Seventh Sunday of Easter 'C'

Saturday May 15, 2010

Seven days to prepare”.

“Parting is such sweet sorrow.” But not always. It’s one thing when the kids go off to college. There’s is a sense of relief mixed with anxiety. There is the hope that they will not abandon the lessons they learned at home and that in four short years they will return with more than their dirty laundry as they progress toward their life goals.

But the departures that are occasioned by war are quite a different matter. I remember the farewells that I witnessed at the Morristown Railroad yards during World War II and then the departures of young men to Korea, Vietnam, Iran and Afghanistan. Emotions run high as we cling to photos and memorabilia that assure us that no matter how far they are geographically, our loved ones are never far from us in mind and heart.

But nothing can prepare us for the final departure of a loved one – a spouse of fifty years, a mother or father, a friend and mentor with whom we have shared the most intimate moments of life. We want them to remain with us forever. On such occasions, I always invite family and friends of the deceased to incorporate a quality of his or her life into their own and if someone asks why they say or do something in a particular way, just say that it is a gift of my mom or dad or friend.

John the Evangelist presents us with a portion of the parting address of Jesus, incorporating his prayer for unity among his followers. We have been traveling with Jesus, many of us since our baptism. Year after year, we have attempted to grasp the significance of his words and deeds in the hope that we too might walk in his steps and complete the mission for which he was sent.

Although it’s still twelve days away, we need time to reflect on the mystery of the gift of the living presence of Jesus among us — in each one of us and in all of us together. This is what Jesus promised: the gift of the Spirit.

The readings during this post Easter season provide ample exposure to both the pre-Pentecostal and post-Pentecostal Church in order to fan the Spirit of God that was given to us at baptism and intensified at Confirmation. The preacher may rightly ask the questions: Where is the spirit speaking in your life and mine? How does the world at large know that Jesus is alive? What are the signs of his presence in the world and what are the signs of his presence in the Church? What are the signs of his presence in you and in me?

The church described in the Acts of the Apostles was an evangelical community, that is, a church reaching beyond itself in order to bring God’s saving love to those who had not experienced it or who had not experienced in the same way as did the apostles. They preached the good news but they did not proselytize. Their mission was not to make converts for the Church but to make known to everyone the power of God’s love manifested so strongly in the life of Jesus. They bore witness to Jesus by their good deeds and allowed the Spirit of God to work through them. They spoke the universal language of divine love in human form, transcending barriers of lineage and nationality. They held fast to the essential—Jesus Christ is Lord— but compromised on non-essentials. They accepted the initiative that God took prior to their own and recognized the movement of the Spirit in other people they had never met. They made love practical and stretched beyond their cultural biases and prejudices. In so doing, they found the peace that Jesus had promised before he died. Stephen so identified with Jesus that he accepted death in the same manner as his master.

And so we look for signs that the Spirit is still moving in this ancient and still aging church we call “catholic” with a small “c” as well as with a capital “C” not so much in its structural elements and institutional dimension as in its charismatic life.

But the greatest signs of the Spirit alive in our Church and in our world are not found primarily among the powerful officeholders in the Church but in the powerless people, as it were; people who live in the daily awareness of their particular charisms and in the consciousness of their baptismal call to minister to others in the name of Jesus. Some of these folks are not Catholic with a capital ‘C’ but catholic with a small ‘c’. These are the people who do good not to be noticed but because they believe with all their heart and soul in the equality of all people before God. Their charter is the “Magnificat” of Mary: “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit finds joy in God my savior; For he has looked upon the lowliness of his servant… for the Lord who is mighty has done great things for me and holy is his name.…”

The feast of Pentecost is only seven days away. We still have time to think about our own particular charisms and how we might put our gifts in the service of humanity—people close to us and people across the globe. It is time to think about how we in our own individual and unique ways can break down barriers of cultural bias and racial prejudice, recognizing in other people, their inherent right to be called children of God.

The gift of Pentecost is the gift of the Spirit that has been given to all humanity. It is the gift of a new Jerusalem without walls and temples; without tiaras or mitres; with only the flame of God’s love in the hearts of all.

There is still time to get ready for the feast; still time to incorporate into our lives, the qualities of Jesus or rather to allow the Spirit to re-energize the gifts of the Holy Spirit given to us at Confirmation. Our gifts may differ but we are one in the power of God’s love that unites us.

Seven days remain to prepare.

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