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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Robert Barron » Robert Barron - Seek the Mark of the Spirit

Robert Barron - Seek the Mark of the Spirit

Robert Barron - Seek the Mark of the Spirit
TOPICS: Pentecost

Peace be with you. Happy Pentecost Sunday to everybody, this great celebration of the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity. And I want to suggest to you that meditating upon the number three will tell us a lot of what we need to know about the Holy Spirit. Think of the number one. That's the symbol of unity. Unity is good. Everyone's for unity. However, if the one is unilaterally emphasized, what do you get? You get oppressive unity. You get a unity that excludes any sort of diversity, any sort of individuality. Think of everybody just in lockstep, moving robotically. Think of, I remember as a kid, those films from Maoist China. Everybody in the same outfit, the same little hat, the same little red book.

Well, no one wants that kind of uniformity or that oppressive totalitarian unity. So, that's the shadow side of the one. So, the one gives rise then to the two. The two is the symbol of diversity, of otherness. There's you and there's me. There's this and there's that. Okay, good. Everybody likes diversity. That's a good thing. Individuality, self-expression, not everyone's the same. Great. We've overcome totalitarianism. However, if you unilaterally emphasize the two, you get conflict, right? "I got my prerogative, it's not yours. And you're doing your thing, it's not mine". "Here's my way of thinking, my way of acting. It's not yours, and don't you tell me what to do".

So, two, it's good, it corrects a problem with the one, but it gives rise to its own problems. Conflict. Okay. Therefore, the three. What's the three? Three is the unity in diversity. It's the reconciliation of opposites. It's "communio". Communio. "One with". It's saying one and two. It's saying if you want the best of unity and the best of diversity. Who's the Holy Spirit? The love that connects the Father and the Son. God is three. Not monolithically one, not simply a play of dualism. God is three persons, lover, beloved, and shared love, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And the Spirit par excellence is the expression of this threeness, this communio, this reconciliation. Okay.

Now with all that in mind, I know it's a little bit abstract maybe, but we'll make it real concrete real fast by looking at this great reading from Acts chapter 2, which the Church gives us today. The tongues of fire descend, the great wind, and the disciples receive the Holy Spirit, and now look at the upshot of it. "Now, there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem". They're there for the great feast of Pentecost. "At this sound, the crowd gathered, and each one heard him strangely speaking in his own language".

And then look how carefully St. Luke lays it out to us: "We are Parthians, Medes, Elamites, Mesopotamians. We're from Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome". He very carefully lays out exactly where all these different people are from. Different backgrounds, different cultures, different countries, different languages. Here's an interesting thing. If I had a map behind me I could show you, but imagine Jerusalem right at the center. As he lays out these different places, it's as though we're creating a sort of ellipse around Jerusalem. His point is, all of these many come together as one through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Mind you, the Spirit doesn't negate their many-ness. It doesn't say, "Oh, you know the Mesopotamians, Judeans, and the Parthians and Medes and Elamites all give up their national identities". No, no, no. They're confirmed. But yet, they form this harmonious pattern around the center. That's the work of number three, right? It's not crushing, monolithic, totalitarian unity, nor is it simply conflictual diversity. It's the one and the many coming together, the communio. Whenever I read this passage I think of St. John Paul II. One of the many marks of genius of his papacy was World Youth Day. I've been to three now, World Youth Days. It's always a marvelous experience.

The very best one I had was in John Paul's city of Krakow in 2016. What was the genius? Get all these kids to come from all over the world, in their different languages, in their different garbs, with their different customs. An image I have is they're all carrying their national flags, singing their national songs. Good, good. No one's imposing a monolithic unity on them. No, John Paul reveled in this cultural diversity. But they're all coming together around Christ to serve him and his purposes. They find communio. They're one with. Unity in diversity. That's the mark of the Spirit, everybody.

And so, apply this. When you walk into a community, you walk into a church, you walk into a city, you walk into a culture and you start noticing, "There's too much one going on around here". "There's too much of everything the same, all the particularities being crushed". Or you say, "It's too much two. It's too much diversity. Everyone's flying apart". Remember the devil's name, "diabolos," "the scatterer". Those are marks of the dark spirit. It's the three, it's the Holy Spirit that brings the many together as one. That's the sign. Now with that in mind, let's turn to reading number two for today: St. Paul to the Corinthians, first letter. "There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit".

