This weekend we celebrate the feast of Pentecost and the
coming of the Holy Spirit among the believers of the early
Church. Saint Paul reminds us of the special power the
Holy Spirit has bestowed upon us and how that power
gives us the potential to live extraordinary lives of faith.
Good stewards recognize this power and use their gifts,
through God’s channel of grace, to transform their lives
and the lives of others, and thus hasten God’s Kingdom.
Good stewards know that it is through the Holy Spirit that
they can proclaim: “Jesus is Lord.” Do we believe that
Jesus is Our Lord? If so, how do we show it?
A challenge for the Christian steward is accepting, and
even rejoicing in, the fact that our commitment to faith
is often a counter-cultural one. Perhaps this is nowhere
more striking than in the quick cultural “end” of the
Easter season, and our own belief that Easter is leading us
through May to the great feast of Pentecost on May 28.
We see this discordance in many Christian
celebrations adapted by the popular, commercial
culture. While we are still enjoying the season of
Christmas and looking forward to Epiphany, most
American homes have taken the Christmas tree to the
recycling center and moved on to thoughts of Valentine’s
Day. During the sacrificial early days of Lent, there’s
something jarring – yes, just wrong – about all those
pastel Easter eggs and bunnies appearing in stores. And
all that chocolate!
So, as Christian stewards, we feel no surprise that as
we break our Easter fast and begin our meditation on the
Resurrection, we find that the stores have tucked those
chocolate bunnies away on discount shelves, and we’re
off to the next commercially competitive venture. And
as the great feast of Pentecost beckons us, we realize
that the society around us gives this occasion hardly a
passing nod. Apparently, there’s no money to be made
from Pentecost, the day the Holy Spirit came among the
apostles and imbued in them the courage to be true followers of Christ. Courage,
strength, faith, the Spirit – these are hard to market in the public square, aren’t
they? The willingness to live and ultimately to die as martyrs for Christ, as the
apostles did, these are things that are hard to package in bright paper. They don’t
fit well in the greeting card aisle.
Perhaps during these days of May when we as Catholic stewards continue to
celebrate the season of Easter and look forward to Pentecost, we might examine
our own willingness to step outside the culture in our celebration of great
Christian feast days. Keep the reminders of the Resurrection around you. Let your
family prayer reflect the marvels of the season. Help your children to be aware
of the liturgical calendar. Explain to them the meaning of the changing colors of
the priests’ vestments. Dress up in red for Pentecost Sunday. But most importantly,
educate yourself and your family on how powerful it is to understand and
celebrate the great markers and mysteries of our shared faith experience.
In today’s Gospel Jesus charges his followers to “make
disciples of all nations.” What exactly is going on here?
What is this Great Commission anyway? Good stewards
know they are directed to share what they exercise
stewardship over: their life of faith in Christ Jesus. They
know Jesus didn’t direct them to go to church and to
keep quiet about it; or to go out into the neighborhood,
workplace or marketplace and just be nice. Christ’s
Good News is meant to be shared. Many people in our
communities don’t know about Jesus Christ. Does that
bother us? Do we care? Do we realize we are supposed
to do something about it?
Saint Bede the Venerable, an
English saint more popularly
known as the “Venerable
Bede,” was born in Sunderland,
England in the year 673.
Educated from the age of seven,
he entered the monastery
of Saint Peter in Jarrow,
Northumberland, England, was
ordained a deacon at age 19
and ordained a priest at age 30.
The monastery at Jarrow would
become the center of AngloSaxon learning in England, and
from that monastery Saint Bede,
who would remain there his
entire life, became the greatest
of the Anglo-Saxon scholars.
Saint Bede sought to exercise good stewardship by a balanced life
of prayer, scholarship and manual labor. He rarely traveled, but attended
faithfully to his monastic duties, working in the fields surrounding the
monastery and being partly responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of
the large abbey church.
His communal prayer life was complemented by meditation,
chanting of psalms and writing prayers, prose and poems that reflected
his deep faith.
