Saturday, June 03, 2017

Stirred rather than shaken


The descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost changed everything, including change.  Before that, God had dwelt “in the highest heavens,” holy, unchanging, and far from man in this “valley of tears.”  But when the Holy Spirit overshadowed the Immaculate Virgin who responded, Be it done unto me according to your will, the eternal Word took flesh, and dwelt among us.  Born in a stable, he walked our valley and shared our tears, up to and including death, death on a cross.  Raised from the dead, He revealed Himself to those whom He chose, but then returned to the Father from whom He came.  And we waited; God was no longer among us. 
When the promised Spirit came, He dwelt no longer simply among, but within the ones upon whom He descended.  The surprise and jubilation of those upon whom the Spirit “fell” that day impelled them out of their safety, and into the midst of the multitude who had until that time known only their estrangement from God.  The Apostles spoke and all comprehended the offer from God to remove all obstacles of distance and sin, so as to dwell not only among, but also within them – and us.  This changed them, changed the world, and changed even change itself.
No longer is human life just “one {blasted} thing after another.”  In every human event, there is at work the grace of God, coaxing goodness even out of evil.  And all of us who have received Baptism and Confirmation, and feed regularly on God’s Body in the Holy Eucharist, have God at work within us.  Our safety and our joy are not in what we know or possess now, but rather lie before us: in the working out of God’s will in, through, and for us. 
The earthquake of change we call Pentecost, which those who experienced it likened to fire and strong wind, is the cause of our rejoicing this weekend.  This enables us to place confident hope in the Holy Spirit, Who always shakes things up when He moves. 
This week, Delfina Castro, who had been our parish business manager since 2004, turned in her keys and walked off into the retirement, having told me her intention almost two years ago.   She and her husband Jorge are moving down by Myrtle Beach to enjoy the fruits of their years of hard work.  I tried to explain to Fr. Gallaugher that her level of skill, experience, and effort made her not only an example to all who did this work within the Archdiocese, but often also an instructor and help.  She has given the Finance Council and me enormous confidence in the status of the material well being of the parish for as long as I have been Pastor, and we will miss her.  Her successor, Ron Farias, has been at work already for three full months.  The overlap has given him and all of us a similar level of confidence as we move forward. 
It was more recently, about mid-Lent, that our school principal, Mrs. Cheri Wood, decided that the time had come for her to return to California, and move up a notch in her school leadership to take the reigns at a girls’ high school there.  I could hardly blame her, but in the ten years she has been our principal here she has revealed to me a level of excellence in administration and education that is difficult to explain without resorting to litanies of examples.  One of the clues came when we took a survey to inform our search committee for her replacement, and the consensus on what we needed in our new principal was strongly in the “more of the same” camp.
So, by way of many candidates from about the mid-Atlantic and weeks of interviews, where did that search lead us?   To Mr. Ted Ewanciw, who has been our vice-principal for most of that same ten-year span.  A parishioner here for several decades longer than that, Ted honed his own managerial skills and commitment to Catholic education with the instruction and example of Cheri.  Stir in his abiding commitment to Saint Bernadette church and school, and we have every reason to expect more, and if not more of exactly the same, then definitely more of what made it good.
So while the red vestments look familiar, and the Scripture, hymns, and chants seem very much the same as what we remember, there is a rumble and a flash as the Spirit blows where He wills.  We do not fear change, but invite the Spirit to penetrate it and us, as we encounter Him who is “ever ancient, ever new.”  The Spirit is at work in the lives of Delfina Castro and Cheri Wood; the Spirit is at work in the lives of Ron Farias and Ted Ewanciw; the Spirit is at work in our lives as we cooperate and rejoice.   Today we mark the shocking change we recognize as the birth of the Church; Blessed Pentecost! 
Monsignor Smith

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