecost is similar to the wind that sails the sailboat. We as a church must allow the Holy Spirit too move us. To put to use the gifts of the Spirit that has been given to us. As I have mentioned numerous times before what a dynamic church we would have if the faithful would just allow the Holy Spirit to work in their lives. Our liturgies would be overflowing with the faithful, the word of God would be spread to the four corners of the world with passion, and the love of Christ would spread in leaps and bounds. We would no longer need to worry about merging or closing parishes because the faithful would come and there would be an abundance of priests to celebrate the sacraments because young men would not hesitate to follow the call if they would just let the Holy Spirit move their hearts. We at times see the Holy Spirit coming in extraordinary ways such as we heard in the first reading of “driving wind” or “tongues as of fire.” It’s to realize that the Spirit just doesn’t come in extraordinary ways but in ordinary ways of life. Such as “forms of peace” as we heard in the 2nd reading or “peace” and “forgiveness” as found in the Gospel.
In the Gospel Jesus showed his disciples his hands and his side. By this action is doesn’t simply show that Jesus was crucified. There is more to it, it shows that because of his wounds we are given peace, we are given forgiveness and we are given the Spirit. Wounds are the only way to peace and the only way to take up the saving mission of Jesus. In the everyday self-giving for the good of others, we show our own hands and side—our own wounds for the sake of life.
During these 50 days of Easter we have seen the Easter Candle alight in our sanctuary. This is our last day of the Easter Season and the Easter candle will be extinguished until next year (except for baptisms and funerals). How can we continue to keep this Easter candle alight? Well we need to start with ourselves.
Most importantly, we have to make sure we keep the flame burning in our hearts. If we do, it will give light and warmth to those around us without our even realizing it. Too many Christians have let the flame die out. They call themselves Christians, but they live mediocre lives. They have none of Christ's wisdom, courage, virtue, or joy, so they can give none of it to those around them. But today, Pentecost, God will renew the flame in each of our souls, and it will be up to us to keep it burning, to feed the flame.
We can do that in two ways. First, we have to make sure that prayer is our highest priority in life. What oxygen is for a flame, prayer is for our Christian identity. If you take away the oxygen, the flame will sputter and die. If we don't make an effort to pray each day, we will become joyless, mediocre Christians.
Second, this year we can make better use of the sacrament of confession. When a candle is lit for a long time, excess wax can accumulate and start to stifle the flame. That wax has to be poured or cut away so the flame can thrive again. When we go about our lives in a selfish world, we inevitably do all kinds of selfish things, and that stifles the flame of Christian wisdom in our lives. Confession is how God cleans away the stifling wax.
So let us this evening pray for a new Pentecost in our lives, our parish, and our world, and let's promise to do our part to make that prayer come true.