Hi everyone, and welcome to Weekly Homilies with Father Mark Suslenko, Pastor of SS. Isidore and Maria Parish in Glastonbury, Connecticut. We are part of the Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford. I'm Carol Vassar, parish director of communications, and this is Episode 21 of Season 5 for the Feast of Pentecost: June 5, 2022. Our Gospel reading is from John, Chapter 20, verses 19-23
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”
The Gospel of the Lord
“Gifts of the Holy Spirit” by Father Mark S. Suslenko, Pastor, SS. Isidore and Maria Parish, Glastonbury, Connecticut
As we look around our world, we have to admit that there are many people doing many good things. We see a lot of witnesses to heroic efforts, especially as people rally to alleviate the burdens of others. There are many people who are struggling to live out their faith in God, to put into practice their belief in the Gospel, and to live in the ways of the Lord.
That being said, we also have to acknowledge that riding shotgun beside all of those good things are a lot of erroneous decisions and evil as well. We see people scattering without an axis with no true center for thought, word, or action. Critical thinking, analyzing situations before one acts, almost appears to be something of the past. And with this lack of a center, this lack of an axis, we find ourselves in a place of relativism where even someone can justify an act of horrendous violence in response to what they perceive as a problem.
This becomes even more important when it comes to discussing and finding our way through some of the bigger issues that are on our plate as well, today. Issues that we see in our homes daily, because they're discussed in all corners of our society. Things like abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment, poverty, immigration, gun control, war, violence, and prejudice. These are just a few of the many issues that are plaguing us today.
How do we find our way through these complex problems we face?
For you and I, people of faith, we can ask a question because of the beauty of the feast we celebrate today, what voice does Pentecost have in helping us find our way through some of these challenges that face our day? What voice does a belief in the Gospel have to say to all those things?
But before we can begin to really answer that question, we have to understand a little bit more about the Holy Spirit, because sometimes we make the Holy Spirit an intellectual reality. That somehow to understand the Holy Spirit means that I have to adopt certain principles or practices or dogmas or behaviors. And when I institute those in my life, then I'm living in the spirit and my life resembles the life of the spirit. But really Pentecost isn't an intellectual thing at all. It's really a matter of the heart and soul. Because to live by the Holy Spirit means also that I choose to live by three other crucial principles or virtues and that's faith, hope, and love. To live by the spirit means that I also choose to live by three other principles, faith, hope, and love.
Now, when we make this choice to do that, then we also make a couple of other choices. We make a choice for God to possess us; to possess us. Then we make a choice for God to change our hearts; to change our hearts. Why? So that we can look more like him, you see? So the Holy Spirit gives us the power to live by faith, hope, and love so that God can possess us, change our hearts, and make us look more like him. And that all happens with the gift of the Holy Spirit.
You see, so it's not so much about what I want or what I need or what I feel I deserve or what I prefer. It's about what God wants and what God prefers. And belief in the Holy Spirit and an understanding of Pentecost comes with the gifts of the Holy Spirit and all of us in our religious education have been exposed to one way or the other to the gifts of the Holy Spirit. But a quick review today could help us put this into context.
The first gift of the Holy Spirit is courage; is courage. You see when people are off of their axis and lost they need to find something to ground them. And as people who believe in the Holy Spirit, in God, who have allowed God to take possession of them, then our faith can't be just kept here. It has to find its way outside our doors and into our workplaces and into our homes and into our daily life.
And that first gift of the Holy Spirit, courage, allows us to have the courage to do so because it's so often we're afraid of expressing our faith. Either because we don't think it's appropriate or because we might get rejected. And so we keep our faith hidden, but the Holy Spirit gives us the courage to give voice to God. To give voice to our faith outside of the walls of this church.
The second gift of the Holy Spirit is counsel; counsel. And the bottom line of the gift of counsel is the knowledge between right and wrong. You see, we backed away from these objective principles of right and wrong, and we're creating them again as we go.
So that if I feel it's right, then it's right and you can't tell me that it's wrong. But yet our faith and the voice of the Spirit tell us that's not true, that there is right and wrong that frame the context of our lives. The third gift of the Holy Spirit is knowledge. As human beings, we can absorb a lot of knowledge and know a lot of things, but that knowledge is always going to be empty unless we realize where knowledge comes from and who it serves. The very fact that we can know at all is due only to the grace of God to direct our thoughts and minds and actions to him. And so our knowing has to be directed in that order as well.
