Gift of the Holy Spirit recalled - Catholic Courier
Matthew H. Clark Matthew H. Clark

Gift of the Holy Spirit recalled

We’re coming close to the end of the 50 days of Easter — the time between that great feast of life and the feast of Pentecost.

I am going to miss this season and the wonderful, nourishing stories of Easter life they contain. We have had the accounts of the Risen Lord appearing to his friends. He forgives, encourages and reconciles. Beyond that, he entrusts those who denied and abandoned him with the commission to extend his saving mission to all who would hear them.

In addition to those stories of his appearances to a relative few, we have accounts of the life of the early churches. We have heard about the way in which they organized themselves, the problems that they had to solve and the decisions that challenged them.

Woven through the fabric of these stories are the highs and lows, the joys and sorrows, the successes and failures of these early communities. In and through their experiences we realize that, just like our own community, the earlier churches were capable of greatness but could also stumble over their selfishness and rivalries.

When they invoked and trusted the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and collected the wisdom of the community, they found themselves on solid ground. Think, for example, of their decision to ordain the first deacons; of the story in last week’s readings from Chapter 15 of the Acts of the Apostles, in which they debated what they would require of converts to the way. In both cases they say, “It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us that … .”

They realized in those early days that they wanted and needed to live and share the good news of all that God did for us in Christ the Lord. They proclaimed the saving power of his passion, death and resurrection; they taught the great commandments of love; they lived and passed on the teaching of the beatitudes.

But they also realized that Jesus did not provide us with a detailed manual for living that contained specific answers to all of the questions and challenges that the church and individuals would face through the centuries. No detailed plan for the organization of the local churches. No specific rules for admission to the community of believers. Rather, they knew that he would send the Holy Spirit to guide and strengthen them — and us — through it all.

We can draw a good deal of encouragement from the experiences of those early churches, and from the history of our church from then until now. Constantly interwoven throughout that story are change and adaptation at every level of our life.

Pastoral planning, for example ‚Äì in the work it requires and the difficult decisions to which it brings us — can be tough sometimes. But, seen against the issues the church has faced through history, it doesn’t seem quite so bad.

And, it’s not just history against which we can read our current local experience of pastoral planning. The dioceses of Syracuse and Buffalo, our neighbors to the east and west, are deeply engaged in the same process and recently have made some difficult, sweeping changes. The same is true of many dioceses in the Northeast and in several other parts of the country.

Yes, the work is tough and even decisions that we know to be necessary and correct can leave us with a sense of loss. But it is work that we cannot ignore. Not to do it would be to abdicate our responsibility and open our community to much larger problems.

If we continue to do the work in a spirit of faith and with a holy respect for one another, we’ll be fine. The Lord’s promise to be with us always in the power of the Holy Spirit is no less real or strong than was that same promise made to the earliest communities. And they dealt successfully with a number of problems at least as difficult and complex as our own.

Peace to all.

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