The Spirit-Filled People of God

06-09-2019From the Pastor's DeskMsgr. Ellsworth R. Walden

As much as we live in the present moment, we also have hopes and expectations for the future. We work toward certain events or goals and look for promises we make and others make to us to be fulfilled. Today we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost, the coming of the promised Holy Spirit on the followers of Jesus after His Resurrection and Ascension. The first reading today from Acts 2:1-11 gives us the vivid account of that promise of Jesus to His followers coming to pass. This past Monday the Gospel reading at Mass was from John 16:29-33, part of the Last Supper account in John's Gospel (Chapters 13-17). The apostles were with Jesus during His public ministry where He preached about the Kingdom of God, performed many miracles of healing, multiplied the loaves and fish, and shared His life and faith with them. Then at the Last Supper He rose from the table and washed their feet as we read, "So when he had washed their feet [and] put his garments back on and reclined at table again, he said to them, 'Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me "teacher" and "master," and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another's feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.'" (John 13:12-15)

The response of the apostles was one of wonder and awe as we see in their response to Jesus in John 16:29-33: "His disciples said, 'Now you are talking plainly, and not in any figure of speech. Now we realize that you know everything and that you do not need to have anyone question you. Because of this we believe that you came from God.' Jesus answered them, 'Do you believe now? Behold, the hour is coming and has arrived when each of you will be scattered to his own home and you will leave me alone. But I am not alone, because the Father is with me. I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.'" At that moment at the Last Supper it all seemed to come together for the apostles. Jesus was who He said He was and they were now convinced of His love for them and how blessed they were. But in a matter of hours their faith so powerfully stated would be shaken and they would abandon Him as He was arrested and crucified.

But Jesus did not give up on them. He knew they needed more than His physical presence among them. During the Last Supper He had spoken of the sending the Holy Spirit to remind them of all that He said, to help them understand His words and His love, and to inspire and impel them to go out and do what He did. And they did. The Acts of the Apostles in the Bible recounts their ministry in establishing the first generation of the Church. Their work was both fruitful and fulfilling. And it was also trying and frightening as they encountered the same kind of opposition to their ministry as Jesus did in His earthly ministry. But the power of the Holy Spirit empowered them to proclaim the truth with love through their words and actions. All of the apostles but St. John suffered martyrdom. The threat of death was not a deterrent or an obstacle to be avoided but an opportunity to witness with their last Spirit-filled breath, their faith in Jesus, and their desire to share this Good News with even those who were persecuting and executing them. What a powerful example of that we heard last Sunday in the first reading as St. Stephen was being stoned to death for proclaiming the presence of Jesus and His message. Stephen's dying words were: "'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.' Then he fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice, 'Lord, do not hold this sin against them;' and when he said this, he died." (Acts 7:59-60)

Where is the Spirit of God now? Is He in the Church? Without a doubt He is in each one of us who have been baptized in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. All of us who have been Confirmed have received another outpouring of the Holy Spirit when we are Confirmed as we heard the words: "Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit." And WE are the Church. At this point in history we are in a rocky place as we continue to hear about the scandal of the abuse of children by priests and bishops. The Church is comprised of a over one billion people, all of whom are human. It is the Holy Spirit that we need and who is present to guide us through these rocky times and to get beyond the horror and grief that this evil has caused. Our diocese is reaching out to those who have been abused and working to help them find hope and healing. We make every effort to investigate those who in any way are with children in their work in the Church. It will take time to bring healing, and in our parish at every mass we pray for those who have been abused. Both the victims and the Church as a whole more than ever needs the power, wisdom, and guidance of the Holy Spirit.

In our parish the Holy Spirit is guiding so many people as we pray together, educate our young people in our parish school and religious education program, reach out in countless ways through our Outreach Office, pray before the Blessed Sacrament, celebrate the sacraments, and share the joy of the Holy Spirit in the big and small things we do everyday. Filled with the Holy Spirit we are the brightness of God's love shining through the darkness that is trying to distract us from the good we truly are as the Church, the people of God, brothers and sisters with one another and Jesus, and children of God our Father.

May we continue to be the Spirit filled people of God as we pray: Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Amen!!!!