Your parish’s divine fuel source
- As you read it, keep in mind that while most Catholics know this story, very few of them have ever read it in the Bible. They know it because they’ve heard it proclaimed at Mass on Pentecost Sunday.
- Keep in mind that for most of the catechumens, the first time they will hear this story is at Mass on Pentecost Sunday.
- And keep in mind that the first time the neophytes hear this story as fully participating members of the Body will be eight Sundays after their baptism, at Mass on Pentecost Sunday.
In other words, for most Catholics, this is not a story that is associated with the history of first-century Jerusalem. It is a living testament that is part of their ongoing celebration of the liturgy.
In that context, we hear proclaimed:
When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim. (Acts 2:1-4)
Luke’s unique vision
Since Luke, the author of Acts, was not one of the original disciples, he was not there to witness this event. And, if you read John’s eyewitness account of the sending of the Spirit (Jn 20:19-23, also proclaimed on Pentecost Sunday), it didn’t happen this way at all. It didn’t even happen on Pentecost. So what is Luke up to? Luke is describing the effects of a community that is filled with the Spirit, which he can attest to personally. Luke has experienced life in the Spirit. So when he sets out to write an account of the sending of that Spirit, he wants to use language and images that will communicate the power of that Spirit.
Luke lived in a driven community, a community propelled to mission as if by hurricane force. The Spirit was in and through his community as though it were a strong, driving wind. Luke’s community was on fire with the Spirit. He could see it in their faces when they talked about their faith, when they gathered for prayer, when they went out to serve the poor. They glowed with God’s Spirit, as though someone had lit them on fire like torches.
Luke’s community not only welcomed strangers, they went out to find them. They didn’t worry that the strangers were from different cultures or different neighborhoods or different socio-economic groups. They knew their message of good news was a universal message that could be communicated to anyone. They didn’t need to speak the language of commerce or politics or religion or philosophy. They only needed to speak of God’s love. That was a universal language people of every nation, of every tongue, understood.
Fire up your liturgy
Some elements of energetic liturgy might include the following:
- A conversational tone as people gather for worship, recognizing Christ in each other and exchanging greetings.
- A gathering song the community knows by heart and sings with gusto.
- Heartfelt and hearty responses to the prayers. The liturgy is a dialogue, and it should sound like one.
- Purposeful and sure-footed movement by all the ministers of the liturgy. Everyone should be confident in their movements.
- Spirited and excellent proclamation of the readings in such a way that the assembly believes the message being proclaimed.
- An engaging and engaged presider. A homily that is a passionate statement of faith.
- A Communion procession that does not lag, in which everyone participates and everyone stands in solidarity with all who are sharing Christ’s Body and Blood. Communion, especially Communion, is not a time for kneeling in private prayer.
- A minimum of announcements, second collections, and extraliturgical talks or meditations that drag down the energy of the assembly.
- A final blessing that encourages, empowers, and enables the assembly to go out and engage in the mission of the Gospel in their daily lives.
- A community that “hangs out” after Mass, chatting and connecting with one another because they are in no hurry to leave.
The driven, fiery, loving spirit that shows through in a community celebrating in this way is also a key symbol in the liturgy. An energetic, spirited community catechizes about the mission we are baptized into. We are not dejected, forlorn messengers of doom. Jesus enjoyed life and was so passionate about being in the thick of things, he sometimes wore himself out. By bringing an energetic spirit to the liturgy and using that energy to enliven our celebration, we learn how to communicate the joy and energy of God’s Spirit to the world. We will know our communities are initiating communities when guests are “blown over” and “fired up” by the energy they experience in our liturgies.
The next topic in this course will be e-mailed to you in a few days. In the next day or two, look up the readings for Pentecost Sunday and pray over them. Then choose two actions from the bullet points above to implement as you are able in your parish setting.
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