“You have come home, mags. Like a pilgrim who has walked a long way, you have had to travel far but now you can stop and be. Early Christians used to say that ‘the world was created for the sake of the Church.’ By coming into full communion with the Church you are simply joining that for which you were made.
Like the Apostles at the first Easter, you know that Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven so like them you have come to believe that he is the Lord. With this faith in the Son of God, you intend to spend your life following him within the community He founded. If this was a movie, I would receive you into the Church and the credits would begin to roll, but after the tidy end of the Ascension, came the explosion of Pentecost – this movie is nowhere near its end.
Today is the Feast Day of St Philip Neri, the founder of the Oratorians – the community of priests which Bl. John Henry Newman went on to found in England. As a young man living in Rome, St Philip would often go to pray in the newly rediscovered catacombs outside Rome, among the tombs and bones of long-dead Christians. On the eve of Pentecost in 1544, while in prayer, he experienced the Holy Spirit coming upon him fresh, like a globe of fire entering his mouth. Philip was so filled with love that he cried out, ‘Enough, enough, Lord, I can bear no more!’
Amongst the bones, Philip is brought to a new consciousness of God’s love. The Prophet Ezekiel had already had this experience. In his vision of the valley filled with dry bones, he saw God’s Spirit breathe new life into the people of Israel. They hadn’t asked for – God just gave it because he loved them.
What is certain is God’s love! We see proof of it in the gift of the created world, the gift of our own lives and in Christ’s gift to us of His sacrifice upon the cross. What is not certain is our trust or faith in God. We are like the beloved who however many times they are told by their friend or lover that they are loved cannot believe it. They keep thinking that they are just not that loveable or they suspect their friend or lover’s constancy. ‘Surely they will tire of me one day.’
Faith is to believe in all that God has spoken and revealed to us. Faith is to believe that God is constant. St Philip Neri had such faith. It led him to give time to prayer. It made him expect more gifts from God because you know that when someone loves you they can’t help themselves but are impelled to give you gifts.
The Ascension was a tidy end – the Son of God had spoken, he had acted and then left the stage. But then with Pentecost came the gifts of love through love Himself – the Holy Spirit. Mags have great faith that tonight is not some tidy end to the mess of life. The great film of your journey of faith will never get to the credits because it is only just beginning and it will never end. And God has so much in store for you as he has for all of us. Please God we shall believe that and wait expectantly for the gifts of His love for from Christ’s breast flow fountains of living water.”