SAN DIEGO — Bishop Robert W. McElroy, of the Catholic Diocese of San Diego, delivered the following Homily at the Pentecost Mass for All People, on May 22, 2021, at Good Shepherd Church. Around 1,000 faithful attended the event.
We have heard today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles so many times in our lives that it is easy to take the experience of Pentecost for granted, to lose sight of the miraculous nature of this feast and why it is so important in this particular year as we emerge from the Covid pandemic.
For it is only when we examine the reading from Acts alongside of today’s Gospel that we can comprehend the relationship between the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and the animation of the missionary work of the Church through the grace of the Holy Spirit.
Catholic teaching testifies that the entire reality of our faith has been revealed in the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. In the Resurrection appearances, the Lord not only explains, but makes manifest the miracle of His presence on this earth and the fundamental realities of our salvation. The continuing of God’s revelation to the people of Israel, the words of the prophets and the incredible love and power of the incarnation signal to the disciples after the Resurrection the essential truths of our faith in depth and magnificence.
What then, does the coming of the Holy Spirit add?
We have only to look at the behavior of the Apostles after the Ascension to understand how critical the gift of the Holy Spirit was.
The Apostles are bewildered by the Ascension. Even more importantly they are dejected. They understand the truths of our faith, but they do not understand that their role has radically changed. They are frightened and passive, waiting in the Upper Room.
It is only when the Holy Spirit comes upon them that they understand and take up their missionary role in the world, proclaiming the core message of our faith, going outward amidst the obstacles that confront them, recognizing that the Gospel has been handed on to them to propagate to every land and race and people.
The descent of the Holy Spirit does not bring new truths to the Apostles. Rather, it brings a new understanding of their role in the life of the Church and the world. It is a moment of reset for them and for humankind itself. They are called to proclaim the enduring presence of Christ in the world, especially in the Eucharist. They are called to form One Body of Christ from the richly diverse peoples assembled in Jerusalem. Finally, they are called to bring a missionary spirit to the entire life of the Church that is emerging.
In reality the central impact of the coming of the Holy Spirit did not bring any new revelations about the core of Christian faith, but it oriented the apostolic witness and outreach of the Church in a radical way.
That is why this particular Pentecost is the moment our diocese has chosen to reset our sacramental life, our community life and our missionary identity after the trauma of Covid. The personal tragedies of the pandemic in San Diego and Imperial Counties still remain as wounds in our hearts and souls. And we recognize that much hard work still remains to bring recovery to our own society and to the whole of our world, which is starving for vaccines.
The reset that begins this day in our diocese focuses initially on removing constraints in the normal life and practices of our parishes and institutions.
But the much deeper reality of our reset will unfold during the coming months. For we must recognize that the Holy Spirit calls us in this year not only to recover old patterns, but to undertake a new level of conversion and renewal that can enhance every facet of our ecclesial life.
We must forge a comprehensive conceptual and effective catechesis on the Eucharist, the magnificent gift of God’s real presence that forms our parishes around the altar of the Lord. We must deepen the community dimensions of life in this local Church by emphasizing the inclusion of every person in the mandate to contribute to the life of our parishes and institutions through their gifts, embodying the teaching of today’s second reading that the Church inescapably represents the differing gifts of all set within the One Body of Christ. And we must reinvigorate our missionary identity and vocation. The pandemic cannot be primarily an event that sapped our energy and dampened our spirits. Rather, it must become a moment that reminds us of the importance of faith and community, Eucharist and reconciliation, outreach and sacrifice undertaken in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Throughout the pandemic, Pope Francis has continually reminded us of the oneness of the human family and the reality that we are all linked together on our earthly pilgrimage.
You stand before us at the embodiment of that reality, the beauteous tapestry of many lands and cultures that constitutes the human family and the Catholic Church. And in the joy and unity of this moment, we help to make the presence of God truly manifest in our world.