In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen. My dear parishioners, the Introit for the Vigil of Pentecost, which is taken from the prophet Ezechiel, reads as follows: “When I shall be sanctified in you, I will gather you together out of all the countries. And I will pour upon you clean water, and you shall be cleansed from all your filthiness, and I will give you a new spirit.” Obviously these words were in reference to that miraculous, absolutely magnificent day that occurred many a century ago, that feast of Pentecost on which the Holy Ghost came upon the Blessed Mother and the Apostles in a special way. Not only did He descend upon them, but He so filled their hearts that they began immediately to preach the Faith.
Many miracles took place on that day. We know that, although the Apostles preached in their native language, people that had come to Jerusalem from many different parts of the world heard them speak in their respective languages. About three thousand people were baptized that first Pentecost Sunday. But the miracles go even beyond this, and some are not so readily apparent. It is these that I wish to comment on today.
First of all, not only do we see the miracle of bridging the gap between languages that day, but there was also the miracle of bridging the gap between cultures. A great number of people had come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Jewish feast of Pentecost and for other reasons. Whatever the case, there were people from many different parts of the known world: “Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, Egypt, and the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews also, and proselytes, Cretes, and Arabians....” (Acts 1:9-11). We all know the difficulties encountered in making connections between the various cultures of the world. In this case, however, the Holy Ghost worked a miracle that enabled the Apostles to communicate with people from many different lands.
I am convinced that there was another gap that had to be bridged — that great gap that can be bridged only by forgiveness. Why do I say that? Human nature being what it is, I believe that those who found themselves joined in the Church that day had to forgive one another for past offenses. This brings to mind a modern-day situation that may help to illustrate this point. In the early 1990’s we saw the collapse of many Communist political systems in Europe and elsewhere. Among these was the former Communist country of Yugoslavia. Shortly after this, a vicious war broke out in Bosnia. Why? Those who have studied this particular war — which involved elements of genocide (efforts to exterminate whole classes and groups of people) — discovered that its roots go back 600 years. One group of people, having weapons at their disposal, slaughtered another group because of what their ancestors did several hundred years ago. They took advantage of the opportunity to finally get even. As horrible as the tyranny of the Communists was, their guns and power managed to keep things in check. After their system collapsed, the people began to settle some old scores in the most brutal, vicious way. You’ve read about it. These people did not forgive past offenses.
One of my relatives whom I admire very much, the only surviving uncle on my father’s side, did not escape from Lithuania in 1944 when the Communists moved in. Like many other valiant men whose wives, perhaps, were unable to flee with them because of pregnancy or ill health, he joined the underground. He was caught and was sentenced to 25 years of hard labor in Siberia. Anyone who was sent to Siberia was lucky to ever get out alive. Fortunately, there was an easing of the persecution and my uncle’s sentence was reduced. He served a 10-year sentence in Siberia, but was not allowed to return to his wife and children for another three years. So for thirteen years he was not even part of his family’s life. One of my two cousins had never seen his dad; the other had been too young at the time he was sentenced to remember him. But what impresses me about my uncle, whom I have had the privilege to meet once and with whom I have corresponded, is that I have never heard him express a desire to take revenge.
How can people be so heroic in their forgiveness? The answer is the grace of the Holy Ghost. That is why on that first Pentecost Sunday the Apostles were not only bridging the gap of language, and the gap of culture, they were also doing what I believe is a very important thing: they were forgiving. Things were very warlike back then. There had to be offenses taken and given. But the Holy Ghost helped them to set those differences aside and united them in the true Faith. Through His grace and His gifts, He brought about a unity which otherwise would have been impossible.
The ultimate solution for conflicts such as that which we see on the Balkan Peninsula is for the people there to cooperate with the grace of the Holy Ghost. If this would be done, the senselessness would stop. But when men try to apply a political solution to a spiritual problem, they will find that their solution will never be adequate. As soon as the peacekeepers are taken out, the conflict will resume. What is lacking is forgiveness, and the grace of the Holy Ghost working in the souls of those people, for that is what they need.
The Holy Ghost is the source of the marvelous unity we see in the Catholic Church, in which people of different cultures, different languages, and different backgrounds, are brought together in the one true Faith, the same Holy Mass, the same Sacraments. Isn’t that a wonderful miracle in itself? And it happens every day that the Catholic Church exists. It’s a miracle that keeps happening over and over again. I must stress, however, that even though the Holy Ghost is the principle of unity and the Spirit of love and of truth, He can in no way condone the false ecumenism of our day.
