Homily for Pentecost

May 20, 2021

Put this question to the ages that are past, said Moses. ‘Was there ever a God like ours?’

Was there ever a word so majestic? Contemplating the Holy Trinity, we are helped by the past. We draw on the wisdom and experience of those who have had the faith and lived by it.  We want to know God better and to live more faithfully subject to him and what he asks. The knowledge and love of God are the gifts we seek. Knowing and loving him are the best ways to live. At the end of our earthly span, we would like to have joined those in the ages that are past who have left their successors good patterns of how to live devoted to God. To love God and our neighbour out of an understanding enlightened by divine wisdom is a satisfaction anticipating the happiness of eternity. Our pursuing such enlightenment is prompted, in part, by our grateful awareness that it has been abundantly bestowed on others before us.  We who are still apprentices in the work of obedience to God, look for guidance to those who have gone ahead. The good example of the saints is one of the ways by which our creator teaches us what it is that he wants of us.

Do we think of ourselves as reaching out towards this knowledge and love?  By his grace, we are, all the time becoming more alert to what God is offering to us, he and no other. We strive forward, but more in response to his reaching lovingly to us than under our own impetus. Gifts are being lavished on us, including our holiest desires.   We are given what we need, including a longing for goodness. Among the generous helps we receive is the strength to order our life on the basis of what he has been revealed to us about the nature of God and what it is to be subject to him. We try to understand what we love so as to love better. There is a great community of those who have believed in the true God and have lived their life according to his commandments. The gathering in of the faithful includes those in the ages that are past, the present believers and those who will come after us. The creeds express our common faith. The scripture and the apostolic teaching handed-down are shared by us all.  Our questions are addressed not only to our forbears in the faith but also to the Holy Spirit still active in the Church. Our journey with the Son back to the Father structures our understanding of all that happened in the past, everything that we are presently going through and all that lies ahead for us and our brothers and sisters.

God continues to offer himself to his creation, to us. No one has ever seen God but the life of faith is not all leaps in the dark. The one we seek is hidden but also reveals himself.   He is unknowable but nevertheless gives us reliable knowledge of himself.  He teaches us to love not an unknown deity but one with whom we are all the time in relationship. The Spirit makes us cry out Abba, Father. Loving us, he shows us who and what he is, and how loveable. The Word of God bears witness to this revelation.  We are the beneficiaries of the self-revealing of One who might otherwise have remained very distant. In Jesus, our creator permits us to know him. When Christ came into the world, God walked among us. Through the Holy Spirit, he is present still. When the Church was founded, the God who is all around us, was now to be addressed and heard within a shared faith. The scriptures, sacramental life, the treasures of doctrine and the life of grace and charity are the framework of closeness to God. He is active in our life. After the ascension, Jesus did not leave us blundering about in the dark. Pentecost, in which we still live, was the descent on the Church of a Holy Spirit who is the presence of God with us every day and every hour.

We each have our particular journey to make, including, no doubt, moments of great uncertainty. There is plenty of confusion and darkness. We are heirs of God and coheirs with Christ sharing his sufferings so as to share his glory. However, the God revealed to us is with us, leading us forward, strengthening us even in the toughest times and enlightening us. He shows us himself present in our life. He moves us to a love of him and of all that he has created.  Everywhere, we find images of himself which he has made. He instils in us knowledge of who he is and of what he knows and wills. Our service of others is inspired by the divine life shared with us. This existence is ordered and providential but sometimes puzzling, because of the limits of our understanding. The divine purposes are not always concealed from us but they are ultimately inscrutable. God, who is so much greater than us, is in communication with us and shares his life with us. He provokes our love on the basis of an understanding conferred and a mystery trusted.

The one, true God is a holy and undivided Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The God who is being shown to us all through a life of faith, hope and charity is one who creates, who redeems and who sanctifies. One of the works of the Holy Spirit, the work of sanctification, of making holy, is like all the acts of God, also a labour of the whole Trinity.  The holiness of God spreads itself into the life of those who love him and believe in him. May your love be upon us, O Lord, as we place all our hope in you.  The Trinity is holy. It is the focus of the lives of holy women and men.  The saints pattern, for all of us, different ways of being holy as God is holy. The creation, the redemption and the making holy, the three-fold way that God deals with us, impresses itself on everything about us.  Our life comes from the loving creator who called us into being. Our life. marred by sin and fated to die, is saved and resurrected by Christ.  Our existence is brought to a new perfection and holiness by the Spirit.  The holy Trinity is shaping us all the time.  We are always being created and re-created.  Our salvation is an achievement of the Lord, which renews itself every day.  The Church is already holy, as the body of Christ, but we his flawed members, rediscover holiness over and over again.

Was there ever anything so majestic? This is a question about God but also about our relationship with him. The majesty of the Holy Trinity is there whether we notice it or not. But God is not indifferent to our indifference. Part of his greatness is that he reveals himself as so loveable. The questioner had encountered him very directly on Mount Horeb, in the bush which burned fiercely but not been consumed. We are all like young Moses, seeking the truth in purity of heart and in the illumination of understanding. The knowledge we are after is inexhaustible. We approach it with great reverence and even kinds of fear. But what we see, what we grasp, what we assimilate of the divine into our own life is very consoling and encouraging. God has made us, not we him. He has made us in his likeness. When we are looking intently at him, we gaze Moses-like into the fire of divine revelation. There we see something of ourselves also. Having been baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity, we, the adopted children of God, find that our existence truly reflects his wonderful life. He who is unseen makes us images of himself.

Is there anyone or anything so wonderful as this God of ours? There is not. However, the divine majesty needs to be allowed to impress itself upon us and our ways. Patterned by the Trinity, we recognise the Father, the Son an the Holy Spirit. Sometimes God seems hard to know, no doubt because of our obtuseness and insensitivity. Our love for him is to seek. Sometimes his commandments silence us rather than stirring us to assent and obedience. The divine will for us can become obscured by conflicting other desires and purposes.  The holiness which is his gift to us can elude us in a confusion of ingratitude and distraction. Dismayed by all this we hear again Jesus saying Know that I am with you always until the end of time. Let us renew our faith in that always. God is with us even when we forget him and are thinking of other things.  If we think of him, we are remembering that he is at work in us. If we focus on our Father, revealed to us in the Son and sustained in our life by the Spirit, then the divine presence with us and within us, transforms us, builds us up and fills us with joy.

[1]              Deuteronomy 4.32

[2]              Deuteronomy 4.32

[3]              Deuteronomy 4.35

[4]              John 1.18

[5]              Romans 8.15

[6]              Romans 8.17

[7]              Psalm (33) 32.22

[8]              Matthew28.19

[9]              Matthew 28.20

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