Pentecost

Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.
– John 20:21


My Dear Friends in Christ,

In May of 1934, Billy Graham’s dad and some local businessmen met as they often did on the Graham’s dairy farm, praying for the spiritual revival of their city and country. One suggested to add a bold new prayer that day, that God would raise up someone from right there in town who would take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. No one save God was thinking of 15-year-old Billy who at that very moment was pitching hay at the mules, daydreaming of being a professional baseball player. God answered that bold prayer in ways beyond all imagining, and has continued to answer it to this day, long after Billy’s death, despite the antics of his kids. “A mystery and wonder of prayer,” Billy Graham reflected, “is that God often waits until someone asks.” Ask boldly, that God answer beyond our imaginings.

We could ask no more boldly nor receive more fully than what we celebrate today, what God has already done for us. Today, we celebrate that God has given Himself to us: no distance, no separation, no qualifiers. God makes Himself ours, willing to be rejected and ignored, that we might know His ardent and gentle love. God gives the Spirit because He loves me and wants to be close to me. Nothing could be more intimate, and nothing is more powerful. And God’s Spirit reaches out through me that others might know of God’s love and power in their lives.  It is no academic exercise but the very heart of the Christian life.

I spent this past week reflecting on the two-thousand years of examples of those disciples who have received the Spirit and made God known in their own time and place.

I prayed for
the passion of Peter
and the boldness of Paul.

I prayed for
the spirituality of Mary
and the work ethic of Martha.

I prayed for
the stern determination of John the Baptist
and the carefree joy of Francis of Assisi.

I prayed for
the buff, healthy body of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassatti
and the intellect of Robert Bellarmine.

I prayed for
the physical endurance of Teresa of Avila,
the spiritual simplicity of Therese, the Little Flower,
and for the spiritual endurance of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.

I prayed for
the loud raucous humor of Philip Neri
and the quiet patience of John Vianney.

I prayed for
the practical administration of Thomas More
and the spiritual insight of Ignatius of Loyola.

I prayed for
the passionate, unflinching single-mindedness of Archbishop Romero
and the intellectual acuity of Paul VI.

I prayed for the willingness to sacrifice:
my life like Maximillian Kolbe
and my reputation like John Chrysostum.

I prayed for
the gentle, joyful, trusting, simple faith of John XXIII
and the intellectual philosophy of John Paul II.


I prayed boldly for me and for all of you that we might imitate those early disciples of Jesus along with these and all of the saints. I prayed that, no matter our status or state in life, we like them, might spend our lives spreading the Gospel. A list of such remarkable heroes of Christianity might lead some to think ‘I could never do anything like that, so why try? Why bother?’ Recall, though, that none of these saints started out that way.   God met them where they were and then filled them with the Spirit to do great things. After all, when you think about it: Peter was impulsive and hot-tempered; Paul had poor health and was complicit in murder. John the Baptist was eccentric – to say the least! Martha worried too much. Robert Bellarmine made mistakes and John Chrysostum could get downright nasty. None was perfect, but they were open to the Spirit and God used each of them to make known His ardent and gentle love.

Remember, as we heard in our Gospel, the very first Gift of the Spirit, the first sign of God’s presence is MERCY. Right after Jesus breathes on the disciples, He shared with them God’s desire and power to forgive sins: yours and mine as well as theirs. No less profoundly than as with those early disciples them, God calls each of us to service in the body of Christ in and through this community. God WILL use us too if we stop making excuses, if we open ourselves to the Spirit.  There’s the power of the Holy Spirit in our own lives!

The gift of the Spirit is not like a Stradivarius violin, well-made but only valuable only because it has hardly been played.  The gift of the Spirit was given to us to be used, that we might give God away. And Saint Paul gives us a litmus test in our second reading for how well we have received God’s gift of the Spirit: the fruit of the Spirit is

These are general attributes, called for in every disciple, known in differing degrees in all of the saints. Aware of God’s Spirit, God’s very life within me, am I loving, joyful, peaceful, patient kind, generous, faithful, gentle, in control of myself? Am I willing to share who I am and what I have with Jesus Christ in and though this community? If not, pray, and pray boldly. Peace be with you.

Peace,

 

 

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