YEAR A: HOMILY FOR THE SOLEMNITY OF PENTECOST
HOMILY THEME: “Jesus said to his disciples, ‘As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ Then he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” (John 20:21-22)
BY: Fr. Robert deLeon, CSC
HOMILY: John 20:19-23
Such a curiosity they were quite a few years back at the busy lunch hour in the cafeteria of St. Vincent’s Medical Center, these four young employees huddled together, no food in sight, their attention wholly focused on the member of the group wearing a white knit skull cap who was reading to them. Approaching quietly, respectfully, I heard words from a sacred text offered at the cafeteria table. Catching my eye, Darryl, the reader, paused and, smiling, looked up as I addressed the group. “Wow! It’s lunchtime and you’re not eating but praying. I’m impressed.” Offering me a seat at the table, he explained, “I’m reading the Koran to my heathen friends here. We Muslims are celebrating Ramadan, you know, so I can’t eat until after sundown. These guys wanted to know about it, so I’m reading to them.” Three sheepish grins stared up, Matt, Frank and Jeff, none of them Muslim, but entranced by the courage and conviction of Darryl’s public display of faith in the cafeteria of a Catholic hospital.
In our own day, no doubt, there are quite a few in the Catholic Church who, disillusioned with its leadership, are looking beyond traditional boundaries for spiritual nourishment. So many centuries ago, St. Augustine described well what some may be thinking these days: “Many God has, the church does not have; many the church has, God does not have.”
As we face the particular challenges of our time, we must distinguish faith in the church Jesus founded from faith in the institution, which is but the organizational vehicle for faith. Indeed, Jesus founded one church which, over the course of time and under human leadership, became fractured, leaving us with many Christian denominations, joined in the essentials of the faith, separated in the incidentals.
Clearly, the church, like Jesus its founder, is both divine and human, and these days, while the accent is on its human frailties, we must remember the divinity, Jesus Christ, who continues to dwell in the church and inspire it. “Jesus said to his disciples, ‘As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ Then he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” (John 20:21-22) The church continues its mission, sent by Jesus to bring light to dark places, and God’s Holy Spirit remains with it, guiding, inspiring, purifying.
Another Pentecost occurred that day in the hospital cafeteria when Darryl read to us from the Koran in pious observance of the holy month of Ramadan. A courageous young man, fully aware of his minority status as a Muslim in a Catholic institution, invited a few friends and a priest to join him as he celebrated and shared his faith. That singular experience was the beginning of many subsequent conversations as I learned more about Islam, more about Darryl, and more about God’s powerful presence beyond the boundaries of the familiar and comfortable.
“Many God has, the church does not have; many the church has, God does not have.” When I stepped for a moment beyond my Catholic boundaries to listen to a devout Muslim speaking of his faith, I could only give thanks for this moment of grace. It seemed the very face of Jesus who, in white knit skull cap, held us almost spell-bound as he read the holy words from the Koran and shared a wide-hearted commitment to all those words meant—his accent on love of God and neighbor as the most essential tenets of his faith.