This year is the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci. He died in 1519, so we’re celebrating his 500th anniversary. But the reason I mentioned him is, well, he’s famous for the painting of the Mona Lisa. He also has a whole bunch of other paintings; one of them is The Virgin and the Child with St. Anne, which he never finished, and there’s another one, The Adoration of the Magi, he didn’t finish that one either, but it’s still a beautiful painting. Then he has a few other paintings that he never finished. There’s a story that after he finished one painting and it wasn’t really finished, he told one of his students, he said ‘Here you go, finish it,’ and the student said, ‘I can’t finish it! What do I do?’ and he said ‘Just look at it, you’ve seen me! Be inspired! Look at it! Be inspired by the work I’ve created, by what I’ve done. You’ve seen me, you’ve watched me, be inspired and finish it! You can do it!’ And that’s really what our Lord is doing today in the Gospel.
By this Feast of the Ascension, he’s saying ‘Hasta la vista, baby! It’s all yours. I’m out of here, I’ve had enough of this world!’ And we’re like, ‘Well, no, no, no! Wait a minute! You didn’t finish yet!’ And He says, ‘Yes I have, and I’ve sent you the power of the Holy Spirit.’ We had our Confirmation ceremony this past week with the bishop, and they like to say to some of the candidates and those were confirmed, that, ‘You are sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit.’ But we don’t give a Catholic tattoo on your arm, or brand you with a hot iron. The bishop anoints you with oil, the chrism, the sweet-smelling new person, that’s how you’re marked as a Catholic. That’s how you’re marked with the power of the Holy Spirit, and that oil represents how the Holy Spirit works. The Holy Spirit doesn’t burn a hole into our skin, and we don’t have it needled into us somehow, but the Holy Spirit is in us and inspires us. That that word inspire is the same word as Spirit, the breath of the Holy Spirit comes upon us, and Jesus, in the opening prayers said we we could already taste on earth the gifts of heaven. By looking at Jesus going to heaven, we’re reminded that where he is, that’s where we’re going. But he also said ‘I’m the way, I’m the way to Heaven.’ So we can be with Him, we can taste heaven along the way.
And I was thinking of some people that just come to my mind as examples of living in the power of the Holy Spirit. One of them is a Baptist man, Ross Renfrow, who is the superintendent of schools in Johnson County. Now, every year, what he does is he gets together at least once a year, two or three times in the different sections, he gets all the pastors together and he goes: ‘Get out of your churches and get into our schools and help our kids! Our kids, you know, some of them are committing suicide, or they’re they’re failing their exams, they’re on drugs; get out of your churches and get into the schools! Do anything! Go to the cafeteria, do anything! But be with our students, they need this.’
He had a personal experience that woke him up to this, himself. His wife passed away a few years ago, and he was left with two teenage daughters, and he realized, ‘I need other people to help me, so that my daughters don’t go in the wrong direction!’ And so he gets the pastors of all the different churches to get out and do something, and actually our church has kind of listened and been inspired by him.
We have, even though maybe independently at the same time, we have Martin, who started a tutoring program, which is exactly what Mr. Renfrow said: ‘Why don’t you have a tutoring program, because the kids, after they finish school, they go home; a lot of times their parents are not there, they’re still at work, so they have nothing to do. So they get in trouble, they don’t study; why don’t you have a tutoring program?’ Guess what? We have a tutoring program, and Martin has a degree in math! If you’re not good at math, sign up for the tutoring program at St. Ann’s Learning Academy.
He also said ‘You can start a club in your school.’ Well one of our our students, Emmanuel, started a Roman Catholic Club at Cleveland High School, and they’re probably definitely the first time there’s been a Catholic Club at a public school, in a lot of counties not just Johnston County. But the superintendent says, ‘I can’t talk religion, you can’t come in, necessarily, but if the students have a club, they can have any kind of club they want. So we have a Catholic club. But that’s, this is the power of the Holy Spirit operating.
The other thing is, I was fiddling around with my phone, as our altar servers know, but another inspiration is Catholic NC TV. And like that! If you pull out your your phone, your smartphone, and go to Catholic NC TV, you can see me! The Mass is being live-streamed on the internet! We got somebody back there operating the cameras. But this too is an inspiration. These young men here are altar servers, they’re not just sitting there listening to me, they’re live-streaming this Mass so that people around them, around the world, or people who are homebound can share in the Eucharist.
So that too is the power of the Holy Spirit. So Jesus is gone, but he’s left us in charge, so whatever our Lord inspires you to do, listen to his Holy Spirit.
The above is a transcript of Father Peter Grace’s homily from the 8 AM Mass on June 6, 2019, at St. Ann Catholic Church in Clayton, North Carolina. You can watch the original video by clicking the button to the right →