Many people make the mistake of believing that “out of love we must accept other people’s errors and sins.” We see nothing of the sort in the pages of Holy Scripture; we see nothing of the sort in the teaching of the Apostles. But what do we see in the modern day Catholic religion? We see a constant effort to ecumenize, which means giving away Catholic belief and practice, so that we do not offend our non-Catholic acquaintances. Is that what the Apostles did? No. The Apostles went out and preached the Faith, telling their listeners, in effect, “This is the way to save your soul. If you do not accept it, you will not save your soul.” Modern ecumenism, on the other hand, says “Let’s find the good in the false religions.” This is an abandonment of the teachings of Christ.
Look at the modern day Catholic Church. It does not even look Catholic any more; it looks Protestant. In their mad rush to ecumenize, the modernists gave the Faith away. I have heard people say that many a Protestant church looks more Catholic than the so-called Catholic churches today, many of which look like empty halls. Gone are the beautiful altars, crucifixes, statues, stations of the cross. They have given their faith away! That is not what Christ taught.
We see in our modern society a push to accept sin in the name of love. In the name of love we are urged to accept abortion, homosexual behavior, divorce and remarriage, and free love. If you do not accept such things, you are intolerant, uncharitable. Did the Apostles preach that people could continue committing sin? No, the Apostles made war on sin, because sin is what makes people lose their souls in hell. That is the true spirit of Catholicism. That is the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of Love and Truth. True love means telling the truth; it does not mean accepting sin as okay. We love the sinner, yes, but we show our love for them by pointing out what they need to do, what sins they must give up if they wish to save their souls. That is what the Spirit of Love and Truth is all about.
What is the solution for these problems in the modern Catholic Church and in society? It is the Holy Ghost. We see divisions even within the traditional Catholic movement. Not divisions in faith, because we all agree on the Mass, the traditional sacraments and teachings of the Church, but differences in policies and approaches often keep bishops and priests and laity far apart from one another. How are we going to solve that problem? You know the answer. It is the Holy Ghost. What He did at Pentecost He can and will do again. Sometimes we even see divisions within traditional Catholic parishes. A person might say, “Well, I will go to church, but I will have nothing to do with that person. I don’t want to talk to him because of what he did, and I don’t want to forgive him.” How can we resolve that problem? You know the answer. The grace of the Holy Ghost will help us do what we never thought possible.
Speaking of unity, I am reminded of what Benjamin Franklin said at the Constitutional Convention of the United States, a convention that was fraught with difficulty and in danger of dissolving on more than one occasion. If it had, the United States of America would not exist today. He said, with his dry wit, “Gentlemen, if we don’t hang together, we are all going to hang separately — by our necks. Our enemies will get the best of us.” We can apply this to the spiritual life. We are involved in a spiritual warfare, whether we want to accept it or not. We need to work together for our spiritual goals. This does not mean that we are going to resolve all of our differences, or that all of our acrimonious feelings towards others will suddenly dissolve. It does mean, however, that the Holy Ghost will help us to rise above our human nature, and, filled with His love and His truth, be zealous in living and spreading the Faith and in fostering a strong bond among ourselves as members of the true Church.
Besides everything I have told you so far, we must remember how important the Holy Ghost is. Our Lord could have given the Apostles all the graces they needed, but the Holy Ghost was meant to come to them on Pentecost to enlighten them. In the Gospel for Ascension Thursday, the Apostles were still asking, “Lord, are you now going to restore the kingdom of Israel?” You can almost imagine Our Lord shaking His head. How often He had told them that His kingdom was not of this world, and still they did not understand. Even after His Ascension, they were still afraid. But after that first novena, the Holy Ghost enabled them to finally grasp what Christ’s teachings were all about. Even though the three Divine Persons, being one God, work perfectly together, we ascribe to them different functions: the Father creates, the Son redeems, the Holy Ghost sanctifies.
Do you sometimes wonder why you encounter so much frustration in prayer, why God does not seem to answer your prayers? It is because you never or but rarely pray to the Holy Ghost. We pray to the Father whenever we say the Our Father, and we pray to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. But the Holy Ghost is often called the “Forgotten Person of the Trinity.” Yet if you do not pray to Him, you will not receive the graces that are destined to come to you from Him.
On this Pentecost Sunday, then, let us renew our devotion to the Holy Ghost. Let Him not be forgotten in our lives. He has been called the Soul of our soul, because He dwells within our souls when we possess sanctifying grace; we are His temples. Isn’t it strange that, although the Holy Ghost lives in us, we seldom think about Him? What a wonderful message we are given in the holy liturgy of Pentecost Sunday, the day on which we celebrate the birthday of the Church. The Father created us, the Son redeemed us, and now the great work of the Holy Ghost goes on until the end of time: the sanctification of our souls.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.