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Pentecost Sunday: Homily - Deacon Bill Finnegan

Pentecost, as we can see from the Acts of the Apostles, is not strictly a Catholic Feast.  The 1st reading begins, “When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together.”  The “they”, in the reading, refers to the Apostles and others, including the Blessed Mother.  The “one place” was the Upper Room, the Cenacle.  They were gathered to celebrate Jewish Pentecost, but they were also hiding out after Jesus left them 10 days earlier, and Ascended to his Father.

Pentecost was/is a Jewish feast, known as “Shavuot” (shav-u-ott), the Feast of Weeks, which comes 50 days after Passover.  It remains one of three major feasts on the Jewish calendar.  It commemorates the day when God gave the Torah to the Jewish people.  Some call it the beginning of Judaism, just as we sometimes refer to this day as the beginning of Catholicism.  This year, the two feasts coincide, both being celebrated this weekend.

Those of you who go to daily Mass, or read the daily readings as a part of your prayer life, are well aware of the repeated promise of the Holy Spirit by Jesus to His followers.  The Holy Spirit who descended on the Apostles today.  Over the past few weeks the readings have often concerned this promise.  On one such occasion we heard Jesus saying, “I will ask the Father and He will give you another Advocate to be with you always.”  On another, He said, “I tell you the truth, it is good that I go; for if I do not go away, the Paraclete will not come to you.”  And today we heard Him say, “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.  When he comes, the Spirit of Truth, he will guide you to the truth.”

Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as the Advocate, the Paraclete, the Promised One, and the Spirit of Truth.  “The Truth” is an important concept in our Catholic Faith, and that is what I would like to concentrate on today.

Last weekend we celebrated the Feast of the Ascension.  Had we celebrated it on the preceding Thursday, 40 days after Easter, last weekend would have been the Seventh Sunday of Easter.  The Gospel for the 7th Sunday is so important that there is an option to read it on the 6th Sunday when there will be no 7th Sunday.  The option was not exercised, so we missed this reading.  I would like to read some of what we missed.  Jesus is praying to His Father about the end of His earthly ministry, as a part of the “Farewell Discourse”, and prays:

But now I am coming to you. …  I gave them your word, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world.  I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the evil one.  …  Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth.  As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world.  And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth.

Jesus, in praying to His Father, says that the Apostles and we too, as His followers, are “IN this world, but not OF this world”.  We are called to be apart from the secular world around us and to “be concentrated in (the) truth.”  We stand  up to the problems in this world because of the gift of courage, a gift of the Holy Spirit.  We have this courage because we have the truth, by the power of the Holy Spirit, dwelling within us.

The other night, my wife and I were watching the movie, “A Few Good Men”.  The movie is about a General Court Martial in the Marine Corps.  Many of you know that I was in the Marine Corps so this movie interests me (even though it is laced with profanity).  The reason I bring it up today is because of an exchange between a young Navy JAG officer and a surly old Marine Colonel towards the end of the movie, with the following dialogue:

Colonel:      You want answers?

JAG:            I think I’m entitled!

Colonel:      You want answers?!

JAG:            I want the truth!

Colonel:      You can’t handle the truth!

My question to each of you here today is, “Can you handle the truth?”  The truth about this Catholic Faith of yours?  Jesus spoke often of “the truth”.  He described Himself saying, “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”  In speaking to the Jewish people he said, “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  Again Jesus to His followers, concerning the Paraclete, “But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth.”  And we all remember the famous exchange with Pilate about truth, prior to Jesus being condemned to death:

Pilate:  You are a king then!

Jesus: You say that I am a king.  For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.

Pilate:  What is truth?

What is truth?  Here are some truths to consider.  The truth is that Jesus is the Son of God, the second person of the Blessed Trinity.  The truth is that He was Incarnate of the Virgin Mary and became man for us.  Further, that He died for our sins and rose again (as we celebrated 50 days ago).  He ascended to the Father and sits at His right hand, from whence He will Judge the living and the dead.  Another truth to consider is the truth we heard about today - how God, the Father, at the request of God, the Son, sent God, the Holy Spirit into the world to guide the Church - to be with us always.

These are all truths that we profess in our Creed, which we will soon pray together.  Are these just words to be said, or they concepts, truths, that we take to heart?  Do we live our lives according to these truths? 

These are theological truths.  What about practical truths of our faith?  Like the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity.  And a Catholic married outside the Church, whether a first or subsequent marriage, is not to come forward to receive Holy Communion until they marry anew before a priest or deacon.  A third, that marriage is between one man and one woman.  These are all truths, teachings of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church that are being challenged by the world around us.  The most important truth under attack (even in Catholic Ireland) is that life begins at conception.

So I repeat my question, “Can you handle the truth?”

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