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!

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