A word from St. Pope John Paul II ~ “We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures, we are the sum of the Father’s love for us and our real capacity to become the image of His Son Jesus.”
On this second Sunday in 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 his 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 another Advocate – 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. Despite their hiding behind locked doors, He quietly came 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 (10th 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.
Thank you to all who have already pledged to the 2019 Joliet Diocesan Catholic Ministries Annual Appeal, and especially to those who responded during our in-pew “Commitment Weekends.” Our pledges support the work of the diocese, our larger church. Our CMAA goal this year is $180,100. Thank you to the 846 households who have pledged $167,103 towards our 2019 goal. We reached our goal in paid pledges last year through the participation of 978 households. The diocese is currently contacting households who contributed to the Appeal last year, but have not yet contributed this year. If you haven’t had a chance to respond to the 2019 Joliet Diocesan Catholic Ministries Annual Appeal, please join me and make your pledge as soon as possible. Your generosity is deeply appreciated and helps us meet our obligations to the larger Diocesan church.
Summer brings us a welcome change of pace. As always, may God continue to bless us with all that we need, and more.
Father Jim Murphy