Sunday, June 04, 2017
Pentecost word, 04Jun17
Pentecost (04 Jun 2017)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
A popular story has circulated to illustrate important things, less important and least important things in one’s life. Its moral urges: focus on most important things contributes to a meaningful life. The story’s essentials are a professor, students, a jar, rocks, pebbles and sand. Here’s my adaptation.
A professor enters a classroom and sets a large jar on a table before them. Silently the professor places two-inch rocks in the jar until no more can fit. “Is the jar full, class?” The students agree it is full.
The professor proceeds to add pebbles and shakes the jar so the pebbles fill the spaces between the rocks. “Is the jar full, class?” Some students agree it is full. The professor proceeds to add sand; it fills the spaces between the pebbles.
“Consider, class, that this jar is your life. The rocks are what is more important in it—all you’ll value at the end of your life: family; friends; health; fulfilling your hopes and dreams. The pebbles other things that offer you meaning: learning; your job; house; hobbies; colleagues and acquaintances. The sand represents everything else, the ‘small stuff.’ If you focus all your energy on material things and other small stuff, you will not make room for what is most important, meaningful and life-giving.1
Today’s mystery urges us to reverse the story’s obvious logic of what we perceive as large equals most important. By whatever approach we use to enter Pentecost this remains: Holy Spirit is God’s gift; it fills our inmost being and animates our lives. Take the more familiar approach we heard from the Acts of the Apostles. After 50 days Risen Jesus’ presence and power registered as a noise like a strong driving wind, tongues as of fire, and once-timid disciples boldly announcing Jesus in speech that all understood and deeds strongly felt.
Another expression of the gift of the Spirit is more mysterious and personal: On the evening [Jesus rose from the dead]…that first day of the week…Jesus breathed on them and said to them,“Receive the Holy Spirit.” Its accompanying power is power to forgive. Not only is it sacramental power; it includes the power every Christian prays for in the Lord’s Prayer: to forgive as we are forgiven.
This Spirit-power is not earned, is nothing I reach. Rather, the Spirit who is God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us…while we were still weak.2
Filled by and with the Spirit is often subtle and always intrinsic, innate to us. Our baptism makes Jesus’ Spirit inseparable from us and gives us power to discern. The Letter to the Hebrews imagined the mysterious Spirit-power—finer than the sand in the professor’s valuable story and not taking up space—with its vivid image: Holy Spirit uttered by every word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, cutting through so as to divide soul from spirit, joints from marrow. It is even able to discern the thoughts and deliberations of the heart.3
What might Pentecost offer us today? It invites us to surrender more to risen Jesus’ personal gift. The disciples did not labor to figure out what happened to them when Jesus’ Spirit filled them. They recognized Jesus had baptized them with his presence and power as he had promised4; and they let themselves by intoxicated by it with astonishing effect. Not toxic, Holy Spirit is life. Even more valuable: Jesus’ Spirit is the antidote to the pressures the world exerts; to the violence humans afflict on one another and creation; and to all that subverts life’s meaning and vitality. So none of us miss the obvious: receiving and living risen Jesus’ personal gift of his Spirit empowers us to share it so through us risen Jesus may continue to renew the face of our earth.
Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise
____________Wiki-image The Descent of the Holy Spirit PD-US Christian Logo CorNexus com CC0 1.0