Choose to be a Saint
May 19, 2002 (Audio) Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Solemnity of Pentecost
Reading I (Acts 2:1-11) Reading II (1 Cor 12:3b-7, 12-13)
Gospel (St. John 20:19-23)
Today we celebrate the great Solemnity of Pentecost, the day that the Lord had promised to His disciples. It is the day that He had spoken of when He said to them: "It will be better for you if I leave, because if I do not the Holy Spirit will not come upon you." He had told them numerous times that the Holy Spirit would descend upon them, that He would fill them, that He would lead them into all truth, that He would be with them always - and He is. The Holy Spirit, poured out upon the Apostles, has also been given to each person in Baptism. In His fullness, He is present because of Confirmation.
What happens in many lives is that we do not see the working of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes we think it needs to be the way that it was 2,000 years ago. We need to hear strong, driving wind; we need to see flames depart and descend upon each person; we need to see extraordinary charismata at work: we should be speaking in tongues and doing all kinds of other things. That is not necessarily the case. As God is apt to do the first few times that He does something in order to demonstrate that it is real, He has to do something a little bit more extraordinary, or else people would not believe. But as time goes along, it just simply becomes more ordinary. For instance, look back to what happened the first time the people came to Mount Sinai. There were all kinds of phenomenon that they witnessed. There was the smoke; there was the lightening and the thunder, the trumpet blasts and God speaking, all of the earth shaking and all the other things that happened. By the time Elijah went to the same mountain, all of those things occurred, but God was not there. Rather, Elijah heard God in the tiniest little whisper on the same mountain. In other words, God first had to show himself to be powerful, to be the Almighty God, the God who was with His people, so that they would believe He was there. Once He had demonstrated all of that, it was no longer necessary to continue to do the extraordinary things; but rather, His presence among the people was ordinary. He was there in all of His power, in all of His majesty, but He did not need to demonstrate it.
The same thing happens for us. Initially, when the Holy Spirit was given to the Church, there were extraordinary things. Now for the last couple of thousand years, it has been a much more ordinary means. The Holy Spirit is there in each one of us who is in the state of grace. Part of the reason why we have not seen the working of the Holy Spirit the way we think that we should is simply because of sin. What has happened is that the Lord has allowed the Holy Spirit to be there directing each of our lives in a way that is extraordinary in itself. We spoke a couple of weeks ago about how the Lord has allowed each of us to be plunged into this world that is filled with sin. Yet it was the Holy Spirit who guided us through all of that. All you need to do is ask yourself: If you have been living out in the world your whole life in this society, how is it that you are here on a Sunday morning? This is not something that our society upholds in the least. If you were living a worldly life, you certainly would not be here this morning. You would either be in bed, or watching TV, or you would be out running around having fun, the way that the world suggests Sundays ought to be. Everything is about the weekend. The Holy Spirit who is with you when you go out into the world is the One who leads you back here.
He is not just at work on Sunday morning. The Holy Spirit is at work 24 hours a day within each one of us, helping us out there to be able to resist the ways of the world, lifting us up out of our sinfulness and bringing us to Confession when we do fall. It is the power of the Holy Spirit that allows the bread and wine, at Mass, to be changed into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. It is the power of the Holy Spirit that forgives sins in the confessional through the power of the priesthood. The priesthood is a charismatic gift; it is a gift of the Holy Spirit so that the Sacraments would be available to the people of God. The Holy Spirit is at work constantly. He is at work in each one of us. As we heard in the second reading today, St. Paul said, "No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit." If you want to know if the Holy Spirit is present and working within you, all you need to do is ask if you can acknowledge if Jesus Christ is Lord. If that is possible, then you know that the Holy Spirit is there.
It is also possible that what has happened in many of our lives is that we have tried to push the Holy Spirit as far back into the corner as we can. He is still there; it is just that most of us really do not want Him to do a whole lot of work because if He did, we would not be like the people out in the world anymore. We would not be able to fit in. Just think how crazy people would think we were if we were really living according to the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who filled Jesus Christ; it is the Holy Spirit who was the Spouse of our Blessed Lady; it is the Holy Spirit who is the soul of the Church. When we look at the life of Christ, the life of Our Lady, and for 2000 years now, the life of the Church, it is a life which is contrary to that of the world. It is a life which stands apart. It is a life which is rejected and hated and despised by the world. We know fully well that if we are going to live according to the Holy Spirit, we will follow that same life. We will live the same life, and we too will be hated and rejected and despised by the people who are worldly. Now I challenge you, are you willing to do that?
We live in a time, as I have been telling you, where we have to make a decision. We need to make a choice which spirit we are going to follow; ultimately, there are only two. There is a Holy Spirit and an unholy spirit - lots of unholy spirits - but ultimately there is the one who leads them all and we have to make a choice. Which do we want to follow? In our day, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are going to see the greatest saints the world has ever known, with the exception of Our Lady and St. Joseph. We will see the greatest saints the world has ever known. Now you need to make a choice. Do you want to be one of them? Now by that I do not mean sitting back and saying, "Wow! Wouldn’t it be neat to be doing all the things that the saints did?" We are going to do greater things than the saints did, but that is not what being a saint is all about - doing extraordinary things. Being a saint is about loving Jesus Christ is an extraordinary manner. It is giving our entire being, our entire self, our whole life over to Jesus Christ. It is allowing Jesus Christ to live in us and through us. It is to be so transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit that there will be no difference between our will and the will of Jesus Christ. Now let me challenge you again. Do you want to be a part of that? That means having to change. That means having to allow yourself to be formed, conformed, and transformed into Jesus Christ. Is that what you want for your life? Or do you want Jesus to be simply at an arm’s distance? He is nice on a Sunday morning, but forget it the rest of the week.
Jesus wants everything. Every part of who you are, Jesus Christ wants - not in a selfish way, but rather, out of perfect love. Jesus Christ commanded us - He did not give us a suggestion - He commanded us to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect. He has given to us the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth. In other words, it is the work and the power of the Holy Spirit to perfect us. Do we want it? The Holy Spirit will be given to each one of us in accordance with the personality that God has given so that He will work in each one of us in the way that will give God the greatest glory and will be the most perfect for each one of us. Are we willing to allow Him to do that? In other words, not to tell the Holy Spirit how He ought to work in our lives; but rather, to allow Him to tell us the work of God that He has chosen for us.
"There are different gifts but the same Spirit," St. Paul told us in the second reading. The Holy Spirit is given to each one as God chooses, if we are willing to open our hearts and allow the Holy Spirit to take over our lives, to lead us according to the way of Jesus Christ. We will see extraordinary things. Not just extraordinary things out there in some saint, extraordinary things right here, and in here, in each one of us. In your own life, you will see the working and the power of the Holy Spirit and that is a guarantee, if you are willing. The problem is, for most people it sounds like a neat romantic idea, like a fairy tale existence, and wouldn’t that be fun? That is not what I am talking about here. I am talking about the power of the Holy Spirit conforming you to the will of Almighty God. Most people in this world do not want that to happen.
I ask you to enter into your heart today, and to pray and to really do some soul searching and ask yourself, "Do I want that? Am I willing to do the will of God in all things? Am I willing to profess my faith even if it means that I will have to die for that faith? Am I willing to do whatever God wants me to do? Am I willing to be thought to be a nut out in the world? Am I willing to be rejected because I am following Jesus Christ?" We are not asking for a fairy tale existence here. We are asking for saints. Jesus Christ is asking for saints. My question to you is - Through the power of the Holy Spirit, do you want to be a saint? And the follow-up question now is not - Do you want it? - but - Do you will it? Do you choose to be a saint?
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.