Sunday, June 9, 2019

Unity - Availability - Activity - In That Order...


Easter/Pentecost - Yr C - 2019
Ss. Peter & Paul, Danville

Last weekend we found ourselves standing there with the first believers.  I wonder what they were feeling as Jesus ascended to heaven.  Shocked maybe?  Scared maybe? Sad probably.  Wondering what to do next.  Wondering if He knew what He was doing when He left us so great a mission:  You – yes you will be my witnesses, in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth…to Danville, and Lancaster, and Junction City, to the neighborhood, the school, the office and the factory, to your family and your friends, to your spouse and your children.  Last week we found ourselves standing there with the disciples: “Why are you standing there looking up at the sky?”

That seems to have snapped them out of their reverie – awakened them from their sadness or doubt or whatever.  Because between Ascension and Pentecost, the Apostles did something.  And what they did allowed them to receive the great gift of the Holy Spirit Jesus promised them – promises us – and that changed the world, won souls for Christ, set the Church on fire with a mission that lives on to this day.  We know the story – its recorded in the Acts of the Apostles.  3,000 souls were won that day.  Three thousand!  Imagine what could happen, friends, if we stopped standing here looking up at the sky.  Imagine what could happen if we did what the Apostles did to renew the coming of the Holy Spirit with power upon us.  Wow…

What did they do?  Three words we can remember.  Unity – Availability – Activity.  In that order – the order is important.  Unity – Availability – Activity – in that order.  Let’s take a look.

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Unity.  The second chapter of Acts starts out by telling us that “when the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together.”  They’d stopped standing there looking up at the sky and gone to Jerusalem like Jesus had asked them to do.  They weren’t all just doing their own thing.  They weren’t just going their own way.  They weren’t enraptured by their own preferences and differences.  They weren’t pretending they didn’t have different opinions or gifts or interests.  But they were all together in one place.  Physically.  Spiritually.  As a community.  Together in one place.  That’s the first step to being open and ready for the coming of the Holy Spirit.  Unity – together in one place.

Are we?  Together in one place?  On the same page?  You know the operative question that has the power to make us one?  What can I do – what do I need to do – to help our parish be more “together in one place”? 

Unity and Availability.  Acts 2 goes on to tell us, about that first Pentecost, that when they were together in one place, tongues of fire came and “filled [each of them] with the Holy Spirit.”  Know what it takes to fill something up?  Free space.  Room.  Availability.  To fall in love, there has to be room in the heart.  To spend time with family and friends, space has to be made in the schedule.  And for the Holy Spirit to fill us, there has to be room in our heart and mind and schedule for Him.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve let all my days become entirely too full, leaving little or no room for anything else.  No wonder my prayer life is sometimes a struggle, that I don’t always feel filled with the Holy Spirit.  “Stop the glorification of busy,” I read yesterday on Facebook.  “Busy, in and of itself, is not a badge of honor.  It’s OK not to be busy,” I read.  Indeed.  OK.  And perhaps necessary.  What do I – what do we – need to do to create room for the Holy Spirit to fill us this Pentecost?

And then the Activity.  Sometimes I think we’re so busy, with little room for anything in our lives – because we start with the activity, before first being filled with the Holy Spirit.  In our families.  In our parish.  In our own discipleship.  We jump headlong into the activity and more and more activity before first begin united – with Christ and His Church – before first creating any room for the Holy Spirit.

Things work differently when we hold our activity until after we are filled with the Holy Spirit.  Look what happened in the lives of those first disciples.  When they were filled with the Holy Spirit, their activity came alive!  They began to do the impossible – filled with the Holy Spirit they participated in the supernatural – the salvation of souls.  Those around them saw and heard from those first disciples what they needed to see and hear to come to believe in Jesus.  And that day about 3,000 were added to the faith.  Wow… Imagine.  Just imagine what could happen if we did what the Apostles did to renew the coming of the Holy Spirit upon us this Pentecost…

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The Easter season comes to an end at Pentecost – a full novena of days longer than the journey of Lent.  In those extra days of the Easter season, Jesus invites us to do what those first believers did, so that Pentecost will do in us and for others what the coming of the Holy Spirit did in those first believers and for those who were saved that first Pentecost.

Come Holy Spirit!  Enkindle the hearts of the faithful as you once did at Pentecost – set us on fire for the spread of the Gospel and the salvation of souls.  Unity – Availability – Activity – in that order.  We commit ourselves to You!  Gather us together in one place, challenge and help us to make room in our lives for you, and lead us into the world to spread the Good News!  Make us instruments of your love.  Come Holy Spirit, come!

