Pentecost Sunday 2014

Published: June 8, 2014

Bishop Anthony B. Taylor preached the following homily during the Diaconate Recommitment Mass at St. John Catholic Center and the Cathedral of St. Andrew, both in Little Rock, on Sunday, June 8, 2014.

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Bishop Taylor

I once had a neighbor who had an antique car that he had inherited from his father. He kept it under a custom-fit canvas car cover. One time he lifted the cover to show me this vehicle, to which he had so much sentimental attachment, but I never saw him actually drive that car.

I think he was afraid that it might break down due to its age and lack of use, or maybe that he might lose it in an accident. But the result was that it had in a certain sense ceased to be a vehicle — it wasn’t going anywhere. It was now just an object taking up space in the garage.

Prior to the feast of Pentecost, Jesus’ followers had many warm memories which they continued to share in their Sunday gatherings in that upstairs room. Jesus had already appeared there despite their closed doors to reveal to them the truth of his resurrection and again a week later to convince Thomas who had been absent the first time. And though both times Jesus began by saying “Do not be afraid,” they had continued to meet in secret because despite their sentimental attachment to Jesus, they definitely did not want to suffer the same fate that Jesus did — forgetting that Jesus’ death led to victory.

To what degree are you still sort of keeping your faith a secret, despite your sentimental attachment to Jesus? Is your knowledge and experience of Jesus just taking up space in your brain?

Up to this point, their knowledge and experience of Jesus wasn’t taking them anywhere. It was just taking up space in their brain.

On Pentecost, God intervened to lift the cover, fire up their engines and get that vehicle on the road.

When I was a child St. John XXIII called for a New Pentecost when he summoned the bishops of the world to the Second Vatican Council. Pope Paul VI, who will soon be beatified, completed the work of the council, which set in motion the dramatic Spirit-guided transformation of the Church that has been unfolding during our lifetime. We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Paul VI.

Prior to Vatican II we were in some ways an inward-looking, fearful Church — having “circled the wagons” so to speak ever since the Protestant Reformation and the anti-Church activity of the masons and the French Enlightenment and anti-Catholic bigotry in the United States.

There are many elements of the traditional piety of those days that still speak to many of us and to which it is easy to feel great sentimental attachment. But Paul VI and the council fathers recognized that the time had come for the Church to set aside our fears and re-engage with the larger world.

Building the Kingdom of God involves much more than fostering personal piety and getting our souls into heaven, and so Vatican II sought to redirect our focus outward, to the vast majority of the world’s population who do not yet believe in Jesus and who without even knowing it, hunger deep in their souls for what we have to offer.

And all the popes ever since have fostered this New Pentecost in the specific circumstances in which we find ourselves today — and today the Holy Spirit invites you to share in this missionary transformation of the Church right here in Arkansas. On the day of your confirmation you were given the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit to give you wisdom and understanding about what the Lord is asking of us today, and then the courage and fear of the Lord to go forth and do it. You know, our concern must not be limited to the 130,000 Catholics of the Diocese of Little Rock.

What about the other 94 percent of the flock entrusted to our care here in Arkansas — half of whom are un-churched? They hunger for Jesus and most of them don’t even know it; many are trying to fill that hunger with things that just leave them emptier than before.

And if we don’t try to do something about it, we’ll have to answer for it!

Today the Lord calls us to move from mere maintenance to a faith-filled, mission-oriented attitude, with special concern for the neediest among us; from a fearful “cutting-our-losses” attitude to a fearless commitment to leave our comfort zone in order to make a difference, willing to suffer for him — remembering that Jesus’ death led to victory.

To what degree are you still sort of keeping your faith a secret, despite your sentimental attachment to Jesus? Is your knowledge and experience of Jesus just taking up space in your brain?

If so, the time has come for you to fire up your engines and get that vehicle on the road.