My Dear Ones in Christ,
This weekend the Church celebrates Pentecost, a celebration in which we remember the joyful descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and the other followers of our Lord. The liturgical color of the day is red which symbolizes both the joy and the fire of the Holy Spirit. So many people have come to look upon this event as it’s recorded in Acts 2 and see in it what has become known as the Birthday of the Church. The Apostles and many of the other disciples were all together in one place, and as we recall, suddenly there came a noise like a strong wind which filled the house where they were sitting. There appeared to them tongues as of fire which parted, rested on each one of them, and they began to speak in different tongues.
What we tend to forget is this was not the first time they had received the gift of the Holy Spirit! Our Gospel reading this weekend takes us back to Easter day in the evening. Again, they were all together behind locked doors when Jesus came and stood in their midst saying, “Peace be with you.” He showed them His hands and his side, and again said, “Peace be with you.” He then commissioned them to go forth, but before doing so it says He breathed on them and said to them,
“Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”
In this we are reminded that the first gift of the Spirit which Jesus gave to the Church was not the gift of tongues, nor of healing, nor of any other thing, but rather, the first gift of the Spirit is the power to forgive. Each one of us has that gift and that power, but as with any other power, we have to exercise it in order for it to be effective. I may have the power to forgive, but if I don’t actually forgive, then what good is it doing me? It’s the same with all the other gifts we are given by the Lord; they are ours, but we have to use them, exercise them, in order that the good that is inherent in each one can be brought about.
In the quiet of these days, perhaps it would be a great spiritual exercise for each of us to look at the gifts our Lord has given us and examine each one to see if or how we’ve been using them or neglecting them. In that examination, it could just be possible that we could enjoy our own new Pentecost by having the fire of the Spirit reignite those gifts within each of our hearts and lives in order that their holy effects can be of benefit not only to ourselves but to the Church and our needy world.
So much appreciation has been expressed for last week’s “drive by” reception of Holy Communion. Some thought that was going to be a one-time thing since we did it on the Feast of the Ascension. No, we are going to be continuing that practice for the foreseeable future. The only change will be that I’ll be standing outside the west patio to offer the Eucharist for only 20 minutes each time. It got terribly hot last weekend standing outside there in vestments, and just take a guess what that did to the ol’ allergies and asthma!! So, the times will be as follows: Saturdays: 5:00 pm – 5:20 pm, Sundays: 8:30 am – 8:50 am, 10:00 am – 10:20 am. I entreat you to be as prompt as possible so we can be finished up within those time frames. It was WONDERFUL to see so many of you, and yes, I could recognize almost all of you even with your masks!
Some have asked if we’ll be reopening the parish any time soon. In consultation with our Bishop and in conversations with a few medical professionals I repeat what I recently wrote: St. Frances Cabrini Parish, because of the majority of our parishioners being multiply compromised due to age and secondary health concerns (among whom is your pastor), will be among the very last of the parishes to reopen to public worship. This pandemic is far, far from over, and as I wrote previously, I love all of you far too deeply to create a dangerous situation by opening up the parish when the virus is still raging as violently as it is. I know some will not accept this decision, but it is made out of an abundance of care and caution as I seek to consider what is the greater good for all of us. I miss you all more than I can put into words, but at this time my emotional needs to see you must not be outweighed by pastoral love and concern for your well being.
Please accept these few lines today. I hold you each so closely to my heart, and pray in deepest joy for you.
With sincerest brotherly love in Christ,