Curated Homily illustrations and anecdotes with videos from Fr. Tony Kadavil relating to Sunday’s readings; Fr. Tony’s homily summaries and exegesis
MOVIE: Being John Malkovich
In the very strange 1999 surrealist movie, Being John Malkovich, someone discovers a portal into Malkovich’s mind, enabling visitors to see and experience things through his body and to influence his actions. He becomes aware of what’s happening and finds the portal himself. At the climax of the movie, there is a bizarre but powerful scene when he enters the portal, being swept down a dark tunnel with a roaring sound to emerge as a participant/observer in his own world. He discovers that everyone has his face and his voice, and every word spoken is in his name.
Connections with the Pentecost story: the paradox of the Creator entering his own creation by an unexplainable power; the potential of the portal to connect people in an unprecedented kind of indwelling. But the exploitation of the portal by those who find it — selling access, allowing it to be used to violate someone’s integrity — reminds me of all who abuse the gift of the Spirit for their own ends or to manipulate others. Seeing the face of Malkovich everywhere reminds me of the Spirit making Jesus present through us in a new and all-encompassing way. We are recognizably Christ-like, though still ourselves, and all we say and do is “in his Name.” It’s a frightening moment in the movie, because Malkovich has no wish to become omnipresent as a Christ-figure, but the image is powerful. (Marnie Barre, Film insights in The Text this Week; quoted by Fr. Botelho).
Wilma Rudolph winning Olympics gold medals
Neil T. Anderson, in his book Victory over Darkness, tells a thrilling story about a little girl born with major health problems which left her crippled. She had a large, wonderful Christian family. Her mother used to tell her. “If you believe, God will make it happen. You will be able to run around like your brothers and sisters.” She took her mother’s counsel to heart and began to believe that God could heal her.
She practiced walking without her braces with the aid of her brothers and sisters. On her twelfth birthday, she surprised her parents and her doctors by removing her braces and walking around the doctor’s office unassisted. She never wore the braces again.
Her next goal was to play basketball. The coach only agreed to let her play as a means of getting her older sister on the team. One day she approached the coach and promised him if he would give her an extra 10 minutes of coaching each day, she would give him a world-class athlete. He laughed, but seeing she was serious, half-heartedly agreed. Before long her determination paid off. She was one of the team’s best players. Her team went to the state basketball championships.
One of the referees noticed her exceptional ability. He asked if she had ever run track. She hadn’t. He encouraged her to try it. So after the basketball season she went out for track. She began winning races and earned a berth in the state championships. At the age of 16, she was one of the best young runners in the country.
She went to the Olympics in Australia and won a bronze medal for anchoring the 400meter relay team. Four years later in Rome she won the 100-meter dash, the 200meter dash and anchored the winning 400-meter relay team “all in world-record times.” Wilma Rudolph capped the year by receiving the prestigious Sullivan Award as the most outstanding amateur athlete in America. Her faith and hard work had paid off. [Neil T. Anderson, Victory over Darkness (Ventura, California: Regal Books, 1990), pp. 107-108.]
In a sense, that is what Pentecost is about. People opened themselves to the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit empowered them to do things they never dreamed possible. Pentecost is about empowerment: “a small group of folks turned the world upside down.”
In yachting, no wind means no race!
Rev. Alan Walker of Australia often tells about the race of the sailing yachts in which Australia finally defeated the USA for the prized America’s Cup. For 132 years, the cup was kept and defended by the United States. Again, and again there were challenges for the cup, but each time it was retained by the USA. Finally, in 1983 Australia mounted a serious challenge on the waters off Newport, Rhode Island.. The event took place as scheduled, and after six races, the two yachts were deadlocked at three wins each. Now the whole world seemed to take notice. Australia was alive with anticipation. The sporting world was focused on the race.
The day came for the final race. After more than 100 years, the United States was in danger of losing its very precious cup. Thousands of people came to watch the race on September 24. Television cameras were ready to beam the race by satellite around the world. The crews were ready. The boats were polished. The yachts pulled into place at the starting line. All was ready, but there was no race! There was not enough wind. In yachting, no wind means no race!”
The race was rescheduled two days later. At 5.21pm Australia II crossed the finish line 41 seconds ahead of Liberty.
