What ever happened to Pentecost? Not the feast – that faithfully returns each year. I mean the real, personal Pentecost, the fire in the core of our being, the sense that the Spirit of God dwells in us. On that first Pentecost, the Apostles fearfully locked themselves behind closed doors, and then something happened that is difficult to comprehend. They saw the Lord, they received the Spirit. And when they unlocked the doors and left that room, they were filled with both peace and passion, describable only as the Spirit of God dwelling within them.
Throughout the centuries the church has continued to grow despite opposition even to the point of martyrdom, and regardless of the church’s own failings and sinfulness. The church survives because the Spirit of God gives it life.
A few years ago I spent a little over a week in a rural village in Belgium. Each small village has its own church, most built centuries ago when the country was very faithfully Catholic. Today, very few people attend church. The first weekend I attended Mass there were 35 people in church. The next weekend at a different church there were 18 people at Mass. What was notable, however, was that these liturgies were faith-filled and beautiful. These people were the anawim, the faithful remnant, and the Spirit of God was within them.
I thought of these people again when Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris burned. The French are Catholic by tradition but so secularized that, like the Belgians, most rarely attend church. Yet, they grieved when Notre Dame Cathedral burned. It reminded me of someone whose wife dies suddenly and he never stops regretting that he didn’t tell her more often how much he loved her. Notre Dame and the little village churches in Belgium are not just historic symbols or artistic buildings, they are signs of living faith, signs of Pentecost, signs of the reality spoken about by St Bede who said that “each day the Church gives birth to the Church.”
In many ways, today’s Church is experiencing very dark days, and many Catholics find it difficult to be faithful, much less faith-filled. We need to put ourselves in the same locked room with the fearful disciples, and hear the Lord greet us with words of peace, feel his breath and be filled with the inner fire of the Spirit of God, and then unlock the doors and go out to carry on the mission of God.
Come Holy Spirit
Move in us and through us,
Bind up our wounds and draw us together into one body.
Drive out all darkness
That keeps us from love and from life.
Give us new eyes of faith,
A new voice of hope,
And a new heart for loving!
--John P. Mossi
- Regina Murphy, SSMN
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