Friday, May 21, 2010

Pentecost: A Reflection

As a sit here on the day before Pentecost Sunday, celebrating 39 years of priestly ministry, my thoughts go to an event that took place at the beginning of my sophomore year of high school when in 1959 Pope John XXIII called for a council, the council that became known to us as Vatican II. In making this call he asked the Church to pray for a new Pentecost, a new outpouring of the Spirit, on the Church and on the world. The council began three years later in 1962 when this writer was a freshman at the Franciscan College Seminary in Troy, NY, certainly did provide for that outpouring. The Pope's prayer was answered with renewed enthusiasm for liturgy, especially the change to vernacular language, Scripture, the role of the laity in the Church, and ecumenism.

Every year we celebrate Pentecost and recall the descent of the Holy Spirit on the apostles and ask for an outpouring of the Spirit. This year though, most especially I think, calls on us to cry out loudly for an outpouring of the Spirit. We need to call on the Spirit to heal the wounds caused by sexual abuse, it's cover-up, and exploitation of it by many in the media. We need to call on the Spirit to heal the wounds within the Church between factions who call themselves liberal or conservative and who forget that the idea is not to win out against the opposition as we do in political elections, but to call on the Spirit to lead us to what is best for the Church which is usually a mixture of change and tradition. The Church above all must be a win-win place and not one with winners and losers. We need to call on the Spirit to blow on us anew that we might realize that the Church is not the institution, but the vibrant living community of faithful members, clergy, religious and laity alike, throughout the world. The institution is needed, to be sure, but the institution is not an end in itself, but at the service of this great communion of believers.

When this new breath of the Spirit upon us takes place there will be fewer people saying things like, "I like Jesus, but not organized religion or the institutional Church," because they will see living witness to Him in the visible, institutional Church. When that happens the Church's wonderful social teachings touching areas like the economy, peace, justice, concern for the environment will be heeded because we will once again be credible. People won't be able to say, "Don't speak to us about justice until you clean your own house."

As youngsters preparing for Confirmation many of us had to memorize the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit. I must admit that though I am a friar and priest I still had to check the catechism to be sure I had them all down. Let us ask the Spirit this Pentecost to pour out on us these gifts of Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel (or right judgment) knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord. These last two deserve some comment. Piety does not mean walking around with our hands folded and carrying our rosary. It means a strong devotion and loyalty to God and the things of God. Fear of the Lord means a sense of awe and wonder towards the Creator, not a fear of punishment by God. That awe and wonder is certainly created in me by viewing the video clip attached to my last posting.

Veni Sancte Spiritus! Come Holy Spirit and pour out your gifts on all of us.

PS You might look to the column on the left on click on the blog of our bishop here in St. Petersburg (For His Friends)for a nice reflection on Pentecost.

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