Solemnity of Pentecost, Year A

Sunday, June 4, 2017
Fr. Jon
Homily transcription: 

     As some of you know, last spring break I took some Iowa State students to Conception monastery in northwest Missouri. I always check out gift shops at monasteries because they often have items made by the monks.  I feel obliged to buy something to support the monks, so bought a bar of soap and a book.  I needed the bar of soap more than the book.  The book is really good, and is called A Church on the Move: 52 Ways to get Mission and Mercy into Action, by Joe Paprocki.

     Chapter one is called "From Self-Sufficiency to Amazing Grace" and ends with a few practical suggestions.  I liked the first one, which suggests:  "Drop the flowery language in the parish mission statement about what a loving, caring, dedicated and close-knit family the parish is.  Instead, replace it with a statement that describes the parish as a community of broken people who have found salvation in Jesus Christ and who invite others to do the same."  While I like our parish mission statement, I think he makes a good point.

     Pentecost is often called the birthday of the Church.  The kind of church I want to belong to and need to belong to is full of weak and broken people.  The kind of church I want to belong to and need to belong to should have a sign outside that says, "No perfect people allowed."  The kind of church I want to belong to and need to belong to is not of the self-sufficient, but of people who have experienced amazing grace.

     Today's Gospel paints a picture of what such a church looks like.  It takes place after the crucifixion, and says the disciples were hiding out of fear, behind locked doors.  Their hopes were dashed and they were broken people.  The risen Christ appears to them, not wagging a finger of condemnation but speaking of peace.  Then he breathes on them and they receive the Holy Spirit.  Because of this gift, this fearful group of misfits, locked up to keep the world out, go out into the world and boldly proclaim what God has done in them and for them.

     This is what the Holy Spirit continued to do here at St. Thomas Aquinas.  I am privileged and uplifted to often hear stories of amazing grace in this community.  Stories of people who have held resentments, often for years, and are moved by grace to forgive.  Stories of people who are fearful, and find the courage to take risks for God. Stories of people who are burdened by sin, and experience great freedom in forgiveness.  Stories of people who are full of anxieties and worries, who find peace and serenity in learning to trust God.  Stories of the dead and defeated who are renewed in life and find passion and purpose in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  

     None of this happens without the Holy Spirit.  All this happens not because of our power, but by the power of God in us.  Pentecost is not just about what happened 2000 years ago, but what happens when we come to the Lord, with all of our brokenness, goofiness, and weakness, and open our hearts and pray, "Come Holy Spirit.  Come Holy Spirit and invade my heart. Come Holy Spirit and change my life."  That is one prayer the Lord always answers.

     So I am glad I bought that book to help out the monks, because it is right.  Let's drop all the flowery language about who we are, and simply state that we are a group of broken people, each in our own way. But we are broken people who have been touched by the Holy Spirit and found life in Christ.  If that is what you are looking for, you have come to the right place.