Pentecost offers an opportunity
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
“Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And you shall renew the face of the earth.”
As we celebrate the great feast of Pentecost, we pray for renewal in our hearts. Just as the apostles and first disciples found their fear and uncertainty transformed into boldness and zeal, so we too should be eager for the transformation which the same Holy Spirit can work in us.
The mission on which Christ sends us, and for which he gives us the power and gifts of the Holy Spirit, and in which Christ and the Holy Spirit accompany us, is the one mission of the church to save souls.
Each one of us, every day, is an apostle, commissioned and sent into the world to do God’s work. Each one of us, every day, has the opportunity to commit some great work of charity and justice, that will change someone’s heart or bring someone hope.
I say, “great work,” meaning great in the eyes of God, but usually hidden in the sight of the world. The world rarely acknowledges such works to be great or worthy of attention or interest, because the world pursues quite other ends. The labor of a true disciple of Jesus Christ is “great,” rather, in the sense that nothing better imitates Christ than actually changing hearts or bringing hope, amidst the darkness of sin and despair.
If we as disciples firmly embrace the example of the apostles of boldness and zeal in proclaiming the gospel, especially by how we live and what we truly value, what will our lives really look like to our neighbors? They will see us pouring out our lives in pursuit of love for people, not in pursuit of material ends. They will see us sacrificing our time in service to the needy. They will see us dying to self to hold a marriage together. They will see us dressing and speaking with modesty and temperance. They will see us embracing children as a gift from God, and letting our love spill over into larger and more joyful families. They will see us spending time with God each day – and especially on Sundays and other holy days – in prayer, devotions, and frequent participation in the Holy Sacraments. They will see us refusing to compromise with evil, and willingly paying the cost of following Christ; and together with this refusal they will see Christ’s mercy in us, as we nevertheless do not turn away from those who sin.
Above all, they will see our hope, which is not dismayed even as we also experience suffering in this life, and they will see our joy, which is not diminished despite the reality of sadness and disappointment, which affect us no less than them.
The witness of such virtues is the “great work” of a disciple of Christ, our master. To strive to do them consistently, daily, over and over again, is the life of Christ in us. It is our holiness, our baptismal vocation, and our mission. The life of virtue is never easy; Christ himself called it “the small and narrow gate,” which a great many people drifting on the “broad and easy way” of the world simply fail to see or attempt.
We are tempted constantly to go along with that crowd – to be selfish, not selfless; to seek our own ends, not God’s; to let fear restrain our witness – fear of upsetting a friend, fear of causing a rift in the family, or fear of being laughed at for our faith. We must indeed struggle every day to remain on the more difficult path of Christ-like virtue, and not to drift on the much easier path.
If, however, we capitulate in that struggle – if we are not bold and zealous in living our faith and our call to holiness – then how can we love or serve our neighbor? What in our life can attract them, if we live no differently from them? What “Good News” can we share, if we are not deliberately trying to share with them Christ’s?
To serve others, to bring the love of Christ into the world, we must be “in the world but not of the world.” And we can only hold that stance if we allow the Holy Spirit to renew our hearts, so hardened by our own sins. St. Paul says that we can only console others with the consolation that we ourselves have received, namely, the mercy, hope, and joy of Jesus Christ.
Therefore the renewal of Pentecost starts with our own renewed commitment to interior conversion, to letting Christ change our own heart and “remove the beam from our own eye.” Then, united firmly to Christ and his holy church, and seeing clearly with the eyes of faith, gazing only at the holy face of Christ, our salvation and our very life, “our eyes like the eyes of slaves on the hand of their master,” then we can offer divine mercy, hope, consolation, and joy to a broken world.
Therefore we urgently pray, “Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And you shall renew the face of the earth.”
The church of the diocese is richly blessed by many gifts of the Holy Spirit. I give thanks to God for all who let the Holy Spirit touch their hearts and strengthen their faith. Pentecost marks the “birthday” of the church, so happy (belated) birthday, church of Sioux City Diocese!
Your brother in Christ,
Most Reverend R. Walker Nickless
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