Pentecost Homily

[If I could preach on Pentecost, I would say this…]


I believe in the holy Catholic Church.

We say this in the Apostles’ Creed. “I believe in the holy Catholic Church.” What do we mean, when we say this? [Spanish]

The Acts of the Apostles ends with an account of St. Paul’s legal battles in Israel. The Roman governors hardly knew what to do with the case. One of them tried to explain it like this: ‘I thought the Jews had an accusation against Paul of some real crime. But it turns out, the whole thing has to do with this Jesus of Nazareth. The Jews say He’s dead. Paul says He’s alive.’

Jesus appeared to His Apostles. Wounded in the flesh, but risen from the dead. His resurrection made the Eucharist the Eucharist.

We believe in the Church with the wounded, risen Body, and the living, divine Blood, of Jesus Christ. We believe in the Church where Jesus encounters us, on the altar. We believe in the Church where He offers Himself as our sacrifice, where He feeds us with Himself and unites us in Himself.

We belong to the Church that began in the Upper Room, with the Apostles as the first priests. God gave mankind something in the Upper Room in Jerusalem. God gave mankind His Christ, as a perpetual, mystical gift. We believe in the Church that has received, cherished, and disseminated this inexhaustible gift.

Trinity Shield“Gift” is one of the titles of the Holy Spirit. God gives Himself. God gives eternity, everything, infinite goodness and beauty. The Father gives that divine Gift to His only-begotten Son. From eternity unto eternity, He gives Himself.

There is no true Church without the eternal Love that binds the Father and the Son. When the Son became human in the womb of the Virgin, the divine Love began to show itself as Jesus’ religion, Jesus’ humble adherence to the will of the Father.

We believe in the holy Church of Jesus’ religion. The religion of Jesus reveals the eternal divine Love, the eternal Gift of everything. Jesus receives the Gift, and, with piety, He returns Love for Love. He receives the eternal infinite Gift. And He gives the eternal, infinite Gift.

We believe in the Church only because we believe in the Holy Spirit of Christ, the Gift of the eternal Father. We believe in the holy Catholic Church only because we believe in the Incarnation of the eternal Word, the second person of the Blessed Trinity.

But the thing is: We do believe in the Trinity, and in the Incarnation, since that’s what believing in Jesus means. And so we also believe in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.

pentecost_with_maryGod founded our Church. Not us. We belong to our Church not like good citizens belong to a Rotary Club. Or even like lawyers belong to the bar association. We belong to the Church like children belong to their mother. We owe holy Mother Church our hope for heaven. She alone has given that hope to us. And She has given it to us with consummate humility, since She does not hesitate to admit that She Herself received it as a gift, from Jesus.

“I believe in the holy Catholic Church.” The situation involving the bishop and myself has a lot of us hanging on the edge of this particular article of the Creed. ‘Father, this is testing my Catholic faith. What if you don’t get justice?’ All I can say to this is: “I know the feeling.”

We have to wait and hold on. God rewards the patient.

After all, the holy Catholic Church is one enormously big and mysterious thing. It is an enormously big and mysterious bureaucracy, yes. But even the strange, cappuccino-fueled bureaucracy of the Vatican in AD 2020—even that bureaucracy sits as only a little toenail on the mysterious giant that is the holy Catholic Church.

The virus has interfered considerably with our commemoration of the bicentennial of our diocese. Pope Pius VII erected the Catholic diocese of Richmond, Virginia, in 1820.

The Vatican bureaucracy had its flaws then. An American churchman happened to find himself in Rome the preceding August, 1819, on the day when the Vatican made the final decision about establishing our diocese.

The Cardinal in charge of missionary dioceses gleefully told the American: ‘Guess what? The pope will establish a diocese in Virginia! The diocese of Hartford.’

The American had to produce a map. To convince the Cardinal that Hartford is the capital of Connecticut. The capital of Virginia is Richmond. Oops. The map finally convinced the Cardinal to re-word his memo to the pope.

Anyway, Pope Pius had a more-competent Cardinal serving as the Vatican Secretary of State at the time. Ercole Consalvi. A few years earlier, Cardinal Consalvi had a famous conversation with Napoleon Bonaparte.

“I will destroy the Church!” the French emperor had stormed. Consalvi replied: “That is unlikely. In 1800 years, the clergy has not succeeded in destroying it.”

I think we’ll survive these confusing days. Our precious Catholic faith will survive. May the Holy Spirit come. To give us all patient, persevering faith.

10 thoughts on “Pentecost Homily

  1. We all have to trust in Gods plan… when we dont we are turning from the creed a lot….but no one man… or office involved in holy mother church or not should ever shake our faith. We are not catholics because we expect mortal men to be perfect…. or even good at their jobs…… if we started out that way…. well many more would leave the church…. we are catholics because of christ…. because of the last supper because of the gifts christ gave during his life and what graces the father son and holy spurit have bestowed on people since christs earthly death…. but we should never have so little faith that the treatment of one man should change that. We can change parishes…. but our faith… should not allow us to even think about leaving the church.

    Father mark…. i am sorry for what youve gone through with this…do not get me wrong i am not minimizing any of that…. but ive seen too many people say they wont go back to st joes until you are back… but what if God is calling you to a different location…. i dont want these people to leave the faith….because of it….different parish all well and good…but it is not something we can lose our faith over…. this life is short…. the psalms talk of so well…. we are only visitors here…. uts really the big picture we have to focus on…. not a few trees in the way.

  2. I applaud those who won’t return to St. Joe’s until Fr. Mark comes back. They are showing real faith. They are not being led blindly by inept Bishops. They are using their own free will to make a difference. They are shedding light on the atrocities of innocent people being abused over and over again by the clergy. Let’s not ever sweep this under the carpet which so many are trying to still do.

