“The Universal Language of the Fruit of the Holy Spirit”

Homily, Pentecost Sunday, Year “B”
Sunday, May 19, 2024; St. Mary’s Cathedral
Mass for Eucharistic Revival to Begin Procession with the Blessed Sacrament to the National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis


The scene of that first Pentecost as described in the Acts of the Apostles is well known to us: people gathered from all over the world, from nations across the known face of the earth at the time, all hearing the Gospel proclaimed in their own language. It bespeaks the essence of the Church founded by Christ: consisting of all races and all languages, united in one faith and worship of the one, true God. This sense of the Church in her universality is a reality easily perceptible to us here in our own Archdiocese, and in many other dioceses as well in this part of the country, given the great ethnic diversity which we enjoy in our one Catholic family. It is a great joy and grace for us to have St. Francis and St. Patrick as our patron saints, but I think we can also, in a practical way, claim this Feast Day of Pentecost as our feast day as well!

Public Display of the Faith

This rich ethnic and cultural diversity is certainly a vivifying force for our local church, with a corresponding diversity of cultural traditions and spiritual devotions. One special memory I have of tasting this rich spiritual diversity (even literally!) was a pilgrimage I made many years ago to the city of Naga in the Philippines for the celebration of Our Lady of Peñafrancia, the patroness of that region in that nation. The conclusion of the novena consisted of a procession of about two miles on the water with the enthroned statue of Our Lady on a “pagoda” (a type of a barge), and then disembarking and continuing the procession on foot to the site where the Mass was celebrated.

The memory is still vivid in my mind: it was shoulder-to-shoulder people on the banks of the river, on the rooftops and balconies of the homes, cheering and waving white handkerchiefs, and again shoulder-to-shoulder people all the way on foot to the site of the Mass to the cheers and devotion of the very many thousands gathered there. I thought to myself that people with a very secular worldview, such as is common in our own country, would see all of this as quaint folkloric customs, practices perhaps interesting but nonetheless irrelevant to the reality of the world today. But in my reflections I saw that this faith was the same faith that had the power to change history, bringing an end to an oppressive dictatorship in their country. In fact, in our pilgrimage group was someone who had been a part of the “people’s power” movement at the time of the Marcos regime.

This is what faith is like when taken seriously and lived seriously. It is the faith that had the power to change history in our own country, in the middle of the last century, fueling the civil rights movement which brought an end to the oppressive Jim Crow era in the South. It is the faith that, a few years before that, moved Catholics in Europe to risk, and sometimes even lose, their lives to protect Jews from the brutal Nazi regime during World War II. In fact, just last September Pope Francis approved the beatification of an entire Polish family – father, mother and seven children – who had been executed by the Nazis precisely for sheltering Jewish people. This is faith lived at its best: not timid, not hidden in secret, but visibly displayed, making a difference in the lives of people and in world events. And so today we publicly display our faith, we will take it to the streets with our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, eventually all the way to Indianapolis for the National Eucharistic Congress in two months. But will this be for us simply a quaint folkloric custom, or will it be the display of faith that has the power to change history and to change hearts?

In Personal Life

The answer to that question will depend on whether or not we display our faith in the way that really matters: manifesting it visibly in the way we live our life. St. Paul drives this point home in his Letter to the Galatians where he speaks about the works of the flesh versus the fruits of the Spirit. But the works of the flesh have their fruit, too, very bitter fruit, which we are reaping now in our society. We lament the polarization, the hostility of people toward each other simply for disagreeing on contentious issues, we lament the violence, the anxiety, the growing divide between the rich and the poor, the demeaning and marginalization of people who are different from those considered acceptable in “polite” society. These are nothing more than the fruit of that long list of the debased and depraved “works of the flesh” that St. Paul identifies and that so fittingly, and eerily, describes the world in which we are living today.

Contrast this with the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. This is a life of virtue, a life lived with regard for the other, selflessness, living the way of love, which always looks to the good of the other without regard for one’s own self. Imagine a society regulated by this way of love: imagine how much happier and more peaceful it would be, imagine the human flourishing that it would foster. But while the world will always fall short of this mark to a greater or lesser degree, even in the healthiest of societies, the Church is meant to be the indicator of what such a society looks like.

