Congregational Letter Volume IV, Letter 7 | Pentecost

Dear Brothers, Associates and Colleagues:

Happy Birthday to everyone! On Pentecost, we celebrate the birth of the Church. As with any birth there is always a sense of the miraculous, and feelings of excitement and a reverence for the new life that has just entered our world. I am sure each of us has also received birthday wishes that tell us that we have another opportunity for a ‘new beginning.’ In many ways Pentecost is that type of experience—an opportunity for new beginnings in our ‘following in Christ’s footsteps.’

Something new happened that day and it is still happening.

On the evening of the first day of the week, when the doors were locked,
where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in
their midst and said to them,
“Peace be with you.”
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples
rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again,
“Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
And when he had said this, he breathed upon them,
“Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose
sins you retain are retained.”   (Jn 20: 19-23)

Our celebration of Easter comes to a close with the Feast of Pentecost. I hope each of you has enjoyed the special grace that comes to us so reassuringly during the weeks that follow Jesus’ resurrection. The post-resurrection readings always renew my faith. They invite me to contemplate ‘the ordinary, common and unspectacular’ with a fresh hope of meeting the risen Lord… My reflections always bring me to a new awareness of the risen Lord.

As I mentioned in an earlier letter, on our recent trip to Kenya I experienced the risen Lord. The joy and commitment of the staff at the Ryken Centre for Hope, reveal, as Jesus did, God’s love to fourteen youngsters abandoned to the streets. I also encountered the risen Lord in our Xaverian fraternity. One evening in Bungoma, Brothers from Congo, Kenya and the USA were guests of Brother Vinnie. We shared prayer and broke bread (actually pizza)! The joy and care for each other showed me eight different faces of the risen Christ. When I take time to reflect, I realize anew that I meet the risen Christ in you as my sisters and brothers, and in all people. Pentecost presents me the needed reminder that I have an opportunity for a new beginning in response to my call as a Brother.

Something new happened that first evening. The disciples were vulnerable. Huddled behind a locked door, they were dealing with fear, loss, grief and doubts. The door was not the only thing locked. These deep emotions also shut the disciples’ eyes, minds, and hearts to what was happening to them. Unexpectedly Jesus appears, and sensing their emotions and doubts, Jesus shows them his hands and side. Their eyes are open and they rejoice. Then Jesus breathes on them. They receive the Holy Spirit, and they feel the peace that Jesus offers them. They sensed something new was happening. The disciples gradually let the Holy Spirit help them to understand what Jesus had taught them. They didn’t yet fully grasp it until now. They would remain behind the locked door until Pentecost.

Luke’s account of Pentecost found in Acts is very dramatic. It fills the senses with awe—with the sounds and sights, the violent wind, and the tongues of fire. Luke tells us “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages given to them by the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:1-4)

Experience tells us that God’s Spirit calls to us in many different ways. At times God’s Spirit calls to us in dramatic and disturbing events—an earthquake, an act of terrorism, the drowning of refugee toddlers attempting, with their parents, to escape war, the murder of two men defending Muslim women on a train. Yes at times the Spirit’s call disturbs us. How do I respond when the Spirit disturbs?  Do I speak up? Do I take some action? Do I try to help the other person? Or do I close my mind, protect my heart and lock my door?

We also know from today’s Gospel that God’s Spirit speaks to us as well in a whisper. It may be a whisper that reassures, consoles, builds confidence, and helps us to understand. The Spirit’s whisper may also be urging us to unlock the door and open our minds and hearts. It may be an invitation to embrace Jesus’ command, ‘Love one another as I have loved you.” (Jn 13:34)

In the Gospel for the Sixth Sunday of Easter, Jesus gives us a deeper understanding of His love for us when He says, “On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you.”  This is communion. This type of communion transcends religions, religious sects, gender and nationalism. It is the type communion that God intends for us so that we may be one with God, one with each other and with all people without distinction. St. Paul puts it this way, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28).

The Gospel passage for the Sixth Sunday of Easter as cited above helps me a lot in my spiritual life. It invites me to sit in silence to come in touch with the belief that the Holy Spirt is in me, in you, and in all people. I am invited to reflect on how open my door, my mind, and heart are to God and to others. It helps me to realize that God is present in all people, especially when I experience difficulties getting along with someone. I stop and say, “God is present in that person. Lord, help me to see this person and love this person as you do.” I am not a mystic; at times, my prayer is dry and empty. Unfortunately, many times my prayer is distracted. I am too preoccupied with my own world and I sin. At these times, I also know God loves me. Christ’s Spirit is within me even in my distraction and sin. At other times, I feel the communion about which Jesus talks.

Something new is also happening to us today.

Pentecost invites us as a Congregation to listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit in our prayer, in our contemplation, in our meetings, and in our listening to each other. Our Founder was open to the Holy Spirit realizing that the “Holy Spirit works where and as He wills” (FP). Solitude, silence, and contemplation open my eyes, mind, and heart to God and others.

As a Congregation we have been involved in the “Graced Crossroads” listening to the Holy Spirit. What are we being called to be and to do for each other, our Church, and world as we celebrate our 178th Birthday on June 15, 2017? We have another opportunity for “a new beginning.” Our work on ‘transformation’ calls us to unlock our doors, and open our eyes, minds, and hearts to what our Church and world need and to ask a hard question: “What do we need to do together to continue to make God’s compassion present in our Church and world? What personal transformation do we need to engage in to be faithful to the gift of our Xaverian spirituality and charism that we have received from the Founder?”

As we celebrate Pentecost, I ask that you keep the work of transformation in your prayer. Like Ryken, each of us is called “to foster an attitude of openness to the needs of the Church and your world, and a willingness to follow Christ wherever He leads” (FP).

In the union of prayer,

Brother Edward Driscoll, C.F.X. | General Superior

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