Pentecost

It is the celebration of Pentecost this week.  We are celebrating the gift of the Holy Spirit given to the followers of Jesus.  I always think about the range of emotions that the early followers of Jesus must have been experiencing.  They had to have at least some fear because if Jesus was crucified then certainly what was possibly waiting for them could be no less.  There had to have been confusion on some of their minds.  Jesus died, but then he rose.  Jesus appeared to at least some of the followers.  I may have been thinking, “what is going on?”  Perhaps some of the followers were having feelings off inadequacy.  They were fishermen, laborers, people without status, honor or clout.  Sure, some were lawyers, tax collectors (or former tax collectors) and may have had the opportunity to have received education.  But for the most part, they were people who simply did what they had to do in order to survive with little formal education, public speaking ability or a resume that included past experiences that would prepare them for what was to come.  Certainly some of the disciples were going through the pangs of shame and guilt.  When Jesus was arrested, they all ran away – no one stayed.  Some had to be thinking about what they should have done, what they wanted to do, what they wished they had done.  So it is quite easy to see that at least some of those early followers were emotional wrecks.

Jesus had told them that they were going to receive the Advocate, the Spirit, but what did that mean to them?   They sure found out what it would mean.  The Spirit cam and all of a sudden the fearful, confused, inadequate, guilt-ridden followers of Jesus turned into a mighty force.  They didn’t hide behind locked doors any longer.  They went out and boldly proclaimed the Good News.  It did not matter what was waiting for them, they just went.  Those who had tried to obliterate the message of love, forgiveness and mercy of Jesus must have been caught off guard.  The disciples were  filled with energy, enthusiasm, certainty and a sense of purpose – and nothing, not even the threat of death, would be able to stop them.   We have proof of that since the followers of Jesus still proclaim the message of Jesus.

We should celebrate the feast of Pentecost in grand style.  God still offers us that same spirit.  We still have the opportunity to be filled with enthusiasm and energetically proclaim the message of love, forgiveness and mercy.  Maybe we just need to stop taking our faith for granted.  There is nothing that can kill enthusiasm faster than taking the cause of enthusiasm for granted.  But I think more importantly we need to become a church that is going to be much more steadfast in our commitment to proclaim the mercy that Jesus offers.  There has to be more dedication, in Church Universal,  to convincing others that God loves them – no matter what.  It is truly unconditional love – no if, ands or buts – God loves us.

I am very glad that Pope Francis has announced a Year of Mercy for the Church.  I hope that during that Year of Mercy we, as Church, might come to have a renewed appreciation for what the Holy Spirit can offer us so that in spite of any fear, doubt, guilt or anything else we can catch on fire like the early church.

Happy Pentecost!

The Last Day of Class

The last day of Religious Education classes usually carries a mixed bag of emotions.  There is a bit of sadness that the children are growing up so fast.  I have watched some of them every year since they came to class in 1st grade.  There is some anxiety when evaluating what we do in Religious Education.  Did we reach them?  Did we give them something to file away for later so that faith will help them get through difficult times?  Did we help them understand the enormity of God’s love?  Did we help them understand that God’s way is not about control, but about protecting us from the things that can hurt us, diminish us or keep us from reaching our full potential?  Of course, there is also joy.  I watch the faces of the younger children who have recently received the Sacrament of Eucharist for the first time.  I see in those faces hope for the future.  I see in those faces great possibilities.  I see in those faces the kind of trust that God desires from all of us.

Today is the last day of Religious Education classes until September and during that time I will be praying that all of the young people will come to understand a little bit more of what God is trying to help them understand so that those expressions of trust will not be replaced by doubt that God has many wonderful blessings waiting for them.