May 19, 2024 – Pentecost Sunday

Fr. Drew Hoffman

As a college chaplain, one of the most common complaints about Christianity I hear from young people is that they believe practicing the Faith means boredom and conformity. The person who follows Christ becomes a “cookie cutter” person, made to look like everyone else by following specific rules; a robot that doesn’t think for themselves and loses what makes them unique. It’s only by rebelling against the Faith that one can become uniquely themselves, different from the boring masses.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. As C.S. Lewis said, “Sameness is to be found most among the most ‘natural’ men, not among those who surrender to Christ. How monotonously alike all the great tyrants and conquerors have been; how gloriously different are the saints.” I will often say, perhaps simply to get a rise out of someone, that sitting in the Confessional is “boring.” I certainly don’t mean this to be disrespectful to the tremendous Sacrament of Mercy; nothing could be more thrilling than welcoming a soul back into communion with Christ! What I mean is that the sins we commit, and the ways we rebel against the Lord and His Church, are not terribly interesting. In reality, it is sin that turns us into uninteresting, cookie cutter people, all looking and acting basically the same. As wild and rebellious as a young person thinks they are being by leaving the Church, the truth is that they end up acting like most of the rest of society. It is in the saints, and those closest to Christ, that we see radical individuality and uniqueness. We were made in the image and likeness of God as a soul specifically created for a purpose. Thus, the closer to Christ I draw, the more myself I actually am. I am powerful and unique, not by leaving the Lord, but when I am closest to Him!

We see this in our readings this Pentecost. When the flame of the Holy Spirit pours out upon the Apostles, they preach the Good News in such a way that each individual language and culture can understand and receive it in their own manner. Their uniqueness is gathered and utilized, not covered over or abandoned. St. Paul touches on this profound truth in our Second Reading: “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone… As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ.” How unhelpful it would be to have a body full of noses or eyes or ears? It is when each part acts most fully as it was created that the body is at its best. It is the same with the human soul. As we draw nearer to the Lord, we receive the best of both worlds; the stability of being members of a body and the individuality of my particular call and destiny.

The great St. Catherine of Siena, one of the most unique people to ever live, purportedly said, “Become who you were born to be, and you will set the world on fire.” While her exact quote is slightly different, the point is well made. I have a specific and unique role to play in the great story, a “definite service” in the worlds of St. John Henry Newman. But I find that role not by rebellion, but by drawing closer to the fire of the Holy Spirit and the flame of the Sacred Heart. This Pentecost may my nearness to the flame of love allow me to light a fire throughout my family, community, and world.