A word from Pope Francis ~ “Peace is about receiving the Holy Spirit. The peace bestowed on the apostles, the peace that does not bring freedom from problems, but in problems, is offered to each of us.”
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 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 (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.
There was no doubt that the Spirit of the Lord was with us as we celebrated the Closing Mass of our parish Centennial Year. News of us entering the “Bridge Phase” of the pandemic recovery program came just in time for us to add an additional 300 seats in the church for that celebration. We were honored to have Bishop Ron Hicks return to our parish to celebrate that Mass. Thank you to everyone who had a part in putting this together. Dr. Anne Sinclair found a way for our choir to be with us through their pre-recorded hymns. Our greeters and ushers helped all find their places. It was great for us to be with each other together in an almost full church.
Congratulations to all of our community who are graduating at this time of year. And thank God we are able to gather in person for your graduations. Our Catholic Grade School Class of 2021 will graduate on Wednesday evening at a Mass at 7:00pm. I am preaching the homily at the St. Francis High School graduation later this afternoon. God continue to bless you!
See additional news and notices posted in our Flocknotes and social media. We try to use as many vehicles as possible to keep everyone up-to-date with all that is happening here. And our printed bulletin is scheduled to return on the weekend of June 5-6. May God continue to bless us with all that we need, and more.
Father Jim Murphy