Dear Friends in Christ:
Here we are at the Feast of Pentecost when we remember the descent of the Holy Spirit upon our Blessed Mother and the Apostles. As we look at this great moment in the life of the Church we can reduce it to a few essential elements: 1) The disciples gather together; 2) The Holy Spirit descends on each one; 3) The Spirit-filled disciples respond (Acts 2). Notice how the subsequent actions are dependent upon the first. The gifting of the Holy Spirit and the response of the disciples follow the first act of the disciples gathering together. It is in this coming together that the apostles and other disciples are disposed to receiving the gifts of the Holy Spirit and then they are ready and equipped to act.
Often times Pentecost is called the “birthday of the Church”. While this is not 100% theologically accurate there is a valid point to this characterization. Our word “church” comes from the Latin, ecclesia; in Greek, ekklesia, meaning “called out” (ek-kalo). This in turn is the rendering for the Hebrew word kahal which is often translated as “assembly” or “gathering”. The gist of all of this is that God calls us out in order to gather us together for a specific gift and purpose. In order to achieve this purpose and to receive these gifts it is essential that we, who are “called out”, gather together.
For the last several years we have been preparing and working on this element of our parish life. You may have noticed an additional emphasis on our “gathering”. We gather for prayer, we gather to learn, we gather to serve, we gather to have fun, we gather for enjoyment, we gather to travel, we gather to grieve, we gather to celebrate, we gather to build, and we gather to eat! This “gathering together” is not accidental; it is deliberate.
It is in our gathering together that we receive many gifts and blessings from the Lord that empower us to proclaim, serve, and live the Good News!
Over the next few years we will be increasing our efforts to gather together and build the bonds of community for all of our parishioners. We will be working on establishing “small group communities”. In a parish of 15,000 people it can be difficult, challenging, and intimidating, to deal with huge numbers of people. At the same time it is very easy to be anonymous or go unnoticed. How wonderful it would be for each and every parishioner of St. John Vianney parish to be part of at least one small group. We are called by the Lord to come together to receive gifts for the purpose of sharing the Good News of Jesus. We are called to live in the joy of being in relationship with the Lord and one another. The Christian life is not one of isolation nor is it one of being in a clique. Rather, we are called to be in communion with the Lord and each other. This gathering together is especially challenging today when we live in a culture that over emphasizes individuality.
With the rise of secularism and technology there has also been a rise in isolationism. Despite social media and “virtual relationships” real personal relationships are fewer and harder to establish. We see this in the decline of marriages, families, and even dating. Recently, a college professor in Boston gave extra credit to her students to entice them to go out on a date! Isolation and loneliness have negative consequences on both mental and physical health; from depression and anxiety to reduced immunity and heart disease. As stated in the Book of Genesis, “It is not good for man to be alone.” We are made by God for relationship. Our Catholic faith is about relationship. It is about our relationship with God and with one another. To fulfill God’s plan for us and to experience the happiness God desires for us God has given us the community of the Church. We are given the Holy Spirit and gifted by the Spirit so that we may live our lives more fully. This fullness and happiness cannot and does not happen outside of relationship. Gathering together, participating in the community of the Church, is not merely a nicety but is essential to living our Catholic faith and to our happiness and our spiritual, physical, and mental wellbeing. So if you want to get closer to God reach out to someone else and share the Good News!
In Pace Christi,
Fr. Troy Gately