The Feast of Pentecost, the sending of the Holy Spirit, is, in a sense, the only feast of the liturgical year that is really ours. Other feasts are all about what happened to others: for instance Jesus’ conception, his birth, baptism, life, transfiguration, death, resurrection and ascension. And the things that happened to Mary or Joseph, the Apostles, Paul, and the other saints. Today we celebrate a mystery that happened to us, to his followers. That is the intention of this Feast if we want it to be that way.
It is known as the feast of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised he would send a helper, a guide, and Advocate to plead our cause. It is a day that empowers us to look at the history of our Church, see how it came to life with the gift of the Holy Spirit, and one that gives us the courage to move out beyond the cramped upper room that was full of fear and misunderstanding.
Pentecost empowers us to hope things will be different and then becomes the day when we do make things different. That is why it is a feast of renewal, a feast that looks into the future and a feast that lets us move forward. We don’t have to do it alone either! If this truly is our Feast then as Paul says: “…there are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same spirit; there are different forms of service, but the same Lord; there are different workings, but the same God… As the Body of Christ is one though it has many parts… all are one, one body in Christ.”
It seems impossible for me to believe that in 4 weeks I will be leaving St. Mary’s in Moscow and Genesee and active ministry for retirement. So many people have been so supportive: saying things like we are so happy for you, you will have a great time; you will be busier than ever, it will be great to catch up with family and friends.
I also think of other things: like, I have not seen new babies in the family, nieces and nephews for years, friends and roommates from college. It shocked me to realize I have not been to a High School Reunion for 50 years! So things like that make me look forward to moving on to the next transition in my life.
Both St. Mary’s in Moscow and Genesee will also be given the chance for renewal, a new transition, and to move forward, called by the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, and the Guide. As I leave, we are looking at a new welcome for Fr. Benjamin. Although he is only a few blocks away at St. Augustine’s, St. Mary’s will be a whole new experience for him. Moving to a new home, a new desk, meeting the
people in the office and setting up things the way all pastors need to do.
At first we are all a bit scared at moving “Father’s things.” When a priest moves, just about everything we encounter belonged to someone else, and we want to respect that, especially the customs and quirks of a new parish. But things start to change after a while… not much, but eventually we get comfortable enough to move the couch where we want it, or switch to a different type of pen instead of using the old boxes of Bic pens found in a closet someplace. Once we take a deep breath, it turns out to be quite enjoyable, to make things the way we feel most comfortable.
And Fr. Benjamin will be that way too. We also have Fr. Anthony coming in July and that will be really different, to have two priests here. A second priest will be good for us/you all. We can better support our Catholic School with the presence of a second priest; perhaps devote more time to Adult Education or Catechism and Religious Education for our littlest to High school. We will be better able to support hospitals and nursing homes and provide for more sacraments if needed. So Fr. Ben and Fr. Anthony will make a good team, if we also invite them to be their best at the parish we know and love.
Yes things will be different. But they always are. I have been assigned to 13 parishes and missions. And worked with 25 or more priests and Deacons over a period of 36 years. Each time the folks took a “wait and see attitude:” “What is he going to be like.?” In all places, I said the same thing: “What are they going to be like? Will we get along? Is my Spanish good enough to offer the mass?”
At the parish in Hailey I was told by one of the Hispanic religious education teachers: “Father, we really like you, you are a good priest, but we just can’t understand you when you say mass!” That was a real wake-up call for me! How many times had I said the same thing about my brother priests? Especially with their accents: an accent from Poland, France, Ireland, South America, Mexico and
from various places on the African Continent?
It all works out because we somehow merge to be “the Body of Christ” together, all wanting the same thing: comfort with each other, familiarity, a laugh, a quiet conversation, a small philosophical discussion or someone in the parish who is kind and has courage to take the first step out of the upper room and offer a breakfast at the Breakfast Club, a sandwich at the Co-Op or an invitation to an end of summer Bar-B-Que, and together go into the world where the Holy Spirit has called us.
Remember, it got off to a rough start with the Apostles and disciples. The house shook, the wind blew, the noise was so intense and then, of all things, tongues of fire landed on each one. That would have made me stay home! But the Spirit calls us forth to be one: as the body, as the blood, as that small group in the upper room who heard Jesus give them the calm reassurance that: Yes, when you leave this house in the Spirit, things will be different! And if you all pull together, wonderful things can be yours.