PENTECOST 2021: To Be Remade in the Image of God

Homily by Fr. James DiLuzio CSP

READINGS: ACTS of the APOSTLES 2: 1-11; PSALM 104; 1 CORINTHIANS 12: 3-13 GOSPEL of JOHN 20: 19-23

Spring has sprung; the world is turning green; warmth returns while the breeze is still cool and refreshing.  A NEW BEGINNING. Masks are optional now – free to safeguard ourselves and others as we see fit. The virus’ power ebbs, yet everyone knows (or should know) prudence will prove the ultimate conqueror of the disease once the world is vaccinated.

Prudence is a child of WISDOM, and the disciples gained WISDOM on that great day of Pentecost. According to Saint Thomas Aquinas, WISDOM is the ability to judge and direct human affairs according to divine truth.  And the Divine Truth is that there is a Patient, Prudent Creator who formed humanity–all humans formed IN GOD’S OWN IMAGE. The God who sustains us Christians in the DIVINE IMAGE through our identification with Jesus Christ, and our openness to all the gifts of the HOLY SPIRIT.  That is what our celebration of PENTECOST is all about.

So: what makes us in God’s image?  Every WISE person sitting in a pew should be able to answer this!  We are made in God’s image in that we have been given a

  1. MIND and a WILL just as the Mind of God brought forth creation by an act of Divine Will –GOD’S marvelous INTENTION to share LIFE, and, like God’s own, our WILL is FREE, to do as we may please with choices for good or for ill. Choose GOOD, GOD IS MANIFEST IN THE WORLD. Choose ill, the world experiences God’s absence through us. NEXT, we are made in God’s image because we have LANGUAGE.
  2. LANGUAGE molds us in God’s Image, too– WORDS that expand the Mind, Inform THE WILL, and deepen Understanding. WORDS clarify. They allow us to attain Knowledge and grow in Wisdom. Like GOD’S words, language can be used for good, for hope, for beauty, for truth. So, on Pentecost it is good we repent of those times we use language to harm, to demean, disparage and despair, to lie, to detract from the truth.  
  3. Another aspect of our being IMAGO DEI, is CREATIVITY – as God creates, so, too, humanity creates – inspired by GOD’S HOLY SPIRIT to procreate (if called to the vocation to wed, to parent) and for all: to create what proves necessary for life, and enhances life–utilizing the gifts of earth and our very bodies so that we and others may LIVE fully because the image of God insists that we cultivate:
  4. RELATIONSHIP – because GOD IS RELATIONSHIP, the heartbeat of life itself.  Communion and cooperation is the Divine Essence: FATHER, SON AND HOLY SPIRIT –relationship IS what GOD IS, and so, we, too, were made for communion and cooperation, to harmonize our wills, our language, our creativity IN ORDER THAT WE MAY CHOOSE, YES, CHOOSE to LOVE, YES LOVE
  5. LOVE THE CROWN OF THE HUMAN IMAGE OF THE DIVINE.  Indeed, God is LOVE and God lovingly bestowed on us the capacity to enhance relationships and EXPERIENCE GOD HIMSELF/ GOD HERSELF who loves all men and women equally—black, brown, tan and yellow, beige and rouge—with or without deodorant and the accessories of Western Civilization. More than a feeling, LOVE is a daily choice that mirrors God the more IT INSISTS ALL are created in God’s image. And to fully imitate God’s LOVE, our love, too, must comprise—WHAT?  You know! Yes, you do.  Yes, you do! It is FORGIVENESS.
  6. FORGIVENESS – an inseparable, indelible aspect of Love’s reality inherent in God’s relationship with our human species.  Without Love / Forgiveness, life is reduced to survival. Without Love/ Forgiveness our image of God is lost, and we lose our ability to experience God.  