In the life of the Church, as in yachting, no wind, no race. Who would deny that the Church today lacks power, life, energy, excitement? The Church today needs the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit of God is the melody that energizes the Church
In the last years of his life, the great cellist and conductor Pablo Casals suffered greatly from rheumatoid arthritis and emphysema. At 90, he was badly stooped, and his head pitched forward; his breathing was labored. He needed the help of his wife, Marta, to get dressed in the morning. Marta would then help him shuffle into his studio where he would, with great difficulty, arrange himself on the piano bench. Casals would then manage to raise his swollen, clenched fingers above the keyboard.
A visitor describes what he saw next one particular morning: “I was not prepared for the miracle that was about to happen. The fingers slowly unlocked and reached toward the keys like the buds of a plant toward the sunlight. His back straightened. He seemed to breathe more freely. Now his fingers settled on the keys. Then came the opening bars of Bach’s Wohltemperierte Klavier [Well-tempered Clavier], played with great sensitivity and control . . . He hummed as he played, then said that Bach ‘spoke to him here’ – and he placed his hand over his heart. Then he plunged into a Brahms concerto and his fingers, now agile and powerful, raced across the keyboard with dazzling speed. His entire body seemed fused with the music; it was no longer stiff and shrunken but supple and graceful and completely freed of its arthritic coils. Having finished the piece, he stood up by himself, far straighter and taller than when he had come into the room. He walked to the breakfast table with no trace of a shuffle, ate heartily, talked animatedly, finished the meal, then went for a walk on the beach.”
(From Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient: Reflections on Healing and Regeneration by Norman Cousins).
Like music that inspires and exhilarates, the Spirit of God is the melody that energizes the Church, uniting our many different voices into the song of the Love of God. God has formed us into a community, or Church, an instrument for bringing His life and love into our world. But what makes our Church more than just a gathering of good people is His “Breath” infusing the Church with the music of His Divinity. Today we celebrate that presence. In Jesus’ breathing upon the assembled disciples on Easter night the new life of the Holy Spirit, the community of the Resurrection — the Church — takes flight. That same Holy Spirit continues to “blow” through today’s Church giving life and direction to our mission and ministry to preach the Gospel to every nation, to immerse all of humanity into the music of God’s love and the symphony of the Resurrection.
Paradigm Shifts in Watches
If in 1968 someone had asked which country would dominate watch-making in the 1990s, most people would have said Switzerland. This is because Switzerland had dominated the world of watch- making for the preceding sixty years. They had led the search for new ways to manufacture better and more durable watch parts. They had developed the best waterproofing techniques. In fact, in 1968 the Swiss made 65% of all watches sold in the world, and laid claim to 90% of the profits. However, by 1980 in Switzerland, watchmakers had been laid off by the thousands and the Swiss controlled a paltry 10% of the watch market. Why? The Swiss had ignored an important new development, the Quartz Movement. Ironically, it was a Swiss who invented the Quartz movement, but the innovation was rejected because the resulting watch had no mainspring or knob. That was too much of a paradigm shift for them to embrace. It was too new and too strange. NOTE: The watch industry has gone through at least 3 paradigm shifts in our lifetime and a 4th shift is going on right now (ie. Smart Watches)!
Today’s text from Acts tells of a powerful paradigm shift in the people of God demanded by “God’s deeds of power,” the miraculous activities that accompanied the descent of the Holy Spirit on the apostles and Mary, the Mother of God and of the Church.
Speaking the same language
In 1887, Dr. Ludwig Zamenhof, a Polish linguist, constructed a new language that could be shared by people throughout the world. The artificial language Dr. Zamenhof created is called Esperanto, “the language of hope.” The name signifies hope for humankind that a common language might heal the divisions that exist among the different peoples of the earth.
The feast of Pentecost is the Church’s celebration of her unity and universality in the Holy Spirit, and so some of the readings used express this in terms of language. Dr. Zamenhof’s invention of Esperanto as a universal language has been followed by the establishment of the United Nations Assembly and simultaneous translation, by Summit meetings of the heads of nations, by cultural exchanges, and by the revival of the Olympic Games. But Pentecost is more than a work of human creation, more than a work of art and music. Pentecost is a new outpouring of God’s Spirit into our hearts to kindle in us the fire of his love (Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds).
