‘Holy Spirit, Come to Us!’

By Bishop Steven J. Raica

‘Holy Spirit, Come to Us!’

Bishop Raica Celebrates Pentcost

On June 4 and 5, Bishop Raica celebrated two diocesan confirmations at the Cathedral of St. Paul. The complete text of his homily follows herein.

My friends, once again, I welcome those who have come from near and far to be with us today at the Cathedral of St. Paul to celebrate the great feast of Pentecost and the Sacrament of Confirmation. Pentecost signals the conclusion of the 50-day Easter season. That was the singular moment when the Apostles huddled in the Upper Room, somewhat timid and afraid of the daunting task ahead of them. Our Lord commanded them before His Ascension, “Go into the whole world, teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit!” (cf. Mt 28:19) Who could blame them for being timid? They were not well-connected and lacked clout in society. They had little funds and virtually no institutional structure. At the time, there were only primitive means of communication, not the array of services we rely on today. There was no New Testament written yet. They could only refer to their experience of Jesus and what happened to them because of Christ. There were other practical questions, too: What would become of their families, their friends, their jobs as they embarked out on this unique, unheard of, risky mission given them by a man named Jesus: “Go into the whole world.” I can only imagine their apprehension to step out into uncharted and unfamiliar territory not knowing the unfamiliar languages or cultures they would encounter along the way – some welcoming, some hostile, and many who had never even heard of Christ or Christianity.

For them, however, the experience of Christ could not be ignored or denied. Jesus promised to stay with them, but now He was not visible anymore. They would learn to see Him in a new way!

The event of Pentecost itself is described in powerful terms: disciples and our Blessed Mother gathered in the Upper Room with doors locked. Then, there’s a rushing wind; tongues as of fire hovering above them; they could speak new languages. Through it, they mustered the courage and fortitude to do something that had never been done before. There was no instruction manual to guide them. It was so utterly amazing. Those they met understood them speak, And yet, Pentecost is perhaps one of those great feasts that is so understated and underestimated. Today, it is as if we need a new Pentecost throughout our world! We, too, must proclaim Christ as Lord, everywhere and at all times. This can happen when we live life as though Christ is everything – “my Lord, my God, my all.”

Where? Where is this presence most pronounced? Certainly, in the individual believer! Both young and old! One believer, whether young or old, conformed to Christ can make a difference today! And when believers come together as we do today, the life of our Christian community can become a vibrant sign of hope. The prophet Joel we read last night at the Vigil Mass confirms: “I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh. … your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions; … I will work wonders in the heavens and on the earth … .” (cf. Joel 3:1-5) And today from the Acts of the Apostles, “They gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language.” (cf. Acts 2:1-11) It’s the language of God; the language of love; the language of the heart!

What are our dreams and visions as Christian people? Today is a reminder not to be afraid of the dreams that God has for us. Through confirmation, we have a new Pentecost to conform our minds and hearts to His – to listen, to live, and to become truly the amazing people we are meant to be.

My dear confirmation candidates, one saint who has inspired me this year is Blessed Carlos Acutis. He lived from 1991 to 2006 and died of leukemia when he was 15 years old. His story – his dream – is being remembered today! He loved computers and began to chart out the eucharistic miracles from around the world. He loved the Eucharist and told those he met that the Eucharist is our highway to heaven. He also had an inspiring thought that should challenge everyone here today. He said that each of us is born original and yet many die as photocopies – the same like everyone else. Each of us is an original gift of God. Each of us has some important role to play in the world. We may not solve the issue of world peace, but by being ourselves, we can make a contribution to live the Christian life in a way that is an adventure, that is fascinating, that is attractive, that is fulfilling and wholesome, that is unique, and that is a very special gift to the world.

Pentecost reminds us of the need to be re-created, to live life today with the dream and vision that God has for us. That is, to be the people we say we are – people who are confident in the power of what Christ can do and is doing today. Our confirmation proclaims that we have encountered Christ and conform our hearts and minds to His.

So, what we celebrate is an event in the past that is also present today. Pentecost is not merely some remembrance of the glory days of old times. Rather, like the presence and influence of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles, the Holy Spirit is active and present in our time, too – upon each of us, upon our leadership, upon our decisions, upon our experiences.

Think for a moment, the impact of the Spirit on the life of Mary. Through her cooperation with God’s plan and design, through her YES, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, she brought forth a Savior in our world.

We, though many, are part of the one body. At the end of Mass today, we will be told: “Go”! Go and live God’s dream of who you are: people redeemed by Christ; people open to the world! The great message the disciples came to give us was not merely some nostalgic thought but a living person – Jesus Christ. He is here today. God is here! Dios está aquí! The encounter with this person resonates so completely with the depths of our hearts. Everything else comes up short. In answering this invitation from Christ, we have lost nothing but gain everything. As Christians, we want it all!

Today I pray: Holy Spirit come to us! Come to us through Mary, so we may see your Son again. Fill us with life and hope; recreate and embolden us to witness our faith by bringing the great treasure of Christ here in Birmingham, throughout the Diocese of Birmingham, and, indeed, beyond! May God bless you all!