And because we often thwart God’s designed destiny for us, God offers us NEW BEGINNINGS, new starts just as God has throughout the Bible and All Human History. Ultimately our lives must be continually CLARIFIED, and CONFIRMED in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. A dying to sin, a rising to compassion that is what love/forgiveness is. There is our 7th IMAGO DEI. COMPASSION. As in the Compassion of God on the enslaved Israelites, on King David, adulterer and murderer, on Die-Hard Saul destined to become Saint Paul, and on all world-weary and, at times, disillusioned disciples.

Today’s Gospel reminds us that like THE FATHER at the beginning, Jesus INFUSED LIFE into his disciples — BREATHING unto them that same HOLY SPIRIT God breathed into Adam and Eve, but this time with a heightened awareness OF LOVE FORGIVENESS as the solution to all that detracts from FULLNESS OF LIFE NOW and FOR ALL ETERNITY.

Breathing on to the disciples, Jesus spoke these words: “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”  

Too often, people have mistakenly maintained that “to retain” is to excommunicate, to dismiss.  Not so.  For “retain” means to hold in place, to arrest and allow for greater attentiveness to TEN COMMNADMENTS, to BEATITUDES. Retain is to TAKE TIME to clarify rights and wrongs, allowing for growth, for instruction, so we and others may return to loving relationships, making amends; undoing any damage that has been done.  Imagine what our world would be like if everyone were given every opportunity to right his or her wrongs, pick up the Cross of Restitution and begin again as LOVE/FORGIVENESS evokes COMPASSION IN US ALL.

COMPASSION is Wisdom, that very same Wisdom the HOLY SPIRIT fired down upon the disciples on that birthday of the Church we call Pentecost. On that day, in a renewed way, the disciples remembered what the Resurrected Jesus did for them. He offered PEACE because LOVE FORGIVENESS is WHO HE IS. Never forget that Jesus confirmed PEACE on the very friends who abandoned him, caved-in to fear, doubted God and God’s plans for them.  We, too, when filled with fear in these changing times, might doubt God and God’s plan for us. But why get defensive when reminded of our sins, OR those of our ancestors, when humility, truth and compassion are what offer us the Peace of Christ?     

On this Pentecost, we can reclaim GOD’S IMAGE IN US.  We may MIRROR JESUS by fostering Love Forgiveness and by RECLAIM the GIFTS of the HOLY SPIRIT –gifts bestowed on us on the day of Confirmation: Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel (submission to God’s Will), Fortitude (Courage), Knowledge (which is “right judgment”) and Piety (living a prayerful life, communion with Christ and all the Saints) and Fear of the Lord (awe and reverence to God in all things and through all relationships). 

The GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT are ever ready to offer us FRESH START, A NEW BEGINNING deepening our commitment to LOVE FORGIVENESS –living it and preaching it.  For when Love/Forgiveness is spoken, it is most assuredly the WORD every person understands because every person instinctively yearns for it in every language, every culture, every way of life.  We must yearn for it anew NOW and always if this PENTECOST is to make something new of you and me. Happy Birthday Church!  Time to be born again!

Our Cosmic Christ

HOMILY by Fr. James Diluzio C.S.P.

Readings: ACTS 9: 26-31; PSALM 22; 1 LETTER OF JOHN 3: 18-24 AND The Gospel of John 15: 1-8 The metaphor of Jesus as the Vine with We as the Branches

I have been meditating on the image of the VINE and the BRANCHEs and how extensive they are through time and space and beyond.  Extensive because of Christ and God’s plan for all creation. 

In focusing on the COSMIC CHRIST, I invite us to journey with some facts of science filtered through the eyes of FAITH.  We do not talk enough about the convergence of their respective truths. May our reflection open our eyes to the deep reality that all is COMMUNION, a celebration of relationship that is God’s plan for us all.  

The Bible says God created Adams (Hebrew for HUMANS) after a long process of essential elements coming together and becoming the material world. Science says In the Beginning, there were ATOMS, and, after a long process of essential elements coming together, this COMMUNION contributed to LIFE and humanity’s existence. Science starts and ends with humanity.  FAITH begins and ends with CHRIST. 

