If we sent out a survey asking if people wanted to see more active parishes and a growth in the Church, what would be their response? If asked if they wanted to see more ministries, Bible studies, events, Christian service opportunities, Sacramental opportunities and more Masses offered; what would people say? If asked if people would like to see an end to the priest shortage; how would they respond? What about you? What would you say? I think it would be an overwhelmingly positive “YES”. Now, if we re-worded it and asked them if they would help make parishes more active, and if they would attend and even lead more ministries, Bible studies, events, Christian service opportunities, Sacraments and Masses; Now, what would be the response? Not so strong of a “Yes,” I think.
A little over a week ago, someone shared with me a quote from A.W. Tozer who was an American Christian pastor and author. He said: “If the Holy Spirit were withdrawn from the church today, 95 percent of what we do would go on and no one would know the difference. If the Holy Spirit had been withdrawn from the New Testament church, 95 percent of what they did would stop, and everybody would know the difference.” This really stirred me up. So much so, that this quote has dominated my prayer, and I have preached on it twice since I read it. I think it has stayed with me because it is so accurate. But, why is this the case? It is probably because opening ourselves up to praying — and most importantly listening to God’s response in our prayer — can be scary. Why? Whether we do so as a Church or as individuals, responding to what God calls us to do will change us.
Study after study reports that all of the craziness of our modern day lives leaves us exhausted, anxious, and cynical — about everything, including the Church. But there is good news. The Holy Spirit is still (always!) alive and well. He is calling each one of us, each one of us in a different way. Look at what happened with the early Church after Pentecost. They were experiencing great things. But man, were those folks stretched. Change can be hard, but with change comes growth.
I encourage you to pray over Tozer’s quote this week. I encourage you to take inventory of the negativity in your life that has caused you to be exhausted, anxious, and cynical. Do you really want that in your life? Ask the Holy Spirit to not only make clear to you what needs to change, but how you are to be a part of that change. I challenge you to have your own little Pentecost and invite the third person of the Trinity to stir you in a new direction. Maybe, just maybe we will become the “Joyful Missionary Disciples” Pope Francis has challenged us to be. What is the worst that could happen? Churches might grow and become more active. There may be more ministries, Bible studies, events, Christian service opportunities, Sacraments, and more Masses. And maybe, just maybe, we will be more peaceful and happier! Happy Pentecost.