Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A Church on Fire


Picture this: 

A sacred space, with ample seating, filled with men and women, circled up, slightly sheepish, quiet, staring at each other, waiting for something to happen. 

Every day they come. They sit. They wait. Dutifully. Sitting, sometimes standing. Sometimes kneeling, waiting for something, or Someone, they're not sure, to come and fire them up. 

They have been disheartened by their leaders swift departure. Feeling a bit abandoned, cheated even, they have been further scandalized by the actions of fellow believers. And these women and men, who've been gathering in this same space for sometime now, are at some level conscious of their own inability to act. To move. To do something. So they do nothing but wait. And pray. Holding on to a promise that all would be well. 

They've circled the wagons. They're nursing their wounds. Waiting for something, or Someone to come and fire them up. 

They look around at the other faces and wonder secretly to themselves, what do we have to offer the world anyway? What difference would we make? What can we do to change things? We're just as broken, full of longings, with just as many questions and not enough answers. 

Then, suddenly, a gust of wind. A sea breeze. A change. A terrible trembling. He is coming. The Ancient of Days, the Youth of Eternal Summers, The Fire that fuels the sun and all the stars enters their sacred space. A holy fear, a wonder, a terrible beauty grabs hold of every heart. 

The writer Annie Dillard once wrote:
“Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offense, or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return."

I love Pentecost Sunday, and though we are now in the "green" again of Ordinary Time, I'm still seeing red (well, orange I guess). Pentecost is rich with the undiluted power of God: fire, wind, and wine. The apostles and the holy women were burned, blown about, and bedazzled by the Wine of God's Love. They were accused of being drunk on new wine. Their once timid lips suddenly exploded into a flurry of foreign languages. They became fearless. 

The question remains for us, in this "ordinary" time, "How do we get some of that wine!" And what lights the match that kindles this New Fire? We need it now more than ever. 

Well, how did the holy women and men, the first to be singed by the Spirit, "get it"? For one, they kept showing up. They were the faithful, even when they didn't feel like it. 

Now, you and I....we're the new faithful who have showed up. For a deepening in faith. For a deeper formation and education in this incredible gift of truth and beauty. This splendor of Truth that is more than a program but an encounter with Divine Persons. Our mission now, by the sweet grace of the Holy Spirit, is to draw others into this embrace. Blessed John Paul the Great in Redemptoris Missio, 23, wrote "The ultimate purpose of mission is to enable people to share in the communion which exists between the Father and the Son." So the mission is love! That's what we're giving to the world! The greatest romance novel ever. A best seller. 

"The greatest love story ever told is contained in a tiny white host," penned Bishop Sheen. We are not bringing a list of what to do and what not to do. We are not offering a self-help program. A "philosophy of life" or a technique to try out and see if its "works for you."

We're bringing FIRE. THE FIRE OF LOVE THAT'S BEEN BURNING IN THE HEART OF THE FATHER SINCE THE BEGINNING. 

Pope Francis said just a few weeks ago...

"The Church begins there in the heart of the Father, who had this idea . . . of love. So this love story began, a story that has gone on for so long, and is not yet ended. We, the women and men of the Church, we are in the middle of a love story: each of us is a link in this chain of love. And if we do not understand this, we have understood nothing of what the Church is...." 
        “How would you feel,” the Pope asked, “if someone said: she’s a domestic administrator? 'No, I am the mother!' And the Church is Mother. And we are in the middle of a love story that continues thanks to the power of the Holy Spirit. All of us together are a family in the Church, who is our Mother." The Pope concluded his reflection with a prayer to Mary, asking that she might "give us the grace of the spiritual joy of participating in this love story... 
- Pope Francis, homily, April 22, 2013

So how do we live a dynamic Catholic life? How do we pour out to a thirsty world this intoxicating wine of the Love of God which he has poured out into us? Keep open. Stay thirsty my friends. Eat, Drink, and Be Mary. 

Eat the Eucharist (consume and be consumed by Him). 

Drink in the love of the Holy Spirit. Do so passionately not coldly. Not through obligation but more akin to a consummation. The consummation of a marriage. Your heart and Gods. Christ first miracle was water into wine. Turn the bitter waters of modernity into the wine of Divine Mercy. 

Be Mary. Keep open, receptive, humble. Be present. Wait. As vulnerable as the. Irvin Mary was on that fateful day when the world changed, and He came tiny and vulnerable Himself. He still comes and fills us up and He sends us out to fill the world. 

"If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world on fire."
- St. Catherine of Siena
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