The Joy of Pentecost in WNY

There are many experiences that tie Western New Yorkers together.  One of them is visiting the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.  I recall being especially attracted to a beautiful "Eucharistic Dove" circa A.D. 1200.  It was auctioned off by the Albright-Knox in 2007 but can still be seen online. Eucharistic Doves were a type of tabernacle, suspended from the church ceiling directly over the altar.  The back hinged open to hold the Blessed Sacrament. The Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, hovered for all to see.  I still think of that Eucharistic Dove at every Mass.

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains: "At the heart of the Eucharistic celebration are the bread and wine that, by the words of Christ and the invocation of the Holy Spirit, become Christ's Body and Blood" (par. 1333).Two of the great gifts of the Holy Spirit are joy and unity. Pentecost reminds us to share Jesus Christ joyfully and to invite others to unite with us in our love for Him.  That is what the first evangelizers - the apostles - did after Pentecost.  It is our turn to spiritualize Western New York, our corner of God's Kingdom. With just a little more sharing of Christian joy and unity, we can turn Western New York into a mystical Eucharistic Dove.

Are we Spirit-filled evangelizers?  "Spirit-filled" evangelization is a notion especially dear to Pope Francis.  In fact, Pope Francis mentions "spirit" 175 times in his "Joy of Gospel!"  He pleads for a new Pentecost: How I long to find the right words to stir up enthusiasm for a new chapter of evangelization full of fervor, joy, generosity, courage, boundless love and attraction! Yet I realize that no words of encouragement will be enough unless the fire of the Holy Spirit burns in our hearts ...I once more invoke the Holy Spirit. I implore him to come and renew the Church, to stir and impel her to go forth boldly to evangelize all peoples. (EG 261)

Keeping our missionary fervor alive calls for firm trust in the Holy Spirit.... But this generous trust has to be nourished, and so we need to invoke the Spirit constantly. He can heal whatever causes us to flag in the missionary endeavor.  It is true that this trust in the unseen can cause us to feel disoriented: it is like being plunged into the deep and not knowing what we will find. I myself have frequently experienced this.

Yet there is no greater freedom than that of allowing oneself to be guided by the Holy Spirit, renouncing the attempt to plan and control everything to the last detail, and instead letting him enlighten, guide and direct us, leading us wherever he wills. The Holy Spirit knows well what is needed in every time and place.  (EG 280)

This is our time (A.D. 2018) and our place (Western New York).  May the Holy Spirit hover over us here and now.

 by Deacon William Hynes, Jr.


The connection between being sent and being with - secrets of missionary disciples

There is a story about a synagogue in decline.  The baffled rabbi of this aging congregation sent emissaries to a famous monk for advice.  After hearing of their distress, the wise monk went off to pray.  The next morning when they returned, the monk whispered five words of advice - "The Messiah is among you." and bid them farewell.

The emissaries were not sure if they fully understood this message, but they were overjoyed by the promise and brought it back to their rabbi, each one wondering who the Messiah might be.  Almost imperceptibly, the promise that one in this community was the Messiah, changed the way they treated one another.

There was a new vitality in the group.  Worship grew in passion and purpose.  The congregation began to attract people who wanted to join in their ministries of caring and compassion, which touched people well beyond the community.  The secret to their success?  Simply a joy for God's presence, which was there all along.

What about us?  Are we not the body of Christ?  Are we not an Easter and Eucharistic people, who know that ALL people are God's people?  Any reading of the Gospel reveals that Jesus displayed a divine generosity and He spent most of his time with those least likely to be at church.  Hospitality is the hallmark of anyone moved by joy for the Gospel.

Joy for the Gospel is much more than right belief and right behavior.  It is an act of self-donation to God's merciful plan for all people.  Missionary disciples see the church, not as a refuge from the world, but as a campaign headquarters for a mission in the world.  Sabbath is when we pause and prepare for that campaign, which is either won or lost off church property.  Therefore, parish is not a building but a mission field.

A missionary people listens to the signs of the times.  They break open God's Word and give witness to their joy and hope at times, and in spaces, that are convenient and comfortable to outsiders and newcomers.  They gather to praise God before being sent out, two by two (Lk. 10) and establish small groups which, by design, receive and welcome newcomers.

When Pope Francis insists that we are either missionaries or imposters, he is calling our attention to these divine realities.  Do our catechists only address those who come to classes?  Do our homilies only echo in the hearts of regular church goers?  Does everyone at church see themselves as an ambassador of welcome to newcomers and visitors?  Do our youth ministers and campus ministers spend an inordinate amount of their time and energy with those who already belong, believe and behave as we expect?

The mission of those who are saved is to be sent (the definition of "apostle").  Missionaries realize that God has some that churches do not, and that churches have some that God does not.  Apostles are sent to be with those least likely to like us.  What steps can you take to journey closer to Christ in your own life?  And what about your parish - do you sense a joy for the Gospel?   If you are wondering what this missionary discipleship looks like view this schema for what Pope Francis calls a Missionary Discipleship and find where you are along the road...                            by Dennis Mahaney



These sites are not an endpoint, but rather a first step toward encountering, following, finding joy with Christ in your life, and sharing Christ with others.  Read through the sites, reflect and pray on what you see.  Then act!  If you feel so inspired, you may will wish to share something with a close friend, and perhaps ask them to consider how much better life can be with Christ.