Homily for Pentecost Sunday Year C
Theme: Christian Life is NOT Boring!
By: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Homily for Sunday, June 9 2019
A priest was delivering his homily one Sunday morning. A man in the back pew turned his head to one side, put his hand to his ear, and said, “Louder.” The preacher raised his voice somewhat and continued with his homily, which was obviously not too inspiring. After a few minutes the man said again, “Louder!” The preacher strained even more and continued on, but by now the sermon had become quite boring. The man said again, “Louder!” At this point a man on the front seat couldn’t stand it any longer and yelled back to the man in the rear. “What’s the matter, can’t you hear?” “No,” said the man in the back. “Well,” said the man down front, “move over, I’m coming to join you.” (M. Ezeogu).
In recent years, we have seen many Catholics leaving the Church. Most of them say that they found the liturgical celebrations boring and lacking in spirit. They were looking for lively and exciting celebrations and they found these in born-again sects. Worse than this is the perception, which may also be true, that Catholics do not have enough passion and ardor for the faith. The famous Archbishop Fulton Sheen said: “Communism is all zeal, but no truth; Catholics have all truth, but no zeal.” Zeal, enthusiasm, fervor, and energy – all these presuppose the presence of a principle of life and love. When one is in love, he suddenly becomes aware of a new power and vitality that fills him with unbounded zeal and passion for his beloved. In the spiritual life, that principle is the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Most Holy Trinity.
In the account of creation in the Book of Genesis, God breathed on the human form made of clay, and man came into being. After his resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples and breathed on them, saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit is the breath of God that gives life, power, zeal and energy. This was the experience of the Apostles in the Upper Room on that day of Pentecost. They were huddled in one room, for fear of the Jews. When the Holy Spirit came in the form of a strong wind and hovered over each of them as tongues of fire, they literally burst out of their shell and began proclaiming with full enthusiasm and courage the message of the Resurrection. It was the moment when the Church, born from the side of Christ on the cross, was manifested to the whole world. Pentecost, then, can be rightly called the Epiphany or Manifestation of the Church (cf. Pope Pius XII, Mystici Corporis Christi, nos. 27-29).
In our baptism and particularly in the sacrament of Confirmation, we received the Holy Spirit as God’s gift to us. This is what that salutation in the Mass reminds us: “The Lord be with you”, “And with your spirit.” Indeed, the Spirit of God resides in each one of us. St. Paul categorically declares that our body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit (1Cor 6:19).
If the Holy Spirit is already given to us, why are many Catholics so tepid and uninspired in the practice of the faith? We proudly claim that we belong to the true Church that Christ founded; that we possess the fullness of the Truth. But why do many of us, instead of being ardent defenders of the truths of the faith, have engaged in religious relativism, watering down the truths of our Christian faith for fear of offending anybody and of being accused as intolerant and judgmental?
The problem is not that the Church has boring liturgical celebrations, outdated doctrinal teachings and rigid hierarchical structure. Rather, the real problem is with many Catholics. Most of us have become too selfish, even in the exercise of our faith. We can see this in our Sunday worship. People come to Mass, but with the focus, not on God, but on the self. They look for an air-conditioned church. They choose the most convenient time. They wear the most comfortable clothes – short pants, sleeveless shirts, skimpy skirts and see-through dress. They want a beautiful choir that will give them listening pleasure. They prefer a priest who has an abundant supply of jokes, stories and gimmicks so that they will always enjoy and be entertained. And, of course, they want to hear, not what God wants them to hear, but what they like to hear. If these items are not met, the conclusion is inevitable: the Mass is boring! It is because they went to church, not for God, but for themselves!
This applies as well with the priest. When the priest is focused, not on God, but on himself, the liturgical celebration suffers. It is reduced into a mere performance or entertainment show. And, consequently, it also becomes boring for him. So, he has to make sure he remains attractive and interesting to the crowd. He has to be “creative”, so that his audience will enjoy and he will be assured of a big number of faithful followers. He then resorts to lots of gimmicks – substituting the liturgical texts with his own words, doing actions and gestures according to his “original creativity”. This becomes all too easy for him to do since the Mass is now being celebrated in the vernacular language and with the priest facing the people.
But the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM, no. 24) is strong in its warning: “Nevertheless, the priest must remember that he is the servant of the Sacred Liturgy and that he himself is not permitted, on his own initiative, to add, to remove, or to change anything in the celebration of Mass”. In line with this, Pope Benedict XVI sent out this pastoral exhortation: “Priests should be conscious of the fact that, in their ministry, they must never put themselves or their personal opinions in first place, but Jesus Christ. Any attempt to make themselves the center of the liturgical action contradicts their very identity as priests” (Sacramentum Caritatis, no. 23).
In other words, therefore, it is clear that even in our acts of worship, both priests and laity, we are so focused on our selfish and worldly pursuits that we become oblivious of God and insensitive to His Spirit. There is nothing essentially wrong with the liturgical celebrations. The only problem is that God is not our focus. One good example of this is the transistor radio. There are times when it emits static noise only. There is no problem with the radio; the station is broadcasting clearly. But the tuning dial of the unit is not set in the right frequency. As a result, the transistor radio cannot receive the music and news from the broadcast station. What is needed only is to move the tuning dial to the right position to get the frequency of the station, and then we get the news and beautiful music.
This is what the Feast of the Pentecost reminds us. The Holy Spirit, the life-giving breath of God is always with us in this world. He is like a radio station on perpetual broadcast. What is needed only is for us to re-focus our own spirits and awareness to the Spirit of God. Then we will enjoy the peace, joy and harmony that God gives. And like the Apostles on Pentecost, we will be transformed into courageous and zealous messengers of the truths of our Christian faith. Indeed, Christian life is not boring, after all! Ang buhay Kristiyano ay masayang tunay!
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish Capitol Park Homes, Amsterdam St. Old Balara, Quezon City