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Homily of Bishop William Crean – Pentecost Sunday – 19th May 2024


St. Colman’s Cathedral, Cobh

19th May 2024

“Come, Holy Spirit come”

My friends,

“Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful. Enkindle in them/us the fire of your love”

So runs the prayer to the Holy Spirit that trips off the tongues of an older generation. It comes to us easily because the sense of the Holy Spirit as the guiding presence of God to us is so embedded in our spiritual consciousness. That, we know is no longer the case for so many and its absence is keenly felt, because of a great spiritual void, a kind of ‘black hole’ at the centre of the lives of many.

Many among us – members of our families and friends underestimate the void that is created when they no longer consistently share in the prayer of the community. The liturgy, our gathering in prayer is immeasurably greater in impact than it seems. It is greater than the sum of its parts of words, silence, symbols and signs. In different ways it touches our hearts, often lightly, but deeply also on certain occasions too.

Gathering to celebrate Pentecost enables us to ask anew the meaning and effect of having a sense of the Holy Spirit as a guiding and consoling presence in life. So many describe themselves as spiritual but not religious. It’s a positive statement on one level of the importance of the spiritual. However, is it spiritual in a very general sense of the mystical and intangible in life or is it Spiritual with a capital S, indicating a link with the Holy Spirit as we understand it? Given the second half of the statement it would seem not – being ‘not religious’ would seem to dissociate themselves from any religious congregation. In that sense the profession of being Spiritual would seem to be impersonal in nature and very diffuse.

When we mark the celebration of Pentecost we draw inspiration from a moment in history, when those closest to the Lord Jesus experienced an extraordinary revelation of the promise of his abiding presence to them personally and indeed to the wider community of believers that is the Church. This is personal, that’s what makes it different and extraordinary. “Come Holy Spirit fill the hearts of your faithful, Enkindle in them the fire of your love.”

The gift of the Holy Spirit is pure grace – its acceptance requires faith and humility on our part. The image of the ‘tongues of flames’ speaks clearly of the warmth and passion that the Spirit brings. When we open our hearts in prayers it is precisely this warmth and passion that takes possession of our inner selves.

But the gift of the Holy Spirit is not limited to the individual. We have a new recovered sense of the Holy Spirit as guide and guarantor of the search for truth and guidance for the whole Church. It is this reassurance of the Spirit at work amongst us that guides the Synodal Path that is currently being followed by the Church worldwide.

This is reflected in the term ‘conversations in the Spirit’ – whereby when Christians/disciples gather to plan and discern the future we try continually through listening to the Word of God ensure that our conversations and plans are open to the guidance of the Spirit.

So on this Feast of Pentecost we pray for a new outpouring of the Spirit in our own lives and in the life of the Church wherever it gathers.

“Come Holy Spirit come”

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