May 11, 2016

Goodbye with hope

Our first reading this Wednesday (Acts 20: 28-38) reveals the deepest of emotions on the part of Paul.  His love for the early Christian communities and the leaders who had been chosen for them is acute. Paul deeply cares for the flock and in particular for its ordained Presbyters (Priests).  He is concerned about their welfare and the future threats to the community they will face.  As he leaves this established community in Ephesus he expresses: "Keep watch over yourselves and over the whole flock of which the Holy Spirit has appointed you . . . I know that after my departure savage wolves will come among you and they will not spare the flock . . ."  Such intense words from Paul must have moved them deeply.

Paul knows that once he leaves, they are on their own without his further leadership, wisdom and support.  They know that they will never see him again and they weep for that: "When he had finished speaking he knelt down and prayed with them all. They were all weeping loudly as they threw their arms around Paul and kissed him, for they were deeply distressed that he had said . . ."  Yet Paul and they well knew that it would be the power of their own faith and trust in the continued guidance of the Holy Spirit that will be their hope and strength.  The community of Ephesus would carry on despite the "wolves" coming to threaten the Christian faith and its followers.  So, the same is true today many centuries removed.

Jesus may not be visible among us in his risen body but he is present in the power of his Spirit.  We are not orphans or abandoned or forgotten.  We are not helpless or floating on a ship without a rudder. Apostolic succession visibly made present in the Pope, Bishops Priests, and Deacons continues to lead and guide the Church.  Although we are fallible and sinners we know that the Spirit is the hope for all believers.  The Holy Spirit guarantees the truth and existence of the Church.

As the great Feast of Pentecost approaches let us not forget  that the ultimate guide and leadership of the Church does not depend solely on human genius but on our openness to the Spirit's guidance.  It is the Church of Christ, founded by him and always its Head. We all need a renewal of his presence received in Baptism, Confirmation and in all the other ways we see the Spirit's presence, in the faith of the people so beautifully lived out.

Come Holy Spirit and kindle in us the fire of your love!


Acts 20: 28 - 38

At Miletus, Paul spoke to the presbyters of the Church of Ephesus:
“Keep watch over yourselves and over the whole flock
of which the Holy Spirit has appointed you overseers,
in which you tend the Church of God
that he acquired with his own Blood.
I know that after my departure savage wolves will come among you,
and they will not spare the flock.
And from your own group, men will come forward perverting the truth
to draw the disciples away after them.
So be vigilant and remember that for three years, night and day,
I unceasingly admonished each of you with tears.
And now I commend you to God
and to that gracious word of his that can build you up
and give you the inheritance among all who are consecrated.
I have never wanted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing.
You know well that these very hands
have served my needs and my companions.
In every way I have shown you that by hard work of that sort
we must help the weak,
and keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus who himself said,
‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

When he had finished speaking
he knelt down and prayed with them all.
They were all weeping loudly
as they threw their arms around Paul and kissed him,
for they were deeply distressed that he had said
that they would never see his face again.
Then they escorted him to the ship.