Pentecost is often referred to as the birthday of the Church. As we get older, birthdays become a time for reflection, a time to look at who we have been, who we are now, and an opportunity to decide who we still want to be.
Those first followers of Jesus learned that to be Church mean to discover a faith strong enough to overcome fear, a hope firm enough to replace discouragement, and a love deep enough to replace hatred and prejudice. It meant to pray together, learn together, work together, and stick with one another despite differences of culture, race, background, previous religious practices, status, gender, or politics. Being church mean belonging to a
life-sharing community in which no one suffered for lack of food, clothing or shelter because all shared what they had in common. It meant thinking no longer simply in terms of "me" and "mine" but of "us" and "ours." It meant living and caring and sharing in such a way that others were attracted to the community and wanted to be church themselves.
But something changed. At some point over time the church lost something of its fire. Somewhere along the way the church got caught up in being an institution with concern for rules and regulations and a hierarchy that was all too often removed for the every day world of the people.
There have been attempts at a new Pentecost, most recently when St. John XXXIII-by calling the Second Vatican Council-sought to open the windows to let some fresh air into the church and called it to rediscover its roots to be again the servant of the world's poor, hungry, homeless, and victimized. But, sadly, some didn't like the breezes he let in. They are still trying to slam shut the windows, lock the doors, and return to a stuffy church.
It would seem that another Pentecost is needed once again so that the fire of the Spirit might cleanse the soul of the church of some things to which
she has become overly attached in the name of customs and traditions. Perhaps the Spirit is trying once again in the person of Pope Francis. We need leaders who listen and others who speak, not just from personal opinion, but from genuine conviction about what is good for all and not just oneself or one group or another.
Above all, we all need to try to recapture some of the early enthusiasm. We need as well to reclaim the idealism of our church's youth so that the church doesn't gradually fade into the sunset, or be ignored as irrelevant, or attacked as being self-satisfied and arrogant.
On this birthday of the church, what does being church mean to you, to me, to us?
-Fr Sas, May 24 Homily