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June 8, 2014

An elderly gentleman of 85 years old feared his wife was getting hard of hearing. She always complained that she couldn’t understand the priest in church at all.  So one day he called her doctor to make an appointment to have her hearing checked. The doctor made an appointment for a hearing test in two weeks, and told him meanwhile there was a simple informal test the husband could do to give the doctor some idea of the state of her problem.

"Here's what you do," said the doctor. "Start out about 40 feet away from her, and in a normal conversational speaking tone see if she hears you. If not, go to 30 feet, then 20 feet, and so on until you get a response." That evening the wife was in the kitchen cooking dinner, and he was in the living room. He said to himself, “I'm about 40 feet away, let's see what happens.” Then in a normal tone he asked, "Honey, what's for supper?" No response. So the husband moved to the other end of the room, about 30 feet from his wife and repeated, "Honey, what's for supper?" Still no response.

Next he moved into the dining room where he was about 20 feet from his wife and asked, "Honey, what's for supper?" Again he got no response. So he walked up to the kitchen door, only 10 feet away.  "Honey, what's for supper?" Again there was no response. So he walked right up behind her. "Honey, what's for supper?"

"For God’s sake, Earl, for the fifth time, CHICKEN!"

The last two weeks we had an annual retreat for priests.  Retired Archbishop James Weisgerber challenged us to be the true disciples of Christ.  I had a wonderful time with other priests; some are still working in the parish; some are retired.  I had a chance to listen to the experiences of the older priests (I and a few others still considered ourselves young).  Can you imagine Fr. John Schuster, 74 years old still works fulltime?  Some have been faithful to the priesthood longer than my whole life.  These examples give me courage and comfort in the midst of turmoil and also strengthen my belief that the Holy Spirit is still at work in the Church.  The Holy Spirit is the driving force behind the Church and individuals to change and renew us.

I remember a friend of mine, Joe, a communist atheist, lost no opportunity to mock me about my priesthood and about what he saw as the irrelevance of Christianity, especially the Catholic Church.  One day we were out for a walk when we came across a gang of “toughies,” who were fighting and swearing in my neighbourhood.  Joe pointed to the scene and told me, “Look, Philip, it’s been 2000 years since Jesus came into the world and it’s still filled with aggression and violence.”  I said nothing.

Few minutes later we came upon a group of dirty faced kids playing soccer in the field.  Now it was my turn.  “Look, Joe, it’s over 2000 years since soap was first discovered, and yet the world’s still filled with dirty faces.  See that, nothing happens until they use the soap to wash their faces.”

Today we celebrate the Pentecost, the day when the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles and changed their life totally.  But it’s wrong if we think that happened overnight.  The change would have happened gradually when the apostles opened their ears and hearts to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  That explains why we, at our Confirmation, received the same Holy Spirit and our life hasn’t changed much or sometimes it changes for the worse.  Sometimes we think the Spirit of God is silent but our spiritual ears are full of noise or wax that blocks our spiritual hearing to the Spirit of God.  When Jesus said to the deaf man: “Ephphatha, be opened” (Mk 7:34), his hearing was restored and he was able to hear again.  The openness to the Spirit and to one another is the key for the harmony and peace in the community.

Come, Holy Spirit Come and renew the face of the earth.