Well how did the BBB go? The BBB? Now what might the BBB be? That would be the Big Birthday Bash? Last week was the Church’s birthday. Last week on June 4th we celebrated Pentecost, the great feast of the Church. Pentecost Sunday is the day in the year when we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit and I was just wondering how did it go for you? What was your Pentecost celebration like? Of course I am presuming that you had one. If you did not celebrate it, what a shame. Please do not hear that as judgment as that is certainly not intended. No I just feel if you had no celebration of Pentecost then that is a pity. I mean in the sense of missed opportunity. In fairness in most Christian gatherings on Pentecost Sunday there is some recognition of the day that is in it. I guess its not surprising to note that generally speaking it is a much better celebration in the Pentecostal tradition than it is in the Catholic tradition. Actually of all the Christian gatherings I think you will find that it’s us Catholics are the weakest when it comes to celebrating the arrival of the Holy Spirit. I wonder why that might be? Before the end of these rumblings I might suggest a possible reason, or two, for this. In any case wherever you celebrated it I hope there was even a little quiver of the Spirit. Maybe if it did not happen it’s not too late. In case you did not know the key ingredients are fire, water, noise and of course a calling of the Holy Spirit.
I want to tell you about the extraordinary privilege I had here in St. Matthew’s last Sunday, Pentecost Sunday. Without exaggeration it had everything that I feel Pentecost should have. As is our custom in St. Matthew’s it was a good example of messy Mass. It lacked neatness and formality. The ritual was there and protected but it was unpredictable and fluid enough not to stifle creativity. This was particularly appropriate on the special day of, and day for, the Holy Spirit. There was noise. The noise of children. There was a wonderful reenactment of the Holy Spirit’s arrival in the Upper Room. Flags, petals, red and white, and sparklers and amazing music, including drums and trumpets, and the most amazing chocolate biscuit cake with a dove on it and ‘Happy Birthday to the Church’ all added to a fantastic birthday celebration, a messy Mass, a Holy Party!! I was afraid that Pentecost would come and go with a little squeak, a whimper, like Mickey, or Minnie Mouse with a bad cough! I am happy to report that it was not like that here in St. Matthew’s. We did not have a whimper or squeak, but a roar, a drum roll. We celebrated Pentecost in style. I felt so privileged and what’s more I was spoiled as all the work was done by our Family Mass Team who have been preparing it for weeks, assisted by the wider team here in St. Matthew’s. A real debt of gratitude is owed to all involved. Thank you.
I promised I would come back to two things before I finished: why are we, in the Catholic tradition so poor at celebrating Pentecost? Is it too late to celebrate Pentecost for this year? On the first one, the answer is probably complex. Part of the difficulty is that we are actually not as good on Scripture as we should be. I often say I think we Catholics do the Crib well, the Cross particularly well, the Empty Tomb reasonably well and the Upper Room badly. We should spend more time reading our Bibles, especially the New Testament. Most Catholics know the broad outline of the Gospels fairly well. It is sad however to realise few are familiar with the story of the Early Church as told to us in the Acts of the Apostles. In these days when the idea of church can easily get a bad press, it is good to remember that we are the church. We the faith community, with all our brokenness, we are in fact the living church. It is into us, as the church, that the Holy Spirit is breathed. The answer to the second is both simple and complicated. It is not, nor is it ever too late to celebrate Pentecost. The Spirit of God gives us all the gifts we need to live a life that is happy and fulfilled and worthy of our calling in Baptism. We get prudence and right judgement to make decisions, the courage to follow through. When steeped in the Spirit we exude reverence and wonder and awe in God’s presence. We need only ask for the gifts of the Holy Spirit with a sincere heart and they will be ours. My prayer this Pentecost is that the Irish Church will experience afresh the relentless wind, and burning fire of the Spirit. I pray also that in all our homes and communities and of course our parish we may experience afresh the swirling dance of that same Spirit.