The next gift of the Holy Spirit: fear of the Lord; fear of the Lord. Now, when we hear that, sometimes we think, "Oh, we need to be afraid of God." Well, no, that's not what fear of the Lord is. Fear of the Lord really echoes back to what we heard in the Psalm today, that this life that we find ourselves living and we treasure, this world in which we find ourselves living would not exist were it not for the grace of God. That the only reason that my life and your life and the life of this world is sustained and kept in movement is because of God's presence and the gift of fear of the Lord allows us to appreciate that so that we live our life fearing the absence of that presence, realizing that we cannot be without it. And it gives us the ability to appreciate in wonder and awe the magnitude and glory of God's presence; fear of the Lord.
The next gift that the Holy Spirit gives us is piety; piety, which can be understood by the word reverence. Many of us have lost a sense of reverence, not only for God and God's beauty and God's wonder, but a reverence for each other. A respect for the divinity of God that exists in the soul of every human being, the essence of the sacred in all life and the sacred in the world around us, the reverence to the creation God has entrusted to our care; piety. To develop a prayer life that allows us to immerse ourselves more deeply in the mystery of who we are and who God is.
The next gift of the Holy Spirit is understanding. I can understand something as a human being, but you understand it from a spiritual place brings me to a deeper level because it brings me to the level of the soul, to the essence of who a person is, to their vulnerability, to their brokenness, to the fact that we're all children of God. To understand the world around me, as God has ordered it to be brings a wider dimension to my understanding of all things.
And then lastly, wisdom. Wisdom is the accumulated traditions of our faith. Wisdom is what we cultivate within ourselves as we go through our own struggles in life. Wisdom is realizing that God is the one who is the glue that keeps this all together and operating and functioning.
And so as we consider the perils of the world, as we consider our own struggles in life, what a precious gift we have here in the Holy Spirit in the gift of our faith. Because if we could bring with us, as we conduct the business of our lives, those gifts of the Holy Spirit, courage, counsel, knowledge, fear of the Lord, piety, understanding, and wisdom, how different life would be not only for us but for the world.
But here's the catch, even for people of deep faith, sometimes our belief in that is still only intellectual. We only have one foot in the door of that faith and we're either afraid or too tired to take the next step.
Pope Francis tells us that the Holy Spirit does three things. The Holy Spirit pushes us, the Holy Spirit moves us, and the Holy Spirit makes us walk. So pushes us, moves us, and makes us walk. But we have to allow that to be, and here's an analogy for you to consider for yourself.
We've all had these moments, usually on a Saturday morning, it's a little chilly out and we know that we either have an agenda to accomplish ourselves that day or something that we know that we need to do, or something that our spouse wants us to do, or something that our child wants us to do, or work wants us to do, but yet we're just very happy staying where we are and doing none of the above. And so the laziness of the moment is chosen over what I need to do or what I'm called to do. And then after being there for a little while, there's this voice. And usually, the voice is called spouse that says, "Get up. Let's get moving. We have things to do, and you can't waste your life away." And you may be laying there saying, "I don't want to. I don't feel like I want to. I like where I am. I like the safety of where I am." Maybe you're afraid of tackling what you know you have to do, and the fear is keeping you from embracing it. And so you stay in your cocoon until you're pushed out. Then you feel the anger and the resentment for being pushed. That's how we are with our faith, sometimes. We become fearful, lazy, apathetic. Where God is saying, "Listen, my job is to create. Do you think I've abandoned you? Do you think I'm on hold? I'm here. I can fix this. Cause that's what I do."
Because when something ends that used to be, God finds something new. When something that used to work no longer works, God finds something that works. But he needs us to be the instrument. He needs us to be the voice. And we have to allow ourselves to be pushed, to be moved, and to walk from here, out there, and do God's work. Developing eyes that can see the world in a different way, to envision things in a new way to bring the sacred back to the secular, and to live a life that people admire because it's filled with joy, it's focused, it's centered, it's happy and it's whole. And this faith will spread by what we say and what we do. Never with judgment, always with compassion, but always with love.
So God is saying to us today, "I can make all things new. That's my job. And I want to push you and I want to move you. And I want you to put your feet on the ground to go out and take the Good News and figure out how to bring that to a world that is hurting, that the world's broken, that a world is lost and confused." We have the answer right here. All we have to do is proclaim it.
Father Mark Suslenko is the pastor of SS. Isidore and Maria Parish in Glastonbury, Connecticut. Learn more about our parish community at www.isidoreandmaria.org. And follow us on social media: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Our music comes free of charge from Blue Dot Sessions in Fall River, Massachusetts. I’m Carol Vassar. Thanks for joining us.