Listen To What the Spirit Is Saying to the Churches
“Listen To What the Spirit Is Saying to the Churches” (Rev 3:22)
This Sunday, the Easter season draws to a close, and we are missioned by the Holy Spirit as we celebrate the feast of Pentecost. As recorded by Luke in the Acts of the Apostles, it is a scene of great drama: rushing wind, tongues of fire, the speaking of many languages. It is also a scene of transformation: formerly timid disciples empowered to speak boldly, in such a way that in spite of religious, cultural, and linguistic barriers, each hears the message in a language they can understand. Such is the power of God’s Holy Spirit: to break down walls of division, and to foster the unity that is the Father’s desire for all creation. From this outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the Church is born and reborn, in every age.
In John’s Gospel, the gift of the Spirit happens not fifty days after the Resurrection, but on the evening Jesus rises from the dead: in a more intimate and personal encounter with the disciples, Jesus imparts the Spirit with gifts of peace, joy, forgiveness, and healing. “The Spirit blows where the Spirit wills”: diverse manifestations of God’s indwelling presence within us, transforming us internally, equipping us for mission.
In his apostolic exhortation The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis reminds us of the importance of discerning and acting on the movement of the Holy Spirit. Given what we have experienced over the past three months through this time of pandemic, the Spirit calls us to conversion, to creativity, to a profound realignment of our priorities. (I will be developing these ideas in a Zoom Faith-CAFÉ which I will be leading at St. Luke’s Parish on June 17, so stay tuned for more details!)
I have attended lots of webinars and Zoom meetings, and read many articles over the past few weeks which seek to answer these questions, and many of them have been helpful. But ultimately, we need the Holy Spirit! As St. Paul reminds us, the Spirit is revealed in an amazing diversity of gifts, reflected in so many cultures and traditions, yet is always a unifying force, bringing all these gifts together in the service of the common good.
We are a richly diverse community. We come from many lands, we speak different languages, we express our faith in a variety of devotions and spiritualities, we engage in diverse forms of mission and service. Yet in the Spirit, even in these times where it is still not possible for us to gather around the Lord’s table in the Eucharist, we still form One Body.
As has frequently been said, our church building may be closed, but the Church remains open! And I would like to thank everyone – pastoral team, staff, wardens, volunteers – who have been developing new skills, using the technical means at our disposal (phone, e-mail, website, YouTube channel, FaceBook, live-streamed Mass, online prayer, etc.) to continue to reach out and build up the community. As we prepare for the various phases of deconfinement and the eventual resumption of our liturgical life, let us remember that in the Holy Spirit, we are One Body: we do not stand alone!
I am feeling strong and healthy now, and Fr. Bertoli is in the process of being released from the hospital. I invite you to go and see my Pentecost message and also, make sure you tune in to our online Mass this Sunday at 10 AM – yes, we will be having Mass for Pentecost! – for a full update on his situation. I encourage you to have a small bowl of water and a candle nearby when you participate in the Mass.
Please follow us on Facebook, subscribe to our YouTube channel, and visit the website so that you get regular updates on what is happening in the parish, and to continue to support us with your prayers and donations!
May this poem by Fr. Philip Chircop S.J., who preached our Lenten retreat a few years ago, inspire us as we celebrate “our birthday” as a church:
WINDS BLOWINGThe strong wind of Pentecost blows deep within and through our fears.
Not a gentle breeze, but a wind that kindles fire,
A wind strong enough to awaken us from our slumber,
requiring attention and respect.
It comes to dent our complacency and glossy exteriors
marking us as surely as the baptismal oil of our beginning.
A wind violent and furious at times, wild enough to dry our moisture
that we may thirst again for Living Waters.
We don’t need another Pentecost -
we just need to deploy the one we have!
Blessings in the Holy Spirit,
Fr. Raymond Lafontaine, E.V.