Saturday, June 07, 2014

"Lord, Send Forth Your Spirit Upon Us!"

When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled,
they were all in one place together.
And suddenly there came from the sky
a noise like a strong driving wind,
and it filled the entire house in which they were.
Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire,
which parted and came to rest on each one of them.
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit
and began to speak in different tongues,
as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim....
* * *
The 50th day of Easter is always significant in the life of Christians....

At least, Church, it's supposed to be.

Even so, Pentecost takes on an even deeper import this time around – his devotion to the Holy Spirit already well in evidence, the Pope is gearing up to serve as the Paraclete's instrument in renewing the face of the earth, and not just in the secular sense.

Of course, the journey begins tomorrow – first with morning Mass in St Peter's, then the evening "Invocation for Peace" Francis proposed two weeks ago to the presidents of Israel and the State of Palestine.

The latter set to begin at 7pm Vatican time (1pm ET, 10am Pacific, 1700GMT) in the Gardens, earlier today the English texts for the unique rite – one divided into "three moments" of Jewish, Christian and Muslim prayers and music – were released. In order, Francis, Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas will speak at the event's close before departing for closed-door talks. Far afield, meanwhile, an "urgent" appeal that the local churches and "all men and women of good will" join the initiative in prayer and closeness was circulated through the Nunciatures at the Pope's explicit request.

A fortnight since the scenes in Bethlehem and Jerusalem set the stage for the "most daring and ambitious" moment to date of this 14-month pontificate, the "Camp Domus" meeting is just one part of the steeplechase over these coming days: the second is Francis' first meeting with victim-survivors of clergy sex-abuse.

So it'd seem, the high-stakes encounter at the Domus – an unprecedented papal encounter with survivors at the Vatican – is no less on the Pope's mind; beyond Friday's homily on the necessity of maintaining the integrity and sense of "first love" about one's priesthood, Papa Bergoglio has taken to speaking repeatedly over recent days "sulle ferite di Cristo" – on the "scars" or "wounds of Christ," among which the harrowing assault and exploitation of the young – first by clerics or religious, then, far too often, by an at least equally perverse and disgraceful response from ecclesial administration – have served as none other to decimate the presence and witness of the fold he now leads in no shortage of places.

Some moments make sufficient words hard to come by, and another round of those is at hand. Fittingly then, as yet another wild cycle began, a Pope who aims to reign on his knees – not that he would be admired, but in the hope that others might follow suit – did just that last Sunday as he appeared before 50,000 Charismatics in Rome's Olympic Stadium and sought to be prayed over in the Spirit....

While the act echoed the newly-elected Francis' now-famous request to be blessed by the crowd on his first balcony appearance, the more relevant precedent came in late 2012, when Cardinal Bergoglio took up a similar pray-over during a Pentecostal rally in Buenos Aires' Luna Park.

At the time, a traditionalist journal in Williamson Country reacted with the headline "Buenos Aires Sede Vacante" as the capital's then-archbishop had "committ[ed] the sin of apostasy."

So it seems, however, the prayer worked – in six months flat, no less.

Context aside, at the close of last week's event (fulltext), Francis offered the following prayer – not just for the gathered, but the entire church beyond:

Lord, look upon your people as we await the Holy Spirit. Watch over our young people, watch over our families, watch over our children, watch over our sick, watch over our priests, consecrated men and women, and us bishops… Watch over us all. And grant us that holy inebriation, the drunkenness of the Spirit, which enables us to speak all languages, the languages of charity, ever close to our brothers and sisters who need us. Teach us not to quarrel among ourselves to get a little more power; teach us to be humble, teach us to love the Church more than our own 'team,' than our internal squabbles; teach us to have a heart open to receive the Spirit. Lord, send forth your Spirit upon us! Amen.
* * *
Lastly, while the events of the Holy Land made for a PopeTrip the likes of which most ops couldn't remember, only one could find a fitting parallel. Not only was he right – as it happens, both sprang from the same place.

Thirty-five years ago this week, the newly-canonized John Paul II made his triumphant homecoming to Poland – Communist Poland – less than eight months after his own shocking election.

In an early glimpse of Wojtyla's preferred style, the eight-day jaunt stretched widely across the turf. The scene wasn't just astonishing due to the politics; beyond being the first papal visit behind the Iron Curtain, to that point, no modern Pope had spent as much time anywhere outside of Rome.

Still, all it took was the first Mass – at Victory Square in Warsaw, on this very Pentecost Eve – for history's die to be cast. At the close of his homily, John Paul issued what sounded like spiritual plea, but one whose subversive intent wasn't lost on the million-plus in attendance....

And I cry — I, a son of Polish soil... now, I, John Paul the Second, the Pope — I cry from all the depths of this Millennium, I cry on this vigil of Pentecost:

Send down your Spirit!
Send down your Spirit!
And renew the face of the earth.

Of this earth!

And in that moment, Something was unleashed: in response, the massive throng held up the liturgy for several minutes with a simple chant: "We want God!"

Even if it took another decade, in Poland and throughout Europe, the Curtain fell, and the sudden mid-Mass demonstration in Victory Square is routinely cited as the point of no return.

Lest anyone forgot, this kind of thing isn't just the province of the Popes – through Baptism and Confirmation, the gift of the Spirit is given to all God's People, to every "living stone" which comprises His Church, whose "birthday" today is our own and deserves to be taken seriously by each one of us.

That said, you can cry out and pray all you want – Lord knows how many do all the time. For the Spirit to actually do His work, though, each of us actually need to do ours.

That's the only way it's ever gonna happen, gang... and for those of us who need a fresh start, there's literally no better time for one like this.

Just as we pray together that Francis will bring peace to The Land Called Holy, so may the Church he shepherds, this Mother and home we share together, be inspired to take on the work of the same Spirit and come to know the merited fruit of its labors.

And there, folks, the choice is yours... both on our own and as a people, may we know the grace to do it well.