“No one knows what I have been through, and they don’t understand.” “They don’t appreciate me and they don’t appreciate everything I am doing for them.” “I have to do everything!” “No one offers to help – can’t they see what needs to be done?!” “All they do is think about themselves – the world rotates around their needs and what they do?” “I don’t trust them.” Do these sound like statements within a family, maybe statements from a mom or a dad? Are these expressions that come from teenagers or maybe we hear from friends? Perhaps they are statements we make.
Today is Pentecost, the celebration of the beginning of our Church and it’s mission. The apostles are seated in a room together and they are gathered as a family, as a community. They face an incredible, wonderful opportunity to evangelize others. They are about to go out and proclaim to all the world the saving power of Christ. Suddenly, there is a wind and fire over their heads – they felt a change and suddenly they are sent out to proclaim forgiveness of sins. They are sent on a mission to reconcile, that is, bring others together – again to forgive one another and announce the Good News of healing and creative works that bring news life! These apostles have been chosen, tested, and formed by a friendship with Jesus. They know how to pray, speak different languages (or at least understand the differences between people), they have seen the good works of Jesus throughout their lives – and now they are asked to live the mission of reconciliation, as Jesus asked them time and time again – they are asked to be leaders of the Church. They are invited to live the mission in their homes and in the community – and in each of their worshipping places.
I can only imagine how much work there must have been facing these enlightened apostles. The work was complicated by the fact that they fought among themselves as well. Mark and Peter, Peter and Paul, Paul and his communities, including his struggles with women, John and his relatives – fighting about who to include and how to include others. The stress of trying to bring justice, respond to the needs of others, and to bring peace and unity to the family or community often lead to quick judgments about others. Energy was spent on who to blame for mission problems. Some of them wanted to give up and certainly they felt alone, and abandoned. However, their ability to remain in relationship with one another, their ability to connect with others and their faith transformed the world. You can read it all in the bible.
All the statements above in the first paragraph are recognizable. They are the kinds of statements made by Parish and church leaders, Pastors, Pastoral Associates and Associate Pastors, Administrators, Ministers, CCD teachers and Youth workers, team leaders and anfitriones. These last months, as our own parish prepares for upcoming personnel changes, I have had the opportunity to visit several church communities, including several within our own parish. I have heard these statements. However, amazing transformation is taking place in the Church throughout the country. And it is clear we are called to continue to develop leadership throughout the parishes. We are a family, and we must live in the spirit of the Gospel by looking for creative ways to reconcile ourselves to one another, that we might listen better, forgive one another, and imagine creatively from our own experience how we truly love one another. We are not alone after all. We are in the mission together.
There is great hope for the future of the Church – and it is found in the changes that are coming. The spirit of those apostles on Pentecost is the same spirit touching us today. How will you respond with a spirit of Pentecost in your family, parish community, and neighborhood? May our actions speak louder than our words. Let us go forth and LIVE the Good News and may fire hover over you!
Fr. Bruce Wellems, CMF