I was pleasantly surprised this past Sunday as I drove into “downtown” and noticed the message on the North Java Fire Department sign that read:
“Welcome Bishop Mack—Congratulations Confirmation Candidates.”
Earlier this year, I was invited by the chief to offer the invocation at their annual awards dinner. I could see by their faces, the men were eyeing each other and said they’ll have to watch their language and off color jokes. Priests don’t mind this stuff. You expect these awkward invitations.
At this dinner, someone spotted me and asked point blank “Why the hell are you wasting your time in that stupid church? I finally wised up and got out.”
He goes on to spout the familiar litany of all that is wrong with religion in general and the Catholic church in particular: the Inquisition, the Crusades, the bad popes, sinister bishops, Vatican conspiracies, the clerical sex scandal, the degradation of women, dull Masses, lousy sermons, money-grabbing clerics, and so on. As I recall, the church was blamed for our six months of winter.
Of course, I am familiar with the litany of accusations. The church had and does have many problems and too often it’s a dysfunctional family. So why stay, why put up with such misery? Why? Because of Jesus’ words in the gospel. “I will give you another Advocate to be with you always.”
On their Confirmation, Emily, Grace, Zac and Nick received the Holy Spirit of Pentecost and that makes all the difference. Jesus promised to be with us no matter what we may be like on any given day, when we’re good and when we’re were bad; when we’re heroic and when we’re cowardly; when we’re faithful and when we’re not.
Now you can choose to believe or not to believe in this presence of the Holy Spirit. If you choose not to believe you can checklist the church’s problems and walk away in disgust. But if you choose to believe then you must look not only for signs of church failure, but also for the signs of the life giving spirit.
I was the unofficial photographer for our Confirmation Service, and I believe that I captured a glimpse of the life giving Spirit as He came into the hearts of our candidates. Take a close look at this sacred moment and ask yourself: “Where is Jesus present in your life?”
Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends and especially proud of our young people who gave us at Holy Family a glimpse of being refreshed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit.