Sunday, June 04, 2006

Pentecost and the Fruits of the Spirit

(Pentecost Sunday-Year B;This homily was given 4 June, 2006, at Our Lady of Mercy, East Greenwich, R.I.; read Acts 2:1-11 and Galatians 5:16-25)

If you read the letters of the Apostle Paul, one of his trademark characteristics is that he often creates lists. Paul makes lists of injuries he has suffered (2 Corinthians 11:23-33) and places he has been (Galatians 1:17-2:1). He lists the various spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:4-11, 27-31;13).

Perhaps the best-known lists of St. Paul are the ones we read in his Letter to the Galatians. In that letter St. Paul names the works of the flesh and the fruits of the Spirit. We would be hard pressed to find two ways of life more diverse than these. He says:

The works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, lust, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies and the like.
—Galatians 5:19-21

It is quite a list, to be sure. And St. Paul could not be more clear about the fate of those who follow that way of life. He says:

I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
—Galatians 5:21

In contrast, Paul goes on to list the fruits of the Spirit:

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self control.
—Galatians 5:22-23

This morning we can ask ourselves: which list best describes where we are in the spiritual life? Do we recognize some of the works of the flesh in our own lives? Or do we see, instead, those fruits of the Spirit that all of us long for at the very core of our being.

Today we celebrate the feast of Pentecost, that day when the Holy Spirit first came upon the Church and enabled the disciples to experience those fruits of the Spirit in a radical and remarkable way. The Holy Spirit set their hearts on fire with the love of God, and then sent them out to transform the world they lived in.

The very same men and women who hid behind closed doors, cowering for fear of the Jews, are now enlivened with the Gift of the Holy Spirit and boldly proclaim to the world around them that Jesus Christ is Lord!

They began that day a revolution that changed the world forever. Their witness to Christ, begun in that small city some 2000 years ago, would eventually spread like wildfire across time and space, eventually making its way to even our own towns, our own churches and into our own lives this day.

And what started that fire on that amazing day of Pentecost was not an ideology, or simply a message, or just some new way of life. What began that fire was a person: the Holy Spirit.

He is the one—promised by Christ—that transforms each of us, as well as the world we live in. He is the one responsible for those fruits that St. Paul refers to in that list from Galatians: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self control.

If we want to see our lives, our families and our Church transformed, if we want to see those fruits in our lives and in the world we live in, then we have to first realize that it will only take place when we have invited Him to be a part of our lives and allowed Him to do all that He desires in us.

Today, on the feast of Pentecost, we pray:

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful
and enkindle in them the fire of your love.

Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.
And you shall renew the face of the earth.

O God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant us in that same Spirit to be truly wise and ever rejoice in His consolation. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.