Saint Bede devoted himself to the study and teaching of Sacred
Scripture, and to writing Biblical commentaries based on the Biblical
commentaries of the Fathers of the Church and to the lives of the saints.
He also taught Latin to those who entered the monastery or came for an
The term “A.D.” (Anno Domini, Latin for “year of the Lord”) for the
years of the Christian era was popularized by Saint Bede. His Ecclesiastical
History of the English People, completed in 731, was widely read
throughout England and Europe and became a classic. His book is still
reprinted and studied.
The Venerable Bede passed away on May 26, 735. In the final weeks
of his life, he completed the translation of the Gospel of John into Old
English (his native tongue) by dictating to the young monk who served as
his scribe. It is said that he passed away chanting the doxology “Glory be
to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.”
Pope Leo XIII named Saint Bede a Doctor of the Church. He is
renowned as the most important historian of the Church in England and is
the patron saint of scholars. His feast day is May 25.
Philip understood very well Jesus’ words: “If you love me,
you will keep my commandments.” We learn of Philip’s
devotion to prayer, evangelizing and healing in the region
of Samaria; made up of communities that would not be
very receptive to the followers of Jesus. Philip is a model
steward, living his discipleship day by day in the Lord
without being obstructed by feelings of what cost his
actions might entail. Good stewards summon the courage
to proclaim the Lord and to serve Him by ministering to
others. As an Easter people, eager to rejoice in the Lord, it
is important to reflect on how we are living out our own
commitment to discipleship.
For those immersed in the secular world, Easter is long over. The pastel
bunnies, the chocolate eggs, the color-splashed jelly beans which
appeared in the marketplace so temptingly just as Christians were
beginning the fasting of Lent, have long been swept from the store
shelves to be replaced in anticipation of the next marketable holiday.
For the Christian steward, how backward this all seems. Yes, we
believe that the Paschal mystery and the life-changing events of Easter
are not over. They are not an end but a triumphal beginning, and they
have altered us in a quite radical way.
The mystery and miracle of Easter challenge us to live as different
people, as people of the Resurrection. What does this mean? For those
new Catholics who participated in the Rite of Christian Initiation of
Adults (RCIA), a period of mystagogy helps to understand this mystery.
Indeed, this ancient Greek word actually means “to lead through the
mysteries.” During mystagogia, many parishes introduce their new
members to service in a quite practical way. Here are the ministries of the parish; here are the charities we
support; here are the needs of our
community and our congregation.
How do you choose to live out your
faith in the Resurrection in a quite
tangible and real way? How do your
gifts fit into our needs? Essentially,
however, this is a question that
the Easter season calls forth in all
Christian stewards not just our
We have lived through Lent and
the Paschal mysteries, all the while
trying to deepen a relationship with
the person of Christ. It’s as simple,
yet as amazing and complex as that.
The deeper the relationship grows,
the more we become rooted in it,
the more this relationship with Christ
comes to dominate our lives. We
no longer compartmentalize Jesus,
we hold him at our center. And the
mysteries lead us to the fundamental
question at the heart of all Christian
stewardship, the question that Easter
compels us to ask: How do I steward
my resources – my time, my money,
my abilities and gifts, my very life
– so that they are in service to the
Kingdom of God? It’s not a part-time
question. It’s not a seasonal question
that’s swept off the shelf periodically.
It’s the basic question which the
Easter season demands of us: Jesus,
how do you want me to serve you?
In the reading from the Acts of the Apostles we see how
the first community of Christians gathered together to
discern and resolve how to care for each others’ needs.
As good stewards of the sisters and brothers who gathered
around the Eucharistic table, the community of faith
selected those among them who were to ensure that
no one was neglected. How do we resolve to serve the
needs of our parish family? How do we ensure that those
who might be perceived to be the least of our brothers
and sisters are not left alone and neglected?