Sunday, June 2, 2019

You - yes YOU!


Easter/Ascension - Yr C - 2019
Ss. Peter & Paul, Danville

“Why are you standing there looking up at the sky?”

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Three years ago, give or take a few weeks, I stood right down there – just a few steps from where I’m standing right now.  The movers had arrived at the Newman Center rectory in Lexington that morning and packed up all my things.  I met them in Danville and got most of the boxes where they needed to go.  The movers took off, and everything got so very quiet and still.

I grabbed my keys and headed over here to the Church.  The lights were out – it was 7 or 8 in the evening.  Not a sound.  Just the flicker of the red sanctuary lamp reminding me that Jesus was here.  In that moment it hit me – I was now, by the call and grace of Jesus Christ, the Pastor of Ss. Peter & Paul in Danville.  The enormity of that responsibility landed on my chest like a ton of bricks.  And I stood there, looking at Jesus, wondering if He knew what He’d done trusting me with such a responsibility.  Wondering if I was good enough, holy enough, experienced enough to shepherd this flock who so loved their previous Pastor.  Wondering if I was really cut out for this ministry.  Wondering if I could really find a way to be both your Pastor and the Vocations Director.

As I stood there looking at Jesus, wondering what to do next, wondering so many things… I heard the words from today’s reading as clear as a bell:

“Why are you standing there looking up at the sky?”

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Friends, the task entrusted to us by Jesus when He ascended to the Father is no small undertaking.  The enormous responsibility of pastoring this parish is nothing – nothing – compared to what Jesus has entrusted to you, what He expects of you.  It does us no good to play it off or water it down, so let’s speak it plainly:  Jesus entrusted each and every one of you with His mission of good news and salvation.  “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth…”

You will be my witnesses, He said.  You, yes you – will be my witnesses to the ends of the earth.  To Jerusalem, and Judea and Samaria.  To Danville, and Lancaster, and Junction City.  You – yes you – will be my witnesses to the neighborhood, and the school, and the office and factory.  You will be my witnesses to your family and your friends, to your spouse and your children.  Wherever you go, whoever you meet, you – yes you – will be my witnesses…

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If you believe in Jesus Christ, if you’re not here to just play Church, but really believe Jesus has saved you and loves you, then the truth of what Jesus has asked you to do will hit, too, like a ton of bricks.  You – yes you – shall be called the prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare His way, to give His people knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins.  Yes, you…  They won’t come to know Jesus unless you tell them.  They won’t find salvation through the forgiveness of their sins unless you show them.  They’ll never know what it means to have a friend in Jesus unless you introduce them to Him. 

More staggering, perhaps, is that you’re telling them something, showing them something, witnessing something to them whether you want to or not.  Are you satisfied with what they’re learning about Jesus from you?  People know you say you’re a Catholic Christian, that you believe in Jesus.  So everything you do or don’t do, say or don’t say, says something.  If the only Jesus they ever meet is the one they see you following, will they know who Jesus Christ is – will they find friendship with Him, will they discover salvation through His work in the sacraments?  You’re good people – kind people – all of you – I know people will find a good example for how to be a good person in you…but being a good person does not equate to knowing Jesus; being a good person is not enough for salvation from eternal darkness and death.

Parents – do your children find a lived friendship with Jesus Christ in what they see of your live?  Spouses, does your husband or wife see a real friendship with Jesus, a genuine reliance on His work in the sacraments for holiness and salvation in how you live your life day in and day out?  Young people, do your friends and classmates hear and see in your relationship with them that you truly believe Jesus Christ is Lord?  Friends – if the only Jesus they ever meet is the one you introduce them to…will they be saved?

You will be my witnesses, He said.  Yes you – to Danville, and Lancaster, and Junction City, to the neighborhood, the school, the office and the factory, to your family and your friends, to your spouse and your children.

Jesus knew what He was doing when He trusted you with such a great responsibility – literally, the spread of the Gospel and the salvation of souls rests in your hands.  You are good enough, holy enough, and experienced enough to be His witness if you’ll just begin and stop standing there looking at the sky.  You really are cut out for this work because you empowered by the very Holy Spirit of God who dances like tongues of fire on your head and has the power to bring souls to Jesus through you – yes you…  This really is possible, if you’ll just do it –all you have to do is begin…

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“Why are you standing there looking up at the sky?”  It’s time to begin…