The feast of Pentecost is a feast about locked doors being blown open. It is about the doors of our hearts being blown open. Think about it, sometimes we are locked in patterns of the past and we are locked behind closed doors of fear or pain or unforgiveness.
This is illustrated well by Fr. William Bausch in his book “When I was Naked You Clothed Me.” In it he gives the illustration of a 41-year-old man, Tom, who is dying from AIDS. He noted that Tom’s parents were so ashamed of their son and the disease that they literally locked him in his bedroom upstairs as they cared for him in the last months of his life. They completely restricted all access to him. Eventually, in his dying days, Tom pleaded to see the priest. Eventually, they acquiesced, and the priest was allowed to visit him in his room. The priest was shocked by the emaciated young man. He had known Tom as a healthy, vibrant young man. After anointing him, he kissed him on the forehead and held his hand and talked to him.
Tom, in a weak voice, whispered into the priests’ ears, with tears streaming down his face, “You’re the first person to touch me in months. Nobody ever touches me anymore.” With his father sitting in the corner of the room, refusing to give in until after Tom died.
However, at the funeral of his son, after realizing what he had done, the locked door of his heart was blown open and he was ashamed of his own abandonment of his son. He became frustrated with his own narrow mindedness, and coldness in his own heart, and he wailed at his son’s funeral. Locked doors. Blown open.
AIDS was a complex disease in those early days and a lot of people did not know what to do or how to navigate through it, in some ways, it was like us living through the pandemic. We weren’t always sure what to do, how to act/react, and we judged others. We all make mistakes. We all do things that are wrong. Sometimes we are very aware of that reality and at other times, we are not aware of it at all. We remain locked in our own ignorance of what it is we are called to change in our life.
In Sunday’s gospel, we are called to understand how powerful this moment is when the Holy Spirit comes from Jesus as a gift. Remember, it is from John’s gospel and all the disciples who are now assembled to receive this gift of the Holy Spirit, had in fact abandoned Jesus earlier. Among them was Peter. They had completely abandoned Jesus. Here were his closest friends who had completely denied him. “I don’t know him! I don’t know him! I do not know him!” said Peter.
Now Jesus stands in their midst and the first gift he gives to them is Peace. He offers them Peace and gives it to them with his loving forgiveness. Fundamentally, the feast of Pentecost is about God’s gift of the Holy Spirit, and it is a feast of love. A love that breaks open our locked hearts.
Jesus shows us the way. He literally forgives his disciples and then tells them to go do what I have done for you to others. Forgive as I have forgiven. A reminder for all of us. For most of my priesthood, I have counseled others on how important it is to forgive. I have presented sessions during Lent and speak of it often in my homilies. Yet, there are many who refuse to forgive. We often hold on to this anger and unforgiveness as if it were a treasure; sometimes a 20-year-old treasure! Some say, “I just can’t, not him! Not her! Not for that! I cannot forgive.” It was once said that unforgiveness is like drinking a poison.
The gift of the Holy Spirit is what Jesus wants to give us to blow open our hearts. Unlock that door of unforgiveness and set our heart free. In order to do so, we have to accept the gift of forgiveness for ourselves. We cannot give what we do not have. So, we must accept the gift of forgiveness from God for the times that we have made mistakes, for the times that we have said the wrong thing; for the times that we have done the wrong thing or failed to do the right thing.
Once we accept genuinely in our hearts, we can feel the power of that Holy Spirit; the feeling and power of God’s love within us, then we can pass it on. That is what we are called to do.
Today as we celebrate the beginning of our Church in the Pentecost, we are called to first receive the gift of God’s love and God’s forgiveness. Then we must remember how important it is to take the next step of passing that forgiveness onto others. That is the feast of Pentecost, whose sins you forgive they are forgiven them; whose sins you retain they are retained.
Speaking of the Holy Spirit, I remain on fire with the Holy Spirit after last weekend’s musical nights with John Angotti and friends. It was a wonderful celebration of community, great music, and faith. Thank you to all who came to hear the word of God told through music and the many hands who supported the whole production. What a wonderful celebration of community! I am deeply grateful to you all.
Finally, please say a prayer for all those who gave their lives in service to our country in the armed forces. We are grateful for their sacrifices, and we also pray for their families as we celebrate Memorial Day on Monday