Happy Memorial Day weekend! It does not seem possible that the first of our summer holidays is upon us, especially following our long winter and cool, rainy spring. This holiday gives us the opportunity to pray for the dedicated men and women who maintain and preserve peace and freedom for us and those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. It is important for us to remember. Please note that we print the “Military Prayer List” in our bulletin each week.
Memorial Day Mass will be celebrated in the Church at 9:00am on Monday. Please note the time of the Mass – we normally celebrate one Mass on civil holidays at 9:00am. This is a perfect way for us to observe the holiday.
Today we celebrate the major feast of Pentecost – the 50th day of Easter. Pentecost began as a Jewish celebration of the wheat harvest in the late spring. No specific date was set – it took place when the harvest was ready.
Gradually it became customary to celebrate the feast 50 days after the Passover (the word “pentecost” is Greek for 50th day). This date gave the feast additional meaning. Jewish scholars had calculated that when their ancestors left Egypt, they arrived at Mount Sinai approximately 50 days later. It was there that God gave them the Law and made a covenant with them: “I will be your God and you will be my people.” Thus, Pentecost became a time for the Jewish people to celebrate the covenant that made them God’s chosen people.
For the Christian community, Pentecost is really a double celebration. First, it is a remembering – we remember that event in history when Jesus fulfilled his promise to send the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles. This happened several weeks after Easter when the Holy Spirit was sent in the form of a mighty wind and tongues of fire. The first reading today from the Acts of the Apostles tells the story. This is a past event though. It happened once in history. Just as on a birthday we do not become an infant again, so too this first sending of the Holy Spirit does not happen again.
But there is another side to Pentecost. We also celebrate Jesus’ constant sending of the Holy Spirit to his disciples, beginning actually on Easter night and continuing into our own day. He quietly appeared to them, calmed their fears, and “breathed” the Holy Spirit upon them. Pentecost is really an ongoing event and not just past history. We do more than remember something that happened to someone else at another time, but we take part in what is happening for us today.
The Spirit of God is truly alive and at work in our lives today as we seek to grow as disciples of the Lord Jesus. St. Paul tells us that the gifts of the Spirit are “love, joy, peace, patient endurance, kindness, generosity, faith, mildness and chastity” (Galatians 5:22-23). The presence of these gifts is a sure sign of the presence of the Spirit.
Today we are called to honestly believe that Jesus continues to send his Spirit in our time. The Spirit is not just given to others, but also to us. And we were also taught “whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give you.” So our task is to believe and to ask. Living our lives as disciples of the Lord Jesus is not an easy task. We struggle to make his values and principles a part of our lives more and more each day. And we know that we cannot do this on our own. Fortunately, we have the Spirit to strengthen us in our efforts. Today we ask the Father to send the Spirit upon us in a deeper way than we have ever experienced before. If we ask for the gifts of the Spirit, God will give us these – and more.
With today’s feast of Pentecost we mark the end of the Easter Season. This week we return to the season of Ordinary Time (8th Week), picking up where we left off in February when we began Lent on Ash Wednesday. Throughout the 50-day Easter season, the Easter Candle has had a place of prominence next to the pulpit. That candle with the sign of fire was a symbol of the presence of the risen Lord among us, and was burned at every Mass. Now the Easter Candle will be “retired” to the Baptistry and used only for the celebration of Baptisms and funerals.
As the Pentecost readings remind us that we each have different gifts, given us by the Spirit, to be used in building the Kingdom of God on earth, we have the opportunity to make a personal response to that Scriptural reminder. This weekend we are conducting our 2015 Stewardship of Talent Renewal. Last February we had the Stewardship of Time Renewal and in October held our Stewardship of Treasure Renewal. Christian Stewardship includes the areas of Time, Talent and Treasure. As we make our Stewardship of Talent commitments following the homily this weekend, we trust that the Spirit of God guide us in being faithful Stewards of the gifts God has so generously given each of us. In gratitude, we offer them back in service to our community.
Last Saturday we celebrated two Confirmation Masses during which 189 candidates from our parish were confirmed. Abbot Dismas Kalcic, O.S.B., of St. Procopius Abbey in Lisle, was with us to preside at both celebrations of this sacrament and to complete the Christian initiation journey with our young people. Congratulations to all of our teens who were confirmed this year. We are very happy to see you take the next step in your lives as disciples of the Lord Jesus.
Memorial Day traditionally signals the beginning of summer. While we still have a few weeks remaining before the “official” beginning of the season on June 21st, we welcome this time of year. May God continue to bless us with everything that we need, and more.
Father Jim Murphy