(This homily was delivered by newly-ordained Jesuit priest, Fr. Arman Samonte SJ last June 26, 2019 during the Institutional Mass of the Holy Spirit. Fr. Samonte was a CLE faculty in SY 2014-2015.)
In our Gospel today, after showing the disciples his hands, giving them peace and sending them, Jesus breathed on them and said to them: Receive the Holy Spirit. What could have been the effect on the disciples after receiving the Holy Spirit? More importantly, how does the Holy Spirit work in our lives?
It might help if we have at least an idea who the Holy Spirit is, aside from being the third person in the Holy Trinity. I came across a story about two friends that could help us understand who the Holy Spirit is. The story is about Pete and Lucas. Pete and Lucas went to the Fair. They were enjoying the rides and stores at the fair. They went up and down and upside down the roller coaster, they went bump, bump, bump in the bump cars, and even won a big teddy bear in one of the stores. There was this creepy house of horrors.
“I don’t want to go in there.” said Lucas.
“Are you scared?” teased Pete.
“No I’m not scared of anything. I went on the upside down roller coaster, didn’t I?” replied Lucas. “It just doesn’t feel right.”
“That sounds like scared to me,” said Pete.
“No, scared is different.” Lucas paused, searching for the right words. “It’s like an alarm bell ringing inside of me. Warning me not to go any further. It’s God’s way of letting me know there are things in the horror house that He is not happy about.”
“How did you get an alarm bell inside you,” asked Pete peering into Lucas’ ear checking if he could see it. “Did you swallow it?”
“No. God put it in me because I’m friends with Jesus,” laughed Lucas. “He’s got the Holy Spirit.”
“Who is the Holy Spirit?” asked Pete.
“The alarm bell. But he is not just the alarm bell. He does other stuff too.”
“Other stuff?” Pete asked again, looking puzzled. “Like what?”
“Like when I read bible stories with the Holy Spirit. I know what part of the story God wants me to know today and understand every word of it. It’s like having someone sit next to you explaining what the difficult parts mean.” Lucas also added, “And when I’m sad He makes me feel better, like giving a hug on the inside. And he gives each person something different that they can be good at so that they can use that thing to help each other.”
“What kind of thing?” asked Pete.
“Like being able to cheer up someone who is lonely, or help someone who is in need. Or reconcile classmates who do not speak to each other,” Lucas replied.
“So the Holy Spirit is an alarm bell, a teacher, a hug, and a giver of useful things,” said Pete summarizing in one line what his friend said.
“Yes, he is,” answered Lucas.
“Does your alarm bell ring near the ice cream store?” asked Pete anxiously.
“Nope,” said Lucas grinning.
“In that case, I think I like the Holy Spirit,” concluded Pete, and asked the ice cream man for two chocolate ice cream bars. The End.
Dear friends, the story of Pete and Lucas gives us an idea who the Holy Spirit is but as Lucas said, the Holy Spirit does more than those things he mentioned. When you have the Holy Spirit, you will have love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.
Another illustration, this time from real life. In John 14:26, Jesus says, “The Holy Spirit will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” Think about a teacher who made a big difference in your life. The way he or she taught things made perfect sense, and the advice that teacher gave you was so on point that, even outside of school, it turned out to be the best advice every time. Maybe you still find yourself wanting to ask that teacher for help even when you are no longer in his or her class. Trenton Mattingly of LifeTeen.com mentions that as a teacher, the Holy Spirit never leads anyone away from the truth. Since the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus’ apostles, the first bishops of the Catholic Church at Pentecost, He has always guided and protected the members and leaders of the Church from wandering away from Jesus’ teachings.
Finally, the Holy Spirit empowers and transforms us. When the Father sent the Holy Spirit to the disciples during Pentecost, He actually sent tongues of burning fire, empowering them to do the good and proclaim the good news to all the world. Fire, empower, transform – something similar in this clip from a not so recent film. [Fr. Arman showed a clip from X-men: Dark Phoenix.] You all know what happened in the movie. It was the Phoenix Force that helped them defeat Apocalypse. It was the Phoenix force that allowed the other mutants to take action to defeat the enemy.
We are not mutants. We have no mutant powers. Nonetheless, I believe we are still more powerful than mutants because we have the Holy Spirit to empower us and strengthen us. We have the Holy Spirit to guide us and help us choose what is good and right. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we become more loving and respectful sons to our parents and brothers to our siblings. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we also become respectful and dutiful students to our teachers and respectful and dutiful neighbors to the people around us. There is only one thing left to do. Like what Professor X told Jean, “Unleash your power, let go Jean. Jean, let go.” We only need to LET GO and LET GOD, and that is to allow the Holy Spirit to take control of our lives. That’s what Carlo Acutis, Aloysius Gonzaga, Stanislaus Kostka, John Berchmans, Richie Fernando, Darwin Ramos, and Pedro Calungsod did. They all decided to Let Go and Let God take control of their lives. Let us pray therefore to our Almighty Father that He sends us the Holy Spirit, to guide and empower us all throughout the school year and every day of our lives, through Christ our Lord.