“And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.” (Act 2:2-3)
And here we are…
Last Friday, I was overwhelmed with the presence of so many parishioners at my farewell party. You gathered not only to bid me farewell and to celebrate my time here at Mary Help of Christians but rather to celebrate the work of the Gospel that we have shared and labored over for the last 2 ½ years. It was truly a festive occasion because we cried, laughed, and boy did we dance. Why? Because the heart of the Christian should be constantly filled with joy. We danced because Christ left us a Spirit of joy for us to share, for us to cherish, and for us to take part in the dance of creation which he began so long ago. I didn’t know what to expect on Friday night since I was not part of the planning. I only gave one simple instruction to those planning the party: “I just want to have fun.” And fun we had because this isn’t about saying goodbye. It’s about celebrating our love for Christ and for each other.
I believe that it is providential that my last Sunday with all of you is Pentecost Sunday. Today we are reminded of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our midst: this Spirit that renews us. refreshes us, and sets our hearts on fire for Christ. Nine years ago, when Archbishop Favalora laid his hands on my head to ordain me a priest, he called forth that same Spirit which came on the apostles on Pentecost. This Spirit is what I hope I have brought to all of you during my time here. In the first reading, we hear how the apostles heard a strong wind and received tongues of fire. Today we pray for that same wind to fill this holy place. We pray that we may receive the peace that Christ gave to the disciples and that he may breathe on us that Spirit so that we may be renewed.
That Spirit is constantly calling us to change. The Spirit takes the stale and the stagnant and makes it new and fresh. This is what our faith needs time and again so that we may never settle for mediocre Christianity but always appreciate this faith that has been passed down to us from the apostles. During my time here, I tried to challenge you to come out of your comfort zone when it comes to the faith, to not settle for “one hour a week” Catholicism, and to open your hearts so that the Holy Spirit may lead you to where the Father wants you to be. It truly is all about change. And if at times I looked frustrated in trying to communicate this message it is only because I always preach the Gospel with a sense of urgency and because I want to share the joy that Christ placed in my heart with all of you. At the Last Supper, the Lord wanted to share this joy with his disciples, and every Sunday I sought to share it with you. I wanted you to see what I see in this beautiful celebration of the Eucharist, and that we should never take it for granted because here we encounter the Living Christ in body, soul, and divinity.
Only God knows why I was sent here and why my time among you was all too brief. Just as I have challenged you, the Archbishop challenged me when he sent me away from my comfort zone to a place called Parkland in the northernmost reaches of our Archdiocese. But here I found a home because as Bishop Roman always reminds me, “All you need is an altar.” And around this beautiful, hand made altar, we have shared every Sunday a feast that unites us to the Divine. I pray that I have been the presence of Christ to all of you because you have definitely been that presence to me. Now we must turn the page as the Spirit on this Pentecost Sunday is prompting each of us to begin anew. Why? Because our faith should never grow tired and stale. We must call forth this Spirit today to come upon us like a mighty wind and set our hearts on fire so that we can set the earth on fire with the love of Christ. I always say that I like to set fires and walk out the back door. I pray that that fire may burn in your hearts always. And as I bolt out the back door, I pray that the breath of the Holy Spirit may come upon each and every one of you. The work of the Gospel, the work of this extraordinary parish, continues. May our patroness, Mary Help of Christians, be your guiding light as you continue to spread the work of her beloved Son. The Spirit has empowered all of you to do the great things that our Lord has done. My time here sharing this Good News and keeping that fire buring is done. Now, it’s up to you.
God bless you all!