Unity in Diversity ( 6/4/17, Pentecost, Year A)
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One of my favorite parts of having lots of siblings is getting to see how each of them has their own unique personality and talents. Even though we might be part of the same family, with the same parents and upbringing, all of us are very different. From an early age, you could see hints as to the type of person my siblings would grow up to be. Some are caregivers and peacemakers, others are gregarious and outgoing, a few are reflective and quiet, and several are fighters, ready to stick up for anyone they feel has been wronged. I see the same diverse patterns as an uncle and I love it! Some of my nieces and nephews are orderly and disciplined. Others are the life of the party and have to be disciplined. Some are open hearts, where tears and laughs come easily while others are stoic and leave you guessing at what they might be thinking. Many of them are laid back and happy to go with the flow while a few are the leaders of the pack, deciding which game will be played and who-sits-where at the kids’ table.
This is not a unique human experience. Certainly all of you know what I am talking about as you think of similar instances with your friends and families. Even though different personalities might sometimes drive us crazy at home, in social circles or at work, it is that very diversity that makes life exciting, enriching, and enjoyable. It is one of the things I love most about my family. Imagine a home, a world, a church where everyone was exactly the same?! It would be terrible on so many levels! The most dynamic marriages, friendships, families, and parishes tend to be composed of very different personalities united by a shared goal or outlook. That is the bond which unifies two or more people who might seem to be at opposite ends of the spectrum.
As a spiritual family here at St. Michael, we have that same wonderful mix of personalities, gifts, and talents. Some of you are naturally more outgoing, funny, emotive, or leadership-minded. Others tend to be serious, rational, level-headed, or easy going. Some of you are great planners, have the gift of hospitality, or can see the big picture. Others are detail-oriented, prefer to do things behind the scenes, or are not afraid to speak your mind. However, without something incredible in common, without something significant to unite us, we would be a disaster. Our different personalities and backgrounds would end up being a source of conflict rather than something we celebrate and enjoy. Of course, what brings and keeps us together is not just the fact that we live in Shrewsbury or grew up in the area or happen to love St. Michael parish. What really unites us and makes this little parish dynamic is Jesus Christ and his gift of the Holy Spirit, who blesses our individual gifts and personalities and transforms them into something purposeful.
As we say goodbye to another Easter Season and prepare to enter ordinary time for the next 5 or so months, it is good for us to reflect on the birthday of the Church, the feast of Pentecost. For more than a billion people around the world, the Catholic Church is the bond that unites people of every race and nation. Today is the day when we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit, which was poured out on the Apostles, empowering them to go out and gather people together in Christ. After they received the Holy Spirit, the apostles came to life. They begin to fire on all cylinders, their personalities and gifts were on display for the whole world to see. From this point on, they each go their separate ways with their unique talents but united by that one crucial message: “Jesus is risen; death and sin are defeated. Everyone deserves to hear this Good News so they can be saved.”
Each of the apostles would live out their faith in a slightly different way. Some would teach, others would heal and work miracles, while a few would write letters and gospels that we still reflect on today. All of them proclaimed the Good News in their own style, guided by the Holy Spirit but also true to their own personality and life experience. They didn’t become different people after Pentecost, they became transformed people. Their families and friends would have recognized them but would have noticed something new, deeper, more alive.
The same is true here at St. Michael. God wants to bless the individual characteristics that make you who you are. He wants to transform them into the strengths that will enable you to proclaim the gospel in ways that no one else can or has before! He will do this through the gift of His Holy Spirit, first given in baptism and then more fully when we are confirmed. For our part we have two simple things to do.
1)The first task is to invite the Holy Spirit to make his home in our heart. Even though he is God, the Holy Spirit is gentle and respectful when when it comes to us. He wants to be our welcomed guest and his gifts only work when they are received into a life that is docile and inviting. He won’t force his way into our hearts. So, please, say that simple, ancient prayer often, “come Holy Spirit.” That is all He needs, nothing fancy, just a heartfelt invitation to make his home in your soul. If you ask, he will answer, guaranteed!
2) The second responsibility we have is to develop the personality and gifts we were born with. Becoming a saint does not mean getting rid of these things; it just means we let God use them. If you have a sense of humor, if you are organized, if you love to lead, or study or take care of people or listen, or whatever your talent and disposition is, use it, refine it, and know that, more than likely it will be the way you live out your faith. There is no one way to be holy or serve God and others. In fact each of us will do it in a slightly different manner. That is why it is so important to discover and develop who we are humanly and spiritually.
If the twelve apostles were able to go out, with the help of the Holy Spirit, and change the world as we know it, imagine what the community of St. Michael could do?! As long as we remain friends of God, homes of the Holy Spirit, there is no limit to how He can use us to renew the face of the earth!
Categories: ARCHIVE Fr. Kevin Schroeder