Once upon a time, there was a very young monk who dined very well. One day, the abbot lectures him on the subject of over-indulgence. “Remember, brother,” he says, “the Bible says that we are temples of the Holy Spirit. We need to care for our temples and demonstrate moderation.” For a while the lesson apparently hits home and the monks notice that their fellow brother eats much less than before. But alas, it becomes obvious at meal times that he is back to his former ways. Again, the abbot meets with him. “Brother, did you forget what I told you, that we are temples of the Holy Spirit?” With a beatific smile the monk replies, “Well, Father, the other day I am praying in the chapel. The Holy Spirit speaks to me and says, ‘Brother, you are not a temple, you are a basilica.’”
Brothers and sisters, whether a temple or a basilica, open the windows and unlock those doors!
Just before his Ascension, Jesus tells his disciples to wait and pray for the Holy Spirit. And then it happens in the upper room: that strong driving wind, those tongues of fire. And the Holy Spirit fills them, all 120 of them, including Mary, the mother of Jesus, and the rest of his family. They live as a community: in prayer, with meals in common, sharing everything so that no one is in need. They preach the mighty acts of God and everyone who listens hears this preaching in their own language. As they spread out from Jerusalem to preach Jesus Christ, the apostles and disciples open the windows wider and wider. Paul comes to faith. The Gentiles join the Church. Small house churches appear throughout the empire: North Africa, Asia Minor, France, Britain, Spain and Germany. By the year 1000 A.D., the Christian faith reaches far north to Russia. In the words of St. Paul, nationalities and states in life do not matter; we remain one body with many parts.
However, if we want the body to remain whole, we must stop closing the windows and locking them. See, when we lock the window, when we lock the door, we not only keep people outside. We keep ourselves fearfully inside. On the evening of the Resurrection, the disciples are so fearful that they will be crucified that they lock the doors. Locks prevent interaction. Locks prevent change. But the Holy Spirit always wins and Jesus can walk through locked doors!
To illustrate- On January 25, 1959, Blessed Pope John XIII announces the opening of an ecumenical council. Not one Cardinal, not one member of the Roman Curia knows of the announcement. His reason for the Second Vatican Council is aggiornamento, an “updating,” in which he hopes there is a “new Pentecost.” John XXIII in his own words: I want to “throw open the windows so that we can see out and the people can see in.” Now, when the pope makes this announcement there are eighteen cardinals from the curia surrounding him. Guess their reaction when the pope announces the council and asks for their input. In the words of the writer Desmond Fisher, “…they looked at the pope, first in amazement and then in horror. At any time the Curia has disfavored ecumenical councils. Councils denote change and to the Curia change is anathema. It suggests that the existing situation is not perfect, and to the Curia the church is perfect.” On that evening in January, some church officials forget that the Holy Spirit always wins. When John XXIII opens the council he tells everyone that this thought came to him “in a sudden flash of inspiration.”
When we open the windows and when we unlock the doors the wind blows faster and fire burns easier. The same thing happens with the Holy Spirit. As we celebrate the birthday of the Church, our birthday, take a moment to pray for Pope Francis. This fall eight cardinals join him to advise him on the government of the universal church and to study a project of revision of the Roman Curia, the Vatican offices. As he opens the windows we need to do the same with our faith life. Our strength is the Eucharist where God fills each of us with the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
A Blessed Pentecost!
The Rev. Fr. Dr. T. Becket A. Franks, O.S.B.