Receive the Holy Spirit
Bishop Peter Muhich
Homily from the Televised Mass
Pentecost Sunday, June 5, 2022
Receive the Holy Spirit.
Our childhood years are filled with children’s stories. Think back to your childhood. Maybe Mother Goose, Humpty-Dumpty, Goldilocks, lots of those stories. And today I’m thinking of one particular one called “The Little Engine that could.” Remember?
There was a train with, I think, candy and toys and things destined for children on another side of a hill or a mountain, and the engine pulling that train, or those train cars failed, and so they had to go looking for another engine. And they had a big, powerful one that came by, and he said, “No, I don’t have time for you. You’re too insignificant!” There was another one that came by that said, “I’m too old.” And finally, this little blue one comes by, right? And they ask him, and he says, ‘I think I can. I think I can do that.’ And so they hooked the train cars up to the little engine, and he begins and he says, “I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.”
Sounds like a train, doesn’t it? Clever story. And he keeps on doing that until he builds up enough momentum to actually crest that hill or that mountain and go into the valley where these children are waiting to receive their candy and their toys.
It’s a story about self-esteem, isn’t it? “I think I can. I think I can.” until he convinced himself that he could, and he did. This time of year is also a time for graduation speeches, and you hear lots of affirming messages at graduation. “You can do anything you want,” speakers say to graduating classes. Or “live your dream, whatever your dream is,” or “your future is limitless.”
Now, there’s a definite need to instill self-esteem in our children and our young adults, but sometimes I think that we’re taking the wrong approach. To simply say “you’re special” isn’t enough. We need to explain to them why. Why are they special? Where faith teaches us that our self-esteem, our inherent dignity, comes from the fact that we are created in the image and likeness of God, and redeemed in Jesus Christ. Having become in Christ, now, in the power of the Holy Spirit, sharers in God’s divine life. Our self-esteem isn’t something we manufacture or make for ourselves. It’s a gift from God to be affirmed and embraced.
Today’s feast of Pentecost celebrates the power of God dwelling in us, by the gift of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. “Believe in the power of God at work in you who believe,” Saint Paul says. When Jesus ascended back to the father, he didn’t leave us orphans. He sent us the spirit to empower us, each according to our own calling, to continue the work he began. Jesus Christ now works through us, in the power of the Holy Spirit, through his chosen instrument, the church. We have a great dignity and an important mission. We are called to follow Jesus Christ, and with the help of the spirit that’s been given to us, to change the world. Our self-esteem comes from a realization of who we are, and what we are called to be and to do in the world.
In baptism, and in, certainly our confirmation, we were given the gifts of the Holy Spirit. I’ve been going around the diocese confirming young people during this Easter season. Of course, we always talk about those seven gifts of the Holy Spirit that come with the gift of the Spirit. Fortitude, divine power, of the Holy Spirit living in us. Knowledge, of the things of God.Understanding, of that knowledge. Counsel, being able to make good decisions. Wisdom, seeing reality clearly so that we live not just for the passing things of this world, but we live as a preparation for heaven. And then Piety, that attraction to holy and good things, and a healthy reverence and respect for God. Those gifts are given to us to cement and strengthen our bond with Christ, and to empower us to continue his work in the world. To give love unconditionally to our spouse in marriage. To serve the church as a priest, a deacon, a brother or sister. To have and raise children generously. To not do certain things like not take things from work like everybody else does. Or to befriend someone that everyone teases. Or to be honest when you’ve made a mistake. To forgive and ask forgiveness. To stand up for our Catholic faith, to stand with Christ when it’s not easy to do so.
The Holy Spirit empowers the apostles, the same ones who were weak before the spirit was bestowed on them, to go out and make disciples of all the world. And so, they did. If the Holy Spirit can do that for them, imagine what he can do in us. In the Holy Spirit, we know we can. We know we can. We know we can do all things that God asks of us. And in the process, change the world, and bring it to Christ and the light of the gospel, for we have received the Holy Spirit.