“Lord, send out your Spirit and renew the face of the earth (Ps 104:30).”
These parishes in DTES have struggled through a number of years on a bit of a roller-coaster. They have been faltering to the point that some might wonder if the right thing is to suppress the parishes. But that is not my view. Our location in this proximity to a poor neighborhood with its racial and ethnic diversity makes us important. In many cities in North America inner city Churches have been closed. What is necessary for a church to be a church? We must increase membership, demonstrate effective ministry and pay our bills.
It is at the moments when our faith is challenged and tested that we most need to turn to the Holy Spirit and pray for his guidance and ask for the gift of discernment to help us make the right choices –choices that will lead us forward, choices that will bring us closer to God, choices that will bring our human potential to its fulfilment.
What resolve do we need to revive our church? We know we must not follow the path of exclusion. Jesus told his disciples that they should “remain in the city” until they were clothed with power from on high. Let us “remain in the city”.
Today, on Pentecost, we retell the story of the birth of the church. A great mystery was revealed to them in prayer, about how the life of Jesus was to be transferred into them and extended into history. The disciples had retreated to an upper room to pray. Mary, Jesus’ mother, was with them. For Luke, author of both the Gospel and Acts, what happened on Pentecost repeated what had happened for Mary three decades earlier in Nazareth when she was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, conceived the child Jesus. Now the community of believers was experiencing the same thing, only this time the Spirit would conceive and birth in them the ongoing presence of Jesus. The church was being born. His disciples would be the body of Christ, animated by his Spirit.
The church has spread throughout the world, touching millions of people, extending its influence into every aspect of culture and life. But its vitality is best measured in our local churches. If our worship is not inspiring and our ministry not challenging, perhaps we need to examine whether we are alive. Certainly in the last years we have an increase in members, as older parishioners can attest. But we have also had members who have joined us for even an extended period of time and have absented themselves. Names and faces come to mind. Why?
The first impulse of the Spirit is a missionary impulse.The task given is to open the hearts and minds of the people of the world to the Good News. What are we lacking in ministries that could make a real difference in our city and neighborhoods? Do we have a spirit of enthusiasm that attracts time, treasure and talent to sustain a vital community? Pentecost an outpouring into real people, lives receptive to the Spirit, ready to emerge from locked rooms into the community to preach, heal and minister to others.
When the Spirit came upon the church on the day of Pentecost, the Christian community was endowed with different gifts so that there would be different ministries and different works. All of us have been given to drink of the one Spirit, but that Spirit is manifested in different gifts, ministries, and works.
Does the presence of this church in this location actually make a difference? What do neighbors say about us? What impact do we have on the city around us? Would it matter if we up and moved and were replaced by a business or more housing?
We have to have confidence and realise that, whatever transitions we are going through, this is not because the Holy Spirit has gone away. The Spirit is still with us and will undoubtedly guide us through the difficulties ahead.
The Spirit is not only with the Church as a whole; he is with each individual member of the Church-that is what the Sacrament of Confirmation is all about. And the Holy Spirit accompanies us in our pilgrimage through life, guiding us through life’s transitions.
Pentecost reminds us that our lives are defined by love, relationships, memories and plans for the future. Everything is a gift meant to be used fully and joyfully to our benefit and that of those around us.
The text from 1 Corinthians 12 highlights the power of the Spirit in the life of each believer: “To each person the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good” (12:7). Again, the Spirit is at work in each one for the blessing of all. Our gifts are for the giving; they are not to be hoarded. They are for the community. Pentecost is a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with that divine energy poured forth into our lives and into the parish. As we cry out, “Veni, sancte spiritu,” we make our lives vulnerable to a power beyond our imagining. When we put ourselves at the disposal of the Spirit, God uses us in a good way.
Today, the Archdiocese celebrates Stewardship Awareness Sunday. This is the day to rejoice in our collective gifts and affirm all those who use their time, talent and treasure to build up the Kingdomof Godin our faith communities.
TIME:The Gift of our Action
We should balance the hours we spend at work, with our families, in recreation, in prayer, and service to God.
TALENT:The Gift of our Ability. For every ability or skill we possess, there is a need somewhere in our family, our parish, and our community. Our abilities should be recognized, cherished, and shared.
TREASURE: The Gift of our Possession . We decide to take a portion of the treasure that we have received and return it to God in a spirit of gratitude – by donations to the parish and to the world’s poor.
On Saturday June 1st,I invite you to join myself and other members of our parish to gather for a discussion / sharing / planning session. Let us turn to the Lord for his Spirit by celebrating Mass together at Sacred Heart Parish at 09:30 a.m., followed by a meeting in the rectory. We will finish with lunch together at noon.
Our focus will not be on activities, such as Liturgy, Prep and Building Committees - which have a traditional or already established path. Rather, I will be asking you to discern with me the future of parish activities that have gained momentum as we have worked to become caring neighbors through the efforts of our Imagine Project, such as Community Concerns, Building Use Development, Parish Metro Vancouver Alliance affiliation , Finance Committee and DTES Parish Council
We will review plans and ideas on how the parish can sustain current initiatives during the upcoming time of transition, as well as provide support for the new Pastor.