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? 

I have never been one to keep silent about issues that affect others. And I am not going to start now.

I have heard much back and forth about politics of late, and have said my piece about where I stand. But as a Christian, as a Religious, and as a Priest, I must say more – regardless the personal cost.

Many that voted for the current president say they voted for him because of changes he promised, they liked what he said about “making America great again,” and looked the other direction at the racist actions and the hatred that spewed from his mouth. They turned a blind eye to how he treats women, how he refuses to pay for work done.   These same people are remaining silent in the face of what is happening right now in our country and around the world.  

Silence is consent.  If you are not actively raising your voice against the violence that has been an ongoing part of the campaign and now the administration, then you are honestly part of the problem and somewhere deep down, you agree with it. Otherwise, you would be fighting against it.

Strong words I know, and I know that some will be offended and outraged that they were called out as part of the problem. Oh well! Sometimes the truth hurts. 

Many have forgot what it means to be Christian.  Oh, they say all the right words, sometimes, and use God’s name constantly, and swear on the bible that they are followers of Christ.  But a true follower of Christ would be hurt to the quick with how humans are being treated right now in this country and yes, around the world. 

A true follow of Jesus would be shedding tears over how the Indigenous people are being treated because of an oil pipeline; over the silence in Flint, MI over the contaminated water; over the cruelty being shown to immigrants here on US soil.  The list goes on and on.

You say God hates queers, and blacks, and Asians, and Mexicans, and whoever else you dislike.  I beg to differ with you.  God doesn’t hate anyone – you do! And please don’t quote antiquated scripture verses that were meant for a specific people at a specific time.  Don’t quote me that a man that lies with another man is an abomination while you stuff your face with ham and wear clothes made of mixed fibers.  You are not able to pick and choose what you wish to follow from scripture. It’s not a cafeteria line.

Jesus never once spoke against anyone except those that used religion to hold people down. Jesus never once turned his back on anyone, and even went so far as to break down the taboos of his own people. He touched lepers, he talked with Samaritans, he fed the hungry, healed the sick – regardless of who they were, and taught only love.

If you cannot bring yourself to show compassion to another human being, yet call yourself Christian, then you are part of the problem, and yes, I will say it, you are not a Christian.  If you are so filled with anger and hatred because someone isn’t exactly like you and doesn’t think and believe exactly as you do, then you are part of the problem.

Loving Jesus and being a follow of Jesus requires us to love unconditionally, just as He did.  To love without counting the cost, without looking at the color of their skin, or who they love, or what they wear, or where they are from. Loving Jesus means you love others. PERIOD.

And if by chance you are not popular with your friends because you choose to love as Jesus loves, then you need to find new friends – real friends.

Yes, the cost of following Christ is high. You must give up living for yourself and concerns about only yourself. You must think about others and their needs.  You must refocus your attention to taking care of the least among us, and even to using your own resources if necessary. You must get used to having people hate you because you refuse to hate others. You must realize that everything you have – everything- is a gift from God and no, you didn’t earn it, and no, you don’t deserve it.

You must realize that God’s love for you is something that you can’t earn, can’t repay except in love of others, and something that no, you don’t deserve, but He loves you anyway, in spite of yourself.  And because of that unconditional love God has for you – you are required to love each and every person the same way.  You may not like how they are living their lives, or how they treat other people, but you are not called to judge, you are called to love.

You will no doubt say, “then why am I judging anyone and saying they are not Christian?”  I am not judging, I am pointing out very simply that if you are not being Jesus to everyone, you simply are not being Jesus at all.

During this Holy Week and the upcoming Easter season I encourage you to reach out and love unconditionally, without counting the cost.  Jesus loved you enough to die for you. Can you die to self and reach out in love and compassion to all?