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“The Church’s Birth and Foundation” – Holy Hour Homily

Homily for September 2018 Holy Hour
Acts 2:1-11
Psalm 118:1, 8-9, 21-23, 26, 28, 29
1 Corinthians 12:12-30
John 19:28-37

The first reading tonight tells the story of Pentecost.  It can be a spectacular scene to image.  I think the Hollywood special effects crews could have fun with the noise of the “strong driving wind” and the “tongues of fire” that came down on each of the disciples.

These are signs of the Holy Spirit filling the hearts of the disciples.  The Holy Spirit comes to begin the work of the Church.  Thus, Pentecost is often seen as the birth of the Church.  As a sign that the Church is for all, the people present then each hear the disciples speaking in their own language.  The Christian faith is meant not just for the Jews but for all regardless of where a person is from or what language they speak.  We just need to listen to the Holy Spirit.  Unfortunately, we don’t always listen.

Our gospel scene takes us back 52 days before Pentecost to Good Friday.  This reading is just a small part of the Passion of Jesus as told in John’s Gospel.  Picture it in the context of how Jesus was arrested, put on trial, mocked, and scourged.  After all this, Jesus dies.  His last words before handing over his spirit are “It is finished.

This is not simply a statement that his earthly life is over.  Rather, he “finished” the mission for which he came.  He came proclaiming the gospel and concluded the “good news” of the gospel by giving his life for us on the Cross.

That said, the reason I picked this gospel is what happened after Jesus died but still hung upon the Cross.  The “soldier thrust his lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out.”

Like Pentecost, this is also seen as the “birth of the Church.”  Jesus has completed his mission and now the Church flows from his side.

Rather than look at the Church as having two births, I think this points to how we need to look at scripture as a united text and the events as united.  Before the Holy Spirit could come at Pentecost Jesus had to first come as the foundation.

This leads us to our psalm response, “The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone.”  This psalm would have been written centuries before Jesus, yet He fulfills it as He becomes the foundation upon which we now build our faith.  The Lord is always our refuge.  Jesus is our foundation and the Holy Spirit leads us in the ways of the Father.

Unfortunately, we don’t always listen to the Spirit.  This is true for us as individuals when we choose sin.  We can also see in the history of the Church that those who lead have not always listened to the Spirit.  We see this currently in the abuse cover-up.

Today, for so many people the focus is on themselves.  When asked to do something these people in turn ask, “What’s in it for me?”  That’s the wrong question!

We are not isolated individuals.  We are part of something that is greater than the sum of its parts.

As Paul writes, “For in one Spirt we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.

Sometimes we sin because we try to do everything ourselves but we are not meant to go it alone.  God did not give all gifts to any one person.

Paul uses the analogy of the human body help us understand this.  The human body is made up of many parts, eyes, ears, mouth, hands, feet and each part has a different role to play.  When all the parts of the body work together, it becomes greater than the sum of its parts.

When one part of the body fails to do its part, it affects the other parts.  When one of us sins, it can affect others.  That’s why we cannot turn a blind eye to sin.  When we see sin, we, as individuals and as a Church, must ask the Holy Spirit to know if we are to respond.  If we are to respond, then we ask the Holy Spirit to govern what the response is.

The Church began as the blood and water flowed from Jesus’ side on the Cross.  The Church came to action at Pentecost as the Spirit came down on the disciples.  The Church continues today led by the Spirit.  We just need to listen to know how we are called to be the Body of Christ.

 

 

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