Paderewski immortalizing a boy’s music
Once, a mother took her five-year-old son with her to a concert by Ignace Paderewski, the great Polish pianist. The mother and her son got their seats close to the stage. Then the mother met her old friend and got involved talking with her. She failed to notice that her son had slipped away to do some exploring. At the right time the lights dimmed and the spot light came on. Only then did the mother see her five-year-old son on the stage, sitting on the piano bench, innocently picking out “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little star.” Before she could retrieve her son, Paderewski walked on to the stage. Walking over to the piano, he whispered to the boy, “Don’t stop! Keep playing.” Then, leaning over the boy, Paderewski reached out his left hand and began to fill in the bass. Later, he reached around the other side of the boy and added a running obbligato. Together, the great maestro and the tiny five-year-old mesmerized the audience with their playing.
The image of the great maestro and the tiny five-year-old at the piano makes a fitting image of the Holy Spirit coming upon the disciples. On the first Pentecost, the Holy Spirit whispered encouragement to the disciples. The Holy Spirit transformed the feeble efforts of the disciples into something powerful. (John Pichappilly in The Table of the Word; quoted by Fr. Botelho).
All Mr. Yates needed was suddenly provided
During the Great Depression, a man by the name of Yates owned a sheep ranch in West Texas. Day by day he grazed his sheep and wondered how he was going to pay his bills. It was in the middle of the Depression, and even government subsidies would not give him enough income to break even. Then one day an oil company came to town. They asked permission to drill a wildcat well on Mr. Yates’ land. At 1,115 feet, they struck oil to the tune of 80,000 barrels a day. All Mr. Yates needed was suddenly provided.
When I read that old story, one that Bill Bright tells, I wondered if it might be a parable of our spiritual life. “All I have needed Thy hands have provided,” sings the hymn, Great is Thy Faithfulness. That is a parable of our spiritual life. The power we need to become what God intended us to be is already in our souls in the form of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
“Oh, it sleeps about eighty.”
A family driving a large camper pulled up in front of the Church just as the pastor started toward home. Desiring to be friendly, the pastor introduced himself and expressed his admiration for the camper. The man of the family told him rather proudly: “This camper sleeps eight people.” Then he asked: “What is the capacity of your Church, Pastor?” The beleaguered pastor replied rather glumly, “Oh, it sleeps about eighty.”
It is embarrassing sometimes how little the modern-day Churches resemble the Church that first Pentecost: the sound of a wind-storm, tongues of fire, disciples speaking in different languages, thousands being added to the Church and lots of excitement – excitement everywhere!
“I’m gonna run her through that thing one time.”
Two brothers grew up on a farm in a rural area near Cairo, Georgia. One brother took to education like a duck to water. He graduated from Georgia Tech and became a renowned engineer in Chicago. The other brother was content to stay home and farm. Some years later, the learned brother was invited to give a speech in Atlanta at the Peachtree Plaza Hotel. He had not seen his brother in a long while so he invited him to bring his family to the hotel and spend a little time with him. The rural brother had never been in a town bigger than Cairo. He and his wife and son piled into their pickup truck and headed for Atlanta. After a fearful experience on the interstate highways, they pulled up in front of the Peachtree Plaza. The farmer left his wife in the truck. He and his son went inside to check in. Just inside the entrance were a number of elevators. The farmer had never seen one before. He watched a large, very plain, middle-aged lady step inside one of those little rooms. The doors closed. After about a minute, the doors opened and out stepped a young lady who was a vision of loveliness. The farmer’s eyes bugged out. Quickly he punched his son and said, “Boy, go get your Maw. I’m gonna run her through that thing one time!”
At Pentecost, a ragged aggregation of misfits was transformed into a disciplined cadre of spiritual storm troopers. The wimps became warriors!
