May 19, 2024

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

After nine years here as pastor, I recognize that I am prone to repeating myself sometimes. For example, you may have caught my reference last week to St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises and the meditation on the king. I know for certain that I have spoken about that and written about it a number of times in these last nine years. It’s not that repeating myself is necessarily a bad thing, but it can be risky. So throwing caution to the wind, I’d like to run the risk of repeating an anecdote I may have shared at some point in the past.

Years back, I came across a recording of sacred music for the liturgical year that was made by a French monastic community. For the music that followed today’s great feast of Pentecost, the title “temps de l’eglise,” was used. My French is pretty bad, but the name made perfect sense – the time of the Church. This is precisely what we live in following the event of Pentecost. As the Holy Spirit descends on the Apostles and sends them out to proclaim the Gospel, to baptize, and to serve, we see the time of the Church inaugurated. If the time of the Church began on that Pentecost in Jerusalem, our annual celebration of this is both a marking of an anniversary and a reminder that the time of the Church continues to this day. We are living in that time. What is the Church for, that God gives her this time?

The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, from the Second Vatican Council gives us insight into the purpose of the Church from her very beginnings on the first Pentecost. “When the work which the Father gave the Son to do on earth was accomplished, the Holy Spirit was sent on the day of Pentecost in order that He might continually sanctify the Church, and thus, all those who believe would have access through Christ in one Spirit to the Father” (LG 4). The Church exists so that all who believe might have access to God’s grace and directly to relationship with God. Where do “all who believe” come from? The mission of the Church is not only to be an access point, but also a missionary influence. That is, the Church is sent into the whole world to proclaim the Gospel to all people. The Church, then, exists so that all people can come to faith, to evangelize the whole world, and with that proclamation made, to be a place where believers live the life of grace. And so from the first Pentecost on, we are living in the time of the Church, the time in which believers live more and more deeply the life of grace.

Lumen Gentium also reminds us that “Uninterruptedly He [the Holy Spirit] renews her and leads her to perfect union with her Spouse.” In other words, the Church is constantly renewed by the presence of the Holy Spirit so that all who belong to the Church might be in more perfect union with Jesus. This is why the annual celebration of Pentecost is so vital in the life of the Church. We need constant renewal in our relationship with God. As we renew the time of the Church today, the whole Church throughout the world, each of us who bears the name of Christian, is invited to experience anew the gifts of the Spirit, and to grow in our relationship with the God who provides us in and through the Church with the means of access to eternal life.

Peace,

Fr. Sam