From the Pastor's Pen - May 24th
The Pandemic has led Governments to enforce “Stay home order” on its citizens with a view to reduce the spread of the virus. As always, in tough times, the best and worst of human nature finds expression. We read, see and hear a lot of that every day. Over the past months, I have received several videos, quotes and caricatures related to this theme. Most of them are humorously thought provoking and inspiring. Recently a friend sent me a caricature that has a group of children dressed up in construction attire and equipment, doing work over and around a Globe with the caption: “The world is closed for Renovation, Grand opening soon. Stay home, stay safe”. It caught my attention because the week of May 16-24 has been celebrated as environmental protection week, marking the fifth anniversary of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’(Praise be to You), on care for our common home. This pandemic has brought home to us this truth ever more forcefully- earth is our common home. Everything each of us does has an impact on it. Through this encyclical, Pope Francis has called on the Catholics of the world to care, protect and revive our environment from further destruction.
I don’t know under what circumstances the term “New Normal” has ever been coined. At this time, our world shares a common critical moment. It reminds us all how normal each of us are in the most “essential” denominators of life- food, water, shelter, calm, peace. These are essential and most important normal to us all. Yet for many around the world, and especially at this time, this normal has become an excruciatingly abnormal reality.
The Ascension- the departure of Jesus in his physical presence- suddenly catapulted the world of the disciples. Thrown into a “new normal”- a life without the immediate and close physical presence of Jesus with them- was something they were forced to adapt themselves. The transition has not been easy for them. Just like us during this pandemic, we had to make swift modifications in every way with technology, they had to rely on a new technology- the invisible Advocate whom Jesus promised! They had to change and adapt knowing their limits and the power of this Advocate with them. From then on, their lives intertwined to a new normal- a collaborative work with the Advocate- the Spirit. Their lives entered on a new phase, and the rest is history. We are all in that history! What a joy and privilege to be a catholic christian in this trying times!
This pandemic leads us also to a “new normal”- live streaming, social media and email blasts are now the new norm in the wake of restrictions and social distancing. All of us have been pushed into a massive change that we hardly ever imagined- online campus as church community. Would this experience serve as an effective ongoing tool to lead people to come to church? Or, would this allow the already consumer-oriented and disengaged church goers on the way out as this seems a less messy option? The answers are in your hearts.
“...Grand opening soon”, said the caricature caption. When? How? After the pandemic, how would this world look like? One can never adequately gauge the psychological, spiritual, social and economic fall out of this pandemic. “I wish, we get back to the old normal,” said an elderly person to me the other day. And, as much as we wish things would go back to normal, they probably won’t. Just as for the disciples, so to us now, we need the divine advocate to guide us not only now, but even after the pandemic. With the divine helper at the side of the disciples they felt the power of a grand opening. May we too!
From the Pastor's Pen - May 31st
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.(Acts 2:4)
What an astounding detail of the presence of the Holy Spirit and the consequent effect of that presence!
The Spirit is everywhere - in wind and tongues of fire, in breath and spoken words. Allow me to make an analogy from the context in which we live today. The Covid virus is everywhere (at least that’s how it is projected out to us) - in wind and touch of our hands, in breath and spoken words. We don’t see it, yet, we know it is present, alive and has the full potential to contagion. The presence of the invisible virus is felt so powerfully by the entire world in an unprecedented manner. We resort to cautious steps and movements in our effort to avoid the Virus! What a dramatic response to the presence of a virus! It makes me thinking!
I wish we have the kind of similar awareness and preparedness in our hearts and minds to the presence of the Spirit. Well, it would certainly call for a different kind of response though - not of fear and panic we are currently in. In her daily reflections for Easter to Pentecost, Mary Poust captures it aptly: “How interesting that for us to truly know the Spirit we must create just the opposite scenario: a still, quiet place where even the slightest whisper can be heard.” As a Parish family, we had this opportunity during the past nine days. Hopefully, all of us were engaged in praying the novena to the Holy Spirit during these days. Let the prayer - Come holy Spirit, come to me - be uttered unceasingly in our hearts and lips. Invite the spirit into your heart. Feel the presence of the Spirit; and just stay with that experience. The effect of the presence of the Spirit is unimaginable. Let us not end thinking of the Holy Spirit with the Pentecost. Pentecost is only the beginning! It is the beginning of the proclamation of Christ, which gave birth to the Church and the spread of the faith to every Nation and Race. The gifts of the Spirit truly
strengthened the communities of faith.
There is the effect at the personal level too. It is the presence of the Spirit who stirs in us the desire do something great with our lives, the determination to follow a path of holiness, the refusal to allow ourselves to be dragged into the lure of sin and lethargy, the courage to get up from despair, and commitment to improving ourselves and society, making our lives beacons of hope for others, and lights of joy to a world living in fear and darkness. It is the Spirit who gives courage to married couples to remain ever faithful to each other, helps to build up a true home for children God has blessed them with. It is through their faithfulness, they proclaim the power of the Spirit in their family life - the domestic church.
The domestic church also can flourish only in the power of the Spirit. Pentecost has special significance to it. Parents are the apostles - the first proclaim-ers of Christ to their children! The Church community begins in the families! In the Acts of the Apostles, it is written that the Spirit came “like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house”(2:2). Invite the Spirit to fill your house! Come, O Holy Spirit! Shake us all from our stupor, create a new fervor in us; and like the apostles, make us also courageous proclaimers of your power in our lives.
Thanks to all the families of the Immaculate Conception Parish. According to the recent Parish Census, out of a total household of 954 families, we have 292 families having a total of 531 children! What a gift to our community! What a blessing for the future of the Church! And what a joy for me to welcome back all the families to our Parish Church on this Pentecost Sunday!