We have just celebrated this great feast of the Resurrection and have now moved into the seven weeks of Easter leading to the great feast of Pentecost. Often times, the feast of Pentecost seems to be rather neglected in the life of many Catholics. Yes, it comes seven weeks following Easter, but its prominence in the life of the local church is much diminished and is given little attention in comparison to Christmas and Easter. In fact, the celebration of the Easter season often times becomes not much different than Ordinary Time in the church, unfortunately. We fall back into life as usual. We have taken away its luster, diminishing its importance. In taking away its luster, so too has gone its power. It is time to reclaim and celebrate it to the fullest.
Being five months into the Year of Faith, perhaps the initial inertia has somewhat diminished because at times it is challenging to carry a momentum over a period of twelve months. We need constant reminders of our call to the New Evangelization and the need to keep our gaze fixed upon Jesus Christ, the fulfillment of all human existence.
In Porta Fidei, Pope Benedict XVI spoke about how Christ “sends us through the highways of the world to proclaim his Gospel to all the peoples of the earth (cf. Mt 28:19). Through his love, Jesus Christ attracts to himself the people of every generation: In rediscovering his love day by day, the missionary commitment of believers attains force and vigor that can never fade away. Faith grows when it is lived as an experience of love received and when it is communicated as an experience of grace and joy. It makes us fruitful, because it expands our hearts in hope and enables us to bear life-giving witness: indeed, it opens the hearts and minds of those who listen to respond to the Lord’s invitation to adhere to his word and become his disciples.” (Porta Fidei, #7)
This cannot and will not happen without the power of the Holy Spirit active in our lives. We must rekindle in ourselves the thrust of the beginnings of the church and ask the Holy Spirit to fill us with the ardor of the apostolic preaching which followed Pentecost.
Each of you has received the power of the Holy Spirit in the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation. But for many, the power of the Holy Spirit has remained dormant. If the Spirit was alive in all Catholics, the churches would be overflowing. So many Catholics have not asked for or prayed for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, have not expected such a gift, and have not opened their hearts to such a gift. The Lord Jesus has already given the Spirit to us, but He is waiting for us to let him ignite the fire; which means we must want this fire to be ignited and pray each day that it is ignited. But it also takes letting go of what “I” want and seeking what the Lord wants for “me.”
Our society is a mess! The Evil One is alive and very active in this culture war as we fight for religious freedom, for the rights of the unborn and the elderly, for traditional family values, and for moral values which reflect Gospel teaching. We need the Holy Spirit to help us in this battle. We need the Holy Spirit to be our source of strength in living our Christian life. We need the Holy Spirit to keep us strong in the face of all the challenges we face as individuals, as a society, as a church.
Therefore, I am asking every parish across our diocese to join with me in praying a Novena to the Holy Spirit in preparation for Pentecost. All of us need a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We need it in our culture, our society, our families, our parishes. This Year of Faith has beckoned each of us to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the one Savior of the world, Jesus Christ. This can only happen through the power of the Holy Spirit, that same Spirit that transformed the lives of those disciples in the upper room at Pentecost.
Blessed Pope John Paul II wrote, “Whenever the spirit intervenes, he leaves people astonished. He brings about events of amazing newness; he radically changes persons in history. He also distributes special graces among the faithful of every rank, makes him fit and ready to undertake various tasks and offices for the renewal and building up the church.” (Speech with Ecclesial Movements and New Communities, May 30, 1998)
The Holy Spirit radically changed the early disciples from fearful, scared, lost men and women into courageous witnesses to Christ and enlightened heralds of his word. It was the Spirit who guided them along the difficult and new paths of mission, that same mission that has been given to every baptized person. We ask the Holy Spirit to bring about an amazing newness among us.
Let us all join together for nine consecutive days for prayer and reflection on the gifts of the Holy Spirit, inviting the power of the Holy Spirit to be poured out upon each of us, our parishes, and our diocese. The Novena to the Holy Spirit will be provided by your parishes or can be found on this website: www.spiritans.com. Watch your parish bulletins for more details regarding how this will be celebrated in your particular parish.
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love!