This weekend, we celebrate our 8th grade graduates of our parish, particularly those 31 students who are members of the first class that entered our school after I became Pastor. They are particularly dear to me since I have watched them grow in wisdom, age, grace and height. I gave them their First Holy Communion and spoke to them at Mass each week. Whenever possible, I tried to be with them in their shows, assemblies, sports activities, Halloween and honors presentations, spiritual events and other major occasions. Their smiling faces and happy dispositions have always uplifted me from any type of “blues” that may have come about from circumstances beyond my control. Their most recent performance in the “High School Musical” was Outstanding!! How did they grow so fast and so quickly? I shall truly miss this class. May God watch over them and keep them close to Himself. May they never stray from Jesus’ loving protection and tender gaze; and may they always feel welcome here at St. Vincent Ferrer Parish!
Sister Romana and I want to sincerely thank all those parishioners who came to join us last Sunday as we celebrated our respective anniversaries (60 and 45) in our religious vocations. The Mass celebration was superb, and the crowd that came to the reception following it was far more than I had anticipated. We thank all of you who made the day so very lovely and memorable for us. It’s hard to believe that so many years have gone by for each of us in service to Our Lord and His people. I am still filled with wonder at the many gifts God has given me throughout my life, in particular, my Priesthood. 45 years of service have passed, but it seems that it was just yesterday that I was ordained a priest. I can still remember the events of my ordination and First Mass so vividly.
This is another beautiful weekend of celebrating the mysteries of our Catholic Faith. Following closely on the great Feast of Pentecost last week, we now celebrate the Feast of the Holy Trinity: the relationship of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The whole mystery of the Holy Trinity can be wonderfully summed up by the imaginative reflection of St. Ignatius Loyola in his “Spiritual Exercises,” about the Trinity having a meeting to decide what to do with humanity and the mess we’d gotten ourselves into. Ignatius imagines the Trinity deciding to send the Second Person to redeem this world by becoming one of us. Our attraction to Jesus comes with pushing ourselves to discover who Jesus is – what He says and does. Then that attraction leads to affection and a bond of closeness, which draws us to want to be like the one who is so attractive to us. Jesus teaches us how to love and then shows us his limitless, unconditional, dying-to-self love for us. His loving heart moves our heart to love like his. When this love gets through our defense mechanisms and the pursuit of self, it is more than overwhelming. The gift of companionship with the person of Jesus is one that keeps growing in us.
Likewise, Jesus promised to not leave us orphans but would send us his Spirit, who would gather us and teach us all we need to know. This Spirit, who comes from Jesus and the Father, gives gifts of grace – freeing us from all that holds us back from loving heroically and setting us on fire. There are so many things we can say about the Holy Spirit and how He animates all that is good and holy, all that is unifying and loving, all that leads from self to grace.
I’ve known people who were “Spirit- filled” and I deeply admire them (though I myself was always a bit afraid of that). Gradually, the powerful words of Jesus become very simple. The presence of the Holy Spirit of Jesus and our Loving Father is tangible and wonderful. The Spirit confirms (makes firm or strong; authorizes and guarantees) whatever is a movement of the Divine in us and around us. Joy, which can be so rare and fragile, is a gift of the Spirit. It is a palpable experience of the Spirit’s presence. In the absence of Joy or Peace or any of the self-sacrificing gifts, the simple prayer, “Come, Holy Spirit!” is tremendously freeing. It is a gentle breeze and can be the fire of Love itself. It is the essence of the courage that comes from the understanding that God never wants us to be alone.
On the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, we should give ourselves some quiet time to reflect and to be renewed in our relationship with the three persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Through suitable reflection, we can grow in our desire for a greater openness to the graces that each person of the Trinity wants to offer us. May this feast bring us all a renewal in the graces we need and desire to enjoy the very personal gift of God’s love for us.