I received a rather unusual compliment after my homily today:
“Fr. Tom, your homilies are like a baseball bat. They just demolish everything we believe in!”
What she meant was, the homily that day tackled head-on some of the uncritical assumptions people have about religion in our post-modern society, and that it confronted those assumptions with the truths found in scripture.
What was the homily about? Today is the feast of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples in the upper room. But if you think about it, many of them had already received the Holy Spirit. Mary received the Holy Spirit when Jesus was conceived. The Apostles received the Holy Spirit when Jesus gave them the power to forgive sins. So what is Pentecost all about?
I don’t want to pretend to completely understand the mystery, but I do believe one of the major effects of Pentecost was to unite the believers into one body. Rather than being just a group of individuals, they would now be united together in one Church — and in fact, Pentecost has been called “The birthday of the Church.”
Many people, however, say things like “I don’t believe in organized religion, but I’m a spiritual person”. They believe that their relationship with God, lived purely privately, is sufficient. But hang on folks. If even Mary was meant to be part of the Church, I don’t see how we can be exempt. To deny membership in the Church, to deny that God wants to bind us together in one body, is to deny Pentecost. Unless we are willing to argue that Pentecost was a mistake, or was unimportant, then it is both a gift and a challenge: the gift of being part of the Body of Christ, and the challenge of staying part of the Body of Christ.