Again, welcome back everyone. I am so happy to see all of you and to be able to celebrate Mass for you. The last few months have been very difficult for everyone, and not being able to come to Mass, to receive communion, and so on, has been very burdensome and a trial for the faith of many. Often when something that we are so accustomed to is suddenly taken away we become more appreciative of it. There’s the old saying, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” Hopefully these weeks without the Mass have served to increase everyone’s desire and appreciation for it in a new and deeper way.
There is a lot in our lives that has really been thrown into turmoil to greater or lesser degrees. It is amazing to me how many very ordinary, comfortable things that I just took for granted were suddenly not there. Going to the grocery store and being able to buy anything you wanted. Being able to see friends in person. And then there were all kinds of new things: new regulations and restrictions that seemed to change from week to week. Not knowing exactly what you could and couldn’t do. It’s also amazing to me how quickly our economy, our rights, our sanity can fall apart. How easy it is to be robbed of our peace. How quickly our sense of security in life in general can just vanish.
Several months after the lockdown and there’s no vaccine and still plenty of uncertainty. I think that we will have to start getting used to living with a level of risk that we have never been accustomed to, but a level of risk that most of humanity throughout history have had to live with. Life seems much more precarious now and understandably we don’t like it.
I am reminded of a line from the 1993 film Jurassic Park (still the best of the Jurassic Park films). At this particular point in the movie, the dinosaurs have broken out and started running amok, terrorizing everyone. During a lull in the mayhem, the self-delusional founder of the dinosaur theme park is talking to the visiting scientists about regaining control on the island. And one of them bursts out in anger: “You never had control! That’s the illusion!” I think we are realizing that the idea that we have control of nature and even over much of our lives is an illusion.
Where are the words of comfort, perhaps you are wondering. Well, here they are: in spite of the fact that we live in an uncertain world, in which there is not very much we can really control, we have a reason to hope and even to be at peace. And that reason of course is the Gospel message: that God has sent His Son Our Lord Jesus Christ into the world to suffer and die for the forgiveness of our sins, to rise again on the third day, to ascend to His Father in heaven 40 days later, and then 10 days after that, to send the Holy Spirit upon his disciples to be with the Church until the end of time. And when I say “the Church”, I mean of course all baptized Christians, and that includes you and me.
At baptism and at confirmation, we receive the Holy Spirit and the gifts the Holy Spirit brings. We hear in our readings what some of these gifts are: one of them is unity where before there was division. The division that came about as recorded in the story of the Tower of Babel, when human beings suddenly could no longer understand each other’s languages, is suddenly erased at Pentecost, when all of the Jews gathered in Jerusalem from throughout the Roman Empire can understand the disciples in their own languages.
Another of these gifts is the gift of peace. On the evening of his Resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples gathered behind locked doors, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” And then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit brings peace. And because we have received the Holy Spirit at baptism and at confirmation, we have received the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps you do not feel at peace right now. It’s true that there are times in life when we feel more at peace, and other times less so, and this is often influenced by the circumstances in which we happen to be living at any given moment. But the peace the Holy Spirit brings is an abiding, lasting peace that is not influenced by what’s going on around us. That is what the Lord wants for us. He doesn’t want us to go through life afraid and agitated; He wants us rather to take courage and to be at peace. For this, we need to call on the Holy Spirit again and again. As Christians, we have the power – and even the right – to do that.
Peace of heart is something that we ought to cultivate. It does not come naturally to us human beings. And there are all kinds of things in this fallen world of ours that can and do rob us of our peace. But know that the Lord brings peace, not agitation and fear. And know that that is what the Lord desires for us.
So on this feast of Pentecost, let us call upon the Holy Spirit to come down upon us and to bring us His peace, no matter what is going on in our lives and in the world around us, as we continue our journey through this life to the next.