1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13
Happy Birthday, Church! Today is Pentecost — the day we celebrate the beginnings of our Church. It is a day for us to honor the presence of the gifts of the Holy Spirit in the Church. In the last few years, it has not been uncommon to hear people involved in our Churches bemoaning the diminishing numbers of people who practice their Faith. And frequently we may feel discouraged and worried about the lack of fervor in ministries, devotions and service. But look back to that first Pentecost of the Church. The faithful followers who had been with Jesus throughout his public life were huddled together in the upper room, fearful and unsure of what to do next. Ronald Rolheiser in his book, Sacred Fire, paints a vivid depiction of that upper room. Rolheiser tells us that we should look at our churches and church meeting places today as the upper room. And just as the Apostles gathered in the upper room, this is where we should gather together, continuing to be true, to show up, even though doubts may fill us and we may tremble with fear about the emptying of churches.
So let’s keep in mind that our Church was started by a small group of people gathered together, huddled fearfully together in the upper room. With a faith that had been shaken, they gathered and waited. "…and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit…" It was only when the Spirit came upon them, that they were filled with fire to go out and share the Good News!
Empty pews may sadden us, people walking away from the church may diminish us, families divided over religion certainly will hurt us, and our first reaction will probably be, "How can we fix this?" However on this day, let us remember that it is not up to us to pick and choose when and how the Holy Spirit is guiding the Church. This is part of Jesus’ promise to remain in us and we in him. Rather it is our part to be open to the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Come, Holy Spirit, fill our hearts with the fire of Your love!
Mary Lou Butler is a long-time friend and partner in ministry to the Passionists in California.