Torch and Bucket
There is the story of a person who saw an angel walking down the street. The angel was carrying a torch in one hand and a bucket of water in the other. “What are you going to do with that torch and that bucket of water?” the person asked. The angel stopped abruptly, looked at the person and said, “With the torch, I’m going to burn down the mansions of Heaven, and with the bucket of water, I’m going to put out the fires of hell. Then we’re going to see who really loves God. The angel’s point is that many people obey God’s Commandments out of fear of punishment of Hell or hope of reward in Heaven. They don’t obey him for the reason Jesus gives in today’s Gospel: they don’t obey them out of love. “If you love me,” Jesus says in today’s reading, “you will obey my commandments.” (Mark Link in Sunday Homilies).
Do you belong to a Pentecostal church?
During the Italian occupation of Ethiopia in the days of Mussolini, Christian believers suffered considerable persecution. In his book, Fire on the Mountains, Raymond Davis tells of the love demonstrated by believers for each other during this period of affliction, which in turn made a major impression on unbelievers. For example, no provision had been made by the invading army to feed the prisoners they had taken. This was the responsibility of relatives and friends. Christians in the prisons had no problem, though. They were well cared for by friends and family. In fact, so much food was brought them by fellow believers and Church groups that enough remained to feed the unbelieving prisoners also. This observable love, vibrant though nonverbal, brought many to seek the Lord. Such love had previously been unheard of. As a result the word spread far and wide. Non-believers sought out believers to learn more about the Christian Faith. When prisoners who had come to know Christ while in jail were released, they went back home and attended the nearest Church. [Leslie B. Flynn, You Don’t Have To Go It Alone, (Denver, Colorado: Accent Books, 1981).]
It is only right, then, that we should pray that we might be a “Pentecostal Church,” if we understand what that means.
“I need to know if you are Pentecostal.”
The well-known author and preacher, Fred Craddock, tells a rather funny story about a lecture he was giving: A few years ago, when he was on the West Coast speaking at a seminary, just before the first lecture, one of the students stood up and said, “Before you speak, I need to know if you are Pentecostal.” The room grew silent. Craddock said he looked around for the Dean of the Seminary! He was nowhere to be found. The student continued with his quiz right in front of everybody. Craddock was taken aback, and so he said, “Do you mean do I belong to the Pentecostal Church?” He said, “No, I mean are you Pentecostal?” Craddock said, “Are you asking me if I am charismatic?” the student said, “I am asking you if you are Pentecostal.” Craddock said, “Do you want to know if I speak in tongues?” He said, “I want to know if you are Pentecostal.” Craddock said, “I don’t know what your question is.” The student said, “Obviously, you are not Pentecostal.” He left.
What are we talking about this morning? Is the Church supposed to use the word Pentecost only as a noun or can it be used as an adjective? And so I ask you: Are you Pentecostal? If the Church is alive in the world, it is Pentecostal. The Church is alive if we are in one accord, sharing our blessings with the less fortunate ones, if we are joined together in prayer and if we are repenting people asking forgiveness from God and others every day.
“It was the Holy Spirit.”
Fr. Bob Spitzer, a Jesuit priest who was the president of Gonzaga University for 12 years tells about a powerful prayer to the Holy Spirit. It involves asking for the healing of hurts and memories, not just for own self, but for those one has harmed, always seeking forgiveness. He tells the story of making an offhand comment that afterwards he regretted. Unable to call the man, he went to the chapel and asked the Holy Spirit to heal any harm he had done. A few days later, something extraordinary happened. Fr. Spitzer ran into the man walking on the campus, and the man said, “You know Father, I’ve been thinking about what you told me. At first I was kind of angry, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized what you were getting at. You actually helped me a great deal.” As Fr. Spitzer remarked later: “It was the Holy Spirit.”
The Holy Spirit is a Spirit of communication
There have been numerous books written on the difficulty that men and women have in communicating. It has been estimated that women say something like 6,000 – 8,000 words a day and that men utter 2,000 – 4,000 words a day. At the end of the day the man has spoken his 4,000 words and doesn’t want to communicate any more. He simply wants to sit quietly, watch TV and go to bed. A woman most likely won’t have spoken her 8,000 words for the day yet. She may have 2-3,000 words to go and uses them to share every event of the day. This conversation may sound familiar. Wife: Hi darling …it’s good to see you home. How was your day? Husband: Good. Wife: I heard that you were going to finalize that big deal today. How did it go? Husband: Fine. Wife: That’s good. Do you think the boss will give you a raise? Husband: Maybe. Wife: Hey! Today I found out that I’m pregnant. Husband: That’s good. and so on… and then she goes on to tell everything that happened in her day.
