Abbot Mark preached the Homily.
At Pentecost the Holy Spirit came down on the apostles and from then onwards the Church has always been alive. Sometimes, especially through the periods when the Church seemed to go into decline through indifference, persecution, and worse, it appeared to be dead or dying. But even though that tree, which is the Church, looked as if it was on the way out, the sap which is the Holy Spirit has never stopped coursing through its veins. The condition of the Church - of the tree - may have made the Spirit’s work more difficult but the life of the Spirit has always been there. At times of renewal people have been aware of the finger of God touching the Church and giving it new and fresh life. At other periods the Church has been failing and gravely wounded but in truth it has never been dead.
Today is a special day for us at Nunraw because we have come to end of Fr Raymond’s term of office as abbot. We have been forced to begin a new stage of our lives as a community. Needless to say he has been delighted to hand over the baton of his responsibility to another. That other – God help us! - must take it and carry it more like a flame for the benefit of the community.
Pentecost is the Birthday of the Church. It is a time of new birth, new life for all of us. Each of us is called to something new and yet not new. The Spirit comes to us as we are, but in a way that helps to be transformed into something new. We have to change from the old self with its fixed patterns to ones that are open to the Spirit. This doesn’t normally mean that we have to do something radically different but to do the same things in a transformed way. The greatest changes we are called to make are internal. These provide the conditions which produce the fruits of the Spirit more readily and make us ever young in our desire and love for God.
The vision of the early Church living together in a close-knit body living for and with each other, became for the founders of the monastic orders an inspiration and pattern for community life. The reality is that the Acts of the Apostles is describing the life of the ‘ordinary’ Christian, if you can really call someone who tries to live the life that Christ gave us as ordinary.
We are all called to live for others in our prayers and concerns, and in practical ways when we can help them. All of this is not something imposed on us – a burden – a weight too heavy to bear, but something that we are happy to do. To know that we are helping someone in real need is a cause of joy and happiness.
Not that we are necessarily actually feeling good in the course of the deed.
On that first Pentecost there were many people present in Jerusalem. They were astonished when they could understand these Galileans when they spoke to them about Jesus and his risen life. One of the graces of the Holy Spirit is to break down barriers. We all have our different personal ways of looking at life. One of our problems is to see how others understand situations. It is difficult for us to see the diversity of ways that others see life and its problems. With willingness and effort we can appreciate the possible solutions and richness that they can bring to life shared in common. That applies both to monastic life and family life. None of us can appreciate every dimension or aspect of life on our own. Together we see more comprehensively and enjoy more fully. But the cost of the free gifts that the Spirit gives us is the constant effort to understand what God is doing in our lives and in that of each other as we uphold one another in our faith and lives. It is a fact of life that when we look out for each other we make of ourselves a fertile soil for the fruits of the Spirit to flourish. Let us pray for one another that the Holy Spirit come and recreate us to be more truly children of God and faithful witnesses of the gospel. ======================