The pandemic surprised us in the middle of winter! As snow and cold covered North America, a great shiver seized us: a shiver of fear and anguish, a shiver of the unknown and uncertainty, a shiver of illness and death... We locked ourselves away, each of us in our own homes, hoping that this virus would pass. Months passed... but the virus stayed. And here we are, still confined, limited in our encounters, often with an apprehension that grips our souls: will we ever get out of it?
A few days before the celebration of Pentecost, I think of the disciples who surrounded Mary in the Upper Room. They too lived their "confinement", their "ban on going out". They had double-locked the doors for fear of the Jews, for fear that the Master's fate would be theirs if they went out. Yet they had seen the risen Christ more than once. They had touched Him, eaten with Him, heard Him speak to them, walked with Him on the road, or had breakfast with Him by the lake. But they could hardly believe it was Him...
In spite of their doubts, Jesus entrusted them with the great mission: "Go! Make disciples of all nations: baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Mt 28:19). How bold was the Master to entrust this great commission to men and women who are afraid, who doubt, who do not dare!
But Jesus knew that the coming of the Holy Spirit would change everything! The great wind described in the Acts of the Apostles not only shook the house; the gust of the Spirit drove out all fear and dread from the hearts of the disciples and rekindled in them the embers of faith so that they could proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour! How powerful is the Spirit!
A Church to Rebuild...
This pandemic may have closed the doors of our churches, but perhaps this is a sign that the Christian community is to be built more outside the walls of our temples than when we gather for a celebration. Everyone has suffered and still suffers from the lack of one another, of being able to see and touch each other, to listen to and speak to each other in person; it is quite extraordinary to maintain fraternal links through Facetime, Skype, or Zoom... But this does not replace the warm presence of another person.
That explains why to live the sacraments, there must be the presence of people. We do not give the sacrament of the sick from a distance, nor do we baptize by proxy. I even question the virtual celebrations of the Eucharist we have seen multiply during the last few months. It is true that Jesus makes Himself present... but He doesn't come through the screen to give Himself to the faithful who would like to receive Him. Of course, everyone is invited to take communion "spiritually"... but after a few months of doing this exercise, not only is the real presence of Christ missing, but above all the real presence of the community is missing! It is in the gathering of believers that the Body of Christ makes itself present!
I dream of a new Pentecost for our Church, for our Conference and our Institutes, for our families, for our hearts! I dream that our consecrated and associate members are inhabited by a single desire: to belong to God in everything and to want to present Him to the men and women they meet. This is the experience of the saints throughout history; each one will be inspired by the story of Paul of Tarsus, Teresa of Avila, Mary of the Incarnation, Teresa of Lisieux, Charles de Foucauld, our founders... But one thing is certain, we are all invited to the great adventure of holiness and live it fully!
If these last few months have made us commit ourselves to a more intense life of prayer, to live the intimate encounter with God, I dare to hope that as we come out of confinement, we will allow ourselves to begin the encounter with our brothers and sisters. They too need to receive the Good News. More than that, perhaps it is they themselves who will know how to share it with us so that we may enter into the joy of the Risen One.
A World to Rebuild...
As we live out our commitment at the heart of the world, I dream of a new Pentecost that will build new foundations for a different society. Will the pandemic have refocused our gaze on the human person as the foundation for our "living together"? Will we have greater respect and true love for the generations of men and women who have built our society today? I dare to hope that we will become more present in the lives of our elders to be nourished by their wisdom.
This different society could also put the human person back at the heart of the economy and the workplace. If for too long man has been "instrumentalized" to make him a disposable pawn in the great system of economic production, perhaps this pandemic invites us to redefine work as a divine vocation to collaborate in building the civilization of love.
Can we aspire to a true recognition of front-line professions such as nurses, nursing assistants and orderlies? It is often these people who have daily contact with the most vulnerable and fragile people in our society. Recognizing their contribution in a real way could be a first step towards a fairer and more humane society.
You will no doubt tell me that this is utopian or even beyond our control... But if everyone dared to speak out and challenge the leaders of our governments, perhaps there would be a prophetic movement. For a new Pentecost begins when we start to speak in new tongues. Perhaps all too often we have limited ourselves to the language of pastoral ministry, the language of believers. It is time to speak the language of business, the language of politics, the language of social change. Let us ask for this gift of languages to touch the hearts of decision-makers. Surprised, perhaps they will say: "We hear them speaking in our tongues of the wonders of God" (Acts 2:11).
I Have Seen a New Heaven and a New Earth
The dream can come true. With the coming of the Holy Spirit, Jesus warned his disciples: "Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do. He will do even greater works" (Jn 14:12). But, this depends on our readiness to let the Spirit guide our lives and inspire actions that change the world.
Sometimes we want the dazzling acts to impress. Yet God has called us just as we are, with our limitations and charisms. Isn't this what made its impact on the day of Pentecost: to see ordinary men and women carrying an extraordinary message. If making a small daily gesture of love was enough... If a little more love than usual was enough... If a "yes" to the Gospel and to the mission was enough... Then we will see a new heaven and a new earth rise up!
Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)