Archbishop Vigneron's homily at the Vigil of Pentecost

Given at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament

From The Most Reverend Allen H. Vigneron, Archbishop | Issued May 14, 2016

Archbishop Vigneron: Praised be Jesus Christ.

Congregation:Now and forever.

Archbishop Vigneron: I want to say how grateful I am to all of you who have come to the Cathedral this evening so that we could spend this time in prayer together, these hours of meditation, praise and thanks to God on this Vigil of Pentecost.

Our vigil celebration tonight is certainly like that which you might find in any other Church throughout the Christian world. I didn’t make it up. It’s in the Roman Missal. It’s what we’re all doing tonight. And yet, by my reading of God’s providence, this is a very special celebration of the Pentecost Vigil.

This is the second of three solemn liturgies to be celebrated here in the Cathedral to mark this Vigil of Pentecost. This morning, the Cathedral was full for the ordination of five priests. New workers in the vineyard, new evangelists, new servants of the Gospel. Our Vigil tonight, and tomorrow morning we will have confirmation at Mass here in the Cathedral. Our celebration of Pentecost in 2016 looks so very clearly toward our celebration of the Synod for the New Evangelization on the Feast of Christ the King in November later this year. And so, we see, I see, I hope you see along with me, that our celebration in these days, our celebration in this hour of the Vigil of Pentecost, is an indispensable preparation for the Synod. And so, I’m very, very grateful that you have come to be part of this sacred moment. Which I think of as a kind of a strand in a cable. A whole set of actions that we the Church, the people of God, in southeast Michigan, are engaged in as we seek to Unleash the Gospel. As we seek to answer the call of the Second Vatican Council and the bishops, the popes after the Council, calling us to a New Evangelization.

We are in some sense tonight, a Sacrament in this Cathedral. Mystically, sacramentally, in some way, we make present the prayer of the Church in the cenacle on that first Vigil of Pentecost. Particularly to call down the power of the Holy Spirit with new force and new vigor on us. So that we have everything that the Church had from her infancy. Every grace, every gift for the sake of continuing the evangelization that began when Peter had the courage to throw open the doors and go out into Jerusalem and proclaim the lordship of Jesus Christ risen from the dead. We need these same gifts because we are about the same work. The work of Jesus Christ, bringing the whole world into the embrace of His Father.

We are fulfilling the Lord’s commission. And so he must act in us. And we wait. That is principally our vocation this evening. Each of us in her heart, his heart, to be awake and on watch, filled with expectant prayer for the gifts that God will give to the Church in the Archdiocese of Detroit so that we can Unleash the Gospel. This is a sacred moment an indispensable moment. You may not have thought of this when you decided to come to the Cathedral tonight instead of watching television. I don’t even know what’s on Saturday night television, but you made the right choice. Each of you has been brought here by the Holy Spirit so that you can add the intensity of your own personal prayer to our prayer together. By your being here and by our praying together, we advance so clearly toward our Synod. Toward that moment when we trust the Holy Spirit will give us light about our New Pentecost, about how to Unleash the Gospel in the city of Detroit, in Wayne County, Macomb County, Oakland, Lapeer, St. Clair, Monroe, and it might even spill over into Washtenaw. They can use that in Ann Arbor. Perhaps even to Toledo.

Thanks be to God that we are here in this cenacle gathered in prayer. The sacred scripture tonight appointed for our hearing by the Holy Church, speaks to us both about the gift we serve, the grace, the gift of the Gospel, and the scriptures speak about the gifts we receive in order to perform that service. And I’d like to offer a few reflections about each of the readings to help you pray, to help you be attentive, to help you hear so that in your heart and in your voice, you can respond wholeheartedly and full-throatedly.

Perhaps the most important text from the Old Testament that we heard is the reading from the Book of Exodus, because it describes the first Pentecost. You know that the Feast of Pentecost was a Jewish feast day long before Christ was born. Long before Our Lady and the Apostles were in the upper room. 50 days after Passover, pious Jews celebrated the event that we heard recounted in the text of the Book of Exodus, the giving of the Covenant. By the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles 50 days after Jesus’ Passover, the Holy Spirit made clear that He is the law of the New Covenant. Not a law written as Ezekiel said it would have been on stone, but as Ezekiel prophesied a law written in the heart, the law of love that makes it possible to keep the Commandments. With all our heart to love God and neighbor. As there was at Mt. Sinai, so on this Pentecost of the New Covenant, there was this great fire. Fire over the heads of Our Lady and the Apostles, to manifest that they were the New Israel. The new people of God.

And so was fulfilled what the prophets had foretold: That there would be a new covenant, an unbreakable covenant. From Adam, through Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, God had foretold that the divorce between the people and Him was not to be permanent. There would be a reconciliation with no more loss … there would only be the bond of the covenant. No loss. No alienation. And so it happened on Pentecost, because God’s spirit was poured into the hearts of the faithful of the Church, and the Spirit of God is God and all-powerful. And so we are children of the New Covenant. That’s the grace we serve. That’s the Good News we seek to share with others, that they don’t have to be alienated from God. They can be in his embrace, and held with a bond that is unbreakable.

