Companions, Not Competitors

05-28-2023From the Pastor's DeskRev. Msgr. Ellsworth R. Walden

One of the ways we entertain ourselves is by participating in or watching competitions. Sports is good to learn team work and help our physical well being. Lifegiving friendships are formed. On collegiate and professional levels sports are a huge business that generate tremendous amounts of money. On TV we have sports channels and so many other channels that broadcast games in the different sports seasons. Sports is so enveloping that it takes time, energy, and hard work for children and their families who juggle schedules to get everything else besides done. One of the “competitors” that has taken over our Sundays is between going to Mass and going to sports competitions. Sunday is a prime day for the different media channels to beckon us to watch whatever competitors we like. How far civilization has come from observing the Lord’s Day by focusing on Him and His presence to not finding enough time to fit the Lord in on His Day.

I always enjoyed playing sports and watching the ones I like on TV. But the thing I have come to be energized and enthused by most is celebrating Sunday Mass as a priest with the people of our parish. As we gather as the family of God, in our case the family of St. Patrick’s in Smithtown, I am blessed to come into the presence of God, proclaim and listen to His word, to pray the words of consecration as the priest that change the bread and wine into the Body of Christ, and to receive Jesus Himself in Holy Communion with you.

As we live our lives every day we are not competitors in a game of life with winners and losers, but companions, brothers and sisters, on the road of life that leads to eternity. Our goal is not to be better or look better than others, but to be companions, even more, brothers and sisters on the road of life. Competitions end and life goes on. But where does life go? Today, after celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus for fifty days, we celebrate the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise to send us His Holy Spirit. As we see in the first reading at Mass today (Acts 2:1-11), on Pentecost the disciples of Jesus received the Holy Spirit in tongues of fire and were united with Jesus and one another and went out to proclaim and be the Good News, the first generation of the Church. They were no longer afraid of the response they might get, but filled with Holy Spirit, they boldly, joyfully, and fruitfully bore witness to the power of Jesus. In the Gospel for today’s Mass (John 20:19-23), Jesus appeared to His followers after the Resurrection and “breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. Who sins you forgive are forgiven them and whose sins you retain are retained.’” The breath of Jesus imparted His life-giving Spirit into their very being. We have the expression “to live and breath.” To have the life-giving breath of Jesus in us is to be on fire with confidence in His love and the power to love as He loves us. That is exactly what we see in today’s first reading. The disciples of Jesus are not competitors but the family of God, the Church, seeking to bring everyone who is open into God’s life with them.

Ultimately we usually find a way to do what needs to be done, but to be truly effective we need Jesus’ Spirit and attitude of pure love, pure mercy, pure truth, and pure compassion, not counting the cost but being grateful for the opportunity. May our primary goal in life be Jesus’ primary goal - to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love one another as He loves us.

The Holy Spirit is the very life-giving Holy Spirit of God. I close with this hymn: Breath of God:

O breathe on me, O breath of God, Fill me with life anew,
That I may love the things you love, And do what you would do.
O breathe on me, O breath of God, Until my heart is pure,
Until my will is one with yours, To do and to endure.
O breathe on me, O breath of God, My will to yours incline,
Until this selfish part of me Glows with your fire divine.
O breathe on me, O breath of God, So shall I never die,
But live with you the perfect life Of your eternity.