..what do you think is the greatest feast in Churchs’ calendar ?.. Christmas comes 3rd..Easter comes 2nd..today is climax..Pentecost..the moment when you & I..so long led to believe we were poor Catholics bad sinners..are inspired with the love passion & inspiration of our divine companion God himself.. .this is day we receive his greatest gift ..his real presence in person of the Holy Spirit.. to live in us..so welcome home & with great joy..
Some months ago Archbishop of York John Sentamu was celebrating a baptism local to here..large congregation drawn by his presence & his charismatic personality..as he began he asked if there were any people there besides the baby who hadn’t been baptised ..a number put up their hands, so he invited them forward & baptised them there & then.. & in our Catholicism, proper Catholicism, we would take full details then arrange two or three meetings to prepare the family & godparents, expect them to be turning up here each Sunday to test their commitment & to take their shekels..& then would come the baptism 330pm of an afternoon or 10am of a Sunday morning.. ..& after such meticulous planning hoops & precision timing, we expect the Holy Spirit to emerge to dance to our tune & to our clock..
..a wonderfully familiar story where thank goodness we can laugh at ourselves, & then seriously at the gap between where the Holy Spirit needs us to be spontaneously adventurously & where we sadly expect him /her to be precisely politely..unexpecting & undemanding.. “dance dance wherever you may be..”
“..heal our wounds, our strength renew; on our dryness pour they dew; wash the stains of guilt away..” ; Lord have mercy “..bend the stubborn heart & will, melt the froze, warm the chill; guide the steps that go astray..” ; Christ have mercy “..give us comfort when we die; give us life with thee on high ; give us joys that never end..” ; Lord have mercy May Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins & bring us to everlasting life. Amen.
“..in the evening of the first day of the week..” John takes us back down memory lane from this 8th Sunday after Resurrection to gospel we heard 1st Sun after Christ emerged from tomb..he gives us this time only part 1; he omits part 2 story of doubting Thomas.. remember John wrote well after 3 eye witness evangelists at time the early Church was emerging..so we have a gospel now with an agenda..to tell us of coming of Holy Spirit,& then, in conflict with essence freedom risk adventure of the Spirit, John’s Jesus tells us definitively “those whose sins you forgive they are forgiven; those whose sins you retain they are retained” feel difference in temperature ; warm breath of Spirit melting frozen warming chill, & then the cold permafrost of Church afraid muted silenced into condition & caution..some forgiven others not..us & them?..or them & us? “is there an unforgivable sin?” our hungry spirit filled young people ask me, throwing caution to wind..for Spirit to blow away disperse any non-sense of unworthiness guilt punishment..remember our first Communicant I told you of last weekend who, when he & I spoke to him of feeling small diminished when we approach Jesus & priest in Confession, finds himself forgiven & feels restored to full height..& what did young disciple say?..”& taller than before” a Holy Spirit moment learned known spoken from heart..all that he retains is that freshness of relationship with a Jesus who loves forgives & affirms..”Come Holy Spirit” a lad who will breeze into confession carefree adventurous in real relationship..a Thomas moment “my Lord & my God” his doubts sins dispersed on gentle breeze..Spirit pneuma [gk] the breath of God..warm melting enabling..erotic..word chosen caringly by Pope John Paul II in his first encyclical to us, & quoted by Pope Francis..”the spontaneity of sexual love..an interpersonal language wherein the other is taken seriously, in his/her sacred & inviolable dignity” ..a wonderful expression of human love graduallybecoming fully divine through eroticism..who would believe we would be sharing such terms at Mass?..& on Pentecost Day, a day of risk adventure breath of fresh divine air, why not?..”melt the frozen warm the chill”..“I was at a wedding once when an incident occurred, in fact it was more of an event. The wedding breakfast was over & the music had begun; there was an older woman there, a quiet person who kept to herself, a shy country woman who was there because she was a next door neighbour of the bride. Everyone knew that her husband was an upright person, but mean & controlling. They suspected that she had a very hard life with him. There always seemed to be a sadness around her; though she was quite wealthy, she never seemed to have anything new to wear. She had married young in a culture, & at a time, that if you made a huge mistake in your choice of partner there was no way out. you continued to lie on your bed of thorns & put a brave face on things for the neighbours. At the wedding she began to have a few drinks; she had never drunk alcohol before & it wasn’t long before the veneer of control & reservation began to fall away. The music was playing but there was no one dancing. She got up on her own & danced. It was a wild dance; it seemed that the music had got inside her & set her soul at large. She was oblivious of everyone. She took the full space of the floor & used it..she danced in movements which mixed ballet & rock. everyone stood back watching her, in silence. Her poor dance was lonesome, the fractured movements, the coils of gesture unravelling in the air. Yet there was something magical happening in it too. Often there is a greater kindness in gesture. Here she was, dancing out 30yrs of captive longing; the façade of social belonging was down. The things she could never say to anyone came flooding out in her dance In rythmn with the music; the onlookers began to shout encouragement; she didn’t even seem to hear them, she was dancing. When the music stopped, she returned to her table, blushing, but holding her head high. Her eyes were glad, & there was a smile beginning around the corners of her mouth.”..a Holy Spirit moment for her, & potentially for you & I here & now..for how many years have we been living surviving behind a veneer of control & reservation?..feeling diminished unworthy putting on a brave face for neighbours & the parish..a victim of a partner or a religion mean & controlling..& now offered an invitation to this wedding breakfast..& a voice, a gentle breeze, whispers in this wilderness, a voice directed to you “come back to me with all your heart; this is the favourable time” prepare to dance..30yrs of captive longing, locked into a religion you were led to believe demanded compliance..where some sins were reserved/retained to be used in evidence against you..& now your soul set at large.. go home “taller than before” & risk, if they ask you how Mass went, telling your loved ones, our Herdwicks, that Fr Bede was asking us to go home & to dance erotically..”what did Fr Bede say?”..a day to break out, to break the mould, & begin to enjoy your faith.. dance home with a skip in your heart & the gentle breeze.. [ Pentecost Jn 20; 19-23]