The Holy Spirit communicates with men and women equally through the Holy Bible and inspires them and guides them in their communication with God. May God’s Spirit guide and help us as we go out from here today and give us the courage and power to speak his Word to others. (Rev. Gerhard)
Come, Holy Spirit
There was, in Europe, a period of human history called the Dark Ages. It started in about the fifth century and continued for the next 600 years. You might say it was a 600-year depression – food was scarce, people lived hand-to-mouth – and Western civilisation barely hung by a thread. The one bright spot was the local Cathedral. Building Cathedrals, even in small towns, gave work to thousands of people. These buildings became the cultural, social and spiritual centres of life. Murals, stained glass windows, sculptures and pageantry helped teach the great stories of the Bible at a time when very few people could read. With this in mind, some of the cathedral builders chose to impress on the people the meaning of Pentecost. In the great domed and richly painted ceilings were a number of small carefully disguised doors. During worship on Pentecost when the whole town was gathered in the cathedral, some unlucky parishioners were drafted to climb up on to the roof. At the appropriate moment during the liturgy, they would release a live dove through the one of the small doors. This dove would swoop over the congregation as a living symbol of the presence of the Holy Spirit. At the same time the choir boys would make whooshing noise, the doors in the ceiling would be opened again and this time rose petals would be showered on the congregation, symbolizing tongues of flame falling on the worshippers below. You can imagine the impact that this had on those medieval Christians whose lives were drab and hard. They might not have been able to read about Pentecost from the Bible but nevertheless this visual demonstration must have left a lasting impression. (Rev. Gerhard).
Together they finished the race
Derek Redmond ran in a semi-final of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Halfway round the track this British athlete collapsed with a torn hamstring. For some strange reason, he wanted to finish the race, and he struggled to his feet. Derek’s Dad got up out of the stand, and he broke his way through security. His Dad picked up his crying son, and together they finished the race.
That man did what the Holy Spirit does for us. It’s when we are spiritually exhausted, when we find ourselves giving into the spirit of slavery again and again, when we can’t pray, when we don’t want to pray, when our Faith is just not strong enough –- when there is no way we can finish the race — that is when the Spirit picks us up and drags us to the finish line. (Rev. Gerhard).
Some Pentecost traditions
Some parishes have begun the tradition of encouraging people to wear red clothing on Pentecost, since red is the liturgical color of the day. This reflects the old custom of decorating homes and churches with colorful flowers on this day. In Poland, for example, and among the Ukrainians, Pentecost is sometimes called the “Green Holiday,” and in Germany the “Flower Feast.” In some Latin countries, there is the term Pascha Rosatum, Latin words that mean “Pasch [“Easter,” we would say] of Roses.” And in Italy there is the name Pascua Rossa, meaning “Red Pasch [“Easter,” again],” inspired by the red vestments worn on Pentecost. Medieval Christians liked to dramatize the Pentecost symbols of the dove and flames of fire. Historical accounts tell us, for example, that in France, when the priest intoned the words “Come, Holy Ghost,” trumpets would blow, signifying the violent wind of which the Scriptures speak. In other countries, choirboys would hiss, hum, make odd noises with wind instruments, and rattle their benches. Then from a hole in the wall above, called “The Holy Ghost Hole,” a great swinging disk with a beautiful image of a dove would descend, and remain suspended above the middle of the church. From the same opening in the wall would follow a shower of flowers, representing the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and water symbolizing Baptism. In the thirteenth century, French cathedrals would release white pigeons inside the buildings, and drop roses from the Holy Ghost Hole. Some towns in central Europe even dropped pieces of burning straw, representing the flaming tongues of Pentecost. This last custom eventually found disfavor, as more and more churches and worshipers caught fire, spiritually and literally. (Fr. Hoisington).
“Did you and Grandma ever get into any fights?”
