Yesterday, sitting in the Barcelona airport, watching the flight information for my flight back to Boston through Paris, flashing Delayed, Destrado, Enterrit, I was thinking that there would be no Pentecost for me here at ST. Ignatius this year. The connecting time in Paris Charles de Gaulle airport was so limited to begin with that I could not imagine that we would ever make the connection. Although there are worse things than spending the night in Paris, my heart was really here with this community and I wanted to experience Pentecost with this music and dance and word and sacrament and this body of Christ. Pentecost is one of my favorite celebrations of the liturgical year and I didn’t was to miss it with you. So here we are again on the feast of Pentecost, our Easter day when we remember that we are so much more than we think we are.
We are so much more than we think we are as Church, as the people of God as the body of Christ in the world. This past week in pilgrimage to Lourdes, Manresa and Montserrat was for me a reminder that we as a Catholic Church are so much more than we think we are. One of the most powerful experiences was hearing people praying in so many different languages, in so many different tongues. Catalan, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Australian English, Bermingham English, Gaelic, and a host of other languages that I did not recognize. Like that first Pentecost, in Lourdes you hear people praying in so many different languages, even Latin (Imagine that!). And you are amazed at the breath and beauty of this Catholic Church we belong to. For all of its human limitations, the Catholic Church is at its best when we remember we are so much more than we think we are. We are not just hierarchy, or scandal. We are an “ekklesia”(that’s Greek), a Church, a people of God, called out of ourselves through our Baptism to be so much more, to be witnesses of the Good news of Jesus Christ. Speaking in many different languages and with many different experiences of the holy Spirit, we are like that small group of men and women in the upper room who have to come out of themselves to proclaim the wonders God has done in Jesus Christ.
Even with prayer in many different languages, the real language spoken at Lourdes is the non-verbal language of compassion. The experience of Lourdes is as you know first and foremost one of healing. It is simply overwhelming to see so many sick people accompanied by their loved ones or strangers to place their trust in a God who embraces their pain in Jesus and in the compassionate love of Mary the Mother of God. Those of you who have been to Lourdes know the remarkable beauty of this “sanctuary”, this holy place, where it is so easy to know and feel the presence of God. AS Church we are so much more than we think we are when we recognize the power of the Holy Spirit to heal us in so many ways.
If the experience of Lourdes was one of praying in different languages and seeing the healing power of the Holy Spirit in the thousands who gathered there, the experience of Manresa was one of silent prayer. It was in the Cave of Manresa that St. Ignatius wrote down his Spiritual Exercises. After having experienced first hand the love of God, the companionship of Jesus and the “dynamic” presence of the spirit, he was given the grace to be able to share his experience with others in the written word. It was at the Cave of Manresa that I prayed especially for all of you who call St. Ignatius your spiritual home. And I prayed too for all of my Jesuit brothers and that more would respond to the call to share this life in the Society of Jesus. Once again in quiet prayer and with two dear friends, I remembered the power of these Exercises to open our eyes and hearts and minds and hands in loving service of the church and the world. But what moved me most was seeing the words of Ignatius inscribed in the Cave. Que he hecho por Christo, que hago por Christo, que voy a hacer por Christ. What have I done for Christ, what am I doing for Christ, what will I do for Christ. As Church we are so much more than we think we are when we recognize the power of the Holy Spirit to set our hearts aflame with love for Christ.
If the experience of Manresa was one of “being on fire with love”, the experience of Montserrat was one of “awe and wonder”. Montserrat has been a mountain of pilgrimage for over a thousand years. It is the part of the Grail legend. (You got it wrong Dan Brown) IT is the place where Ignatius went and spent a night in vigil and layed down his soldierly arms to devote himself in service to Our lady and her Son. For me the most moving experience took place in the small chapel where the blessed sacrament is reserved. Behind the tabernacle is an image of the risen Christ. At first I thought is was made of stone but on closer examination, it is made of wood. What you see is simply the face of Christ, and the wounded hands and feet and side. The light from above that somehow shines down and through this image gives you the impression that you are seeing what those first disciples saw and experienced in the upper room on Easter night as we hear in John’s Gospel today. “He said to them Peace be with you and he showed them his side and his hands and feet” The image of the Risen Christ at Montserrat simply “blew me away” with its simplicity, its peace, its beauty, it’s power. For me it was like the wind of that first Pentecost. As Church we are so much more than we think we are when we recognize the power of the Holy Spirit to enable us to share in the life of the Risen Christ.
One final image from my pilgrimage. (I know this sounds like a travelogue. The first evening that we arrived in Barcelona, we went to see the Cathedral. When we came out, in the plaza in front of the Cathedral were about a hundred people dancing. Young and old alike with arms raised joined in circles, dancing a lovely Catalunyanfolk dance. The dance was filled with grace and joy and united them as one. This is Pentecost! This is the Spirit’s dance of grace and joy. Alleluia!