On this first weekend of the month of June, 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, reconciled them after their desertion on Holy Thursday night, 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.
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.” 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 (9th Week), picking up where we left off in March 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.
Our parish Grade School completed its school year last Friday amid great rejoicing among students and faculty alike. We celebrated the Graduation Mass and Commencement of our St. Isidore Grade School Class of 2017 on Wednesday, May 24th. We congratulate our graduates, their parents, and our Grade School administration, faculty and staff on a job well done. It has been a very good year for our school. Now that our school year has concluded, please note that we will not be celebrating the weekly School Mass at 8:15am on Wednesdays. Weekday Masses will be celebrated Monday through Friday at 7:00am and 12:05pm and Saturdays at 8:15am. We also celebrate a weekly Mass at 2:00pm on Tuesdays at our Nursing Homes, alternating each week between Lexington Nursing Home and West Suburban Nursing Home.
Last Saturday, May 27th, we celebrated two Confirmation Masses during which 152 teens and adults 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 parishioners. Congratulations to all who were confirmed this year, both last Saturday and last November. We are very happy to see you take the next step in your lives as disciples of the Lord Jesus. Thank you to Arizbeth Alcaraz and Terri Majeski who directed our Confirmation program over the past two years and to Jackie Ludwig for her catechetical help and retreat leadership. Thank you to Vera Zielinski and Amy Alvarez who assisted with the details of the celebrations and to all of our catechists and facilitators who volunteered in our various formation programs that prepared our newly-confirmed parishioners to take this next step in their lives as disciples of the Lord Jesus.
Happy month of June! May God continue to bless us with everything that we need, and more.
Father Jim Murphy