Pentecost challenges us to remember that what we are really seeking in our lives, hungering and yearning for, is already inside us, waiting to be discovered, waiting to be embraced; the Holy Spirit of God, living within us from the moment of our baptism. Listening to the voice of the Spirit has been our constant concern since 2018 as we have prayerfully prepared for the Plenary Council. Come, Holy Spirit, we pray, fill our hearts and set us on fire!
A heart that knew no bounds
We rightly acknowledge the life of the saints and their heroic deeds and bearers of the kingdom of God. Recently I was asked to celebrate the feast of St Marcellin Champagnat at Sacred Heart College here in Adelaide. It was not lost on me that this year his feast fell on the day after Pentecost and the day when the Church celebrates Mary the Mother of God under the title of Mother of the Church.
Many things intrigue me about the saints. I often ask myself why do they do what they do? In several gatherings of late I have asked those gathered that very question Why do you do what you do? In reflecting on the life of St Marcellin I would love to ask him Why did you do what you did?
A succinct answer to this question is given by Brother Sean Salmon FMS who, to commemorate the canonisation of St Marcellin on the April 18 1999, wrote a book entitled, A heart that knew no bounds: The life and mission of Saint Marcellin Champagnat. In it he reminds us that:
He is a saint not by his own merit, but rather because he allowed God’s grace into his heart, where it took root and flourished. Marcellin Champagnat took seriously the Good News of Jesus Christ. He was a holy man because he lived his ordinary life exceptionally well, and did ordinary things with extraordinary love. Having discovered the joy of the gospel and letting it transform him, he wanted to share with others, particularly the young, all that he had seen and heard. ‘To love God,’ Marcellin often said, ‘to love God and to labour to make God known and loved – this is what a brother’s life should be.’ With these few words, the future saint painted his own portrait and recounted his own story. His was a heart that knew no bounds.
To tell the story of Marcellin is to tell God’s story. It is to tell a story of a person who knew the unseen, immeasurable presence of God in his life and the lives of others; the breath that animates us to do the work of the Gospel of the Risen One; the breath that makes God’s will our will; the breath of God living in us and transforming us so that we might bring his life and love to our broken world. God ‘breathes’ his Spirit into our lives that we may live in God’s life and love; God ignites the ‘fire’ of his Spirit within our hearts and minds that we may seek God in all things in order to realise the coming of his reign.
Pentecost was a moment of profound realisation and transformation for the small band of Jesus’ disciples; the Word they had heard and the wonders they had witnessed came together in a moment of understanding, clarity, unity and courage that compelled them to carry on the work Jesus had entrusted to them – and now, to us. Pentecost is the ‘grace’ of God’s love in our midst, a love that transcends words and laws and sentiments to embrace the heart and soul of each one of us. It is the very presence of God in every act of charity and compassion, in every moment of forgiveness and peace we extend and experience, in every effort we make for justice and community.
My hope for the Implementation Phase that comes after the end of the formal session of the Plenary Council in July is that same Spirit will enliven us in a similar manner.
Many hearts that knew no bounds
At the time of writing we have had 11 deaths today in South Australia attributable to COVID. The pandemic is still very much with us and talk of a new strain coming invites us to be ever prudent. I invite each of us to continue to observe the simple, if at times inconvenient, measures for our own protection and the care of others.
I would like to single out one group of dedicated people. In my travels around the Diocese I have invariably come across excellent and caring COVID marshals. Truly, like Marcellin they too have hearts and love that know no bounds. Working in each parish or community at many different functions they have sought and still seek always to try and make things both run smoothly and safely. I would like to thank each of these selfless people who each day have worked tirelessly and often under difficult circumstances to make sure our worship of God and the blessing of God’s holy people is able to operate so well. If you know any of your local COVID marshals, do be sure to say thank you to them. Please God we shan’t have to invite them back into full service soon. Their work has not gone unnoticed. Thank you.
So two spirit-filled examples show us how to fill our sails with the breathe of the Spirit. Dare we too?
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