That's everything I've been talking about, right? There are many different kinds of spiritual gifts. Sure. Paul often enumerates them. Speaking in tongues and interpreting tongues and words of knowledge and administration and service and charity. Yeah, they're all works of the Spirit. But there's one Spirit that brings them together, gives them a shared and common purpose. Something I've noticed now over the years in the Church, I hate it when this happens. Someone who's got a real spiritual gift, let's say it's to serve the poor, and they've given themselves to that and it's just great, but then they fall into the problem of the one, which is, "Well, that's what the Church is all about. That's what everybody should be doing, and if you're not doing that, you're not really with the program".

"So, you guys who are fussing around in sacristies and at the liturgy and you're just playing dress up; that's not what it's about. It's about working with the poor. Or those of you who are fussing around with books and ideas, and you're writing learned articles. I mean, come on. Who cares about that? Get out there in the streets with the poor". No, no, no. That's too much of the one. You're taking a real spiritual gift, yes indeed, serving the poor, but you're now making it monolithic. Or I'll turn this around, the same thing. If you say, "Look, I'm an intellectual, and that's what it's all about, is studying and learning and writing books and articles. And you people out there on the streets, that's just social work". No, no, no, no. You're trying to impose your one spiritual gift on everybody. Or the same with the liturgists. "Oh, the liturgy is the source and summit of the Christian life, that's what it's all about".

Well, okay, but there are other spiritual gifts too. Many gifts, but the same Spirit. Again, different forms of service. I've just been naming them. But the same Lord. Different workings, but the same God. See, this is the number three again, isn't it? It's not crushing monolithic unity. It's not just fissiparous diversity. It's the one and the many. And then his famous image, he uses a lot: "The body is one though it has many parts". There's the image again. So all the different parts of the body, each one doing its own thing with its own individuality and distinctiveness, but in service of the common good. Okay. Okay. That's the mark of the Spirit.

All right. And finally, let's look at the Gospel for Pentecost, which is so rich. It's Easter night. Easter night. The disciples, they still don't really know what's going on. Imagine how frightened they were. Their master has just been, I mean, brutally put to death and by a hostile authority, and they must have thought, "Look, we're next". So in their great fear, they gather. But Jesus comes and stands in their midst and says, "Peace be with you," and shows them his hands and his side. As I've said before, that's salvation, everybody. We killed God and God returned in forgiving love. That means there's no sin that God can't forgive. That means that "nothing can separate us from the love of God," as Paul puts it.

That's what they got. He says, "'Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.' And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit.'" This is the whole Church, everybody. "As the Father sent me, so I send you, and I'm going to give you, from the Father and from me, the gift of the Holy Spirit". The Spirit, the love that connects the Father and the Son; the Father, the Son, and as Fulton Sheen said, they they sigh forth their love for each other. The one, the two, the three. Communio. The one and the many coming together. The love that God is.

That's what Jesus breathes into his disciples. And by extension, breathes into us. Because they're a stand in here for the life of the Church, aren't they? Jesus, up and down the centuries, breathing the Holy Spirit into the Church. "As the Father sent me, so I send you". What's our job, everybody? In a world that's riven by too much oppressive unity, too much oppressive diversity, our job, having received the Holy Spirit, the power of the three, our job now is to be bearers of that Holy Spirit to the world. Okay, you got your marching orders now. When you go out, think of that.

Now when you wake up in the morning, when you go out and you say, "Look, here in my world, there's too much of this crushing unity. I got to get in the way of that". Or, "Here in my world, there's too much of this rancorous diversity, too much of this battling". My job, as I've received the Holy Spirit, I should breathe forth that Spirit of love into the world. That's it. That's it. It happened, Pentecost, long ago when the tongues of fire came. And though they were from all over the world, they heard them speaking in their own voice. Good. It was true for St.Paul, the many manifestations, but the one Spirit. It's true for us. You've received the Holy Spirit. Now breathe it forth to your world. And God bless you.
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