Accepting The Gift

Fr. Michael Guastello’s Homily June 9, 2019

“Sometimes when we describe a person with great talents we refer to them as being ‘gifted’.  He is a gifted athlete. She is a gifted musician, but to use the word gift implies that their talents are not solely based on their own merit.  Someone had to give them the gift. The person received the gift from someone. Our lives ourselves are gifts from God. We have received life from God and from our parents.  Without them, we would not be there. Of course a gift implies that there is a relationship between the gift giver and the person who has received the gift. A gift implies affection, appreciation, acknowledgement.  If a gift is given with the expectation of something in return then it is not really a gift. Today, on this feast of Pentecost, the Easter season comes to a close and we celebrate the gift of the Church being born when the Father and Son poured out the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles giving them their mission to proclaim the Gospel to the rest of the world.  Since that time, the Holy Spirit has given gifts to the rest of the Church so that it may be faithful to the teachings of Jesus Christ. In fact, the books of the Bible themselves are inspired works of the Holy spirit.

In our second reading from St. Paul today, we are reminded that the mere presence and actions of the Holy Spirit are often perceived as gifts.  When we think of our Trinitarian God we associate creation with the Father and redemption of humanity with the Son, but it is the Holy Spirit who continues to animate the Church to sanctify us, to inspire us, to guide us.  Now to be theologically precise, when one person of the Trinity acts, the other two persons are acting in concert, yet we do attribute these things, sanctification, inspiration, bringing unity to being works of the Holy Spirit.  I’ll give you some examples. During the consecration of the Eucharist at Mass when the priest extends his hands over the bread and wine, we call this the epiclesis, this is a calling down of the Holy Spirit and so I’ll invite you when we get to that part in the Mass today to listen when I have my hands over the bread and wine and then there is a part in the Mass called the doxology when the priest raises the chalice and the patton of the body and blood of Christ and he prays, ‘Through him and with him and in him Oh God almighty Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit all glory and honor is yours forever and ever.’  Unity of the Holy Spirit and then finally as part of the prayer of absolution in the sacrament of reconciliation the priest says that ‘Jesus has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins. This brings us to our Gospel today in which we are reminded of one of the Holy Spirit’s greatest gifts of all and this is the gift of reconciliation and forgiveness. So, our Gospel brings us back to Easter Sunday night and the Apostles have locked themselves in a room for fear of the authorities so remember Jesus has just been crucified and as his followers they think that they might be next in line and so they are locked up they are held up in this room and Jesus, the risen Jesus comes through the locked doors and he stands in front of them and he says to them, ‘Where were you guys?  What happened to you? You guys left me for dead. I can’t depend on you for anything! What’s wrong with you people?!?’ He doesn’t say any of this does he? Quite the opposite. He says, ‘Peace be with you.’ And he says this two ties if you go back and reread the text he says, ‘Peace be with you.’ Why? Because he wants to emphasize his love and forgiveness for them not their mistakes. He wants them not to dwell on their sins, but to dwell on his mercy, to dwell on his compassion and to dwell on his desire for reconciliation with him. Friends, the same thing goes for us as well. When we make mistakes, when we mess up, when we turn our backs on God through sin, he doesn’t want us to dwell on any of this. He wants to forgive us. He wants us to be reconciled with him. All we have to do is ask. All we have to do is approach him with a sincere and contrite heart.  Jesus says to his apostles, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit whose sins you forgive are forgiven them and whose sins you retain are retained.’ This by the way is the primary text that the Church points to for Jesus having instituted the sacrament of reconciliation. You see, forgiveness is one of the main reasons Christ instituted the Church. Forgiveness is one of the major business segments that the Church is involved in if I could use that line of terminology. Yes we are involved in social justice works to be sure. We run food pantries and soup kitchens, the Church has run hospitals to take care of the sick. We run schools to educate our children, but long before the Church ran hospitals or schools or soup kitchens, the church was in the business of forgiveness and reconciliation. These are gifts given to us by the Holy Spirit and not just reconciliation with us and God, but reconciliation with one another.  In our Gospel today Jesus connects reconciliation with himself and reconciliation with others. This is a great gift. If there are relationships in our lives that are in need of reconciliation, the Holy Spirit is prepared to breathe new life into them. Maybe we need to be reconciled with a son or daughter. Maybe we need to be reconciled with a brother or a sister or a parent or a neighbor or a former spouse or a coworker or a fellow student. I invite you to ponder that question today. Who do I need to be reconciled to? Who do I need to pray for? Maybe, who do I need to reach out to? As we come to the end of the Easter season today as we celebrate Pentecost, the Holy Spirit may well be prompting us to take advantage of the gift of reconciliation with someone, a gift that the Spirit is willing to help us with in that reconciliation if we are open to receiving it, if we are open to accepting the gift.