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Father O’Connor’s Homily on 24 May 2015

Pentecost Sunday-B

Memorial Day Weekend


Acts of the Apostles 2:1-11

1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13

John 20:19-23 or John 15: 26-27; 16: 12-15


            I have been doing a lot of thinking lately:

                       --on 3 June, I will be 66 years old;

                       --on 14 June, I celebrate by 40th anniversary of ordination

                                   to the priesthood;

                       --on 15 June, I will mark two years of service as the pastor

                                   of Saint Vincent de Paul Parish;

                       --in our diocese, we priests retire at age 75, and so looking at

                                   God’s gift to me of time, I hopefully have 9 more years

                                   of active priestly ministry ahead of me;

                       --and looking at God’s gift to me of talent, I believe that there

                                   is more that I can do for God in priestly ministry

                                   during these next 9 years.


            And so, at the beginning of Lent this year, I was in touch with Bishop Lennon and I requested a change in assignment.

            Right after Easter, three parishes became available for pastorates.  And I submitted my application for one of them.

            After the interview process was completed, the Clergy Personnel Board made its recommendation to Bishop Lennon.

            On Friday afternoon, 22 May, I met with Bishop Lennon and Father Don Oleksiak – who is the Director of the Clergy Personnel Office and also the Moderator of the Diocesan Curia – and received from Bishop Lennon the appointment as the pastor of Saint Joseph Parish in Amherst – with 2100 households and a school – as well as the appointment as the administrator of Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in South Amherst.  Both assignments will be effective for me on 1 July 2015.

            The plan is to begin the new pastor search process for Saint Vincent de Paul Parish very soon with the hope that a new pastor will be in place here on 1 July – or at least a temporary administrator until a new pastor is named.

            I shared my reasons for making this change with Bishop Lennon, with Fr. Oleksiak and with the Clergy Personnel Board.  And I am sure that many of you are wondering what my reasons are. 

            However, I do not see that sharing them with you would be of any real constructive benefit to Saint Vincent Parish.  And so I ask you not to conjecture what they might be.  Gossip rarely leads us to the truth.  And gossip never makes the gossiper or the one being gossiped about better disciples of Jesus or better versions of themselves.  So please let my reasoning rest – and resist the temptation to chatter and guess.

            Let us keep each other in prayer during this time of transition.  May the Holy Spirit lead and guide each of one of us on our journey to heaven.



            And now a bit about today’s Feast of Pentecost:

            The English language that you and I speak is a difficult one.  It is very inconsistent.  I wonder what it is like for someone who is learning to speak English. 

We have words that are spelled alike but are pronounced differently, like s-o-w:  to sow the seed, or a sow – the mother of the three little piggies.

We have words that sound alike but are spelled differently and mean differently:  t-o, t-o-o and t-w-o.

We have words that look very much alike but are pronounced very differently:  through, though and tough.

Even in talking, you can speak a sentence using a very flat voice:  “I didn’t say that about you.”  But you can change the meaning of that sentence by the emphasis you use in your speaking voice:

            I didn’t say that about you.

            I didn’t say that about you.

            I didn’t say that about you.

            I didn’t say that about you.

English is a tricky language.  And we need help sometimes in speaking it and in understanding it correctly.


            Communication is something that you and I work on all the time so that the message that is delivered is the same as the message that is received.  Otherwise, misunderstanding occurs. 

You remember the story of the Tower of Babel in the Book of Genesis, the first book of the Old Testament.  It says that at that time all of the people of the world spoke one language.  And they decided to build a large tower in their large city.  However, they had forgotten about God and had become self-reliant. 

And so God gave them a clear warning.  Each of the groups in Babel developed its own language and the townspeople lost the ability to communicate with one another.  And then the Tower of Babel project came to a screeching halt:  they could no longer function as a unified team because they no longer spoke the same language. 

And we have the expression in English today:  “to babble” – to chatter on without being understood.  It comes from that failed building project, the Tower of Babel.


            Pentecost is about the Holy Spirit enabling us to hear and understand the Word of God.  The account from the Acts of the Apostles is in direct contrast to the Tower of Babel story.

There were devout Jews in Jerusalem who were speaking every language known to humanity, and not understanding each other.  And then the Holy Spirit came down upon the Apostles in that upper room.  They heard the sound of rushing wind and saw tongues of fire over their heads on that Pentecost Sunday.

Then the Apostles went out into the city of Jerusalem, preaching about Jesus risen from the dead.  And each person heard the message in their own language.  The many languages came to one understanding.  Through the power of the Holy Spirit, God’s message that was delivered was God’s message that was received.


Jesus kept His promise to send the Holy Spirit to guide us, His Church, in all truth and to be our Advocate. 

You and I are so bombarded by countless messages in our world that run contrary to God’s message.  We can grow deaf to the voice of the Lord as He speaks to us in the Scriptures and through His Church and in our prayer.  God’s message delivered is not always received.

And so the event of Pentecost continues and is needed.  We open our ears, our minds and our hearts to receive God’s Word and live by it. 

And we ask the Holy Spirit to enable us:  “Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful.  And kindle in us the fire of your love.  Amen.”


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