And so, we heard about Babel in the Book of Genesis. How, because of the sin of the human race, there began to be many languages and people began to not understand one another. This has been undone by the Pentecost of the New Covenant, because now we can all speak one language, not some kind of Esperanto, but we all speak the language of Jesus Christ. We think like Jesus. We speak the words of Jesus. Words of forgiveness. Words of encouragement. Words of self-sacrifice. Words of abandoned fidelity and hope. Words of mutual support. The gift of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, the gift of the Spirit that we look to be renewed in our diocese, enables us all to speak the language of Jesus Christ. The prophesy of Ezekiel is fulfilled in our day. The dry bones are put together and Spirit is breathed back into them and so they live. What is this to us? It’s about each life and the life of our community, of every community. Do we not feel sometimes that our lives are made up simply of dry desiccated bones, parts that really have no spirit, no life? We go through the motions. And the Good News, the Gospel is that it doesn’t have to be that way. If God wants each of us to be alive, to thrive, to flourish, to extend beyond ourselves, there is hope for dry bones. And we serve that Good News by unleashing the Gospel. And it isn’t just about individuals, it’s about our communities. It’s about our schools, our hospitals, our cities. And perhaps most importantly, it’s about our families. Does it not seem as we look around at so many homes seem to be charnel houses, places where there are only dry bones, selfishness, antagonism, hopelessness. And the Good News is that the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ is about to bring life to those dry bones, to make our homes alive, alive with the Spirit of the love of Jesus Christ. This is the mission of the Church in the Archdiocese of Detroit – to proclaim this truth and help people find their way to this truth and sustain them in this truth. Or as we say in the slogan – to encounter Jesus, to grow as his disciples and to give His witness to the world.

What does the prophet Joel tell us? That the Spirit is poured out on every person in the people of God. Everybody is supposed to be a prophet. Everybody is supposed to speak the Word of God, to know the mind of God, and to share the mind of God with those that they love and with their neighbors and their fellow citizens. This is what the New Pentecost is about – this is the gift we pray for.

This was what was prophesied, foretold in the old covenant in a hidden way, but at last has been revealed in the work of Jesus Christ. So Jesus speaks about the Holy Spirit in the Gospel. He stood up and exclaimed on the last day of the feast: “Let everyone who thirsts, come to me and drink.” Scripture says: “Rivers of living water will flow from within him who believes in me.” He said this in reference to the Spirit, that those that came to believe in Him were to receive. It is to give us this Spirit, that Jesus Christ came in the flesh. It is to share with us His Spirit that He died upon the Cross, and with His last breath breathed out the Spirit upon us. And is for this that He rose from the dead, so that in the flesh and blood of Jesus, the Spirit is alive and we who are baptized into Jesus Christ have a share in that Spirit. But he predicts even more for us. Did you hear this in the Gospel? “Rivers of living water will flow from him who believes.”

The Holy Spirit is not only given to us, but in the new covenant, this is the Good News, the Holy Spirit flows out from us. It is as if each of us through baptism became the water in which we were baptized. We become the oasis of the Spirit. Wherever we are, the Spirit is planted to spring up and bring forth life. Not only are our hearts purified, but we become the means, the agent of purifying our world of sin. Another way to put this might be, we become contagious with the Holy Spirit.

This is our work to Unleash the Gospel – to spread the Holy Spirit with His power to remake the world. Did we not sing this from the psalm? “Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.” This is the real ecological movement. It’s not about taking the toxins out of the groundwater, although I’m not opposed to that, it’s about taking out the toxins from the human heart. The toxins of selfishness, the toxins of despair, the toxins of focus on self over the love of God and love of neighbor, the toxins of idolatry – worshipping self, worshipping pleasure instead of worshipping God and serving our neighbor.

That’s the Good News! That in this archdiocese there are thousands and thousands of such oases – you and me, the people of God! And this spring, these springs, will renew the face of the earth, renew southeastern Michigan. This Spirit is to be unleashed. And Jesus ended the Gospel passage today with kind of an enigmatic phrase, excuse me it’s St. John: “As of yet there was no Spirit as Jesus had not been glorified.” What does that mean? It means that the Holy Spirit had not yet been given. As the third person of the Holy Trinity, certainly He existed, but He was not yet poured forth yet among us. And by this phrase, St. John reminds us of who we are like and who we serve and who we imitate by being these oases of the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ himself, who at the culmination of his Paschal mystery, as he lay dead on the Cross, had his side opened by the lance and out came blood and water. Symbols of baptism and Eucharist, by which we, the Christian community are filled with the Holy Spirit.

And so, as oases of the Spirit, as fountains of the Spirit, we imitate and continue the work of Jesus Christ pouring forth His love in the world. And it is the love that lives in the heart of Jesus Christ, His Spirit, that will heal the face of the earth, from all war and sin, every indignity against the human person and lead us to the fulfillment for which we were made.

We have been a long time hearing the Word of God, responding to the Word of God, this has been an indispensable grace on our way to the synod, but even in this hour, it’s only a prelude, a preparation, because in a few moments the Holy Spirit will indeed answer our prayer and come down among us. He will come down on the bread and wine which you will give me and I will place on this altar, and He will transform the bread and the wine into our Lord, Jesus Christ. And in this cenacle tonight He reigns as Lord. We acclaim Him as our Lord. Lord in His death and Lord in His resurrection. And He feeds us with His flesh and blood. And by giving us His flesh and blood, He gives us a new share in His Spirit. In this Eucharist we celebrate in vigil tonight is a pledge, first fruits, a down payment as St. Paul says, on the gift of the Holy Spirit which will be given in the days ahead, given in our synod, given in our effort to Unleash the Gospel, and will lead us to that hour when Jesus returns, when God is all in all and the whole world will know that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Praised be Jesus Christ now and forever!