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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 Pentecost Sunday (May 19, 2024)

Pentecost 2024

A couple weeks back, on the day of our Marcan Hog Roast to be precise, Archbishop Hebda hosted a day-long event for all the priests of the Archdiocese, parish staff members, and Synod Evangelization Team members at St. John Neumann in Eagan. The purpose of the event was to “unpack” the goals for Year II of implementation of the Archdiocesan Synod. 

The whole project of the Synod is framed in terms of the three mysteries of the Upper Room: Jesus’ astounding self-abasing service in the humble act of feet-washing, the institution of the Holy Eucharist, and the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost. 

This past year, those three mysteries were to inform the work of establishing Parish Evangelization Cells (small groups) in every parish. Those groups were intended to provide extra-liturgical spaces where people could experience Christ the servant’s “radical hospitality” in being received into a circle of believers, be prepared for a more fruitful participation in the Sunday liturgy, and taste the fire of the Spirit through fervent prayer with one’s brothers or sisters. 

Instituting PECS groups was a heavy lift, but I am proud to say that the good folks here at St. Mark’s responded with enthusiasm. We had ten groups launch this past Lent, eight of which continue to meet. We hope to maintain and grow that tissue of evangelizing “cells” with another round of encouragement this fall.  

Now we turn to the second cluster of pastoral goals identified during the 2022 Synod, which focus on education on the Mass and active participation in reverent, beautiful liturgies. 

As we do, those three “mysteries of the Upper Room” will continue to guide our efforts. And the focal point will be the Sunday experience at the parish, which our Archbishop wants to be a “day of fire” throughout the Archdiocese. The “radical hospitality” that hopefully characterizes our small group experiences is to be infused into weekend liturgies, with a loving welcome extended especially to newcomers, outsiders, and strangers. The Mystery of Faith, the Eucharist, understood according to its threefold significance (Sacrifice, Presence, and Communion) is to be unpacked for the faithful in our catechetical and formational gatherings (small groups included), and the liturgy itself is to be celebrated in such a way that all are drawn to participate in the Sacrifice, adore the Presence, and grow in Communion with the Lord and His Church through the Paschal Mystery. Finally, because (as the Archbishop says in his pastoral letter) “nothing happens at Mass without the Holy Spirit,” Catholics are to be encouraged to become more aware of the power and activity of the Spirit in their lives and in the Mass.

Humanly speaking, this year’s Synod goals will not require such a heavy lift as last’s–no new programs to implement, for example. Rather, it will make use of what is already present–Sunday worship, and now the small group apparatus–to depend both our understanding and our engagement with the Sacred Mysteries. On the other hand, when we consider these desired fruits of this year’s labor, we can see that the task is truly super-human: if one cannot say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:3), how much more do we depend on Him to lead us to recognize Christ in the breaking of the Bread and surrender our lives to the Father along with the Son offered up in the chalice and on the paten? 

As we celebrate the great Solemnity of Pentecost–a feast that, in my opinion, should be a bigger deal for us Christians, than it typically is (what extra-liturgical Pentecost traditions in your home?)–our Archbishop is effectively proposing to us a challenge: to become intentional about receiving the Gift of the Spirit not just on our confirmation day, or on this Sunday each year, but every Sunday and every day, that we might better receive that other great Gift, namely the Body and Blood of Our Lord, offered up for us on the Cross and in the Eucharist. 

It will be the task of our Synod Evangelization Team (who will meet on June 1 for this very purpose) to start brainstorming and planning how we might go about fostering prayer in the Spirit on Sunday. But I ask all of you to already begin that prayer in your holy hours and in your homes, that parish leadership might be guided by the same Spirit to do what we cannot do on our own, but which we are commanded to do all the same: lead God’s people in “worshiping God in Spirit and in Truth” (cf. Jn 4:23), which is to say, in the Spirit and in the Son, to the glory of God the Father!

From the Heart of the Shepherd: Seventh Sunday of Easter - Ascension

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