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Official Website of the
Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Published: May 15, 2016
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor preached the following homily during the Deacon Recommitment Mass at St. John Catholic Center in Little Rock on Sunday, May 15, 2016.
When I was ordained it was after eight years of study. The ceremony was powerful and moving, but when I arrived at my first assignment I didn’t feel a whole lot different than before. When I sat down to hear confessions for the first time, I expected that it would be a little while before I had to deal with anything very serious.
So I was really taken aback when the second confession I ever heard turned out to be a big one. Moreover, the penitent was seeking advice. So I swallowed hard, opened my mouth and let the Holy Spirit do the talking.
From the look on the penitent’s face, I could see that something powerful was happening. Ordination had empowered me. The Spirit had filled me in such a way that I was now, through God’s grace and through no merit of my own, able to forgive sins, and I could see that it was really happening.
If I had not gone in to hear those confessions, I would not have experienced in that way just how much the Holy Spirit had already empowered me without me being especially conscious of it — I discovered his power by using it.
One week later I had my first Mass in Spanish. At that point, my Spanish was pretty rudimentary. This was not a case of me being given the gift of tongues — I had gotten Cs in Spanish in high school and had only one year of college Spanish. What happened was that God gave the entire congregation the gift of interpretation of tongues. It seems that they did manage to figure out the gist of what I was trying to say.
Again, in preaching, whether in English or in Spanish, I pray and prepare a message, but it is the Holy Spirit that enables each listener to receive whatever part of that message he wants them to hear. Sometimes from the look on people’s faces, I can see that something is happening.
When the Holy Spirit came upon the 11 surviving apostles, it was after three years of living with Jesus and 40 days of post-resurrection appearances. Ten days earlier they had seen him ascend to heaven, which was a powerful and moving experience, but as they gathered once more behind locked doors that first Christian Pentecost, they didn’t feel a whole lot different than before.
They were still paralyzed by fear and didn’t know what to do next. Then suddenly, the Holy Spirit came upon them, took away their fear and empowered them to step out and proclaim the marvels of what God had done in Jesus.
When you first read the account in the Acts of the Apostles, it sounds like they miraculously have been given the gift of speech in different tongues. But if you read the text closely that it is rather that some of the hearers have been given the gift of interpretation of tongues. There were 11 apostles speaking, but 15 languages are heard; each hears them in his own language. The apostles delivered a message, but it was the Holy Spirit that enabled each listener to receive whatever part of that message he wanted them to hear. And from the look on their faces, they could see that something was happening.
You and I were baptized and confirmed years ago and some of us have been ordained — I am thinking in particular of you deacons who will be renewing your diaconal commitment today. We may remember these as powerful and moving events, but the only way we come to know the real power of these sacraments by using the gifts the Lord gives us to the fullest extent possible.
If I had not gone in to hear those confessions, I would not have experienced in that way just how much the Holy Spirit had already empowered me without me being especially conscious of it — I discovered his power by using it. It was already there, but I didn’t feel it in the abstract — it was only in concrete acts that I began to feel God’s power working in me.
The same is true for you. Today we celebrate Pentecost, the day when for the first time the Holy Spirit filled us and sent us forth to continue Jesus’ work. You have already been empowered — in baptism, in confirmation and many of you by ordination. But to make a difference we have to then act, using the gifts with which the Holy Spirit has already filled us.
It’s like with a car. Your car has already been filled with gas. Make sure it’s in gear and step on the pedal. If you do so, you’ll go places with the Lord and discover what that car really can do.