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Homily – May 10th, 2015

The first annual Holy Spirit Technology Week has come to an end. But this is just the beginning. My hope will be that we might grow ever more informed and competent and energetic in using technology to spread the good news.

Several of us from Holy Spirit went to Lansing to the Digital Evangelization Conferece last Wednesday to listen to the experts on what is happening out there in the world, technologically speaking, and to see what we might be doing, or doing better to fulfill our mission.

The keynote speaker was Fr. Tighe from the Vatican. He is the advisor to the pope on these kinds of things. And you all know the pope tweets. And for you uninformed, a tweet is a short communication of no more than 140 letters via smart phone, from one person, to many others. It’s like saying, hey world, here’s what’s going on in my life. This is what I consider important. And here’s my opinion. Those who receive it then have the option of “retweeting” , or passing it on even further. You can imagine how this might be used for good or for evil. Like I said, the Pope Tweets, but so does ISIS. They are using it to recruit new terrorists.

So, this is very hot stuff out there in the culture. Especially among the young. But, not limited to the young.

Yes, the point of all of this is that the older generation had better get on board, cause we just might just miss the boat. ( and notice I said “we”. I definitely include myself in this, in this, my first year of eligibility for Social Security)

We should recognize that the Church saw this coming many years ago at the Vatican Council. The bishops were visionaries and wrote a document called Inter Mirifica ( The Means of Social Communication) in which they advised us to utilize technology to the fullest. Popes have said that technology is a gift of God. And the bible says that The Word must be preached to all the world before Jesus comes again. So it would seem that the current technology is so widespread that it may actually be a sign of the times.

I’m not quite sure how to read the situation for us here at Holy Spirit. Despite having a school, we are an elderly parish. The Universal Church is an aging church. But how well connected is the older generation here?

I am surprised to see so many of our seniors holding cellphones, and texting, and e-mailing. Maybe your kids insisted that you get with the program. I don’t know.

But consider the possibilities for sharing your faith with others via cyberspace. This is for anybody of any age but how about for those who are not as mobile as they used to be. Or who are maybe kind of shy about face-to-face evangelizing. Maybe there is a place for you to communicate, anonymously, with those who have wandered away from the church, like your children. Or non-believers, or those who believe differently. Maybe you can even lead those who are angry with us in such a way that they might come back home someday.

There are advantages and disadvantages to any means of communication but let me just say that an advantage of digital communication is that your responses to another can be researched if need be, or well thought out, before you push the send button. As a matter of fact, that should be a rule of thumb. Never respond too quickly! Sometimes you have to let yourself cool down when the topic is controversial and your blood pressure is running high.

 In any homily I, of course, try to make a connection with the readings of the day. In our first reading we hear a part of the story of the conversion of Cornelius. He was a Gentile. A Roman soldier who sought out Peter so that he might come into the Church. Peter was initially resistant. Remember he was a Jew and even though he had made great progress under Jesus` guidance, he apparently still had a way to go.

You see, Simon Peter still had some old fashioned ideas. Remember that Jews were considered defiled if they had contact with the gentiles and so Peter was stand-offish. But Jesus granted him a vision in which it was made crystal clear that he was not to consider anyone unclean. God had come for all. And so in today’s reading we see Peter baptizing Cornelius, and his friends and his family.

In addition, and this was easy to miss, the Holy Spirit even came upon Cornelius and friends before they were baptized, not after. They were speaking in tongues before baptism. So the message to all of us should be one of acceptance and that the Holy Spirit works in different ways with different people and those ways may conflict with the way we would do things.

I fear that we still have some in our midst who have that old Jewish attitude and they often take on an adversarial role in their contact with the world. They see themselves in something like the pre-Vatican II Catholic fort, where we were “defiled” if we went to a Protestant service. Well, thankfully those days have changed but, like I said, sometimes old ideas die hard.

One of the aspects of the Digital Evangelization Conference last Wednesday was not so much an instruction as a reminder of how we are to engage the culture through the means of the social media. But of course, not limited to cyber communication.

We were reminded of what St. Peter told us in his letter: “Remember”, he said, “to always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you.” But then he adds the all important footnote: “ yet do so with all gentleness and reverence.”

Yes, that was the important point. And they elaborated. From experience, they have determined that a good strategy would be to allow the Holy Spirit some time to do His work. Don’t start right in with the opinion, or the confrontation, or the challenge or with a judgment. How about starting with acceptance. Accepting the person where they are at. We have no idea of what their personal experience has been and so maybe it would be appropriate to just love them first.

This, it would seem, is Jesus` ongoing message to the disciples, and to all of us, It certainly was the message of today’s gospel. Love one another as have loved you. In fact, to go so far as to lay down your life for your friends. And now you can even do that digitally.

We are called to go and bear fruit, and fruit that will last and this past week was an opportunity for all of us to reflect on how we can do our part.

I do hope you will do what you can to overcome the fear and the even distaste for the means of social communications .

Personally I had to be encouraged all the way. First with my computer back in 1995, and then with a cell phone, and finally with the smart phone. And you know I feel about that. So let me cajole you. If you don’t have a smart phone, please consider getting one. And then, by all means sign of for our new Holy Spirit Parish App.

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