So let’s go back to day one of the Church: everyone heard the Apostles speak in their own language. The Church speaks all languages – again, we experience that in miniature here in our local church – but above all, it is the fruit of the Spirit that is the universal language. When we live in the Spirit we will speak all languages, because our lives will have a universal appeal: we will distinguish ourselves as different, which is how it must be for one who is serious about being a disciple of Jesus Christ. If there is nothing visibly different about us from non-believers, we make ourselves into hypocrites – surely the sin our Lord detested more than any other. But if we are public about our faith, displaying it by righteous living, then others will perceive in us something different, a better way to live. And this is the most important meaning of the power of faith to change history: the power to change the history of individual lives, bringing them into the saving encounter with Jesus Christ and knowing his love, grace, truth and freedom. But, how do we get there? It is not simply a matter of willing it, of making the effort on one’s own steam. It can only come from a life rooted in God: it is God who gives the grace for us to live this universal language that is the virtuous fruit of the Spirit.

Eucharistic Revival

We are in the midst of this Eucharistic revival movement here in the United States, to recapture the core Catholic belief of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Here again, if we really believe this, it will manifest itself visibly. Christ is in our midst, and so we give only our best for God. I recall hearing a news story a year ago at this time about the coronation of King Charles. The reporter was describing all of the myriad details that go into the elaborate ceremony, and then said, “pageantry requires perfection.” Rightfully so. But this is for the arrival of a human king. What about the arrival of the King of the Universe, God himself made visible to us under the appearances of bread and wine? Does this not require a perfection beyond measure of any other?

And so we give only our best for God: in music, the adornments we use at Mass; we use only the best in furnishings to celebrate the Mass; we invest resources to construct beautiful churches in which to celebrate it; and above all, we give our best to God when we bring pure hearts to the altar, hearts made ready to receive him, his Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, in a manner worthy of this most sacred of gifts. Some may see this as a waste of resources, resources that could be better used in a more immediate, materially beneficial way. This, though, is not the language of love. Love wants only the best for the other, and love of God means we give God our best most of all. But even more so, when our lives are centered in God in this way, it is only then that we live the way of love, loving others for their own sake, with self-disinterest; loving the poor with the love of Christ himself who came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. If we do not know Christ, and love him to the depths of our being, then the help we give to others, our service to the poor, will not measure up to the self-sacrificing love to which Christ calls us, in imitation of his love for us. It will always be tainted by some degree of self-interest, or of accommodation to comfort and convenience.

It is God’s grace that enables us to do this, but we must do our part to enable that grace to work within us. And so I appeal to you once again, my dear priests and priestly people of the Archdiocese of San Francisco – and I invite those of you beyond the confines of our Archdiocese, many of whom are present in this church today or are watching via livestream – I appeal to you once again to live the consecration. When I had the great grace and privilege of consecrating our Archdiocese to the Immaculate Heart of Mary seven years ago on the Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary and the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Our Lady’s apparitions at Fatima, where she revealed herself under this title, I made the appeal for us to do what she asks: daily praying of the rosary and at least once a week together as a family; at least one hour a week dedicated to adoration of her Son in the Blessed Sacrament; and incorporating penitential discipline into our lives, in particular, fasting on Fridays from meat and one other chosen form of fasting, as well as frequent recourse to the sacrament of Penance.


Let us, then, open our hearts to this torrent of God’s grace re-creating us back into His image.  It is the Spirit of God who works this in us, the Spirit who gave birth to the Church and continuously animates her to speak all languages, to reach all people.  Or, as St. John describes the scene, Christ breathes the Spirit into his Apostles, the foundation stones of the Church.  As God breathed the breath of life, His life, into Adam’s nostrils to give him life, a life which we lost because of our rebellion against Him, Christ breathes new life into us through his Church, which leads us in the way of all truth.  Let us then give him all our heart and follow him – not simply across the Golden Gate Bridge, nor even all the way to Indianapolis, but follow his way of love, the way that reaps the sweet fruit of the Spirit, the way that has the power to change history, to change hearts, to bring the life of heaven to earth and to bring us to the life of heaven when we pass from this world to the next.  May God grant us this grace.  Amen.

Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco walk with the Blessed Sacrament crossing the Golden Gate Bridge to begin the St. Junipero Serra Route of 2024 National Eucharistic Revival Pilgrimage (Photo: Francisco Valdez, Archdiocese of San Francisco).