When spring rain lets up, and May brings long hours of brilliant sunshine,
something stirs within: the desire to tackle that dust we suddenly notice in
places we seldom look. And those windows smeared with winter’s muck? And
that disorganized closet? There’s a reason our grandmothers called it “spring
housecleaning.” The season brings an almost physical desire to get out the mop.
Surprisingly, for the Christian steward, this can actually be a spiritual
impulse. There’s something intrinsically renewing and revitalizing about
cleaning. Everything done with a prayerful heart can lead us closer to God, and
cleaning, often a solitary and contemplative task, can definitely include prayer.
You might plan to begin your cleaning with prayer, and play music that lifts your
spirit as you work.
Start with a closet. Open your heart to what it tells you about how blessed
you are materially. But observe the consumerism a closet can reveal. As you
examine each item of apparel, remember and thank God for the graces of the
occasion: a wedding, a graduation, a vacation. Enjoy “shopping” in your own
closet for items you’ve forgotten about. Pare down what you no longer need
or what you feel called to share. Wash, mend, iron and select a place where
your items may find a good home. Many cities have refugee closets, and many
nonprofits have thrift stores which support them. St. Vincent de Paul shops serve
the poor with inexpensive used items. Pray for those with whom you are about
Resolve to put your newly reorganized items to work for you and not rush
out to buy more.
And those windows? Does anything lift the spirit like a clean window after
a long winter? As you polish those panes of glass, pray about where your own
inner life could use a cleaning. Perhaps you don’t make it to the Sacrament of
Reconciliation as often as you’d like. Use your quiet window cleaning time
to examine the graces and challenges of your life. Thank God for the many
blessings and be honest about failings.
And that ubiquitous dust? It promises to return, afflicts the rich and the
poor. It’s a sign of our universal connection to the earth and the environment, a
reminder of our own mortality. Even the dust we clean can be lifted up to God
with a thank you from a steward’s grateful heart.
Saint Peter plays a prominent leadership role in the
first two readings, urging his listeners to be baptized
and accept the gift of the Holy Spirit; and encouraging
them to follow in the footsteps of Christ. We have just
renewed our baptismal promises at Easter and the
Holy Spirit dwells in us in a special way. Are we good
stewards of those baptismal vows? Have we renewed
our commitment to follow in Jesus’ footsteps? Have
we opened our hearts to discern the will of God in our
lives? Take some time to reflect on the importance of our
baptismal renewal and our lives as disciples of the Lord.
Peter Chanel was born in a small village near Lyons, France in 1803. Observing his simple piety and intelligence, his parish priest had him admitted to a church-sponsored school. Chanel eventually studied for the priesthood and was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Belley in 1827. His mind was set on missionary work and after four years of parish ministry, he joined a recently formed religious community of missionary priests called the Society of Mary, the Marists. Father Chanel sought an assignment to a foreign mission, but instead was sent to teach in the local seminary where he soon became a spiritual director and the vice rector. In 1836, the Marist congregation was assigned a vast area in the South Pacific for its mission work. Very little was known of the New Hebrides, the colonial name for the island group that now forms the nation of Vanuatu. But a delighted Father Chanel was appointed superior of a small group of missionaries that travelled to the area. They split up and Father Chanel went to the Island of Futuna, between Fiji and French Samoa, accompanied by a lay brother and an English layman. They were received by the island inhabitants with much hospitality and soon earned a great deal of respect for their care of the sick. Once the missionaries learned the local language and began preaching directly to the people, the king of the islanders became disturbed that Christianity would pose a threat to his sovereignty. When his son asked to be baptized, the angered king sent warriors to assassinate Father Chanel. On April 28, 1841, Father Chanel was killed with an axe and his body cut up with knives. Two weeks after the killing, a passing American trading ship took Father Chanel’s companions and others to New Zealand and safety. The French landed the following year to make official inquiries and to take Father Chanel’s remains with them. By the time of their arrival, however, the entire island nation had converted to Christianity. Father Chanel was declared a martyr and was canonized in 1954. His relics were returned to Futuna in 1977. Saint Peter Chanel’s feast day is April 28.