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05/15/16 Pentecost Sunday - Fr. Reggie

The context of the words Jesus speaks in this Gospel is crucial. He is with his Apostles at the Last Supper, and he has just explained to them that he will be leaving. He has to go back to his Father. He recognizes that this news is upsetting to the Apostles. They have left everything in order to follow Christ, and now Jesus tells them that he is leaving. But Jesus then gives them some mysterious news. He promises that although he has to go back to his Father, he will not leave them alone.

Once Jesus is back in heaven, he will be able to stay closer than ever to his followers, because he and the Father will send them the "Advocate to be with them always" the "Paraclete", the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Blessed Trinity. He is the love between the Father and Son lived so intensely that he is a person himself. When we are baptized, that same Spirit takes up residence within our souls, and he brings Jesus and God the Father along with him - because where one is, all three are. The influence and action of the Holy Spirit in our lives increases when we are confirmed. This gift surpasses all other gifts.

In the Holy Spirit, the prophecy of "Emmanuel" (God-with-us) takes on unimaginable proportions: not merely God among us, as in the Incarnation, but God within us, a guest in our souls, a guide for our life's journey, a personal trainer for our spiritual fitness.

This is the gift we celebrate today, on Pentecost. God himself has come to be our constant companion in life. What greater gift could Christ have left us?

This is why God chose to reveal his name to us. In the Old Testament, it was forbidden to call God by his name - the sacred name was spoken only once a year, by the high priest, during the penitential sacrifice on the Day of Atonement. Since God is ever-present, saying his name immediately draws his attention, and the ancient Israelites didn't want to do that, because they recognized their sinfulness and feared that the divine presence would destroy them. So they kept God at a distance by not using his name. But all that changed with the Incarnation. By becoming man, Jesus paid the price for our sins, and he also made himself one of us. He took a name that he wants us to use all the time, because he wants us to invite him into every corner of our lives so he can shower us with his grace.

There is power in the name of Jesus when we speak it with faith, which is why St Paul says that no one can call Jesus Lord except by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3).

There is a famous story about a Franciscan brother who was on his deathbed. He had a terrible vision in which he faced the judgment seat of God and had to give an account of his whole life. He was not conscious of any mortal sin, but the examination was so strict that he was on the verge of despair. At that moment, the Blessed Virgin Mary came to console him. She said: "My child, say one hundred times the most holy name of Jesus, and you will obtain pardon for your faults."

He followed her instructions and felt the flood of God's mercy wash over his soul, and died in peace, singing a hymn to the holy name of Jesus.

Today, as we commemorate Pentecost, this great gift of God's constant, intimate companionship, our hearts should be full of gratitude. We never have to be alone anymore. The one who knows us and loves us dwells in our hearts and is always there to guide us.

Unfortunately, this is a truth that we often forget. The hustle and bustle of life tends to distract us. That's a tragedy, because only God's companionship, only our friendship with him can give us the peace, meaning, and inner strength we yearn for.

So how do we keep ourselves from being distracted? Jesus has given us a secret weapon for this very purpose. He knows that one of the reasons it's hard for us to remember that he is in our hearts, is because we can't see our hearts, and so we can't see him there.

And so he has given us a presence that we can see - his real presence in the Eucharist. After Mass, the priest gathers together the consecrated communion hosts and puts them in a golden ciborium. Then he puts the ciborium in the golden box near the altar, called the tabernacle.  A red sanctuary lamp burns close to the tabernacle. It is there to remind us that the real presence of Christ, the same presence we receive in Holy Communion, is still there. That red flame symbolizes Christ's burning love for us. It is the continuation of the tongues of fire that appeared on the first Pentecost.

If we come frequently to the tabernacle during the week, we can be sure that that same fire will purify the hustle and bustle of our lives, constantly reminding us of the treasure we bear in our hearts.


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