Sunday, June 8, 2014

Renewed, Refreshed, Recreated

“And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.”  (Acts 2:4)

Allow me to borrow a page from Pope Francis’ playbook and offer three points on this Pentecost Sunday about the Holy Spirit.  This Spirit that is gifted to us by our Lord Jesus Christ as our Advocate here on earth rains down upon on us this day to renew, refresh and recreate us.

The Spirit renews.  I published in the bulletin today a prayer that every Christian should say daily.  “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.”  90 days ago, we began a journey with Jesus at the beginning of Lent as the Lord set out to make all things new.  50 days ago at his resurrection, He was made new to the point that even his disciples couldn’t recognize him.  So he breathed on them the Spirit so that they could go forth and make things new on the face of the earth with the power of the Spirit.  Today we are called to give our heart to God the Spirit to make us new as well so that we may set the world on fire with his love.  When we are renewed by the Spirit, we should be as unrecognizable as Jesus was after the resurrection because everyone will see something new in us.

The Spirit refreshes.  In the Pentecost sequence, there is a wonderful verse that reads, “You, of comforters the best; You, the soul’s most welcome guest; Sweet refreshment here below.”  The Spirit comforts us in our afflictions.  He brings us solace in times of trail.  One of the prayers in the Mass today says that our soul cries out for the Spirit because we long for the presence of God in our lives.  And finally, when we need rest, when we are parched, when our soul needs soothing, the Spirit comes to offer us “sweet refreshment.”  Like a cold glass of lemonade when we come in out of the sun on a hot summer’s day, the Spirit quenches our thirst for God in a way nothing else can.

The Spirit recreates.  Here we think of recreation as a diversion when we should look at it as re-creation.  The Spirit comes to create something new.  As school has ended and summer has begun, we think of times we will spend this summer in traditional recreation, but how much time will we dedicate to spiritual re-creation with the Spirit as our guide?  We are called this Pentecost Sunday to be recreated in God’s image and likeness; more specifically to be just like Jesus.   This is what this life giving Breath of God seeks to create in each and everyone of us.

I want to end with two examples of priests that received the power of the Holy Spirit at ordination and that impacted me in a special way this past week.  Last night, I had the honor of concelebrating the “Farewell Mass” of the pastor of the first parish I was assigned to who is retiring at the end of the month.  He taught me in my early days of what it meant to be a priest.  He is a model of what a pastor should be.  In his homilies, he always likes to play with words and notice how I used three words in this homily that begin with the prefix “re.”  Well, last night this wise pastor rejected the use of the word “retire” because if you break it down with its prefix it implies just getting tired over and over again.  He prefers the word, which is more commonly used in Spanish, that he is going on jubilee.  There is more of a sense of joy in that word because as we embark on our “jubilee,” we can look back on the work we have done for the Lord with joy and realize that we are still called to labor, albeit more limitedly, in his vineyard until he calls us home.  This is what happened to another priest I worked with in one of my former parishes in Broward.  A retired priest that came down form New York state for health reason and ended up being an integral part of the parish he helped out at.  He would say Mass every Sunday and once or twice during the week.  He would regularly visit the school and CCD children and say Masses for them, help out with confessions, and pretty much lived an “unretired” life.  He always said that when he celebrated his 50th anniversary two years ago that he would cut back on his workload and only come by every now and then.  I knew, as most of the parishioners did, that he would not do this.  He got ill a couple of weeks ago and last Thursday night he really entered his life of jubilee when he was called home by the Father.  These two men are examples that the Spirit is at work in our lives up until the end.  We will never be finished products here on earth.  We will only be brought to completion when we enter the presence of God.   In the meantime, we are called to live a life filled with the Spirit that prompts us to work tirelessly for the Lord to renew, refresh, and recreate the face of the earth with the power of the Spirit that rained down on the apostles on that first Pentecost Sunday and that we pray rains down on us each and every day.  May these two great priests, one at the end of his life and the other at the end of his official ministerial life, hear the words that are uttered at the end of today’s sequence, and may we hear them one day as well:
Give them virtue’s sure reward;
Give them your salvation, Lord;
Give them joys that never end.  Amen.  Alleluia.

Come Holy Spirit, come!