Science says all this started with a BIG BANG! Scripture says, all began with God’s word: LIGHT! But God did not create light for its own sake, but to anticipate and to bring forth Jesus in materials’ time and space; LIGHT to propel humanity into deeper communion with God, with others and with the elements from which we came.  

Science tells us the FIRST ELEMENTS from the Big Bang were hydrogen and helium .  As the cloud of cosmic dust and gases from the Big Bang cooled, stars formed, and these then grouped together to form galaxies.   AND RIGHT THEN AND THERE, creation was formed in the Christological Pattern of Dying and RYSING.  It is in everything because all is all in Christ. Stars explode. Stars die. DYING STARS contributed to life. When a star’s core runs out of hydrogen, the star begins to die out, but the dying star expands into a red giant, manufacturing carbon atoms by fusing helium atoms. 

  • Carbon – A component of ALL CREATION the carbon of dying stars is still in us because they were made for CHRIST and through CHRIST remain in us. 

Next, came OXYGEN as more massive stars began a further series of nuclear burning or reaction stages. Oxygen — necessary for LIFE be it in water or on land. Oxygen came to exist for Jesus to come into existence and, through human evolution, to bring us closer to GOD. 

And, as oxygen communed with hydrogen, water emerged colliding with the cold of space, becoming ice to melt on forming planets– particularly our own. NOTHING ON EARTH CAN SURVIVE WITHOUT WATER.  NOTHING!  Why did this water come to be? 

As it was CREATED FOR LIFE, it was CREATED FOR CHRIST, to bring about new forms of creatures first in water, and ultimately on dry land that prepared for humans to evolve so that humans would evolve to bring forth THE CHRIST who baptizes us with water and the essence of the FIRE of the HOLY SPIRIT. FIRE was also an essential element in Creation.  We need to remember that.   

I could offer more details, but I think you get the picture now. CHRIST IS COSMIC and the COSMOS is part of us because we are One in CHRIST. 

Rooted in our Relationship with Christ, we are compelled to extend that relationship with Christ by reverencing Christ in all our fellow human beings, all wildlife, and the earth itself, participating fully in GOD’S GRAND COMMUNION DESIGN. In this design, NOTHING IS WASTED.  NO ONE IS WASTED, EVERYONE BELONGS.  Remember that when we are tempted to become defensive in hearing the suffering of people of color, people of different cultures, countries, and orientations. Remember: the old is contained in the NEW in everyone, and what is NEW will become old only to be part of an ongoing transformation THAT GOD destined US to participate in –the FULFILLMENT of Christ as HIS BODY in history transforming the world in HIS IMAGE.  AGAIN: NOTHING IS WASTED.  NO ONE IS WASTED, EVERYONE BELONGS.  

Science tells us our UNIVERSE is expanding. WE MUST NOT FALL BEHIND!  Allow Christ today to expand our minds, evolve us, transform us, to the NEW HEAVEN and a NEW EARTH that is our destiny but that is accomplished in fostering COMMUNION with ALL –EVERY PERSON, EVERY CREATURE until all are one in Christ.  THIS COSMIC VISION MUST put our LIVES in perspective:  Always a MOVEMENT FORWARD, never a “dead end,” no matter how much like a “dead end” we may feel.  Our challenges, our difficulties, our conflicts, even the sickness and the death of our loved ones–or in our own sickness and anticipation of our own deaths—must be confirmed in SEEING THE WORLD AS GOD SAW IT FROM THE BEGINNING AND AS GOD INTENDS IT TO BE: an ongoing consecration into Christ Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. 

No matter how we may be participating in COMMUNION today, physically, virtually, we pray our sensibilities of “TAKE AND EAT will erupt a new consciousness in each of us, offering us COURAGE to advance the KINGDOM Jesus inaugurated.  Yes, one day we shall day, but with Christ’s blessed assurance, future generations will see us in themselves, and we will remain part of what is to come because we have communed with the COSMIC CHRIST leading us on to COMMUNION with God and all the saints not for just a moment, not just for today, but tomorrow, and tomorrow, and the next day.  In fact, forever and ever and ever. A World without End.