Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Homily for Holy Spirit Catholic Community, Pentecost Sunday, May 24th by Beverly Bingle, RCWP

It’s been circulated widely,
on EWTN and in various print and internet versions.
It makes a claim
that we who are cradle Catholics have heard since childhood—
that Jesus founded the Catholic Church
and it’s still the same church it was in the year 33.
But that’s not true.
Jesus was a Jew, faithful to the end.
His apostles and his disciples, all Jewish,
continued gathering as Jews who followed the Way of Jesus,
in an ecclesia, a Greek word that means assembly.
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Both Peter and Paul died in the mid- to late-60s,
before the Romans leveled the temple in Jerusalem
and before the split of Christian Jews from other Jews.
It was the inability of those disparate communities of Jews
to dialogue that led to the split
and the eventual consideration of Jewish Christians
as separate “ecclesia.”
Eventually that ecclesia came to be translated
not as assembly but as church.
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The statement in Acts 11
about first being called “Christians” in Antioch
was written no earlier than the last decade of the first century,
more than 20 years after the destruction of the temple
and subsequent splitting off of the Christian Jews.
All four of the Gospels were written
after the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem,
that is, after the year 70 AD.
What that means is that the scriptural references
that present Jesus as founding a church
came about because the writers
interpreted their own experience
of the dissension and the split
as they imagined Jesus would have responded to it.
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What was it that Jesus did, if he didn’t “found a church?”
We can be certain that he called his Jewish brothers and sisters
to take the Jewish tradition seriously.
The shema was the prayer that guided his life:
Hear, O Israel! God is God, and God alone.
And you shall love God with all your heart, mind, and soul.
For Jesus, the exodus out of slavery
and the release from exile
framed the covenant relationship:
God is faithful and does not abandon us.
We are therefore called to be faithful to God.
And we can be certain that he pointed out the failure of leaders,
both political and religious,
to live in right relationship to God and each other,
and that he called them to repent
and believe the good news
that God loves and forgives everyone.
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Our lectionary gives us a wide choice of readings
for this Pentecost feast,
all of them having to do
with the action of God’s Spirit among us.
In our first reading from the prophet Ezekiel,
we are uplifted by the vivid image of those dry bones rising up
and God’s promise to put the Spirit in us that we may live.
Then the passage from Paul’s letter to the Romans
assures us that the Spirit helps us
when we don’t know how to pray,
interceding with those inexpressible groanings
that we’re all familiar with.
And the pericope from John’s Gospel,
high Christology that it is with its metaphor of living water,
tells us not about a claim that Jesus made
but of the impact Jesus has
on the community that is trying to follow his Way.
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Whether we ponder the usual readings
about the Pentecost experience in the Upper Room
or the call to peace and forgiveness
or the readings we heard at this Mass,
we have to ask ourselves what this ecclesia,
this assembly of God’s holy people,
means for us?
For many of us,
it’s easier to point to things that our church is NOT:
not the church of child sex abuse and cover-up,
not the church of pelvic theology,
not the church of exclusion,
not the church of a salvation
that’s limited to a few perfect people.
When we started to gather as an intentional Eucharistic community
more than two years ago,
we named our ecclesia in honor of the Holy Spirit,
the breath of God
that we have each experienced in our own way
as we stumble and struggle along the path.
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In our church of the Holy Spirit,
we know the power of the Spirit
that breathed over the waters in Genesis,
the rejuvenation of the Spirit
that enlivened the dry bones of Ezekiel’s Israel.
We know the presence of the Spirit
that filled Jesus of Nazareth
with wisdom and grace and integrity and fidelity,
the courage of the Spirit
that emboldened Jesus’ followers
to continue in the Way he taught them.
That same Spirit remains with us,
quickening us with the gifts and fruits of peace and love.
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I regularly experience that Spirit down at Claver House.
After I missed a few days there last week,
John, one of the guests who struggles with COPD,
phoned to find out if I was okay.
This week George,
that wonderfully witty octogenarian Korean War vet,
brought me one of his canes to use until my knee gets better.
I experience that same Spirit here,
in the phone calls and emails asking how I’m doing
and if I need help with anything,
and the homemade vegetarian soup
sent home with me after Mass,
and the new scheduling of Mass setup volunteers.
Most of all, I see and hear that same Spirit
in your generosity to your families and friends and neighbors,
in your calls to one another through the week,
in your self-giving choices on the job
and in Tree Toledo
and the trunk-full of donations
that you give me to deliver around town on Mondays
and a virtually limitless number
of other good works that you do.
At a Call to Action meeting last Monday one of the participants
wondered how Dorothy Day had ended up
being the holy person she was,
and I found great affirmation in the answer.
She struggled and made mistakes and learned from them;
she prayed and reflected and tried to do what was right;
she listened to the Spirit
and grew stronger through the process.
She ended up becoming a remarkably whole human being.
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What I see when I look out over this community
is a holy people
following the Way of Jesus—
seriously concentrating
time and energy and talent and resources
on serving the one God of us all,
fully alive in the Spirit.
I can read a book about Dorothy Day,
but I see the Spirit alive in you.
Glory be to God!
And thank you.

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