A little girl asked her grandfather, “Did you and Grandma ever get into any fights?” The grandfather replied: “We don’t talk about it very often, but there was a time when we were not getting along very well. We seemed to be picking on each other a lot and finding all kinds of things to argue about and really getting on one another’s nerves. Well, one day I came in from the garden and I heard a voice upstairs. I went to the stairs and heard your grandmother telling God what she could not bring herself to tell me.” “Well, what did you do?” asked the grand-daughter. “I quietly walked up the stairs,” he replied, “and knelt down beside her and told God my side of the story. And from that day to this, we have never had a problem which we couldn’t resolve by talking it over with each other and with God.”
Do you think the Holy Spirit was active in that couples’ marriage? There can be no doubt. Conflict will always remain part of every relationship. The fruits of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control – will always remain critical for happy relationships with others.
The Holy Spirit clean-up job
The Holy Spirit not only gives life but even brings dead bones to life. In Greek mythology, we read about the demi-god Hercules, son of Zeus and Alcmena. He was noted for his strength and was commanded by the King (whom he was serving in expiation of a crime), to clean the stables of Augeas, which housed 3000 oxen. The stable had not been cleaned for 30 years and Hercules was told to do the job within a day. This was a herculean job to complete. He could not do it by his own enormous power, so he directed the river Alpheus to run through the stable and so completed the task.
The apostles themselves did a great job of cleaning and giving life to people by serving as conduits for the Holy Spirit Who moveed through the Apostles and into all who were willing to listen to their words and receive Him into their lives. (Elias Dias in Divine Stories for Families).
Rossini was a great composer of beautiful music, and the King of France, in gratitude and to honor him, presented Rossini with a watch which he kept in his showcase with great pride. One day he showed it to his friend. His friend was surprised to know the real worth of the royal watch. He touched a button on the watch and a beautiful photograph of Rossini popped up. All stood in awe! — Rossini had had the watch for several years and but had never realized its value and importance. Many people do not know much about the Holy Spirit and His importance in our lives. (Elias Dias in Divine Stories for Families; quoted by Fr. Botelho).
“Life after Delivery?”
In a mother’s womb were two babies. One asked the other: “Do you believe in life after delivery?” The other replied, “Why, of course! There has to be something after delivery. Maybe we are here to prepare ourselves for what we will be later.” “Nonsense” said the first. “There is no life after delivery. What kind of life would that be?” The second said, “I don’t know, but there will be more light than here. Maybe we will walk with our legs and eat from our mouth. Maybe we will have other senses that we can’t understand now.” The first replied, “That is absurd. Walking is impossible. And eating with our mouths? Ridiculous! The umbilical cord supplies nutrition and everything we need. But the umbilical cord is so short. Life after delivery is to be logically excluded.” The second insisted, ”Well I think there is something, and maybe it’s different from life here. Maybe we won’t need this physical cord anymore.” The first replied, “Nonsense. And moreover, if there is life, then why has no one ever come back from there? Delivery is the end of life, and in the after-delivery there is nothing but darkness and silence and oblivion. It takes us nowhere.” “Well, I don’t know,” said the second, “but certainly we will meet Mother and she will take care of us.” The first replied “Mother? You actually believe in Mother? That’s laughable. If Mother exists then where is She now?” The second said.” She is all around us. We are surrounded by Her. We are of Her. It is in Her that we live. Without Her this world would not and could not exist.” Said the first: “Well I don’t see her, so it is only logical that she doesn’t exit.” To which the second replied, “Sometimes, when you’re in silence and you focus and listen, you can hear Her loving voice, calling down from above.”
Today is Pentecost: The Church’s birthday! “Before Pentecost, the disciples were unsure of what they were to do next, and spent most of their time in hiding. After Pentecost and the gift of the Holy Spirit, they understood their mission to spread the Good News of Jesus, and they had the courage to come out of their hiding and speak openly about who Jesus was, and what he had accomplished by his dying and rising.
