Renewing the Face of the Earth

I write this a day after Pentecost Sunday. For those who do not know, Pentecost marks the celebration of the birth of the Church. It was on this day that the disciples were in the upper room. They were filled with the Holy Spirit, empowering them to go out into the world as bearers of the God’s love. 

In the upper room, Jesus appeared to the disciples. They were afraid, hidden from the world. Jesus said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Recieve the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained” (John 19:23). 

What is the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit is the chain of love, a unifying force amongst all believers. Indeed, amongst all people. But, more specifically, in the Church. In the early days of the Church, Tertullian (155 to 220 A.D.) observed the depth in which Christians love each other. In the early days of the Church, Christianity spread rapidly and worldwide, not by force, but by faith and love. Jesus said to his disciples, The world will know you are my disciples by your love

What is love? It is willing the good of the other. In the workplace, and the world, how much do we indeed do that? How much do we love our neighbors? The history of this country has been marked by systemic and personal racism, and by a spirit of individualism. One doesn’t have to go far to see the lack of unity amongst us. Amid COVID-19, and now the death of George Floyd, this country is in turmoil. 

For myself, I recognize the signs of sin. I see it in the outright criticism of the actions of others, especially on the cesspool of toxicity that is social media. I also see it in the way groups take advantage of the hurt of others by offering a brick, by inciting a riot that destroys whole neighbors, and by pointing the finger of blame on one racial group. It is so easy to say those people. There’s no love in that. 

Bishop Robert Barron, in his Pentecost Sunday Homily, challenges us to affect a real divinizing change in our culture, one that will draw others into the unifying Love of the Holy Spirit. For some, that may look like marching in solidarity with those most affected by recent events. For others, that may be petitioning our local, state, and national representatives to enact lasting change in our culture. For others, it may be a call to consider carefully the tone and truthfulness of what we post on social media. 

For all of us, if we genuinely want to end the personal and systemic racism in our world, we must look to ourselves and the way we treat our neighbors. Can we say we love our neighbor? Do we will the good of every person we meet? 

In the parable of the Good Samaritan, the one who was the most neighborly was the one who showed kindness to a fellow human being. Indeed, this person who showed the most compassion, who most loved his neighbor, was the foreigner, the one of a different race. This man most desired the good of a stranger, beaten until nearly dead. He did this at significant personal and financial cost as well. It was this man, a nobody, and not the most influential, who brought healing to the life of a man in need. 

Most certainly, by our acts of love, we can overcome hatred and violence within our communities. By our acts of love, we will bring about unity in our churches, our communities, and our nation. But, love is not all this world needs. 

What the world needs now is the unifying force of love that is the Holy Spirit working through a unified Church. Then, and only then, will we truly overcome the hatred, violence, and sin in this world. For where God’s love reigns in the heart of a man or woman, there is no room for hatred, violence, and sin. 

We cannot do this alone. But we can look within our hearts, fall on our knees in repentance, and go out empowered by the Holy Spirit to renew the face of the earth. 

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful
and enkindle in them the fire of your love.
V. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.
R. And you shall renew the face of the earth.
Let us pray.
O God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit,
did instruct the hearts of the faithful,
grant us in the same Spirit to be truly wise
and ever to rejoice in His consolation.
Through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

For Bishop Robert Baron’s Full Homily, watch it here beginning at 8:43, and click here for the readings.

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