We have been able to work effectively from home courtesy of technology – emails, servers, cloud-based storage, Microsoft Teams meetings and files, Zoom meetings and of course the telephone. We could not have imagined this at the beginning of the year and yet our many shared services teams at the diocesan offices have made this possible.
On Thursday evening, we had a Council for Mission meeting via Zoom, with about twenty-five of us online, sharing what has emerged for us during COVID -19, and what lessons we have learned. Of course, the responses were varied depending on the context of the person responding. Almost all spoke of their experience of not being able to attend Mass in person, and the loss and yet the joy of at least being able to be present in the online space. People had made it part of their Sunday ritual, with some choosing a Mass experience beyond our diocese. I wonder how it has been for you. I am sure it will be a long time before we are able to celebrate Mass with our usual numbers, without restrictions. One of the challenges that emerged for people was that we are more than Mass, and that prayer, contemplation, meditation and reading the scriptures, along with the Liturgy of the Hours were very important in sustaining our relationship with God. We also spoke of our need to put our faith into action, and that this has been a struggle for many of us in parishes.
It is my hope that people remember that the pandemic is not over, and at this stage, in Australia, it is just under control, and we still need to work cooperatively and safely to keep it this way. It seems like the rest of the world is really suffering and we feel their pain.
While sitting on the lounge, knitting, on Saturday evening, I decided to listen to my Elton John CD’s and the song Electricity played. As I listened to the words, it captured my imagination about Pentecost. I think the words, and if you have a chance to listen to him singing or watch the Youtube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AfWFZ3iL7NA) of him playing it, I hope you can see the close connection that I felt, relating to us and the disciples in the upper room.
I can't really explain it
I haven't got the words
It's a feeling that you can't control
I suppose it’s like forgetting
Losing who you are
And at the same time
Something makes you whole
Its like that there's a music
Playing in your ear
And I'm listening, and I'm listening
And then I disappear
And then I feel a change
Like a fire deep inside
Something bursting me wide open
Impossible to hide
And suddenly I'm flying
Flying like a bird
Sparks inside of me
And I'm free, I'm free
It's a bit like being angry
It's a bit like being scared
Confused and all mixed up
And mad as hell
It's like when you've been crying
And you're empty, and you're full
I don't know what it is
It's hard to tell
It’s like that there's some music
Playing in your ear
This was the song played in the Billy Elliot movie and musical. You may recall that he was a young boy who wanted to dance and was ‘trapped’ in a coal mining town. He was going to be prevented from exploring his God-given talent because of the context of this time in history. I wonder how many people in our own times are prevented from listening to the voice of the Spirit, calling them to be more than who they are presently.
We are not able to see electricity, but we know it to be very powerful. It is the source of lighting, heating, warmth, coolness (air conditioning), energy, etc. This ‘invisible’ source is much like the Holy Spirit – a source of energy that we do not wish to live without.
You may wish to recall the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit and maybe connect those to the image of electricity – we are unable to see them, but they are a mighty power from within;
The gifts of the Holy Spirit – wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge, fortitude, piety, and fear of the Lord.
Or from 1 Corinthians 12: 4-11
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.
And from Galatians 5: 22-23
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law.
The Sunday readings of last week called us to be missionary disciples, sent out on mission with the reading of the great commission from Matthew’s gospel. And this week, at Pentecost, before breathing on them, we hear the words from John’s gospel (20:19-23):
Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.
We are being sent on mission. One of the areas that has emerged from our listening and dialogue in the diocese, is that the Discernment of Data Focus Groups, working on behalf of the Diocesan Synod Working Party, is around our call to be missionary disciples, to move from maintenance to mission. This means that we will need to be moved from being “Mass Catholics” to engaging with our local communities, wider communities, and global concerns. Our point of connection needs to be beyond the Mass, the same as the Spirit calling the disciples to move out after Jesus had left them. This is the work of our Diocesan Synod and the Plenary Council of Australia.
On Pentecost Sunday the writing papers, from the six Discernment and Writing Groups, one each for the six national themes for discernment that emerged from the Plenary Council’s Listening and Dialogue phase, were released. They can be found on the Plenary Council website.
“The papers are the fruits of communal discernment. The aim of the discernment process was to draw upon the lived faith and experiences of more than 220,000 Australians, the living tradition of the Church, sacred Scripture, papal teachings and additional insights from outside the Church,” said Archbishop Costelloe, the Plenary Council president.
Archbishop Costelloe said the papers are an important contribution to the Church in Australia’s ongoing discernment towards the Plenary Council. “While not the final word on the six thematic areas which emerged from the Listening and Dialogue process, I encourage everyone to receive them in the spirit of faith and discernment with which they have been written,” he said. “They both invite and challenge us to continue to ‘listen to what the Spirit is saying’.” Each paper provides a reflection on some elements of the relevant pastoral reality, articulates a theological vision, outlines a number of challenges to be overcome, suggests prioritised questions to be answered and develops some proposals for change. They will be foundational to the next stage of discernment toward the Plenary Council – the development of the working paper, or Instrumentum Laboris – and ultimately the agenda for the Council assemblies.
So, during this week I pray the following prayer with you:
Come Holy Spirit fill the hearts of the faithful
and enkindle in them the fire of your love.
Send forth your Spirit and thou shall renew the face of the earth.