Dcn. John Giugno's Pentecost Homily
May 20th, 2018
I’ve always been amazed at the ability of people who are able to speak multiple languages. I am definitely not gifted in that area. I took 4 years of Spanish in high school. Not Spanish 1,2,3,4, but Spanish 1 for 4 years, and yet I never made it through the course. So I’m especially impressed with the miraculous nature of what the disciples experienced on that first Pentecost, when they were suddenly able to proclaim the Good News to diverse peoples through languages they’d never known before. The Holy Spirit had certainly given them a powerful gift.
As we celebrate the feast of Pentecost today, we’re reminded that we’re also called to proclaim the Good News. And doesn’t it feel like we in the Cathedral Community have something in common with those first disciples? They looked out and saw crowds from Mesopotamia, and Egypt and Rome, and from many other countries - people with different languages and customs. We look at one another, right in this church, and see brothers and sisters from Burma and India, from African nations, from the Philippines, South America, the Carribean and the United States. We look at our Maplewood neighbors and see brothers and sisters from varied backgrounds and cultures. How can we hope to communicate with one another, to really know one another? How can we hope to share Good News?
We have hope because we too have the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit teaches us God’s common language, the language of love. It’s in the language of love that we proclaim the Good News in a way that every human being can understand. And it’s in the language of love that we are able to hear, to take in, the beauty of our individuality and diversity. Love is our common language, the gift of the Holy Spirit, and sacrifice and service are its most powerful words.
The language of Love speaks with the words of Service. Jesus taught us that way of speaking when he washed the feet of his friends and told us to do likewise. We speak the language of loving service both individually and as a community. For example, we speak love as a parish when we serve our guests at Joseph’s Place and Mary’s Place and serve them with dignity and in friendship. Many parishioners speak the word of service as they help to meet the spiritual needs of our community through ministries of teaching and tutoring, of comfort to others and of prayer, sacrament, and liturgy. And God’s language of love is spoken clearly whenever we make the decision to serve the needs of a family member, neighbor or stranger. When we take the time to really notice others instead of ignoring the needs we encounter in the course of our day – those are times when we speak the language of love clearly - in words of service.
And, love also communicates with words of Sacrifice. The Holy Spirit gives us the ability to love the way Jesus loved. Jesus demonstrated what that means when he spread out his arms on the cross for our salvation. He told us there is no greater love than to give up one’s life for another.
Self-sacrificing love boggles the mind because it flies in the face of our human instinct for survival. And yet the Holy Spirit gives us the ability to act beyond our own best interests for the sake of another. Memorial Day, which we’ll celebrate next weekend, reminds us what men and women have sacrificed for us and for the sake our freedom. In great numbers they’ve given their lives. They may not have realized they were speaking the language of love, but their sacrifice communicated their love loud and clear and they said something to us that we should never forget.
And there are many others who sacrifice their lives in a different way … one hour or day at a stretch over the course of years: nursing a partner with a chronic disease or mental illness…working multiple jobs to provide for family… foregoing sleep, recreation, peace of mind or savings in order to be of support for others…being willing to be interrupted repeatedly in order to listen, to drive, to shop, to volunteer. Are you ever tempted to say “this stress is killing me?” It feels like that because you are laying down your life, for others. You are speaking love with the words of sacrifice.
The language of love is spoken here in our community and neighborhood with many voices and with splendid, beautiful diversity through acts of service and sacrifice. That is God’s gift to us. The Spirit of God is a Holy Spirit, inspiring us to be a holy people, able to speak the language of love as effectively as the first disciples on that memorable Pentecost. We must do so with the same urgency and courage, as they did. So today we turn to God and pray “Lord, send forth your Holy Spirit to teach us the language of love….let us help you to renew the face of our earth!”