This homily was delivered by Fr. Jessel Gerard M. Gonzales, SJ during the Mass of the Holy Spirit in the Xavier School Nuvali campus last June 9, 2016.
I was a young catechist to children when the topic was the Trinity. It was easy for me to draw the image of God, the Father, because it was not hard to imagine a father; or God, the Son, because they knew what a son was. But the Spirit? So when I got to the Holy Spirit, I was at a loss, until one child said, “Sir, God, the wife?”
Understanding the Spirit is quite challenging. In Scripture, they described it as ruah, as a wind. A wind cannot be seen, but it can be experienced. When the leaves of the trees move and rustle, we know it is the wind. In the recent summer, when it is so warm, we wish for a breeze to caress us. The Spirit cannot be seen, but its manifestation can be greatly experienced. I have three experiences of the Holy Spirit that I would like to share today. There are more manifestations of course.
First, COMMUNITY. The Spirit is experienced when people become one. One way of looking at the Mass of the Holy Spirit is to connect it with Pentecost. Pentecost celebrates community. The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles describes to us that when the time of Pentecost was fulfilled, the disciples were in one place together, and they were filled with the Holy Spirit. And thus, the coming of the Holy Spirit creates a deep bond between persons. Each member who receives the Holy Spirit naturally becomes part of one body. Each member becomes a friend of another. Each member becomes a brother or sister to all who belongs to the community.
Theology has it that Pentecost is the closure of the story of the Tower of Babel. In the Tower of Babel, people were dispersed because they spoke different languages and they did not understand each other. At Pentecost, the disciples spoke in different tongues but the witnesses understood what they were talking about. The Spirit of Understanding builds community.
But our community is such that we are friends in the Lord.
Second: our GIFTS when it is used for others. Being a person for others or what we call service, means that we have gifts and talents we use for specific people. But this service is wrought out of love for God who gave us those gifts. In Corinthians 12, we know that these gifts come from the Holy Spirit. We may have different ways of service, but we serve only ONE. We may have different ways of praying or a different spirituality (Benedictine, Opus Dei, Dominican, Augustinian, Jesuit, etc.) but we worship only ONE GOD. We may have a variety of talents, but the source is only ONE and the purpose is towards the greater glory of the ONE Trinity. We may trace our roots to a different race and culture, but we are all here at mass because we have one common love for Christ.
Why do we begin the school year with the Mass of the Holy Spirit? Because we are building our community every day in Xavier School – Nuvali using our various gifts.
Third, COURAGE. In great courage to proclaim and live out the Gospel. The Spirit is manifested when people gain courage to proclaim and live the Gospel. When we celebrate the Holy Spirit in school, it affirms that we are on fire; that we have the passion for life. Peter Hans Kolvenbach, the General of the Society, said that passion is timeless. It celebrates the fire of greater desires; to dream dreams and aim high. It celebrates risks and sacrifice. The Holy Spirit gives us the courage to proclaim love, to spread the Gospel without fear. It is the same Spirit that allows us to take great risks throughout time. It is what fires our imagination and pushes us to stubbornly pursue our dreams. It also tell us that we have to fight for what right and what is good, no matter the consequences.
The disciples before Pentecost were consumed by fear; they all began to disperse; they began to feel so betrayed and hopeless the way the disciples on the Road to Emmaus felt. But when the Holy Spirit filled their hearts with the fire of love, they became brave witnesses of Christ, glorifying them as Jesus promised in the Gospel today.
We know we have taken great risks and thus conquered our fears: when we have been terrified to ask permission from our parents; or asked to do things we have never imagined ourselves doing; when we have to face the pain of separation from our loved ones; or when we are in a place unfamiliar to us; or when we are about to take an exam. The courage and strength to take the challenge is a gift of the Holy Spirit.
Learning, therefore, is the work of the Holy Spirit. Education is the Holy Spirit helping us understand the world around us so that we can respond accordingly to God’s invitation to serve others and the world.
Why do we begin the school year with the Mass of the Holy Spirit? Because our mission to be persons for others will be very challenging.
Finally, let’s bring these three points together. When the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles, everyone understood what they were speaking despite the variety of tongues. The Holy Spirit gives us the gifts that makes us unique, but it makes us realize what brings us together: and here in Xavier School – Nuvali, I believe that it is our faith in Christ. What makes us one is our uniqueness.
But we also need to act on our faith. I believe that the Holy Spirit gives us the courage needed for the most important risk in our lives: to be creative in our being good. The Spirit teaches us to risk, to be courageous in our mission to love. The opportunities of a great relationship with God, one another, and the whole of creation is worth our courage.