A SERMON FOR PENTECOST SUNDAY
It’s Pentecost already. Fifty days have passed since Easter, and our Lord’s promise of a Comforter is today fulfilled. Cloven tongues of fire appear on the heads of the Apostles, and they now begin their task of spreading the good news of the Gospel to the four corners of the earth. Pentecost in the year of our Lord 33 marked the beginning of a new era in the world’s history. With his death, Christ conquered Death, with his Resurrection he humiliated the Devil, and with his Ascension he re-opened the gates of heaven. Today, a new Church is born, one that would replace the ancient Synagogue of the Jews with a global covenant for all mankind, Jews and Gentiles alike. On this day, all things were made new again, and we were given a second chance.
How did Satan feel about all this? On Good Friday, he had experienced the pinnacle of whatever evil glee his hatred permitted him to have when he witnessed the death of the Son of God on the cross. But his victory had been turned into utter defeat on Easter Sunday, and he had found himself in a worse position than ever, with his human slaves now able to avail themselves of sacraments and graces unheard of in the Old Testament. Heaven was once again open for business after a lockdown of four thousand years. And people were anxious to change their lifestyles and make sure of their place in this newly opened heaven by staying away from sin. Satan was losing his hold on his followers, and people were beginning to flock to the waters of baptism.
So what’s he going to do about it? Quite simple. If you hold a serpent by the tail and stick pins in it, you’re going to make it mad. Real mad. And then watch out, because it’s going to swing around and bite you. And our blessed Lord knew this would happen, and that’s why he warns his apostles in today’s Gospel, that along with the coming of the Holy Ghost, “the prince of the world cometh” also. With the coming of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost, another spirit comes slithering in, an unholy spirit, one that has just been deprived of its victory over the God it hates, and one fixated on revenge.
Since that first Pentecost, when the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church was born, our world has experienced the presence of these two spirits, the one holy and the other evil. Men have been torn as never before in this struggle between the Holy Ghost and the Devil. Each of us have experienced this struggle many times in our lives – shall I do what I want to do, or what I should do? It’s the Jekyll & Hyde story over and over again.
In the wider sphere of world history, the same struggle has been continually waged between the two forces of good and evil. Victories and defeats, sometimes with evil being vanquished, other times with God’s forces seeming to suffer an ignominious beating. But history is just that—it’s the story of what’s happened in the past. Today, we are living tomorrow’s history. The events of today are what will shape our future into what it will become. The current crisis in world events brought about by a simple little bug has been the catalyst for developments that we’ll surely be feeling for years to come. How will it all turn out? Only time will tell. Who’s to blame for what’s happening? There are too many conspiracy theories clashing around these days for us to be able to pick the right one. All I know is that the devil doesn’t miss a trick. He recognizes the chance he has been given by this crisis, and he will use his human instruments to try and bring about changes in our society that fit his agenda.
“Brethren, be sober, be vigilant,” says St. Peter our first Pope in his epistle, “because your adversary the devil goeth about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Whom resist ye, steadfast in the faith!” Here’s our agenda. To be sober, to be vigilant, and finally to resist the assaults of the devil. We’ll need to resist when the time comes, when we know exactly what we need to resist—whether it be hatred, division, immorality, or pressure to abandon our faith. But in the meantime, for goodness’ sake, stay sober, keep your wits about you. And above all, be vigilant—keep your eyes open for any cracks in the infrastructure through which the devil can enter in. Whether it be our constitution, our laws, our local community. Or maybe our own family. Or our very own souls. Don’t let him in. Resist.
Back in the Middle Ages, when a village was attacked by foreign barbarians, the villagers would all run for cover in the local castle. They would run inside, and then the drawbridge would be pulled up, and they would defend themselves from the safety inside the fortress walls. Our souls are a bit like that fortress. They are our house of defense that we need as the world outside seems to be collapsing. First we had coronavirus, and before we’ve even had chance to breathe, we then get a new cold war with China and race riots in Minneapolis, all within the space of a few days. Many in our own families have already fallen victim to the wolves of an apostate Church and a society of rotting morals. So where else can we turn? We must run for cover to the house of defense that is our own soul. Know that as long as we keep that soul safe and free from sin, there is nothing an enemy can do. Even the very prince of the world, the Devil, cannot enter in unless we throw the door open and invite him in.
Our soul is the temple of the Holy Ghost. It is he that we must invite to fill our souls. It is the Holy Ghost whom we must ask today to fortify our souls for the battle with evil, to arm us with his sevenfold gifts of wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord. After you leave here today, look up that hymn we all learned as children: “Come Holy Ghost, Creator, come, from thy bright heavenly throne. Come, take possession of our souls, and make them all thine own. Far from us drive our deadly foe; true peace unto us bring; and through all perils lead us safe beneath thy sacred wing.”