Worshipping together in our faith communities

Published on 3rd May, 2020
Worshipping together in our faith communities Archdiocese of Wellington

Cardinal John Dew

The last day of the month of May will be Pentecost Sunday. At this stage, we do not know what we can expect in terms of where we are with safety regulations to keep Covid-19 at bay and to keep us all safe. My hope is we will be back in our churches and that our communities will be physically gathered again to worship. We are all very aware that currently there are not many Christians around the world who are able to physically gather as a community. While there have been some great initiatives and many have been able to pray along with an online Mass, that is not the way it is intended to be.

In speaking about this phenomenon of online Masses just a few days ago [17 April 2020] Pope Francis talked about the fact that our Baptism makes us members of the Church family, sisters and brothers of Christ and of one another. He reminded us that all the baptised are called to develop an ever deeper and more intimate relationship with Jesus throughout our lives, and then reminded us we cannot do that on our own. We need one another in our faith communities. That is why I hope we will be able to be back in our churches for Pentecost Sunday on 31 May this year.

Pentecost signals the start of the universal mission of the Church; it is a mission that overcomes human obstacles because the Spirit of God is the driving force. One of the images we have of Pentecost is that of the disciples huddled together with Mary in the Upper Room with tongues of fire resting on their heads. By the power of the Holy Spirit the meaning of Jesus’ life and message is poured into their hearts by the Spirit alive in them as a community. They experienced a community caused by God. We can naturally experience the presence of the Spirit as individuals, but I believe the experience is stronger and more powerful when we are together as the family of God.

Pentecost was the beginning of a new age: fear was turned into joy; pain was changed to peace and trust; flight and hiding became courage and mission. The same happens for us when we are together, when we are touched by God’s love. At the first Pentecost the full meaning of Jesus’ life and message was poured into the disciples’ hearts by the Spirit alive in the community. Wherever we are today – even in isolation and in lockdown – the movement of the Spirit brings about gifts and talents in us who gather.

This movement of the Spirit is not just for individuals. It is supposed to have a ripple effect so that as we use our unique gifts we work for and promote the good of all. We know the Spirit’s gifts are many and varied, and those gifts will increase to the extent that we love Jesus and our sisters and brothers, and to the extent that we share what we have received with others. Many of you have heard me speak about how I love the word ‘magnanimous’ – we are called to share the Spirit’s gifts magnanimously with others.

I also love the list of the fruits of the Holy Spirit and often think if we can say that we are growing personally, or within our families and communities as people of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22) then we are growing in holiness. Those fruits of the Spirit make the Kingdom of God palpable; we learn to share those Spirit fruits in our communities.

The Holy Spirit renewed the Apostles from within, filling them with a power that would give them courage to go out and boldly proclaim that ‘Christ has died and is risen!’ Frightened fisherman became heralds of the Gospel and to those who tried to silence them they replied, ‘We cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard’ (Acts 4:20). That was how the Church came to be born, and from the day of Pentecost the Good News has spread. Maybe, after our days of lockdown it is time for us, filled with the Holy Spirit, to be instruments of new life in our Church.

Published in WelCom May 2020

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