Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: They looked at each other and realized that they were indeed being transformed into images of Christ. Christ had returned in a way that could transform the world, because Christ had manifested Himself in their own hearts and minds and tongues.

Pentecost 2018

Extraordinary Form

“Suddenly, suddenly there came a sound from heaven. It was like a mighty wind coming where they were sitting. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, speaking of the magnificent works of God.” These the words from the Acts of the Apostles, to be sung during our communion with the Lord today. In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti, Amen.

It was expected, because Our Lord had promised. But it was still a surprise–what it was, how it was. The resurrected Christ had promised the Holy Spirit, and had promised that the disciples would see Him again. But the “how” was unclear, and when both promises were fulfilled at Pentecost, they stood awestruck and prayed in entirely new languages of the wonderful works of the Lord. They had been baptized–soaked–with the Holy Spirit, the very Spirit of God that had filled King Saul, and King David, the prophets Amos and Micah and Jeremiah and Ezekiel, and John the Baptist and even the Lord Jesus Himself. They looked at each other and realized that they were indeed being transformed into images of Christ. Christ had returned in a way that could transform the world, because Christ had manifested Himself in their own hearts and minds and tongues.

Now let’s be clear about something very important. It is true that Divine public revelation ended with the death of the last Apostle. In the Apostolic age, all that God revealed for the salvation of the human race was given to the Church. The Church passes that on in each generation through Scripture and Tradition. But the action of the Divine Spirit did not end then. That action remains in the Church. How so? Through the gifts of the Holy Spirit given collectively and individually to the Body of Christ. St. Paul lists them in several places. They are given to us for the upbuilding of the Church. We receive them in baptism; they are reaffirmed and activated in Confirmation, if we allow them to be. They are God’s power alive in our hearts and minds and hands and lips. They are the mechanisms by which Jesus appears in our world today.

The secular world has called the age we live in “post-Christian.” What they really mean is that they want this age to be free from Christian morals, the morals that made Western civilization human and humane. Nonsense. That’s like saying we want to be savages, just like them, abusing our neighbor instead of loving him. No, God wants us to live, not in a post-Christian world, but in a post-Pentecost world, open to the actions and promptings of the Spirit of God. This was the spirit that inflamed the two disciples when they encountered Christ on the road to Emmaus, the spirit that seized deacon Philip and led him to the Ethiopian official who wanted to understand the book of Isaiah, the spirit that led St. Francis of Assisi in the twelfth century to return to the poverty of Our Lord and Our Lady, and begin a Franciscan movement that continues to serve the Church in the twenty-first.

Well and good. But many have attributed to the Holy Spirit works that have proven to be otherwise inspired. In the sixteenth century an Augustinian monk with poor philosophical training began a Protestant revolution that brought war and starvation to central Europe and the breakup of Christianity into as many as forty thousand disagreeing denominations. How do we explain that? St. Paul taught us that if we have spiritual gifts like prophecy, gifts that can turn people and cultures around toward God’s plan, we also have in the Church gifts of discernment, spiritually wise leaders who can help us determine if our inspiration is holy and just, or unholy and divisive. When we choose a counselor, a spiritual director, the primary consideration should be that the advisor is on the path of holiness with you, and can help you discipline your own hardest to control impulses.

Luther had many problems, physical, spiritual and intellectual. But his spiritual counselor was just as confused as he was, and we all know the result. The key to spiritual discernment is that the Holy Spirit will never testify to a lie, or promote an idea or action that will lead to sin. That means the Holy Spirit will not prompt us to do something to damage God’s holy Church. The Holy Spirit is first of all holy, and second of all entirely attuned to serving and sanctifying human beings. So let’s exercise our spiritual gifts, whether they be prayer or prophecy or service or administration. Let’s place ourselves in the service of God, just as God, in Christ, has placed Himself in the service of humankind.

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