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From the Pastor | Liturgical Ministry | Parish Highlights | Keysis
As the community of St. Francis of Assisi gathers this weekend our first reading from Acts gives us a glimpse of how Pentecost was first perceived. The descent of the Holy Spirit occurs as the disciples are gathered for the Feast of Weeks. Often this experience is highlighted as the “birthday” of the church. In the past I’ve often made reference to the birthday of the church. Not so much today. The disciples were already “in” the church — already invested in the Christ project. I’m now beginning to see Pentecost as the public appearance of the church, which, during Christ’s common life with his disciples, had been formed and existed in an embryonic stage.
Did the Spirit descend to begin a church, or did God send the Spirit of the risen Christ because these fragile human beings, frightened and hiding from the forces that took Jesus from their midst, needed some help. I think God knew that our faith in Christ, from the empty tomb to his second and final coming, was going to need some shoring up, a commitment of real presence in the present age. For the disciples of the post Easter morning experience, surely this was a time of great loss and great sorrow, of great demoralization. Also it was a time of even greater confirmation and certainty, of how Jesus was with them still — but now differently.
This weekend we are reminded that the Spirit comes bearing gifts. The disciples demonstrate courage as they enter the streets to preach the good news to travelers of many nations. The Spirit empowers, prods, nudges and cajoles. The spiritually stuck now move as if their pants are on fire, but it is really their hearts that are burning. The impact of the Gospel is global, and salvation is meant for all people.
We call upon the Spirit to “come down” when something important is happening (or not happening). The Second Vatican Council drew our attention to this fundamental truth; the Holy Spirit of the risen Christ is invoked in every sacrament. For example, during the Eucharistic prayer the celebrant prays the epiclesis. Most hear of only one time – when he holds his hands over the elements of bread and wine and asks God to send the Holy Spirit to change the elements of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. Listen carefully for the double epiclesis in the celebration of the Eucharist. In the second epiclesis — a moment that is often lost in the blur of the Eucharistic prayer — we ask the Spirit to make us one. For all those who are passionate about ecumenism and about unity within the Catholic Church, this second invocation has particular power. Sacraments, councils, ordinations are not the work of human beings. They are very clearly the work of the Holy Spirit. Our pleas for the Spirit’s power and presence do not force God’s hand. She, the Holy Spirit, comes not because we pray, but because God wills to love us.
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