The Shakespearean Advocate who saved a life
One of the popular comedies of William Shakespeare is The Merchant of Venice.” Antonio, a successful merchant of Venice, got into trouble because of his generosity. His friend Bassanio asked Antonio for a loan. Antonio agreed, but, as all of his assets were tied up at sea, the two went to Shylock, a Jewish moneylender. Shylock agreed to lend them 3000 ducats, but only if Antonio would sign a bond offering a pound of his flesh if the loan was not repaid in three months’ time. Antonio assented to the arrangement. Unfortunately, Antonio was not able to keep his word. The case reached the court. Shylock refused Bassanio’s offer of 6,000 ducats, twice the amount of the loan. He demanded his pound of flesh from Antonio. Everyone present at the scene pleaded for the life of Antonio. But Shylock was adamant that he wanted the will to be carried out. Thus, the court must allow Shylock to extract the pound of flesh. At that very moment, a young Advocate arrived offering to serve as Defense Lawyer for the case of Antonio. When his turn came to speak, the Defense Advocate argued that the bond allowed Shylock to remove only the flesh, not any drop of “blood”, of Antonio. Thus, if Shylock were to shed any drop of Antonio’s blood, his “lands and goods” would be forfeited under Venetian laws. — The young Advocate stepped in at a moment when Antonio was in utter hopelessness. He was sure that he would lose his life. But the Defender’s arguments and reasoning brought hope to Antonio who began to be reassured. In this crisis, the presence of an Advocate brought great change to the troubled life of Antonio.
The disciples of Jesus, too, were in great hopelessness after the Ascension of Jesus. The message of Resurrection gave them hope and courage. However, that lasted only for forty days. Again, after the Ascension they confined themselves behind locked doors. Then came the great miracle. They found the Great Advocate in their midst. The Holy Spirit descended upon them like tongues of fire, rekindled their hopes and ignited their courage. It was the Holy Spirit Who transformed the ignorant men into possessors of Divine Wisdom. It transformed the cowards into heroes and desperate men into dreamers. (Fr. Bobby Jose)
Carnal versus Spiritual
There was once an Eskimo who used to take his two dogs for a bet-fight in the town square. One was a black dog the other was white. The people gathered week after week to see the dogs fight and bet heavily on the outcome. On some days, the black dog won, and on others the white prevailed. No matter which dog won, the Eskimo made money. The secret behind his duping of the people was that he would feed well the dog which he wanted to win.
Do you feed your spiritual self and keep it strengthened by the daily anointing of the Holy Spirit to win over the carnal person? “For I delight in the law of God after the inward man, but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.” (Daniel Sunderaj in Manna for the Soul; quoted by Fr. Botelho).
A little girl was visiting her grandmother in a small country town in the Southern United States. They attended a very emotional religious service, where people expressed their feelings by jumping about and shouting; it was what we might call a “Holy Roller” service. The little girl asked her grandmother if all that jumping meant the Holy Spirit was really there. Her grandmother said. “Honey, it don’t matter how high they jump up! It’s what they do when they come down that will tell you if it’s the real thing!”
It would be good if we were a little more enthusiastic about our religion, but what matters is what we do in everyday life. Does the Holy Spirit have a practical effect on our daily life? In what way? (Gerard Fuller in Stories for all Seasons; quoted by Fr. Botelho).
High tide of the Holy Spirit
A ship strayed off course near San Diego some years back. It became stuck in a reef at low tide. Twelve tugboats were unsuccessful in their attempts to budge it. Finally, the captain instructed the tugs to go back home. He sighed, “I’ll just be patient and wait.” He waited until high tide. All of a sudden, the ocean began to rise. What human power could not do, the rising tide of the Pacific Ocean did. It lifted that ship and put it back into the channel.
Something like that happened to the early Church on the Day of Pentecost. They were all together in one place – confused, unmotivated and fearful, when suddenly the tide of Holy Spirit rolled in.
Niccolo Paganini on one string
The renowned Italian violinist, violist, cellist, guitarist, and composer, Niccolo Paganini, was due to perform one night in a very prestigious Concert Hall in Paris. Even as he walked on to the stage, the audience stood up and cheered with irrepressible excitement and heart-warming esteem. Resting his violin under his chin, the celebrated musician began to play with such dexterity and brilliance that the audience listened with spellbound silence. Suddenly one string of the violin snapped. But the consummate professional was not deterred. On the contrary, he continued to play with three strings, and the music was just as fascinating and impressive. Moments later a second string snapped; and minutes later the third. The audience gasped in stunned disbelief. What was Paganini going to do? Would he bow and leave regretfully? Without losing his cool, the famous maestro raised his hand, called for silence and announced: “Ladies and gentlemen, you are about to hear Paganini on one string.” What followed thereafter literally took everyone’s breath away – the performance was flawless, the music exquisite, the entertainment heavenly and just on one string! Such is the incomparable touch of the Master’s hand.
