May 14, 2018
We are remembering and celebrating today the gift of God’s Holy Spirit to the disciples and to us. Since the Feast of Pentecost is often called the birthday of the Church, let me wish you all a happy birthday! This idea echoes St. Peter’s sentiment in his first letter: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (1 Pt 1:3) I like the insight that Easter is a time of birth, a birth to a “living hope.” The disciples had gathered behind locked doors because they were afraid that what happened to Jesus would happen to them; they feared losing their lives. The paradox is that what ultimately happened to Jesus in the resurrection did indeed happen to them. With the gift of the Spirit they were enlivened and became courageous, unlocking the doors, going out and making bold proclamation that Jesus had been raised, and that he is indeed the Lord of life.
When I was doing campus ministry at Rice University in Houston many years ago, the students put on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. To advertise the play, they made T shirts with a line from one of the characters, Friar Laurence. Witnessing a dramatic transformation he exclaimed, “Holy St. Francis, what a change is here!” (Because I was a friar, they gave me a T shirt!) I always remember that line when I think of this dramatic transformation in the life of those first disciples, a transformation which resulted from the gift of the Spirit.
I think if we are to celebrate this feast well, we do not just remember what happened to the disciples long ago, but open ourselves to that same transformation and en-courage-ment as well. Can I unlock any doors I am hiding behind? Can I somehow make bold proclamation of the mighty acts of God?
All three friars will be going to Cincinnati for a couple of days next week for an extraordinary meeting we call a “chapter.” For the last several years the OFM Franciscans of the United States have been in a discernment process about possible restructuring of our Provinces. Currently there are seven provinces across the US. There is a proposal that six of these Provinces become one. All six of these Provinces are meeting at the same time and will vote on this proposal, which is a recommendation to the Order’s leadership in Rome, because they make the final decision about restructuring Provinces. If the proposal passes, it will take a number of years to implement. (This will not necessarily change things here, but more how we govern and organize ourselves.) Please pray that we will not be afraid, but courageous, and seek God’s Spirit and be open to transformation and change, if that is what God wants for us.