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Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Church - The Holy Spirit - And Relationships




Pentecost Sunday
Year A – Catholic Relationships

Today is the celebration of Pentecost, the beginning of our church. In preparing for this homily I began to think:

What does the word “church” actually mean?

What really is the purpose of a church?

Some might say that it is a place to feel nourished, loved, respected, and even forgiven. But as I pondered the readings from today, I began to see more clearly what the early church was, and what it is also to be today. It is a place where we gather together as a family.

A place to be formed and taught.

A place that inspires and motivates us to go out into the world on a mission.

A church isn’t just a building. It’s the people who gather and belong to the community that make a church. It’s not the structure, it’s the relationships. In fact, to be a Christian means that we all have a relationship with Christ. And to be Catholic means that we have a relationship with others. And what sets us apart from many Protestants denominations is our understanding that our faith is, not just a “Me and Him” relationship, but a “He and Us” relationship. The relationship isn’t self-oriented, but rather community-oriented, an outward focus.

To be Catholic means being: helpful, loving, prayerful, selfless, faithful, obedient, respectful, and forgiving.

These are all qualities of being “in” a relationship.

Not unlike the early church, we gather here today, a family, to share in the word of God, to learn something new about what it means to be a catholic, to experience Christ in the Eucharist, to receive the Holy Spirit, and then strengthened and nourished by this encounter, we are then sent out into the world as the body of Christ, sharing him in relationships.

Pope Benedict recently said:

“It is important to make them understand that being Christian is not a type of outfit that one wears in private or on special occasions, but something living and totalizing, capable of taking all that is good in modern times.”

What a profound understanding of what it means to be catholic.

So what or how does this apply to us, our world, our community, our lives?

The world around us is full of hurting souls, just look around us in our own community. It is full of people who feel hopeless, worthless, inferior, ugly, fat, and crippled.

Where do we see these people?

We see them in the poor, the neglected, the addicted, those with chronic illness, the unemployed, the old, the young, and those in jail.

So really, who are these people?

They are our parents, our friends, our neighbors, our brothers and sisters, our children.

They just want to feel loved. They just want to feel as if someone in this world actually cares if they live or die.

I can remember a part of my Mom’s life that to this day has such a meaningful effect. To many, my mom probably didn’t seem to be anything but ordinary. To some, they knew her for her mental illness and at times her erratic behavior. Some might have even of known of the emotional scars that she possessed.

But there were many who knew her differently.

My Mom lived in Marysville, and after my Father died, she proudly participated in a ministry through her church, St. Joseph’s, that they called the “Sandwich Shop.” This ministry consisted of making sandwiches each day and handing them out at the rectory to the poor and the homeless. Each day had a designated sandwich……

Monday was bologna day.
Tuesday was egg salad.
Wednesday was Peanut butter….. You get the idea.

My Mom knew almost every homeless man and woman by name, and greeted each of them by name every day as they came to see her. They would visit with her and she treated them the same way she treated everyone….. She had established a relationship and friendship with each one of them. She knew what they liked, what they didn’t. She even knew that one of the homeless men, Jeff, really only liked bologna sandwiches, so even if it was “egg salad day” she had a bologna sandwich made especially for him. It wasn’t the sandwiches that brought these people back to the rectory each day; it was the relationship that each one of them had with my mom. It was knowing that they were someone, that they were loved, wanted, and cared for that made them feel so good.

She was Christ to them….. She was able to bring peace to them!

  I often reflect on my life and the relationships in my life.

 I often wonder if I am Christ to those around me? To anyone?

Are you Christ to those around you? To anyone?

I was once asked if I wanted to see and feel Christ in my life.

Of course I replied “Yes”!

Then I was instructed to examine the unique gifts that God had given to me. And then to find a way to personally share that gift with someone else. I was told that if I could share my talent with someone who was in need, specifically a person who could truly benefit from the gift God had bestowed upon me, that was when I would meet and see Christ…. In that charitable and loving action, Christ would be present!

It doesn’t matter how much you have, what you think you have or don’t have to offer….. There is always someone who has less!

I can remember the words of Blessed Mother Theresa:

“None of you can do what I am doing, but I can’t do what you can do!”

Meaning that God has a unique plan for each one of us and has created us with unique gifts, and will put those people in our lives who he wants those gifts shared with.

Are we sharing our gifts with others? And I don’t just mean possessions…… Do you share yourself with others?

So where do we start? Returning to the wisdom of Blessed Mother Theresa;

“Start with the person who is right in front of you.”

Today we celebrate Pentecost, the beginning of our church and an example that we are still to follow today. We are to gather together as a family. We are to come here to be formed in the faith, to be nourished, to be filled with the Holy Spirit, to meet and be absorbed by Christ, and then we are sent out into the world to spread the good news and share ourselves with others. This good news, and acts of kindness are passed on through relationships….. Relationship by relationship.

Returning to the words of our Holy Pope:

“It is important to make them understand that being Christian is not a type of outfit that one wears in private or on special occasions, but something living and totalizing, capable of taking all that is good in modern times.”

And we are to start by looking at who God has placed right in front of us!

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