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  • Writer's pictureChurch of St. Mark

From the Heart of the Shepherd

By Fr. David Hottinger, PES - Pastor

From the bulletin for The Sixth Sunday of Easter (May 05, 2024)

Sixth Sunday of Easter

We get fifty days to bask in the Easter glory. You would think that would be plenty. But each year (and more so with each passing year) it just flies by. You hardly get a “hallelujah out” and it’s time to put the Paschal Candle away and turn back to Ordinary Time. Perhaps we have here a foretaste of eternity: a million years in, we will be just realizing what has begun. Only then we won’t have to put our hallelujahs away. Then we can savor the flavor of endless divine praise as we sink our feet into forever while gazing on God. 

Well, back here in this Valley of Tears we are hurtling towards Pentecost. And that is nothing to be sad about. If only there were fifty more days after that to bask in the fire of the Spirit! Actually, that is one way to understand Ordinary Time: contemplating all the things that Jesus, whom “God anointed with the Holy Spirit and power, went about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil” (Acts 10:38) during His active ministry, a.k.a. everything He did after His own personal Pentecost at His baptism. 

Come May there is rarely much left in the liturgical tank to make a big deal out of Pentecost. Though we should! Do you know that the missal provides for a(n optional) Vigil Mass of Pentecost, on the pattern of the Easter Vigil, complete with four Old Testament readings/psalms with their collects and potentially combined with Evening Prayer I. Talk about a beautiful way to imitate the apostles who gathered in prayer in that Upper Room, supplicating God for the Gift of the Spirit! The Cathedral, I believe, celebrates it. Perhaps one day we can at St. Mark’s (though typically the 5pm Mass crowd is not looking for a two hour liturgy). 

In any case, the Holy Spirit is certainly someone worth waiting for. Worth longing for. Worth clamoring Heaven to send as we prepare our hearts for whatever He might wish to do on arrival (what mystery for the infant Church, before the Spirit was revealed to them. “What are we even praying for!” they must have been asking!). In fact, Our Lord assumes that the “good gift” we are interested in asking our Heavenly Father for is the Holy Spirit: “If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the holy Spirit to those who ask him?” (Lk 11:13). 

The Holy Spirit changes everything. Renews everything. Improves everything. Makes us able to bear everything with peace and even joy. In fact, all that St. Paul says about love in 1 Corinthians 13 (“Love is patient, love is kind…”) he is really saying about the Holy Spirit, who is the personal Love between Father and Son, given to us for our sanctification. He is divine Life itself, the Living Water which those who believe in Jesus drink from His side (Jn 7:39), the Love of God poured generously into our hearts (Rom 5:5). I don’t think a two hour liturgy is too long a time to ask God for such a Gift… nor even a lifetime!

And we need Him. We are very blessed in many ways here at St. Mark’s, as those who have been around for a bit know well. So much faith, so much unity, generosity, talent, virtue, goodness… But without the Holy Spirit, we are left operating on our own dim human lights (beginning with the Pastor), on our own limited human strength, and according to our meager capacities. On our own, we will hardly be able to get through the annual calendar events alive, much less wax strong as we grow in holiness and evangelize the neighborhood. On our own, we will run out, burn out, break down, and fail. Eventually. Inevitably. 

Ah, but with the Holy Spirit…! He enables the saints to work marvels in half the time, with a fraction of the energy, doing things right the first time, in ways that could never have been planned or projected, with an impact disproportionate to our modest effort. And do it all (even suffer) with those fruits which only the Spirit can bear and sustain amid labors and afflictions: love, peace, joy, patience, kindness, faithfulness, generosity, meekness, and self control (Gal 5:22-23). There won’t be a Pentecost Vigil at St. Mark’s this year, but let’s all be praying fervently (“Come Holy Spirit, come O Counsellor and Consoler, come!”) that there will be a renewed Pentecost in our parish family as soon as His mercy will allow!

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