Saturday, June 7, 2014

Homily – Pentecost 2014 - The Spirit She Moves In Mysterious Ways

Acts 2:1-11

1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13

John 20:19-23


It's so funny how the Holy Spirit is at work in all our lives.
Usually in a moment of weakness, our Creator reveals Himself to us through the Holy Spirit and provides a beautiful life's lesson. 
Christ comes in amazing gift form to heal us from our broken human condition.  And it all happens through the power of the Holy Spirit that is breathed on us all at Baptism.
As my favorite rock group U2 writes,  “The Spirit… She moves in mysterious ways.”
Why “She?”  From the Old Testament, Wisdom is known as Sophia (Proverbs 8).  We refer to her now as the Holy Spirit.  And the Holy Spirit has guided the Mother Church throughout the centuries.
During our formation, the Archdiocese’s lead theologian Fr. Mike Raschko said the following:  “The Holy Spirit is a difficult topic to discuss because 'she' is very elusive. The Spirit is the one person of the Trinity that doesn't have 'form' around her.  When we think about the Father, we primarily think about the creator. We can relate to the Father as the maker of the universe. When we think about the Son, we think about the person of the Trinity that entered history to redeem us (Jesus). There is a human being with a human story to look at. When we think about the Holy Spirit, there is nothing to quickly grab onto.”
The Apostles are experiencing their first Holy Spirit moment in today’s Gospel and it transforms their lives forever. 
They’re in hiding, angry, worrying, freaked out, then Jesus walks through locked doors and says, “Peace be with you,” breaths the Holy Spirit upon them and everything changes. 
Fear and darkness are banished.   Courage and enthusiasm for the Gospel take their place.  In that moment, Christ’s Church is created.
“The Spirit… She moves in mysterious ways.”
I had a transformative Holy Spirit experience a few years back while on a trip to Europe with my family.
As you know, on Friday, we commemorated the 70th Anniversary of D-Day, the turning point to World War Two in Europe. 
On a cold, blustery and rainy day in December of 2011, our family traveled to Normandy Beach. 
We drove a rental car from the beautiful French village of Bayeux. Needless to say, driving in a foreign country where English is not the official language provides challenges for most Americans. When you are an impatient driver like me, the frustration gets magnified a hundredfold.
My son Connor was the navigator for the trip due to his brilliance at reading maps, and operating complicated GPS systems.
Unfortunately he took the brunt of my frustration as we tried in vain to find the Normandy American Cemetery. I was feeling lousy for letting my Irish temper get the best of me while driving through the French countryside.
Late on a dark dreary day, we finally found our destination. At first, I drove down to Omaha beach to see where the U.S. troops landed. We spent a quiet moment walking the beach as waves washed the shores where so many young men the ages of our two sons had died on June 6, 1944.
On the hillside above the beach were some German bunkers. While Sean and Connor were crawling around these dens of death and destruction, I walked up the hillside alone and noticed that the cemetery was just a little further up the path.
Saving Private Ryan is a favorite movie. Like most people, I cry every time James Francis Ryan walks through the cemetery as an old man filled with all those painful memories.
As I prepared for what I was about to experience, I prayed a decade of the rosary for all those young lives cut short on that fateful and important day in our history. I also prayed my family would forgive me for losing my cool while driving there.

I was by myself as the rows and rows of crosses appeared after rounding a corner.  Emotions swelled.  A tear ran down my cheek.
Just then, a guy walked up and asked, "Are you an American?" I said, "Yes," and he introduced himself as "Andy" and started showing me around the cemetery.
He told me not all of the graves were for servicemen. Three women are buried at the cemetery, mostly servicewomen nurses and Red Cross workers.
He asked what I did. I told him I was in formation to become a deacon in the Catholic Church. He then showed me the graves of four chaplains who died on the beach that day.  Andy said chaplains had one of the most dangerous jobs in the Normandy invasion due to their low numbers and high death rate.

I asked Andy what he did at the Cemetery. He said nonchalantly, "I'm the Director."
Just then my family showed up. I introduced everyone to Dwight "Andy" Anderson, Director of the Normandy American Cemetery.

Then he showed us the graves of the brothers who inspired the movie Saving Private Ryan:  Preston and Robert Niland. He told us the movie embellished some of the details, but basically got much of the story right.
Two brothers were killed during the invasion, one on Omaha beach, the other on Utah beach. A third brother Edward was a prisoner of war in a Japanese camp in the Pacific at the time of the Normandy invasion. The fourth brother Frederick "Fritz" Niland eventually was returned home. He's the one the movie was about.
After spending a long time showing us the outdoor stone chapel and other important grave markers, he asked our family if we would join a few other Americans on site that day to take down the American Flag for the night. We said, "We'd be honored."
My wife Mary offered to video the experience on my iPhone. Oldest son Sean took photographs. Connor and I joined the ranks as the lowering of colors service began.
As the flag touched our fingers and we began to fold it, the skies opened up in a torrential downpour. It was almost as if heaven was sending down tears on this solemn moment.
Just as the rain soaked us on that cold December day, the Holy Spirit is drenching the disciples at the feast of Pentecost, pouring over them and changing them forever.
“The Spirit… She moves in mysterious ways.”
The quiet whisper of God in our special moment plays loudly and clearly in my mind now:  When you're lost, when you’re frustrated, when you’re angry, when you’re freaked out, trust in God, and God alone, to get you through it. Allow the Holy Spirit to pour down on you and everything will be alright.
My exasperation with driving, getting lost, backtracking, double-backtracking, was all part of God's plan to make sure our family experienced something remarkable at Normandy.
Had we not gotten lost, we would have never received a beautiful gift from God.  We would have missed a divine moment when heaven and earth intersected, but for a brief moment. 
Jesus reminds his disciples this weekend his peace is with them always.  Trust Christ’s peace in your life.
As we experience Pentecost, I encourage you to let the Holy Spirit soak you with Christ’s goodness.  Let it permeate your very being.  Let is transform you in ways that will heal your troubled soul. 
Allow the Spirit to move in mysterious ways in your life. 
May the peace of Pentecost be with you always.

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