Pentecost 2017, Homily
- Written by Shane Neese
Growing up in New Mexico we always had a garden. And it wasn’t a small one. We had an acre of land and we always had a garden that stretched the length of that acre and was about 25 feet deep. Every spring we would go out and spend about a week weeding the area, raking it out, and turning it. But we didn’t have soil, we had sand, so I never really understood why we turned it. But we did it anyway.
Then when all of that was done, we would plant the tomatoes, radishes, onions, peppers, and of course squash and watermelon. Because of living in the desert, the garden had to watered almost every evening. My grandfather would also take great care to use miracle grow weekly on the tomatoes and peppers.
All summer we would tend it, weed it, and eventually we were able to pick fresh tomatoes and peppers, pull up fresh green onions and radishes. Each year I was always amazed that from sand, we could grow vegetables.
Today we celebrate Pentecost. The birthday of the Church and one of the important days in the Liturgical calendar – the day the Holy Spirit was given to the disciples in that upper room.
But this isn’t something that happened once and is done. The Holy Spirit has been directing believers since. And each of us has been sealed with the Holy Spirit at our confirmation – the Bishop or the priest anointed us with Holy Chrism said the words: “Be sealed with the Holy Spirit,” and laid hands on us. Calling down the Holy Spirit into each of us.
They planted the seeds of the Holy Spirit in us. And from that point forward, it has been the duty of our parents, priests and ourselves to care for those seeds, to nurture them so they would grow and mature. We feed and water them with the Word of God and with the Sacraments. Once grown, they provide us with its gifts, and we can rest under its shade.
But we must know what we are feeding and watering and what the gifts from the Spirit are.
There are 7 gifts of the Holy Spirit, and these 7 gifts produce different fruits depending on the needs of the Church.
Let’s talk about the 7 gifts a little bit.
1. Wisdom: The highest gift of the Holy Spirit because it is the perfection of faith. Through wisdom, we come to value those things which we believe through faith. The truths of Christian belief are more important than the things of this world, and wisdom helps us to order our relationship to the created world properly, loving creation for the sake of God, rather than for its own sake.
2. Understanding: is the second gift of the Holy Spirit and is often confused with wisdom. Wisdom is the desire to contemplate the things of God, understanding allows us to grasp, at least in a limited way, the very essence of the truths of our faith. Through understanding we gain certitude about our beliefs that moves beyond our faith.
3. Counsel: through this gift, we are able to judge how best to act almost by intuition. Because of the gift of counsel, we need not fear to stand up for the truths of the faith, because the Holy Spirit will guide us in defending those truths.
4. Fortitude: gives us the strength to follow through on the actions suggested by the gift of counsel. Sometimes called courage, it goes beyond what we normally think of as courage. Fortitude is the virtue of the martyrs that allows them to suffer death rather than renounce their faith.
5. Knowledge: often confused with wisdom and understanding. Like wisdom, knowledge is the perfection of faith, but whereas wisdom gives us the desire to judge all things according to the truths of the faith, knowledge is the actual ability to do so. In a limited way, knowledge allows us to see the circumstances of our life the way that God sees them. Through this gift we can determine God’s purpose for our lives and live them accordingly.
6. Piety: is the perfection of the virtue of religion. We tend to think of religion today as the external elements of our faith, but it really means the willingness to worship and serve God. Piety takes that willingness beyond a sense of duty so that we desire to worship God and to serve Him out of love, the way that we desire to honor our parents and do what they wish.
7. Fear of the Lord: perhaps the most misunderstood gift of the Holy Spirit. We think of fear and hope as opposites, but the fear of the Lord confirms the theological virtue of hope. This gift gives us the desire not to offend God, as well as the certainty that God will supply us the grace we need in order to keep from offending Him. Our desire not to offend God is more than simply a sense of duty; like piety, fear of the Lord arises out of Love.
From these 7 gifts, we get the fruits of the Spirit:
Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control.
Love: Agape (love) an undefeatable benevolence and unconquerable goodwill, that always seeks the highest of the other. It is self-giving love that gives freely without asking anything in return, it is unconditional and describes the love that God has for us, and we are to have for one another.