This extraordinary story aptly describes the singular and marvelous role of the Spirit in our personal lives. (J. Valladares in Your Words, O Lord, Are Spirit, and They Are Life; quoted by Fr. Botelho).
Why Isn’t the Holy Ghost Included?
A woman wrote to Reader’s Digest. She wanted to tell about an experience that she had when she took a young girl from India to Church with her. It was the eleven-year-old girl’s first exposure to a Christian worship service. The young lady’s parents were traveling on business and had left her in the care of their American friends. The little Hindu girl decided on her own to go with the family to Church one Sunday. After the service was over, they went out to lunch. The little girl had some questions. She wondered, “I don’t understand why the West Coast isn’t included, too?” Her Christian friends were puzzled and asked, “What do you mean?” She responded, “You know. I kept hearing the people say, ‘In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the whole East Coast.’”
Different gifts, the same Giver
Max Herr, aged 75, retired in March, 1981 after 52 years as the official Vatican clock-winder. Pope John Paul II received this German-born clockmaker and his family in a special audience at the time of his retirement. There are some 50 pendulum clocks in the Vatican. Since 1929, Herr had made the rounds every Friday winding and resetting them. When they or the many non-pendulum clocks needed repair, he would clean and overhaul them. Six popes had been his friends, and he had many “professional” memories of them. Pope Pius XII used to have him set all the clocks fifteen minutes ahead. Pope Paul VI found ticking clocks a distraction, so he kept only one timepiece in his rooms: a small alarm clock he had used since seminary days. American friends gave John Paul II a grandfather chime clock when he was installed as Pope. Max Herr was certainly not the most important figure in the central offices of the Catholic Church. But the role he played in the Vatican, however humble, was expert and indispensable.
The popes are called by God to save eternal souls, but they must do their work in a world where time rules. In a sense for 52 years this German clockmaker had kept the whole Church going! That is what St. Paul meant when he said, “There are different gifts but the same Spirit; there are different ministries but the same Lord.” Whether great or small, we should all be happy to use our God-given talents for the benefit of others. “To each person the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” (1 Cor. 12:7. Today’s second reading). –(Father Robert F. McNamara.
“Now you know where God lives.”
(In a Reader’s Digest’s article, quoted by Fr. Simplicio Apalisok in his homily book, an author tells how as a child, he was captivated by the sight of an old man prayerfully peering into an old cistern. Intrigued about what the old was looking at, the boy edged up to the cistern and tried to see over the ledge. The old man held him with his shovel-like hands helped him over the ledge of the wheel. “Do you know who lives there?” the old man asked. The frightened boy shook his head. “God lives there. Look!” but the boy only saw his reflection in the still water. “But that’s me,” said the boy. “That’s right,” said the old man. “Now you know where God lives.”
Teilhard de Chardin, Karl Rahner and Hans Küng on Pentecost
“The day will come,” said Teilhard de Chardin, “when, after harnessing space, the winds, the tides and gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, we shall have discovered fire.” In a sense the annual feast of Pentecost is another opportunity, placed in the path of the believer, for discovering and participating in the ever-present fire which is God’s love. Pentecost rounds out and climaxes the Easter event. All that we have remembered and celebrated, viz., Jesus’ saving death, His Resurrection and His Ascension to glory, all of these sacred events took place so that the Holy Spirit might be unleashed upon the world. As Karl Rahner (The Great Church Year, the Crossroad Pub. Co., New York: 1994) once explained, Pentecost calls us to the realization that the Center of all reality, the innermost Heart of all infinity, the Love of the all-holy God, has become our Center, our Heart. God is ours. God has been given to us as gift, without reserve. God has made our own the joy, freedom, knowledge and peace of the Divine life. Hans Küng (Why I Am Still a Christian, Abingdon Press, Nashville TN: 1987) suggests that before the power of the Holy Spirit can truly take hold, all contrary spirits must be exorcized… to “… make room for the Spirit who is both tender and strong, who reconciles and unites.” (Sanchez Files).
Anecdotes on this page compiled by Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) 2021.