Image: Fiery sunset over the taiga forest
As a pastor in Saskatoon, I recall preparing a group of 8-year-old children in my Parish for the Sacrament of Confirmation. My local Bishop asked that, at his homily during the celebration, they be ready to respond to some questions he was going to ask.
One of the things they were to know was the major feast days of the Church, particularly the Feast of Pentecost which is, of course, the feast of the coming of the Holy Spirit and is closely link with the Sacrament of Confirmation. At our class I shared with the candidates the Bishop’s request and asked if anyone could name that special day, the day when Jesus’ disciples received the gift of the Holy Spirit? No one could offer an answer, so I offered a hint. “It starts with the letter P”, I said. At once all their eager hands went into the air. “Very impressive”, I thought, until I asked them to share what they knew. In unison they all shouted out, “Pancake Sunday!”, referring to the monthly breakfast hosted by our Knights of Columbus.
The story shows that young children certainly do pay attention in Church and they quickly pick up on not just the things that are said but, more importantly, the things that we do as a family and as a congregation.
At the very first Pentecost the Gospel tells us that Jesus’ disciples were gathered in an upper room and they had the door locked because they were afraid. They had just seen Jesus killed and they thought the same thing was going to happen to them. Jesus appears in their midst and offers them Peace and then he breathed his Spirit on them and they were no longer afraid. In the reading from Acts we hear that the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples like tongues of fire and that they were no longer afraid but went out into the public and began to preach in many languages so that all the people gathered from many nations could understand them.
The Holy Spirit is offered to each one of us at our Baptism and is sealed within us at our Confirmation and offers us the gifts of; wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord, according to the tradition of our faith. How are we sharing that knowledge with our children? When they listen to what they say and look at what we do, do they see the Holy Spirit at work within us?
Do we preach the Word with courage, not just with words but with the actions of our daily life? At our churches, do we open our doors to everyone, not just from the nations but from every walk of life? When the world looks at us do they see that we are different not because of who we are but because of the gift we have been given? Do we bring Peace wherever we go and let others know that there is no need to be afraid? Are we people of prayer who seek the Lord’s counsel in our daily decisions? Do we understand the nature of this passing world and set our priorities appropriately?
If we want to pass on our faith to the next generation our faith must be more then just words. If we want to teach our youth about the meaning of the Holy Spirit we must show them by our actions that we have received that gift and have unwrapped it and made it a part of our lives.
Over these past couple of months, we have been in our own locked room hiding from the pandemic, trying to keep our communities safe. This year, for us, the Feast of Pentecost is a very physical reality as we are slowly being allowed to come out of our private spaces and come back together as a community. As we do so let us allow the gift of the Holy Spirit to transform our new reality.
Our earth, which has begun to heal in our absence, needs so much care. Let us continue to walk gently on the ground of our common home and help the healing to continue. Our churches which have had their doors closed for so long now long to be filled again. As we do so let them be filled with zealous Christians who are unafraid to share our gifts for the good of the whole community. May the faith we share with our children by what we say and do, be filled with messages of hope and love so they will know that their future is secure and they will know the peace that Christ offers.