Today is the Vigil of the Feast of Pentecost, the end of the Easter Season. Tomorrow the Holy Spirit will descend on the Apostles. Without the Spirit, the Apostles would have just been twelve guys who might not have had the courage to carry out God’s plan. Believe me, standing up in front of people, preaching the good news of the Gospel isn’t an easy task, especially in the first century, when there was a very real threat of death for preaching this radical new faith.
Today is also the day when Archbishop Carlson ordained twenty men to be permanent deacons. One of several questions he asked the prospective deacons was, “Are you resolved to discharge the office of deacon with humility and love in order to assist the bishop and the priests and to serve the people of Christ?” The key words here are “humility” and “serve”. These words remind the deacon, just as tomorrow’s celebration reminds all of us that we must be humble, and that we must serve one another.
As followers of Christ it’s easy to fall into the trap of pride. After all, we’re all chosen people. We must be pretty special. But none of us is more special than anyone else. The only thing that makes any of us different from anyone else is our particular talents, and those talents are given to us by God. If we ever forget that, then we fall into the sin of pride.
Part of my calling is to preach. Most people are more afraid of public speaking than they are of death. But my call doesn’t make me special. It just means that God has put me in a position to expand on the day’s readings. Trust me, that’s all the Holy Spirit. I’m just His spokesman, repeating what He wants you to hear. I’m not afraid to speak because the Spirit is with me.
Here’s what the Archbishop said today in his prayer of consecration over the new deacons, “Lord, look with favor on this servant of yours, whom we now dedicate to the office of deacon, to minister at your holy altar. Deacons have an office, just as priests, religious men and women, and all of you have an office.
“Lord, send forth upon him the Holy Spirit, that he may be strengthened by the gift of your sevenfold grace, to carry out faithfully the work of the ministry.” Before I was ordained, I did some public speaking. I guess I was ok at it. I got paid for it. But I wasn’t inspired. I guess I had some talent, but I didn’t have the gift of the Spirit.
The Archbishop uses the words “unassuming authority” and “May he in this life imitate your Son, who came, not to be served, but to serve, and one day reign with Him in heaven.” All of us, deacons, priests, and lay people, are called to serve, just like Jesus came to serve.
We all received the Holy Spirit when we were confirmed. For most of us that happened a long time ago. We may not remember what was said. The bishop’s prayer for us was very similar to the prayer of Ordination, “My dear friends, in baptism God our Father gave the new birth of eternal life to his chosen sons and daughters.” There’s that word, chosen.
“Let us pray to our Father that He will pour out the Holy Spirit to strengthen his sons and daughters with his gifts and anoint them to be more like Christ, the Son of God.”
“Send your Holy Spirit upon them to be their Helper and Guide. Give them the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of right judgment and courage, the spirit of knowledge and reverence. Fill them with the spirit of wonder and awe in your presence.”
Judgment, courage, knowledge, reverence wonder and awe. These are the gifts we receive; the same gifts the Apostles received on that Pentecost so many years ago. Today we acknowledge those gifts and pray that we never lose them. Jesus promised that he would never leave us alone; that the Spirit would be with us as our advocate.
After mass tomorrow, we’ll take down the Easter decorations. We’ll put away the white vestments and return to wearing the green of ordinary time. With a few exceptions we’ll wear the green until November 30, when we’ll put on the purple of Advent. But in the modern use of the word, there’s no such thing as an ordinary Sunday. Every Sunday is extraordinary because we have the Eucharist. It’s another gift that Jesus left us. With the gifts of the spirit, judgment, courage, knowledge, reverence wonder and awe, we’re called to share our faith. We’re called to be disciples, and to make disciples. We’re called to do it with humility, remembering that all we have and all we are are gifts from God.
The fact that sometimes we don’t have a priest to celebrate with us is another sign of God’s will for all of us. Only the priest can consecrate the Eucharist, but we’re all empowered to share it with one another, even when a priest isn’t present. We can still approach the altar with wonder and awe, knowing that we all have a part in Jesus’ ministry, and that we’re in His Presence. Any of us can assist in the distribution of Holy Communion. Any of us can take Communion to the sick. Any of us can share God’s Good News. Any of us can be the disciples we’re called to be.
Before the Apostles received the Spirit on Pentecost, they were scared; scared to death. But the Spirit gave them the courage to do what needed to be done. On this vigil of the Pentecost, our prayer is that the same Spirit will empower all of us to share the Good News of the Gospel.
Please stand and renew your baptismal promises.