  3. Dear Fr. Mark,
    First, thank you for a wonderful homily. I was feeling almost over-whelmed today with concerns over family matters as well as the horrendous situation between you and the Bishop. I read your blog and it reminded me of my faith, of what I believe and why, and I felt my load lighten. Once again, you, with your own burdens to bear, have lightened mine.
    I have chosen not to return to my parish for Mass until this is resolved. I have thought about this long and prayerfully. I understand priests are rotated/re-assigned based on the six-year schedule. But this is a whole different situation. For me personally, I cannot and do not believe it is right to accept what the Bishop is doing by returning to Mass at St. Francis without you as the priest. I understand others may not feel this way. Each of us will do what we think is right. I judge no one, and should they choose to judge me, that is their prerogative.
    I do anticipate spending quiet (alone) time in the sanctuary when the church is open. I will continue to pray for guidance. When the matter is resolved in the future will be the time for me to make the next decision. I will wait upon God’s leading in the meantime. I will possibly attend a mass as a visitor at a local Catholic church in order to receive the Eucharist. Again, I rely upon God’s guidance. He will lead me and provide for me as He has always done.
    And as always, I continue to pray for God’s mercy and love upon each of us and for His guidance in all we do. I especially pray, however, for God’s protection over you, Fr. Mark. May God keep you safe and strengthen you during this time of trial. Amen.

  4. One cannot act in accordance with his Christian faith, cannot truly believe in the Holy Spirit, without loving the Church and trusting Her. A man cannot be a coherent Christian if he limits himself to pointing out the deficiencies and limitations of some who represent the Church… if he judges Her from the outside, as though he were not Her son.

  5. The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian faith, the living manna sent straight from Heaven. I joyfully returned to St. Andrews last week, and I sobbed after the Sacrament of Reconciliation and upon receipt of the Eucharist. I was physically and spiritually connected to Jesus Christ, the Saints and Angels, and the entire Body of Christ, in the way He intended us to be in His Church. Nothing compares to Jesus Christ in the Eucharist on this Earth. Nothing. If one loves Jesus Christ and His Church, they will not leave the Church or Jesus Christ regardless of the missteps of men.

    When we allow other’s sinful natures to infect our own to the point of turning our back on Jesus Christ and His Church, then we are giving Satan what he desires. It is a domino effect. Satan plants that seed into one person, they act, and then it slowly spreads and infects others just like a virus. We have a choice to be a cure or to continue to facilitate the disease.

    Jesus Christ was crucified. The ultimate violent persecution. Let us remember Jesus Christ stayed silent when he was accused. Let us remember that Jesus Christ avoided all sin even through accusations and persecutions and His ultimate crucifixion. “Forgive them Father for they know not what they do.” That is what the Spirit of our God leads us towards. We are called to be little Christs.

    The Spirit of our God does not lead us to curse, to make up stories, to call people names, to lead others to sin, to disobey authority, to propagate sin and anger towards the Church, to use snide, vulgar language and gross caricatures of our leaders, to wallow in the sins of the past, or to refuse to examine sin within ourselves.

    CCC 1848 “As St. Paul affirms, ‘Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.’118 But to do its work grace must uncover sin so as to convert our hearts and bestow on us ‘righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.’119 Like a physician who probes the wound before treating it, God, by his Word and by his Spirit, casts a living light on sin:

    Conversion requires convincing of sin; it includes the interior judgment of conscience, and this, being a proof of the action of the Spirit of truth in man’s inmost being, becomes at the same time the start of a new grant of grace and love: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’ Thus in this ‘convincing concerning sin’ we discover a double gift: the gift of the truth of conscience and the gift of the certainty of redemption. The Spirit of truth is the Consoler.”

    As we meditate on Pentecost and what it means to Catholics who love Jesus Christ, His Church and follow His Commandments, let us remember this one simple truth: CCC 1864 “Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.”136 There are no limits to the mercy of God, but anyone who deliberately refuses to accept his mercy by repenting, rejects the forgiveness of his sins and the salvation offered by the Holy Spirit.137 Such hardness of heart can lead to final impenitence and eternal loss.

    I continue to pray for those involved in this to follow the true Spirit of our God.

  6. Father Mark writes:

    // The Acts of the Apostles ends with an account of St. Paul’s legal battles in Israel. The Roman governors hardly knew what to do with the case. One of them tried to explain it like this: ‘I thought the Jews had an accusation against Paul of some real crime. But it turns out, the whole thing has to do with this Jesus of Nazareth. The Jews say He’s dead. Paul says He’s alive.’ //

    In a way, that’s Christianity in a nutshell.

  7. Thank you for a beautiful homily Father Mark. While I was reading I kept thinking about the words of Jesus when He said, “the gates of hell shall not prevail against My Church.” I believe in Jesus and I believe He will sustain you Father. Prayers for you every day.

  8. Lux tecum, Father White, Lux et Pax tecum,

    On Pentecost I pray for the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment, upon and within you, and therefore for the Holy Spirit’s peace which obtains, of its own accord, from that enlightenment, for you and for Bishop Knestout.

    When I began that prayer – more a meditation than anything held to words – I prayed for more of that enlightenment and its peace for you than for him, because of my affection for you, built on our history, only to catch myself, then chastise myself for that understandable, but distinctly unenlightened, wish – the more of it for you than for him part. So, revamped, here’s a better articulation: I pray the Holy Spirit surges enlightenment upon you and upon Bishop Knestout, that that enlightenment transforms, spontaneously, into a peace so beyond your expectation, for both of you in equal measure, that you feel as though you are in the Upper Room.

    “…de lumine [est] lux vera, quæ illuminat omnem hominem.”

    In that Spirit,

    John McCann

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s