June 9, 2019
Pentecost is the “birthday of our church.” And, as is the custom with birthdays, Pentecost comes with gifts. When Jesus returned to heaven, He did not forget us…or our birthday! He sent the Holy Spirit with seven wonderful presents… gifts that are constantly being renewed. And what’s most amazing is that these priceless gifts are entrusted to specific individuals, those folks who are most likely to put them to full use for the benefit of everyone.
Think about the leadership in your own parish family. Those women and men that deal with community affairs: parish council members, those involved in the finance committee, bookkeepers and groundskeepers, parish secretaries…everyone who helps the parish interface with the world…these folks are all given the gift of RIGHT JUDGMENT. This is the gift that reminds them as they go about their work that our Church might well be a human institution, but we are not just another corporation…we are the Body of Christ. God is present within us. There is no room for politics or ego. And all decisions and actions will be according to God’s will and God’s way…when this gift of RIGHT JUDGMENT is unwrapped and put to full use.
Our sisters and brothers who are involved in the many areas of pastoral care and ministry are given the beautiful gift of REVERENCE. Empowered with this gift, they are able to see Christ in others, especially those in greatest need. And, in turn, they make Christ present to those to whom they are ministering. When taking the Eucharist to the sick or homebound, extending sympathy and support to someone who has lost a loved one, extending Christian charity to those unfortunate souls who have hit on hard times…whatever the pastoral care might be…when it is done with REVERENCE, Christ is present. And that is exactly what we are all about…making Christ present in the world.
One of the most important responsibilities entrusted to every generation of disciples is the work of passing on our faith in the risen Christ. Parents have the primary responsibility for this extremely important obligation. However, they are assisted by folks like our catechists, youth ministers, and the RCIA team. Regardless of the role or title, the Gift of KNOWLEDGE is there for the taking. It is often said that “KNOWLEDGE is power.” If that is true, then there is nothing more powerful than KNOWLEDGE about Christ. The more we know about Christ, the more powerful we become.
We live in very challenging times. Just 50 days ago, on Easter Sunday morning, three Catholic churches in Sri Lanka were the targets of terrorist attacks. It is reported that 250 people lost their lives and there were countless serious injuries. One of the parish priests who was celebrating mass as bombs exploded was recently interviewed and said: These bombs have enkindled in (our) hearts a desire for Jesus Christ.
It takes COURAGE to return to church after that kind of experience, the kind of COURAGE that is a gift of the Holy Spirit. This Gift enabled the Apostles and disciples to leave the safety and security of the Upper Room and go out into the world to proclaim the Gospel. The gift of COURAGE was evident among the early Christians, who accepted a martyr’s death during the first bloody persecutions. That special kind of COURAGEis still being given and used by Christians around the world as violent persecutions continue.
But you know, it also takes COURAGE to stand up in front of the community to serve as a lector. It takes COURAGE to be an usher or greeter, especially during these times when we can’t be certain who or what might be coming through the doors of our church. It takes COURAGE, too, for little kids in school, or big kids in high school or college to acknowledge that they are Catholic Christians. It takes COURAGE to remain faithful to our Church…not just in times of bloody persecution but also in times of scandal and shame. That COURAGE is a gift of the Holy Spirit.
One gift that I am personally concerned is being under-used and under-valued is the gift of UNDERSTANDING. An important tool that enables us to deepen our love for the Sacraments, UNDERSTANDING is most visible…or should be… in the eyes of the Eucharistic ministers who serve the Body and Blood of Christ. If we receive the Eucharist with that same gift of UNDERSTANDING that we become what we eat…or should…nothing, not even a terrorist threat or scandal and shame would keep us from the Communion Table.
Allow me to suggest that the gift of WISDOM can be found at work within the music ministry of our parishes. St. Augustine said: When we sing, we pray twice. It takes WISDOM to choose hymns that compliment and highlight the WISDOM of the Readings. Our musicians, cantors, and choirs use this gift well in order to help the community truly experience the Divine Presence among us when we gather for liturgy.
The final gift of the Holy Spirit is WONDER AND AWE. It is the sense that runs through us when we come together as the People of God…The Body of Christ. It is the gift that arouses within our hearts a spirit of joy that we carry out from the Church and into the world, confident that we will be able to face the challenges of the coming week with hope.
Today is our birthday, and if you just look around, you will see the gifts that we have been given are truly at work. And so long as we accept and share these gifts, there is no power on earth that can do us harm.