Once upon a time, there lived three not so bright teenagers who were always into trouble. One day, they find themselves running from the police but all they could find was a barn. They were in a hurry to hide so teenager #1 hides in the horse’s stable. Teenager #2 in hides a tree. Teenager #3 hides behind a few boxes of oranges. When the policemen come to the barn, immediately they go to the horses stable and a policeman hears something. “Wait!” he said. “I hear breathing!” So, teenager #1 goes, “Neigh! Neigh!” “Oh, it’s just a horse,” the policeman says. Then he walks around and comes upon a tree. He hears breathing. “Stop!” he said. “I hear breathing in the tree!” “Caww! Caww!” goes teenager #2. “Oh, it’s just a bird,” says the policeman. Next, a policeman comes upon a delivery platform with a stack of boxes of oranges “Wait!” says the policeman. “I hear breathing!” And with that, teenager #3 says, “I’m an orange! I’m an orange!”
Do you hear breathing?
On the evening of the Resurrection, Jesus appears behind locked doors. In the midst of fear and incredulity, the Crucified Risen Lord hands over the Holy Spirit to his disciples. How? He breathes on them and tells them to take hold of it. That “breathing” word is the same word in Genesis when God creates the world.
Christians, do you hear breathing in the Church today? Do you hear “fresh breath?” That means that Pope Francis is asking the right questions.
In the words of Jesus, “When you call the Spirit to stand at your side whom the Father sends in my name…the Spirit will teach you everything.” And what does the Spirit teach us twenty-first century Christians? The Advocate teaches us that when it comes to a personal decision, I follow my informed conscience. Yes, I am a divorced and remarried Catholic. I feel badly that my marriage did not work out. I tried my best. But I do not have an annulment. I want to go to mass and communion. So, privately, in a meeting with the priest that is considered private and confidential (psst…we call it an internal forum that can never be divulged like confession) I follow my conscience to receive Holy Communion.
But there is more divine breathing in the Church today. The Advocate also teaches us that when it comes to ministry, everyone is a participant. But long time ago, after the fifth century, the rise of the male clerical church stomped out the official service of women deacons. As a woman, I feel that my Church does not recognize my ministry that mirrors the ministry of deacons today. But now Pope Francis says that it is time to form a commission to study (though there have been tons of scholarly studies since the 60s) the role of female deacons in the Church. In the words of theologian Phyllis Zagano, “Women have continually served the church in diaconal ministry, whether ordained to such ministry or not.” (AMERICA, February 17, 2003 Issue)
Brothers and sisters, we need fresh breath, fresh questions, fresh faces and fresh ideas as Church. We need Pope Francis to continue to hear the breathing of the Holy Spirit. But not everyone is listening right now. It is reported that 83% of the Curia do not like or accept Pope Francis. In the words of a famous preacher, “If everyone speaks well of me, I am probably not preaching the Gospel.” When we hear the divine breath of God there will be opposition. This is the part of the body that claims that they do not need us. Or, that we are not loyal to the Church, also known as “Orthodox,” meaning right belief. They are so afraid to ask questions.
I am convinced that we begin to hear the breathing of the Holy Spirit by questions. On May 12 when the pope meets with 800 women religious he asks this important question, “…concerning what I said now, are there further questions that will help me to think?” (http://aleteia.org/2016/05/13/complete-transcript-of-pope-francis-remarks-on-women-deacons/#sthash.8MExV3xe.dpuf)
At this Eucharist, listen to the breathing of the Holy Spirit. May this fiftieth day of Easter, Pentecost Sunday, be a day of questions that leads us deeper into ministry as the Body of Christ.
The Rev. Fr. Dr. T. Becket A. Franks, O.S.B.