Father Michael's Column

Pastor’s Column for Pentecost, 2024

 

Pentecost! The excitement of this feast should send shivers up and down our spines!

If you aren’t experiencing this kind of excitement—or perhaps if you’re even wondering what I’m talking about—it's probably for one of two reasons, both having to do with our CALL TO DISCIPLESHIP and MISSION.

The first reason is that perhaps far too many of today's Christians don't understand the significance of this feast. It's actually a more important feast theologically than Christmas! (I’ve noticed that almost nobody has any trouble getting excited about Christmas.)  On Christmas we celebrate the birthday of the Lord. On Pentecost, it could be said, we celebrate the birthday of the Church! It marks the coming of the Spirit to be with the Church and to empower the Church, to make it alive and to enable it to continue the work of Jesus. (By the way, the Spirit is a person, not a thing. We believe in one God, a Trinity of persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.)

Taken together with Easter, the coming of the Spirit on Pentecost celebrates the victory and completion of Jesus' work. Disciples have to recognize in their own lives the imprint of Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection. It’s what gives meaning to our lives as we follow the Spirit’s lead day-to-day, and, despite struggles, discover ourselves doing God’s work and finding joy, which is a hallmark of the Holy Spirit.

Actually, it's pretty hard to separate Easter and Pentecost: the fifty days from Easter through Pentecost form one great feast which St. Athanasius called "The Great Sunday". The Gospel of John makes an even stronger theological statement by having both events occur on the same day: both the resurrection, and the giving of the Spirit. They’re inseparable, in John’s mind. We try to make a similar statement through our practice of having the Easter Candle displayed prominently in the sanctuary from Easter through Pentecost.

The second reason is that an individual Christian might not be attuned to the movement of the Holy Spirit within his or her own life.

When that happens...how tragic. It’s much like the case of a person who has been introduced to their possible future husband or wife, but fails to recognize the moment and so doesn't bother to develop the relationship.  They never get married, and miss out on a lot of joy.  So it is with far too many Christians today: they're missing out on a lot of joy!  As baptized members of the Body of Christ, we have all been introduced to the Holy Spirit.  Now it's time to develop the relationship, and to be excited by His presence and promptings, just as a young man might be excited by the presence of his bride-to-be, and is eager to please her, even in little things—so he tries to pay attention to the “signals”. 

The best way to "tune in" to the Holy Spirit and recognize His “signals” is by regular prayer.  Be willing to grow in your prayer-life as the Spirit teaches you. 

One way to grow in prayer is by trying different styles of prayer at different stages in your life.  Another is by keeping at it, consistently.  Mass (every weekend, without fail) is, of course, a given.

Ask God if the time and place that you've chosen for personal prayer is right for you. Is it also the right amount of time? Do you need to spend some of that time praying with another person or persons? (Husbands and wives, please note!)  Families, neighbors, and friends are all good candidates for prayer together. The Holy Spirit will then have better-attuned Christians on His hands, Christians who will listen to His promptings about building the Kingdom of God.

It’s no wonder that eight years ago Archbishop Vigneron asked the entire diocese to spend a year in prayer, asking for a new Pentecost. Those prayers have been answered and the Holy Spirit has been moving in many exciting ways in the parishes and in the diocese as a whole. On the eve of Pentecost 2017, the Archbishop released his pastoral letter entitled, “Unleash the Gospel”. Over the years, several hundred parishioners have attended the study sessions of that document we presented, and I have often referred to it in my pastoral column and in homilies. You may have noticed that during the General Intercession at Mass we inevitably pray that we “become a joyful band of Missionary Disciples”—or some other petition that expresses the direction given us in this pastoral letter on Evangelization.

Keep praying and expecting! I’m confident that, much as what happened at the first Pentecost when the disciples were gathered, waiting, and praying, the Holy Spirit will touch the minds and hearts of disciples today. We, like them, will be able to “raise our voices in words of peace, and announce the truth that Jesus is Lord!” 

When we become attuned, and the Spirit moves, that may very well send shivers up and down our spines! Happy Pentecost!

In Jesus,

Fr. Michael