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Pentecost Homily: Deacon Bill Tunilla 2017

Today we celebrate the feast of Pentecost.  It is the birthday of the church, and since we are the church, we celebrate the birthday of our community of Faith.  But what does that celebration look like to us? 

A few years ago Sherry and I went to a Marriage Encounter Enrichment where the theme was “If you change the way you look at things, the way you look at things will change”.  The following story will help to illustrate the theme.

A young boy sat on the front porch with his grandfather at their farmhouse.  A car pulled up to their house and a young man got out and approached the grandfather and said, Excuse me sir, what are folks like around here?  Why do you ask said the grandfather?  I just left a town where the people were snobbish and not so friendly.  I’ve lived there for more than a year and I never felt part of the community.  The grandfather answered, “I guess that is the way you will find folks around here as well.  The young man thanked the grandfather and drove off.  The grandson looked a bit puzzled but said nothing.

A few hours later, another car stopped and the driver, a young woman got out and approached the grandfather and said, Sir what are folks like around here?  Why do you ask said the grandfather?  The woman said, I’m moving here from one of the nicest towns you could ever know.  The people were friendly and I felt part of the community. 

The grandfather replied, Well you will find people pretty much the same here.  The woman said thank you and got into her car and drove off.

The boy turned to his grandfather with a puzzled look and asked, “Grandpa, why did you give those two strangers opposite answers to the same question?  The grandfather said, because it’s a person’s attitude that determines how a person looks at or sees things.

Last Sunday on the Feast of the Ascension Jesus commands his apostles to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  We now are called, like the early apostles we are tasked to build the community no matter how big or how small our role may be.  Being a part of the Body of Christ, means that our new life in the Spirit binds us into a community.  We are no longer just individuals along for the ride.

In our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles the Spirit dispelled fear, doubt and instilled the people with special gifts, especially the ability to speak and to understand others.  These gifts have been given to us as well and are not to be used selfishly but to be used for the common good of our community.  

In our second reading St. Paul uses the metaphor of one body that has many parts and that through our baptism we were baptized into Christ’s Body.  But the use of the gifts we were given and how they build up our community is in our hands. Our God offers us the opportunity to use our gifts for the greater good of others but he never forces us to use them. It is one of the more difficult realities of today’s world where we are surrounded by a culture of individualism. 

Whether it is the celebrity in Hollywood, professional sports, politics or the everyday Jane or Joe, we often celebrate individual efforts or accomplishments. Generally we don’t consider the common good in our efforts.  That in itself is not necessarily bad, but if we don’t consider others or are not willing to give of ourselves, then the community we build will be like the young man’s in the story, snobbish and unfriendly.  On the other hand, if we give willingly and cheerfully like the woman, then others around us will respond in kind and the community we build will be strong and vibrant.

Living in community as with our own families is not always peaches and cream and can be very difficult and trying at times.  Inevitably we will find ourselves at odds with each other.  Jesus experienced this first hand after three years of living with his disciples he knew that disagreements and differences would come about.  Jesus knew the apostles, like us would need a helper and today we celebrate the Third Person of the trinity, the Holy Spirit coming to assist us in our lives and community.

It’s no wonder Jesus links the sending of Holy Spirit with the commission to forgive sins.  Forgiveness heals the breach between God and man, but also between two persons or groups.  It heals the differences in our lives and ensures we remain one body in Christ.  It is a soothing balm for our souls.

Forgiveness is about building relationships.  It is about opening doors between us rather than closing them.  It’s about allowing the peace of Christ to replace the fears that stifle our connecting to one another.  It’s about living in Holy Love with each other.  Somehow in our highly complicated and overly busy world, we can lose sight of the big picture and focus on ourselves and not others.

Building relationships and living in community is what we are called to do.  Jesus’ earthly mission was calling others into relationship with God and building up the Body of Christ.  We too are called to put away our individualism and do the same. 

As a community we can grow in love for God and one another.  We can share in our joys and our sorrows.  We determine what kind of community we live in.

Here at Holy Cross we have shared in the joy and celebration as Father Andrew announced we would be getting a second priest Father Michael.  After so many years without a priest many of us thought we would never see one yet alone two. 

In sharing community sorrow we expectantly lost Sr. Loretta on May 22.  Sister was our rock during our ups and downs.  She will be truly missed.  We will mourn as a family does and we will continue on our journey with her memory close by.  Life will be different but we will heal as a family and we again will determine the community we live in.  I hope a community of love and welcoming in which Sister would be most proud of. The ball is in our hands and it is up to us as we enter this period of uncertainty.  

Again Happy Birthday, this is Pentecost Sunday….the Holy Spirit is among us, to enlighten and guide us.…. to give us the strength to change the way we look at things so the way we look at things will change.

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