Catholic Herald Staff
In his welcoming comments before the diocesan celebration of Pentecost, Fr. Andy Ricci, rector of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Superior, acknowledged “some things are gonna look a little different.”
In recent years, the Pentecost feast has served as a diocesan gathering for the Charismatic Renewal movement. This year, Bishop James P. Powers was scheduled to concelebrate the Mass with the diocesan liaison for the Charismatic Renewal, Fr. Dean Buttrick. The Mass was to be live-streamed from the cathedral, but due to unforeseen circumstances, the bishop was unable to attend.
Before the processional hymn, Fr. Buttrick welcomed those watching to the Mass “in celebration of the church’s birthday 2020.”
He said, “20/20 is perfect vision – I pray our 2020 celebration with be a 20/20 spiritual vision … The Lord our God has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit of God dwelling within us.”
The introductory tone of the Mass, including the intricately embroidered gold-on-red vestments worn by Fr. Buttrick, echoed the importance of the events that set the birth of the church in motion. The occurrence celebrated the Sunday prior, the Ascension of the Lord, and the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles at Pentecost.
Bishop Powers, in his homily for the Ascension on May 24, set the stage of the former as necessary for Pentecost to occur.
He said after the “full circle of taking on our human flesh,” living sinless in a sinful world and enduring his passion and death, it was by the resurrection and ascension that the Lord was “released from all our human limitations”
“The Holy Spirit was now free to enter every welcoming heart from all times and all places,” the bishop continued, “all at the same time, all of the time.”
He added that it is through the gift of the Holy Spirit’s invitation, that “we can come to know God. We can be in relationship with him that is not limited to just knowing about God.”
Bishop Powers noted that Jesus’ commission to “go forth and make disciples of all peoples” is the very last act of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew.
“He doesn’t tell us our job is complete simply by that celebration of baptism,” the bishop stated.
“He tells us that that’s the start of our obligation, our duties, the heart of evangelization,” clarifying that the commission to make disciples includes preaching and teaching, “not just with words, but in all that we do.”
Bishop Powers acknowledged that even today – striving to live out “our baptismal obligations and responsibilities” amid all the problems in the world and in personal life, it is tempting to take the stance of the apostles, standing and looking up at the sky where Jesus has ascended before their eyes.
“How tempting it is simply to ask, ‘God, why don’t you do something.?’”
After pausing, the bishop answered his own question.
“Our God has done something. He’s made you. And he’s made me. And he’s commissioned us to go forth, to bring that good news to all the world.”
The “really good news,” the bishop concluded, is “we don’t need to try and do it by ourselves. Jesus’ last words are, ‘And I will be with you to the end of the ages.’”
Fr. Ricci, who gave the Pentecost homily in Bishop Powers’ stead, described the framework of all that the disciples had experienced – from the horrendous death of Jesus to the glorious realization of the Lord’s resurrection, then going from seeing him and eating with him to watching him ascend out of their physical presence to the day of their total transformation through the Holy Spirit, “completing what was begun throughout the entire ministry of Jesus.”
To illustrate how the apostles who had lived with Jesus – and those disciples of today – would face challenges and obstacles, and how in spite of those they still changed and are going to change the world, Fr. Ricci pulled out a green-glass-shaded desk lamp.
“This is only good to do what it’s supposed to do if it’s drawing on the power it needs,” he said, holding up both the lamp and plug at the end of the electrical cord and went on to expound upon three points.
“If we are not directly connected to the Lord,” he said, then iterating, “If we are not plugged in,” the faith, insight, grace, courage and strength needed to fulfill the mission cannot be drawn upon.
Fr. Ricci explained the “gift of the Holy Spirit empowered and emboldened the early church … Our minds, our lives, every gift we have is sustained on the breath of God, empowered by the Spirit.”
Second, the homilist added that, while lamps come in all shapes, sizes and forms, they all are meant to do the same thing.
“We can get hung up on the externals,” Fr. Ricci said.
He then clarified, “The purpose of the lamp is to give light. And no matter how it’s packaged, it’s supposed to do what it’s supposed to do. We are, too.”
Acknowledging the human tendency to focus on why one cannot give light or share in the Lord’s mission, Fr. Ricci encouraged everyone to say, “Lord, I can with your help. Come, Holy Spirit.”
He said it is when the Spirit is asked into a heart and a life that “suddenly we discover that the shape and the form and the color and the style – God will deal with that.
“(He) just wants us to be connected.”
Lastly, Fr. Ricci pointed out there are thousands of electronic devices that use a plug, endless gifts and talents that can accomplish great things for God “when you’re plugged in.”
Broadening the vision of the work of the Holy Spirit, referencing St. Paul’s words on the many gifts of the one Spirit, he affirmed, “It takes a whole global village to bring the kingdom of Heaven through the gift of the Spirit and the power of God’s grace into the world.”
There are “different ways to make a difference in the name of Jesus today,” he continued.
“The Spirit can do that with each one of us.”
He went to the deeper question of whether or not “we see the gifts that God has put in our hearts,” noting that all too often they are taken for granted or covered up.
“Not today,” he emphasized.
“Today, the Church calls us on this feast of Pentecost to shine, to live the gifts that we’ve been given, to share the talents and skills that we posses.
“The church invites us not to waste it,” Fr. Ricci proclaimed, “but rather to recognize that God gives the Spirit that our hearts might be open.”
He said it did that for the early church, and through the gift of the Spirit they changed the world.
Bringing the spiritual truths down to the current reality, Fr. Ricci said, “Our world is in constant need of conversion, change, life and hope.”
He addressed the isolation and lockdown of COVID-19, the despair and need for certainty.
“Come, Holy Spirit,” the priest invoked. “No matter the challenge, ask the Spirit that we will recognize that we gotta be plugged in.”
“Dump our excuses and turn to the Lord,” he said, encouraging listeners to recognize the work and empowerment of the Holy Spirit “in ways we can only imagine.”
“That is the gift and power of the Holy Spirit,” Fr. Ricci concluded, and he ended with the prayer of the church to the Holy Spirit – to “fill the hearts of the faithful and enkindle in us the fire of your love.”