Sermon for Pentecost – May 27, 2012 by Fr. Sretenovic
In The name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
The closest I can see to the fulfillment of the Epistle today when each one heard them speak in their own tongues the wonderful works of God is when I’ll give a sermon and somebody, maybe out of the blue, will say, thank you, and then give me the reason why, and I won’t remember having said what they heard. (Father Sretenovic laughing) Seems like each one tends to hear something different. And, many times, if not most of the time, it is not exactly what I intended — so, hopefully, it’s a sign of the Holy Ghost — for me it seems to be the closest I’ve ever been able to come to — because I’m not speaking in tongues, as you know, or anything like that, you’re not listening in tongues — but, in a sense, the Holy Ghost speaks to each of us in our own language, like Our Lady appearing to different peoples at different times. You know, Our Lady was in this life Jewish, yet she appeared as an Indian to Juan Diego. She appears as a French woman to the French, all these different nationalities, and yet she is one. And that is indicative of the fact that she is the spouse of the Holy Ghost. In that sense, she imitates Him in a way.
So the Holy Ghost speaks to us as He sees fit in our capacity. Some have more capacity than others. But each of us does have a capacity to hear the word of God and to act accordingly. And our responsibility is to go with what we’ve heard and to put it in practice.
Today, the work of Christ, Our Lord, is complete, and the work of the Church begins. So, the whole point of the work of Christ, we’ve seen through this first whole part of the year — it’s unreal how it’s almost half over, this year. The Church year is basically half over, because it begins again not in January but in the beginning of December. So, we are halfway through the liturgical year, and at this point we’ve gone from the Holy Nativity, the Infancy of Our Lord, through His public life, through His passion, His death, His resurrection, His ascension, and now He has done what He has done, and that grace is made effectual as applied to souls through the grace of Pentecost Sunday.
The mission of the Son was to Redeem mankind, which is accomplished by His passion, death and resurrection. The mission of the Holy Ghost is our sanctification, applying the graces won by the Son to the souls of the many, but not randomly and not simply invisibly. Both for the sake of order and for the sake of man’s nature as a composite of body and soul, the Holy Ghost as fixed Himself in a visible body, a perfect society, called a perfect society which many do not understand what that means, specifically because all of the means to attain salvation and perfection are present in the Church, even though most still remain imperfect. Perfect society does not mean that we are whole perfect individuals, but the very means to attain the perfection that Christ Himself says in the gospel of St. Matthew, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect”, He has communicated to His Church by means of the Holy Ghost.
The efficacy of every sacrament, the fruitfulness of every virtue, the grace of perseverance by which we remain united to Our Lord’s Mystical Body, the Church, is due directly to the action of the third person of the Blessed Trinity, given today as the spouse of the Church once and for all. This permanence is a reminder of God’s goodness and His love for His Son, and His providential care for souls. His love for His Son because it is only just that Christ’s work can never be undone, but remain permanently as a source of sanctification, and also to souls, because once lost, such a precious gift of grace, through Divine Providence can be regained, specifically because the Holy Ghost remains with the Church.
We know this is oftentimes in a very tangible manner through the sacrament of Confession. If the Holy Ghost ever left the Church, the validity of our confessions could never be established. If the Holy Ghost left the Church, His spouse, then that very moment, sacramental marriages would lose their sacramental character and would continue merely as a natural-law bond. The indwelling and continuation of the Holy Ghost among us is in the Church for the reason of permanence, for the reason of stability, for the reason of preservation.
To say that the Holy Ghost could ever leave the Church is paramount to saying that He also could and would leave Mary, the most pure and holy virgin mother of God, the type and perfect image of the Church. The perfect society aspect of the Church is embodied in Our Lady who was perfect from the moment of her conception until her natural death. She was always the Spouse of the Holy Ghost. She is the model of what the Holy Ghost can do and does in the soul of one of God’s creatures. And the only one who has or will fulfill perfectly the injunction of Jesus Christ, again, during the Sermon on the Mount, “Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect”.
So, what we need to take a look at for ourselves today is, when we think about the Holy Ghost dwelling in the Church, and most especially in His perfect servant, Our Lady. Think about what her disposition was. What was the soul that animated her? What was that spirit by which she did everything. And then we need to weigh ourselves and say, What is the spirit that animates me, what is it that directs the course of my every thought, word and deed. How often it is that even if we don’t commit sin in action, our disposition is judging others, our disposition is harshness or impurity, or we are more disposed to sin so often than we are to virtue, which is a sign that the spirit of the devil at times can be more inherent in us than the spirit of Christ, and ultimately the Holy Ghost.
So, we can be in the state of grace and yet still by our very dispositions be offending God Himself. We want to reflect, again, upon Our Lady, and to meditate upon and imitate her virtues in such a way we come to be disposed properly so that the Holy Ghost may fill us with more of Himself, so that we don’t offend Him, we don’t drive Him out. But the more disposed we are, the more that the spirit of Christ, and not the spirit of the world, animates us, the more that the Holy Ghost can do, the bigger our soul grows, and the more of God we will be able to see when we are judged. Every soul in heaven is perfectly happy, but not equally happy. So we are happy and blessed in proportion to how much the Holy Ghost has been able by our cooperation to expand our souls, and to illumine our eyes, to attune our eyes to the light of God’s presence, and His infinite majesty.
So, we should continually be examining ourselves, not just in what we have done but the spirit in which we have done it, not just for sin but for good. How do we do the good that we do? Because, remember, at judgment God sees the stains also, even those things that otherwise are done in the state of grace and are good. God sees the imperfections. The saints have said this numerous times and He purifies them in purgatory. So, let us cooperate with the Holy Ghost today and perfectly so, so that we don’t need to worry. There is no reason why we should have to go to purgatory, there is no reason why we should have to see so many imperfections. We don’t have to be imperfect. Christ Himself has said, “Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect”. He would not say that if it wasn’t possible, even though Our Lady seems to be the only one who does it perfectly. Everybody else, even the saints in some way have fallen short. There is no reason why that should be.
The Holy Ghost given by Christ to the Church is for us that guaranty that it is possible. And it is a mark of ingratitude if we do not respond in kind. But, we can’t do this on our own. So the first thing we have to remember and to realize that it is only by God that we can be for Him. It is not we who do good, but, as St. Paul says, “No longer I but Christ who lives within me”. So, in proportion to that is reality, it is the proportion in which the Holy Ghost will reign as the King and Spouse of our souls.
So to best ensure again that we will not waste such condescension and benevolence on God’s part, again, let us today study the virtues of Our Lady. This holy month of May is not over yet. Let us study and look upon her beauty and all that God has done for her, and how perfectly she loves God, how perfectly she loves us, how patient, how kind, how sweet. And we know these terms, but what do they mean. To pour over those terms and in that way to get some sense of just how beautiful and how loveable Our Lady is and in such a way our souls opened, because where God finds Our Lady, He pours Himself forth into that soul.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.