Following a busy and extremely well-attended 'Life in the Spirit' Charismatic Retreat Day on Saturday 27th May (the Feast of St Augustine of Canterbury - one of the three Patrons of the Archdiocese of Southwark), Bishop Philip Moger celebrated Mass in St George's Cathedral Southwark, for the Vigil of the Solemnity of Pentecost. His Homily and photographs from the Mass may be viewed below.
HOMILY FOR PENTECOST
28th May 2023
St George's Cathedral, Southwark
When we hear the phrase Under the influence, how many of us think automatically about alcohol or drugs or perhaps being under the influence of another person? Not surprising, really, since these are its most characteristic uses. Each, however, carries a negative meaning.
I don’t think St Paul understood the Holy Spirit’s influence in that way. For God comes not to take away our freedom and uniqueness, but to give it its true context in which it can flourish and find its true fulfilment. So, for the Christian, being under the influence – of the Holy Spirit, is essential, not just desirable!
Today’s feast speaks of transformation by the power of God. In the first instance, the disciples. These weak, human beings, who abandoned and betrayed their friend and Lord, are not themselves abandoned or condemned, but given the Holy Spirit, igniting their faith, strengthening their hope, deepening their love. The result is that many people come to hear the gospel in ways, in words, a language they can understand. As St John Henry Newman had it, Cor ad cor loquitor, heart speaks to heart.
The Scriptures are not just warming tales of yesteryear, but a pointer to how God operates today. God still chooses weak human beings – you and me. He can break down the doors of our stubborn hearts, bringing peace. He can still bring a healing and transforming word to others, to speak and work in a way they can understand – through us.
As we look around the Cathedral this evening, we get a real image of what it must have been like on that first Christian Pentecost: Devout men (and women)...from every nation under heaven. We are blessed with brothers and sisters from many nations, each with a story of God’s providence, not without struggles and failures, but here, today, worshipping God, putting ourselves in the way of his transforming grace. And there’s a place in this church, this communion for everyone. Each of us reflects the face of Christ uniquely.
The Holy Spirit, is given to us at baptism and Confirmation and it’s the Spirit within us which enables us to become the person God calls us to be, to take our rightful place in the church and to pray. This gift once transformed ordinary, frightened people into evangelists. But the gift can remain dormant unless, as St Paul writes to Timothy we
'fan into flame/kindle afresh the gift of God, which is in you' (2 Tim. 1:6)
We are under the influence of the Holy Spirit, using the gifts God has given us for a good purpose, so that others may be drawn to faith, and so that we may be transformed to be more like Jesus. In this way, we realise our potential and live out our vocation, being fully alive with God’s Holy Spirit. Pope Francis has said,
Being open to the Spirit, who fosters harmony in diversity, brings docility, the virtue that saves us from entering the church half-heartedly (homily 5.6.14)
Half-heartedness is a temptation that can assail all of us. Let’s ask for a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit, that we may be wholehearted and that the face of the earth may be renewed.
Bishop Philip Moger
Vigil of the Solemnity of Pentecost - 27th May 2023