All 50 states will soon experience some form of re-opening following restrictions imposed by Covid-19. Hard-hit-New York is planning to enter Phase I on June 8th.
Most States, including Louisiana, appear to be ready to enter into Phase II of reopening.
As we gather to celebrate Pentecost, we are in many ways like the apostles gathered in the Upper Room. We are poised to go out into the world — but unsure of exactly what awaits us. We call for the Holy Spirit to come upon us with Courage and Wisdom.
We have always said that the Gospel preached in the church must be lived on the streets of our community.
Unknown to us just a week ago is that we are going out into a world not only confronting the medical, social, and economic affects of a pandemic — but now we go out into a world rocked by violent protests from coast to coast. These protests are sparked by the death of George Floyd — a death now labeled as a murder.
For weeks many people have said that once “stay at home” orders were lifted, we would be returning not to normal as we knew it — but to a new normal. Some have said that not only are we called to create a new normal — but we are also to experience a transformation.
When we recall the first Pentecost we remember that the followers of Jesus had been told to wait in the city until the Spirit, a new Advocate, had come upon them. In other words, Jesus warned his disciples not to try and take on the world, not to try and live their mission with mere human determination. To leave from where they were to go into the world to live and spread the the good news of the Gospel, they would need divine empowerment.
From the Acts of the Apostles we learn that the people gathered — though from many different nations — some Jews, some non-Jews — all heard the message in their own native language. In large Archdioceses like Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York, the Gospel is preached in 100’s of languages and dialects each weekend. We are many different people listening for ONE GOD to show us the way to live. We will hear the voice of God differently — literally and figuratively. And at the same time, to realize that different is simply that — different. Different does not make one way of hearing God better or worse than another way. God speaks to us where we are and as we are. We cherish the word that we hear and respect the way others hear the word.
From Paul’s letter to the Corinthians we are reminded that we are all part of ONE BODY .. we are different parts of the body with different roles to live, but still one body. We have different gifts to share — but we work together to make the Body function well.
If the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us anything — it is that what happens in one part of our nation affects the whole nation — what happens in one part of the world affects the whole world. Literally we are all on this journey called LIFE together.
Fr. Ronald Rolheiser says that, “Pentecost is part of a cycle of life that has five moments: Good Friday, Easter, the Forty Days, Ascension, and Pentecost.” We understand Pentecost as the culmination of the four other moments. “On Good Friday, life is lost; On Easter, new life is received; during the Forty Days, the disciples adjust to a new presence of Jesus; at the Ascension, the disciples let go of the Jesus they once had; and at Pentecost, they receive a new spirit for the life they’re now living.”
The life we are living is not the life of March 13th when schools were closed and the first “stay at home” order was issued. Physical distancing and face coverings are going to be with us for a long time. We still do not know how schools will function in the Fall — many questions have no answers.
On the first Pentecost the disciples went out into a world changed by the death and resurrection of Jesus. They were uncertain of what was before them. But, they went forth empowered by God’s Holy Spirit — the same Holy Spirit who comes to us NOW — not as the Spirit came in 2019 or as the Spirit will come in 2021 — but for now — in the situation of our lives.
The murder of George Floyd makes this blog posting different than it would have been if written a week ago. But with peaceful protests and violent protests all across our country, we must ask, “how does this fit into a Pentecost message .. or .. what does Pentecost have to say about this tragic death in Minneapolis?” I state clearly: One cannot be of God’s Spirit and Racist at the same time — just not possible.
Go back to the Acts of the Apostles — we are different, but we are the same. We hear differently, but the same God speaks to us all.
Go back to Corinthians – we have different roles to play — but we need one another. We are different and equal. Black, white, Hispanic –Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Jew – we are destined for the same after-life.
For two and a half months we have lived under a “stay at home” order from our Governor. Author Elise Garcia writes in NCR that the Irish have called this a time of “cocooning” .. living as if in a cocoon awaiting transformation.
Certainly the first Pentecost was a time of transformation –a time when the hearts and minds and actions of the disciples changed — it was a time when church was born.
What might the transformation of 2020 look like?
We must turn down the volume and meanness of political debate. Regardless of what side we are on politically, I think we can all agree — this is too much. This is too much anger and mean spiritedness. We deplore name calling by children — and yet so called leaders are resorting to name calling.
We must recognize that there is a racial divide in our country and we must work to see that we are going to destroy our nation and ourselves if we do not respect the dignity of every man and everyone regardless of color. Life matters — period. If it is Black, white, yellow, or brown — life matters.
More than ever, we need to count our blessings. Like the early Church, we must respond to a common good. So many of us have access to good health care, adequate food, and good shelter. Many do not. Sharing what we have — even a stimulus check — with those who lack the basic necessities of life would be the right thing to do.
As much as we work for healing of those affected by the Coronavirus, we must heal the hurts caused by words and deeds. We must resolve not to be the cause of division or discord. The unrest of this week is NOT going to just go away.
To remember the first Pentecost and its roaring wind and the tongues of fire — and not to apply the lessons of Pentecost to life today is to miss the point of CELEBRATING PENTECOST.
A final word from Fr. Rolheiser: If we are trying to live a new life with our former spirit, we will find ourselves deeply out of sorts. We need Pentecost daily in our lives. It harmonizes our life with its proper spirit.
Let’s get ready for Phase II re-opening as transformed people.