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Fr Bob Writes – Pentecost Sunday

Concluding our excerpts from Fr James Mallon’s book “Divine Renovation”:

“How, then, can we introduce experiences of the Holy Spirit into the everyday life of a parish so that it becomes a value that will contribute to the transformation of parish culture? …Pope Francis reflects on this same question in Evangelii Gaudium: “How I long to find the right words to stir up enthusiasm for a new chapter of evangelization full of fervour, joy, generosity, courage, boundless love and attraction!  Yet I realize that no words of encouragement will be enough unless the fire of the Holy Spirit burns in our hearts” (EG, no. 261).

Here are a few suggestions from my experience as a pastor of how to help our people experience this burning:

* It is that which is not understood and that which is unknown that causes fear.  We need to teach about the experience of “God in us” through the Holy Spirit.  We must teach people that there is no single experience that captures how God works in the hearts of believers.  We must teach that an emotional response to God is a healthy part of being in relationship with God, just as it is in any other personal relationship.  We must teach people that to be Christian is to be “pentecostal.”  That there is no Christian life or Church outside of the pentecostal experience. We must teach that God gives gifts, including charismatic gifts for the building up of the Church, and that God gives good gifts to his children and will never give a snake instead of a fish or a scorpion instead of an egg (Luke 11:11-12).  Our disposition ought to be to say yes to each and every “good gift” that God desires to give us.  We need not be afraid, even if we may not fully understand. …We seek God’s power because without it, we can do nothing.

* In our liturgies, we are conscious of invoking the Holy Spirit in song during the celebration of the Eucharist, and even take extra time after Holy Communion to ask the Holy Spirit to come.  After all, as we acknowledge in Eucharistic Prayer III, being “nourished by the Body and Blood of your Son and filled with his Holy Spirit” ought to be a part of every celebration of the Eucharist.  We also teach that it is important to pray the ancient prayer of the Church Veni Sancte Spiritus (Come, Holy Spirit) with expectant faith.  Fr Raniero Cantalamessa, long-time preacher to the papal household, often tells a story of a custom in his hometown.  On Sunday morning after Mass, it is very common to hear invitations to neighbours to come and visit at some point.  This invitation, however, is a form of social politeness and includes no expectation that the person will show up.  Cantalamessa points out that when we invoke the Holy Spirit and ask him to come, we should do so with ardent expectation.  It is only this kind of prayer that will yield the fulfillment of the promise of God in our own time for the renewal of our Church.  Only the power of the Holy Spirit will allow us to not only recall our true identity as a missional Church, but to throw off the shackles of maintenance and go out. Pope Francis agrees:

“We need to avoid it by making the Church constantly go out from herself, keeping her mission focused on Jesus Christ, and her commitment to the poor.  God save us from a worldly Church with superficial spiritual and pastoral trappings!  This stifling worldliness can only be healed by breathing in the pure air of the Holy Spirit who frees us from self-centredness cloaked in an outward religiosity bereft of God.” (EG. no.97)

Happy Pentecost, everyone!!