Today we celebrate the 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 the 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 (our Gospel reading) 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. Beginning on Monday, we return to the season of Ordinary Time (7th 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.
We celebrated two First Communion Masses last weekend and concluded with two additional Masses yesterday. Congratulations to all of our young parishioners who celebrated their First Communion this year. At the conclusion of each celebration, I invited each of our First Communicants to wear their special clothing when they come back for Sunday Mass today. Please congratulate them when you see them. Congratulations also to their parents for bringing them to this point in their lives. Thank you also to Vera Zielinski, our Faith Formation staff and our catechists who assisted their parents in preparing our young people for this new beginning.
We continue to remember in our prayer our Confirmation candidates. They will be confirmed this Saturday, May 28, 2016, with two separate celebrations at 10:00am and 1:30pm. Abbot Dismas Kalcic, OSB, of St. Procopius Abbey in Lisle will be with us to celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation with our young people this year.
Thank you to the 950 households who have responded to Bishop Conlon’s request to support the 2016 Joliet Diocesan Catholic Ministries Annual Appeal. We are only $2555 away from reaching our 2016 goal in pledges with $168,687 pledged towards our parish goal $171,242. Thank you for your generous response. The Diocese recently mailed a second follow-up letter to those who made a pledge over the past few years but have not yet made a pledge for this year’s Appeal. I want to encourage everyone who has not had a chance to respond to the 2016 Joliet Diocesan Catholic Ministries Annual Appeal to do so as soon as possible. We have additional commitment envelopes at both the Parish Office and the Hospitality Desk in the Church. On-line pledges can be made at www.jolietdioceseappeal.org. Thank you again to all those who have already responded and are helping us reach our 2016 goal in pledges. Your generosity is deeply appreciated.
May God continue to bless us with everything that we need, and more.
Father Jim Murphy