PENTECOST. Today we remember the day, 10 days after Jesus’ Ascension into Heaven, that the Holy Spirit descended upon the early Church, about 120 disciples gathered to pray in the upper room. As the Acts of Apostles tells us:
“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in his own language…. So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls” (Acts 2: 1-6, 41).
Some call this the “Birthday of the Church.” Of course, other days are also called the “Birthday of the Church,” for example, Christmas and Good Friday. Perhaps the best analogy here is to relate this “birth” back to the creation of Adam; as Genesis tells us: “Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being” (Gen. 2: 7). Now, the word “breathed” and “breath” here are translating two forms of the Hebrew words “ruah” which means “breath” or “wind”—or “spirit.” (Note that the Latin root word “spirare” forms the root of not only the word “spirit,” but also “respire” (“to breath”) and “inspire”). So the “breath of God” or the “wind of God” also points to the Spirit of God. In a parallel to the creation of Adam, during His life on earth Christ had built up a body for His Church, not from the “dust of the earth” but from the simple human beings He had brought together under the leadership of the apostles. And in a certain sense it was like a lifeless body, as the disciples locked themselves in the upper room filled with fear (but also hope); until the Pentecost, when the Lord breathed His Spirit, “like the rush of a mighty wind,” into that body and it came to life, as we see in the above passage.
That Spirit remains alive and well in the Church today, coming to individual members of the Church in various ways, but in particular through the Sacrament of Confirmation. If only we would recognize and use with faith and confidence the gifts of the Holy Spirit we receive in that sacrament!
But the Holy Spirit remains with the Church in many other ways as well, continuing to give it life and making it the true Body of Christ on earth. It remains acting in all the sacraments, and in the preaching of the Church, and in the love of Christians. And it remains in the Church, acting through its hierarchical structure established by Christ through His apostles.
Some ask, why don’t we experience the Holy Spirit like they did on that first Pentecost—with the tongues of fire, the sound of the wind and the speaking in foreign tongues. Many scholarly saints have proposed that in the very beginning the Trinity deigned to show Its power and presence in the Church in these extraordinary ways in order to draw attention to this new and world-changing phenomenon, and to found the Church with a dramatic event that would always be a sign to all generations that the Holy Spirit had entered the Church and world in a unique way that day.
But don’t we need that same kind of extraordinary and dramatic event/sign today? Perhaps. Then again, don’t we actually have such a sign? What about the “sign” of the presence of the living Body of Christ, the Church, still alive and vibrant 2000 years later, not having 120 members, or 3000 members, but over 1 billion members (actually, 2 billion when we count all Christians) living in almost every nation on earth. What other institution, group or society has survived in any comparable way for so long, and with such an effect on human lives and human history? And considering all the frail and sinful human beings who have found a home in her over all these centuries—whether layman, priest, bishop or pope—to me it seems her survival and flourishing is the greatest sign we could imagine or hope for of the Holy Spirit’s continuing power and presence in the Church today.
Let us pray that the zealous fire of the Holy Spirit transform our lives so that at every moment we may live and breathe our faith, hope and love in Jesus Christ.
Our Newly Confirmed. Congratulations to our 49 young parishioners who received the great Sacrament of Confirmation on Thursday, May 25. Let us pray for them that they may be truly open to the Graces and Gifts of the Holy Spirit they have received. And thanks to all those who worked so hard to prepare them for the sacrament—especially Mary Salmon and Patti Eckels of our Religious Education office, as well as our CCD volunteer catechists and aides: Vince Drouillard, Joann Alba, Michael Turk, Ginger Avvenire, Katelyn Sheehan, Joe Adelman, Monica Lyons, Delores Nelson and Debbie Tolpa. Also thanks to the teachers at Angelus Academy, who prepared several of our kids as well.
Crossroads. As you know, each summer, young adults with the organization “Crossroads” walk across America from the west coast to Washington, D.C., bearing witness to the sanctity of all human life to grass-roots America. This year, St. Raymond’s will once again have a direct involvement in the walk as two of our parishioners, Anneliese Slaton and Bentleigh Bogacki, will be walking with them. This is a physically, emotionally and spiritually demanding effort, so please keep them in your prayers daily, as they begin their walk this week. May the Lord Jesus remain with them, fill them with His Holy Spirit, and send His angels to care for their every need.
Corpus Christi Procession. Two Sundays from today, June 18, after the 12:15 Mass, we will have our annual Corpus Christi Procession, carrying the Blessed Sacrament around the parish property, singing and praying, all to bear witness to our faith in Christ and His Real Presence in the Eucharist. I invite you all to join us—last year we had over 200 folks: let’s make it 2,000 folks this year.
There is one hitch this year: that Sunday is also Father’s Day. I completely understand how our procession could get overlooked with the celebrations of Dads on that day, but let me counter that with a special invitation to our Dads to bring their families to the procession. What better way to bless your families (and your Dads) than this beautiful show of faith in Christ! I hope to see you there!
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles