June 4, 2017

Pentecost Sunday


Pentecost (meaning “50th day”) is the 50th day of the Easter season, which it also concludes. Having been raised from the dead on Easter, Jesus was “taken up” to heaven in his glorified body on the 40th day (the Ascension). Now, on Pentecost, he fulfills the promise to send his Spirit, which makes him present in his Church (and in each baptized member) in a new, abiding, mystical way. The paschal mystery is thus complete.

Pentecost was the Greek and Latin name for the old Jewish harvest festival, the Feast of Weeks; but as we see in Acts, the new Christian “harvest” is one of souls “from every nation under heaven” (2:5). The Spirit now reverses the linguistic divisions created at Babel and empowers the disciples to preach boldly in every tongue. Pentecost is a vital part of the divine plan to “renew the face of the earth.”

Alyce M. McKenzie, a professor of homiletics at the Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University, tells of a priest friend named Frank, who was in his mid-30s when the call to ministry took him by surprise. He was fine with program planning, working with volunteers, even leading small groups, but preaching scared him to death. Frank was so nervous about preaching that he resorted to prayer. Every day for 20 minutes he would picture himself preaching with Jesus standing next to him with his arm around his shoulder. He told McKenzie, “Alyce, it wasn’t a magic cure, but each week, preaching got a little more bearable, degree by degree.”

McKenzie recounts: “One Sunday, a young mom came up to Frank with her daughter, Ashley.... She was 7, and she was shy. But her mom said, ‘Father Frank, Ashley has something to show you.’ Frank knelt to be at eye level, and Ashley held out her children’s bulletin. She said, softly, ‘Look at what I drew today. This is you, Father Frank. And guess who this is?’ It was Jesus, of course, with his arm around Frank’s shoulder. The ‘inside story’ of Pentecost is a story in progress.”

Kansas? Or Heaven?

“The wizard [of Oz] says look inside yourself and find self. God says look inside yourself and find [the Holy Spirit]. The first will get you to Kansas. The latter will get you to heaven. Take your pick.”

— Max Lucado, “Experiencing the Heart of Jesus” (Thomas Nelson, $17.99)

Homily Helps for the May issue were written by FATHER DAN RUFF, SJ, who teaches homiletics as an adjunct faculty member at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pa., and is a full-time member of the campus ministry staff at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.