Guest Homily: Antiracism and the Communion of the Holy Spirit
The following is a homily delivered by Fr. Alexander M. Laschuk JCD, PhD, a canon lawyer and judicial vicar in Toronto. He's also Promoter of Justice for the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Eparchy of Toronto and Eastern Canada. He delivered this homily on the Monday after Pentecost at St Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Church, here he serves as parochial vicar. It was originally delivered in Ukrainian.
In the Byzantine tradition, the day after major feast days often focus on a person who made that feast day possible. So, for example, the day after Christmas, we celebrate the Mother of God. The day after the Annunciation we celebrate the angel Gabriel. And today, the day after Pentecost, we celebrate the Divine Person of the Holy Spirit.
We know that the Apostles were in the upper room when the Holy Spirit descended upon them, giving them the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Those gifts gave them the wisdom to go and proclaim the Gospel to the ends of the world, even in the languages of the different peoples. God divided humanity with different languages at Babel, but after the Resurrection, God unites humanity with the ability to speak those languages and proclaim the Risen Christ. God took the festival of Pentecost, which was already a Jewish festival, and raised it to eschatological significance and a final covenant between God and the Church. With the Resurrection, the covenant between God and His people has been expanded to include all peoples. The Holy Spirit came down to each according to their language, and to each people specifically.
The very first action of the Church is, as we see, missionary. The Church has been catholic and missionary from her birth. We are called to embrace this life-giving joy and proclaim Christ’s salvation in its universality, as the apostles did. With the gift of tongues, the Holy Spirit demonstrates that His presence unites and transforms confusion into communion.
When we look at our world in recent days, we see that is has has forgotten about communion. We see a world that is divided, broken, and against itself. A world of horrifying violence, especially against Black and Indigenous people in Canada and America. We see the reaction against this violence, and we see a call to unity.
As Ukrainians we know the dangers of when militarized police, even unmarked officers, turn against the people. That is happening in America now. In Canada, people are also standing up for justice for Black and Indigenous Canadians, especially from the police. In America, this was ignited with the callous murder of George Floyd. In our own city, we have seen the tragic death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet happen during an encounter with Toronto Police. That is currently under investigation. Many may not know that she is the granddaughter of Fr Josaphat Korchinski of our Eparchy.
As Ukrainians we know the dangers of when militarized police, even unmarked officers, turn against the people, as is happening in America now.
At this time, the Holy Spirit calls us, as He called the apostles, towards a new life in Christ. In Him there is no division based on race or nationality, but communion as modeled by the Holy Trinity. At Pentecost, we are called to be united, to go forth, and to proclaim the joyous message of the Risen Christ to all who need to hear that message. As we celebrate Pentecost in Church, we need to allow that joyous event of unity between peoples to inform our social and political mindset.
During this Pentecost season, let us make a renewed commitment to opposing a culture where human beings are rejected or tossed aside. Instead, let us work for a new culture made of encounters, joint efforts to promote the common good, safeguarding the goods of the earth, and a shared fight against poverty and discrimination. We’re meant to go out into the streets just as the Apostles did (for now at least virtually). We're meant to bring the power of unity and love of the Holy Spirit. Let us follow their example from two thousand years ago today.
We have seen the true light, we have received the heavenly Spirit, we have found the true faith, worshipping the undivided Trinity for having saved us.
The Homily from Fr. Alexander begins at around 22 minutes in this Divine Liturgy Stream.