Joy: is deeper than mere happiness, it is rooted in God and comes from Him. It is more serene and stable than worldly happiness, which is emotional. Joy is the awareness that God is one’s strength and protector.
Peace: is the result of resting in a relationship with God. It is the tranquil state of a soul fearing nothing from God and content with its earthly lot, it is a kind of equilibrium that comes from trusting that everything is in the hands of God.
Patience: includes the concepts of forbearance, long-suffering, and the willingness to bear wrongs patiently.
Kindness: acting for the good of people regardless of what they do. It is doing something and not expecting anything in return, respecting and helping others without waiting for them to help us first.
Faithfulness: is committing oneself to something or someone, for instance, to one’s spouse, to a cause, or to a religion. Being faithful requires personal resolve not to wander away from commitments or promises. It’s not always easy to be faithful. True faith requires trust in God.
These gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit are not something that other people get. You have these gifts, you have access to these fruits. As I said, each of us were sealed with the Holy Spirit and given these gifts.
This week, starting this evening, take a gift of the Holy Spirit, meditate on it, contemplate it, maybe do a little online research of that gift and sit with it.
Tomorrow, take another gift, and do the same thing. By Saturday, you will have spent some time in the garden tending the gifts of the Spirit.
6th Sunday of Easter Year A, Homily
- Written by Shane Neese
During my Novice year with the AIHM, that year of formation and learning what it means to be a religious and an Augustinian, I kept waiting to be a part of them, to belong. I couldn’t wait to celebrate that moment when it happened. Very near the end of that year, just before I was to make my first profession, I mentioned that to Bp. Joseph. He kind of cocked his head and looked at me, and I was afraid I had said something wrong, but then he said, “You’re already a part of us.”
The moment I had waited for, had already happened and I didn’t see it, didn’t notice it.
I’m sure each of you has had that same experience in your life. Realizing that what you were looking for, searching for, was right there in front of you.
The readings today express that same kind of “I can’t wait until…” They look forward to the coming of the Holy Spirit. And indeed, we are looking forward to the celebration of Pentecost in a couple of weeks.
But, my sisters and brothers, we already have the Holy Spirit. We are not sitting and waiting for her. She is already with us, in us, leading us.
Our preparation and celebration of Pentecost should be a three-fold one: Remembrance of that great event – the birthday of the Church, a celebration of the now – we have the Spirit, and then action – going out into the world filled with the love and joy the Spirit gives us, and being an example of that same Holy Spirit to others.
Our hearts should already be filled with that Joy and praise. Our words should be those of the Psalmist:
“Shout joyfully to God, sing praise to the glory of his name. Say to God, ‘How tremendous are your deeds!’ “
We come today and every Sunday, not just because we are supposed to. We come to worship God, to praise God, and yes, ask for our needs from the God who loves us. Our worship should be filled with joy, our worship should be Spirit filled.
We’ve had hands laid on us in our baptism and in our confirmation, we have been given the Holy Spirit and have been given her gifts. We are here to celebrate that, to give God thanks and praise for this great gift.
I know as Catholics we are not always comfortable with the charismatic side of the Holy Spirit. We’re almost afraid sometimes to bounce with that inner happiness, that inner tingling we get when the Spirit touches our hearts. But we shouldn’t be! We need to become comfortable with her and accept that yes, sometimes the Holy Spirit just wants us to remember why we are here.
Life is not easy. We know it is full of heart ache, disappointment, suffering of all kinds. So, take those moments of joy when they come. Let your lips shout out as the psalmist does:
“Blessed be God who refused me not my prayer OR his kindness!”
Do not be afraid to let the Holy Spirit move you. When you see a homeless person on the street or begging for money; a young child that that has suffered at the hands of the people that were supposed to love him; a young mother struggling to provide for her family; That empathy, that sorrow we feel for them is not only our love for them touching us, it is also the Spirit moving in us to remind us of our call as Christians – to serve those in need.
When we celebrate with others a baptism, a wedding, the purchase of a new home, it is the Spirit that raises our hearts in happiness for them.
Now our question becomes:
When we leave this place, how are you going to live in the Spirit, express your belonging, show others they belong, and shout joyfully to God?