•Acts 2:1-11 • Galatians 5:16-25 • John 15:26-27 – 16: 1-16•
Scripture Readings: Pentecost
Many of the excellent programs on Public TV remind us that the learning process is never finished. That is the premise of this homily. Learning is a function of the brain. It has deep implications for my spirituality. The learning process continues.
Christ is risen! (Truly he is risen!) Our ancestors in faith made an understandable but serious mistake. In reaction to doctrinal disputes like those in the 2nd and 3rd centuries, our Catholic household of faith adopted Latin as the church’s official language. They sought to assure that no mistakes were made and “the truth of our faith” not corrupted. The institution behaved as if the Spirit of God could be controlled.
For many centuries Latin remained the official language of the Catholic Church. The presumption was that a common language expressed the Catholic or universal character of the Church. It was presumed a common language avoids the complications of our diversity in vocabulary and culture. The presumption was that a common language is the surest way to guarantee “the truth” is passed on without error.
I studied Latin for two years in high school and managed to pass only because of the generous assistance of my classmate Theresa. I studied Latin for two additional years in college. During my four years of theological studies our major textbooks in dogmatic and moral theology were in Latin. So were the examinations. During the first four years of my life as a parish priest, I celebrated Mass and the other sacraments in Latin. For me, all of that meant memorization more than comprehension.
Christ is Risen! (Truly he is risen!) The Risen One promised, “when the Spirit of Truth comes he will guide you in all truth.” Since the earliest decades, it has been the conviction of our ancestral household of faith that “the Spirit of Truth” has come and guides us. That is my conviction. I presume it is yours as well. “When the Spirit of Truth comes he will guide you in all truth.”
Fifty years ago John XXIII invited the bishops of the world to Rome for the II Vatican Council. He called the Council a second Pentecost and invited the bishops to open the doors and windows of the Church. The first indication of “the Spirit guiding” us was the restoration of vernacular languages in the liturgy. The immediate result was vitality, joy and a new enthusiasm.
Unfortunately John Paul II and Benedict closed the doors and windows again. That distracted us for a while. Yet the learning process is never ended, never finished. Now the new bishop of Rome reminds us that “the Spirit of truth” guides us as we stumble along in our quest to understand what it is to be human and fully alive, and what we are called to be as church.
Today we live in a disenchanted world, a Secular Age. A moral crisis infiltrates us as a nation and as “church.” Its name is “narcissism.” There is among us a poverty of spirit in the midst of material plenty. Trust between Americans is on the decline. The gulf between rich and poor widens. Police gun violence spreads. Our nation’s defense budget balloons. “Leave me alone; I work hard and this is my money” — “narcissism.” What are we to do? What is the solution, the remedy?
“When the Spirit of Truth comes he will guide you in all truth.” Perhaps I am mistaken but I think the solution or remedy for our moral crisis, our narcissism is listening. Listen to the inner stirrings of your heart. What fulfills you fulfills others. Your hopes, dreams, disappointments, hurts and satisfactions are like those of all people. Listen to your inner life. Listen to others. The learning process is never finished.
Christ is Risen! (Truly he is risen!) Today is Pentecost. “The Spirit of Truth,” “the Spirit of Christ,” “the Spirit of God” is guiding us in unexpected ways. Our task is to listen. “When the Spirit of Truth comes he will guide you in all truth.” The learning process is never finished!