Pentecost Sunday 2021
Preached at Assumption Parish in Bellingham, WA
- Fr. Stephen Chow Sau-yan
- “I have been thinking all week about…”
- Uighurs, Sinicization of religion, Vatican-China deal, Hong Kong protests
- Impossible without the Holy Spirit
- The same Spirit that will strengthen Fr. Chow was given to the Apostles and is given to us
- Will assist us in even the most difficult circumstances
- Will help us to achieve the most epic victories
- Gifts of the Spirit help us endure but also help us build up
- Seven traditional gifts: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, piety, and fear of the Lord
- Also individual charisms
- Story about messages from God lady
- Requirements for discernment of charisms
- Freedom from sin
- A Church and parish where no ministry is a duty, and every ministry is a charism
English (Draft Text)
Last week, Pope Francis named Rev. Stephen Chow Sau-yan as the new bishop of the Archdiocese of Hong Kong. For international Church watchers, this is an incredibly big deal.
See, China is a really horrible place to be religious right now. Most egregiously, China is currently following in the footsteps of Nazi Germany and relocating an ethnic and religious minority, the predominantly Muslim Uighurs, and placing almost one million of them into forced labor “re-education” camps. This is part of a more general campaign, started in 2016 by Chinese President Xi Jinping, to “sinicize religion,” that is, to only allow religions in China that first embrace all of the principles and teachings of the Chinese Communist Party before their own religious principles. In 2018, this increasing persecution of religion led the Vatican to enter into a secret treaty with the Chinese government, presumably to have written protections for the rights of the Church in China, but a deal which has been repeatedly ignored by the Chinese government leading to even worse persecutions of the faithful in China. Finally, to top it all off, the Chinese government has gotten increasingly aggressive with the administrative region of Hong Kong, introducing an extradition and national security bill that stripped most of Hong Kong’s previously enjoyed autonomy and democratic rights, leading to massive street protests over the last two years. The leaders of these protests, we should note, were primarily Catholic and Catholic educated, as the strong Catholic education system in Hong Kong has, up until recently, managed to resist the communist curriculum imposed on most Chinese schools. Many Catholic leaders in Hong Kong are currently being arrested and disappeared.
Into all of this steps Fr. Chow, the native Hong Konger, U.S. educated provincial of all the Jesuits in China. He is the third man considered for the job after the previous bishop died two years ago, with the first two candidates being withdrawn because one was seen as too close to the Chinese government and the other seen as too close to the pro-democracy protesters. Fr. Chow has an impossible job, accepting one of the hardest episcopal appointments in the world right now. He will quickly be killed or be forced to abandon his principles and violate his conscience. He is a smart man, so I imagine that he knew he could be headed for martyrdom when he accepted the job. We should all pray for Fr. Chow.
I am telling you all of this because I want us to understand the power of the Holy Spirit. No man can succeed in the position that Fr. Chow finds himself. But Christ did not leave his followers to act on their own. He sent them the Holy Spirit, the consoler, the paraclete, the Spirit of Wisdom and Power. After our baptism, and especially after our Confirmation, we Christians never act alone. God dwells in us and God acts through us. The Apostles, an eclectic mix of white- and blue-collar sinners and ruffians, could never have preached the Gospel to the entire Mediterranean world if they had not received the Holy Spirit. Because, truly, it was the Holy Spirit who preached the Gospel, and the apostles were merely his coworkers.
As the rite of Confirmation emphasizes, the Holy Spirit given to the Apostles, given to the saints, given to Fr. Chow, is the exact same Holy Spirit given to us. Every single one of us is informed and driven by the God who toppled empires, created civilizations, and gave martyrs the serene strength to endure torture and death while praying for their captors.
I am not sure if you understand what this means, but it means that you are a superhero. You have the power to work miracles, to convert sinners, to change hearts and minds, to make disciples of all nations. Or, more properly, you are a coworker with the one who can do these things, and he chooses to work through to secure his victories.
No matter what you face, no matter what you are called to do, you will always have the power to do it, because the Holy Spirit will do it through you.
However, beyond just difficult times and difficult tasks, we also speak in Christianity of something called a charism. “Charism,” from the Greek word for “gift,” is the special role, the special power, that the Holy Spirit chooses to work through each of us specifically. There are, traditionally, seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, derived from a reading from the Prophet Isaiah: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, piety, and fear of the Lord. Of course all of us receive all of these gifts at our baptism and confirmation, but each of us should also expect to receive one of these gifts in a special and particular way. I myself believe that I have been particularly given the gift of Counsel, which allows me to judge promptly and rightly, for myself and others, in difficult situations. I experience this gift more powerfully and more frequently than the rest.
Even beyond the traditional gifts, thought, the Holy Spirit may give us a specific mission and purpose, along with the gifts necessary to carry that purpose out. I knew in Boston, for example, a woman who would regularly receive messages from God that she was supposed to communicate to specific people. Of course, many people claim to have this gift and most of them are delusional, but I received a message through this woman which prompted a series of events that led me to the priesthood and a friend of mine received a message that led directly to her baptism and reception into the Church. This woman had an authentic charism from the Holy Spirit, which the Sprit used to build up the Church.
We believe that God loves us and loves his Church. We also believe that God is all-powerful. And we also believe that God delights in working through his people, not around his people. So we should expect that God is always and everywhere raising up individual believers who, through their cooperation with the Holy Spirit, bring the Church exactly what she needs on the individual, local, regional, and international levels.
God desires to work through each of the baptized, which means that each and every one of you has a charism. Each and every person in this Church today is destined to work miracles for those around them. Maybe not physical miracles like healings, though these do happen, but certainly miracles related to the gifts of wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, piety, and fear of the Lord. And then, for some, charisms beyond even these. Many of you, however, may be wondering what your charism is or why you haven’t experienced it yet. The thing about a charism is that it is the last thing to manifest in our spiritual lives. Before God is going to send us out to change the world, he first needs to make sure we have submitted to the necessary changes in ourselves. We have to remove the persistent sins that take up space in our hearts, so that God can fill that space with his presence. We have to pray, daily, in contemplation, so that we can know God’s will for ourselves and the world. We have to develop the ordinary virtues of selflessness and self-giving. And then, only then, are we ready to be channels for the miraculous work of God. Once we have made ourselves empty, willing vessels of the presence of the Holy Spirit in the world, then he will work powerfully through us, just as he worked powerfully through the Apostles, through the saints, through the martyrs. Not only will he give us the grace to endure incredible difficulties, as we pray he will grace Fr. Chow; he also gives us the grace to help the world and the Church grow and thrive. God wishes to renew the face of the Earth and, if we allow Him, that renewal will always come through us, from the Holy Spirit dwelling in us.
Parece que perdí el texto de mi homilía en español y nos olvidamos de grabar esa misa en Facebook. ¡Lo sentimos mucho!