Sunday, May 15, 2016

Homily – Pentecost – Follow The Whisper In Your Heart

GENESIS 11:1-9 – ACTS 2:1-11
ROMANS 8:22-27 – ROMANS 8:8-17
JOHN 7:37-39 – JOHN 20:19-23

When we walk in the spirit, we walk without fear.
Every Thursday evening, our Operation Nightwatch homeless street ministry team ventures into “The Jungle” to bring Jesus to some of the most marginalized people in Seattle.  “The Jungle” is a large area of homeless encampments under and around I-5, south of the city. It stretches for miles, has 400 residents and can be a dangerous place. A shooting there earlier this year claimed two lives.  (Read about people who live in "The Jungle" at this LINK)
Last time I was there, we met a woman who was shot during the ordeal. The bullet is still lodged in her spine. She had just taken off her back brace and left her walker behind a few days before. She admitted she still falls navigating the steep hillsides around “The Jungle.”
Her sad, timid smile lit up her face in the darkness as she described the events of that night.  As someone who spent 20-years working at a fire department, she’d been trained to run toward danger instead of away from it.
Instead of running away from the sound of gunfire that fateful night, she came running toward the bullets and ended up spending a month in the hospital as a result.
She’s still living in “The Jungle” because she has nowhere else to go.
The spirit called her to respond that fateful night – to help her friends. Her first-responder instincts nearly cost her her life.
When we walk in the spirit, we walk without fear. 
Working with our area’s growing homeless population can be a scary at times. We’ve encountered tense situations, but always listen to that tiny voice in our hearts as we navigate “The Jungle” and the streets of downtown Seattle.
Blessed Mother Teresa talks about her call by Jesus to be a light in the darkest places. For her it was the slums of Calcutta.
When we walk in the spirit, we walk without fear.
What is the Holy Spirit?  The Holy Spirit is that “tiny whispering voice” that exists in all our hearts. It prompts and guides us as we do the ministry of Jesus in the modern world.
Noted author Fr. Richard Rohr wrote this about the Holy Spirit,
“We are always waiting for the Holy Spirit – somehow forgetting that the Spirit was given to us from the very beginning. The Holy Spirit has rightly been called the forgotten or denied Person of the Blessed Trinity. We cannot sense the Spirit, like we cannot see air, silence, and the space between everything. We look for God ‘out there’ and the Spirit is always ‘in here’ and ‘in between’ everything.”
 When guided by the Holy Spirit we can do incredible things for our Lord and Savior, especially when we take care of the people he was most concerned with during in his ministry, “the least of our sisters and brothers.”
SATURDAY -- (In today’s Gospel of John, we hear Jesus preparing us for the arrival of the “paraclete,” the Holy Spirit. He’s preaching in the Jerusalem Temple on the Jewish feast of Tabernacles. There, guards are in the crowds sent by the High Priests to arrest Jesus. The scene is electric. Is this the messiah? The Pharisees think a messiah cannot possibly come from Galilee. He’s a nobody. Jesus knows what’s on the hearts of the Pharisees in the crowds. On the last day of the feast priests carry out an elaborate water ritual. Jesus is telling the crowd, “If anyone thirsts, let them come to me and drink from rivers of living water.” He says this to foreshadow the arrival of the Holy Spirit which He will give.)
SUNDAY -- (In today’s Gospel of John, we see Jesus breathing on the fear-filled disciples, giving them the “paraclete,” the Holy Spirit. They’re locked away in hiding, scared that what happened to Jesus might happen to them. Jesus brings them eternal peace in the way of the Holy Spirit, giving the Apostles the courage to spread the Gospel to the world. All, but John, will suffer a similar fate as Jesus. Thomas a week later will voice the doubt he has about Jesus being the messiah.  Jesus will breathe the peace of his Holy Spirit on Thomas in that exchange. And Thomas will have the courage to bring the Gospel to India and die a martyr’s death.)
The spirit allows God’s word to penetrate, like an arrow, deep into each human heart.
Each Sunday or each Mass, and every time we open the bible and read the word of God, we hear the voice of the Good Shepherd leading us to places we’d rather not go.
When we walk in the spirit, we walk without fear.
 There was an article recently in the Seattle Times that was a particularly poignant illustration of who our homeless brothers and sisters are today.
  The article was entitled “The Hidden Homeless: families in the suburbs.” It featured the picture of a father and his four young children living homeless right here in Everett.  (Click here for LINK to the story)

  Zach Weber is a single father with four kids. His plight highlighted a heartbreaking fact: More than 35-thousand students in Washington schools were homeless in the past year.
  Think homelessness is only an adult problem involving people with mental illness and addiction issues? Think again.
Many of the area’s homeless are children, living in cars and shelters in places like Edmonds, Mukilteo and Everett.
The number of homeless students has nearly doubled since 2007-2008, when the Great Recession hit our country’s economy.
One school nurse in the Mukilteo School District says students try to hide being homeless.  You may remember how cruel kids can be about fashion and hygiene.

She says, “In every school, there are families in transition that try to keep it confidential and only tell a select few” the truth about their homelessness.
She says there are many reasons for the homelessness she encounters. Some parents may be dealing with alcohol or drug abuse, some may have mental illness. Some have moved outside the area, leaving the kids behind to finish school while living in a shelter.
But this school nurse says the number-one reason for homelessness is “economic misfortune,” a lost job, a sick kid and large hospital bills, an eviction.

She tells of one family she knows with two adults and nine children. They were living in their Suburban in a Wal-Mart parking lot.
This is the face of homelessness today. It’s not just the scary people we see pacing the streets of downtown Everett ranting and raving at traffic.
The problem is more complex than that.
This is why our parish community will give birth to a new homeless street outreach ministry this fall. We’re holding an information night on our project this coming Wednesday evening at 7pm at Hensen Hall.
If the spirit is speaking to your heart, we welcome you to join in our efforts. Come find out how you and your family can be a light in the darkness and bring Jesus to our sisters and brothers and their children living homeless.
In the second reading from St. Paul to the Romans, Paul is saying something quite profound about God and the Holy Spirit that rings true even today.

When we walk in the spirit, we stay connected to God and forget our human inclination to think of our own selfish interests.
When we think about homelessness, do we dwell on our own self-interests or on God’s interests?
In essence, St. Paul is saying, “Focusing on self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God… That person ignores God and what God is doing. And God isn’t pleased with being ignored.”

 Pope Francis said something quite profound last week about what we Christians are called to do in the world today.  While receiving the prestigious Charlemagne Prize for European Integration he said, putting our faith in action is what counts. “Christianity, he seems to believe, is best defended not by fighting battles over symbols or verbiage (or waging war against secularism), but by putting (our Christian) convictions into practice at moments when the world needs them most.”
This is what Christians have done throughout the ages and this is how best to make Christ present in a broken world.
When we walk in the spirit, we walk without fear.

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