Ignite, renew and energize. Those were the three words I used in the closing address to the participants of the 2014 Archdiocesan Synod.
How do you capture lightning in a bottle? There was no doubt in my mind the Holy Spirit was at work during the two days of sessions at the synod.
Two weeks later, many of the delegates were still remarking about the effect of the Holy Spirit upon the proceedings. There was something special that was present.
Many of us have celebrated the feast of Pentecost liturgically in our parishes. It’s highlighted in the homilies. We are told it is the birthday of the church. But do we have a sense of what truly happened? It’s rare that we are on fire with the faith like the Apostles in the upper room.
From the Acts of the Apostles it was clear that those that encountered the Apostles knew something strange had occurred. Their lack of fear and boldness in proclaiming the Gospel led some to believe that they were inebriated (“They have had too much new wine” Acts 2:13).
This would be a logical explanation for the transformation for those that gathered outside. Their spirits were “high” in their love for Jesus and the new insight of the church. They were so filled with a sense of Jesus’ love that it demanded to be shared.
They now understood the truth that this Jesus who suffered, died and rose from the dead was joined to them in his church, loved them and offered them a life beyond the dead end limitations of sin and death.
The Holy Spirit made them crazy in love. And love seemingly makes you do crazy things. This love was for Jesus and the church, which represented the Risen Christ to the world.
The participants at the Archdiocesan Synod were also crazy in love with the church and that love was contagious. They were not afraid to dream the dreams of evangelization and there were fellow disciples there to support their vision. They boldly witnessed their love for the church, which caused others to swell with pride.
In the closing Mass, I wanted to reflect the spirit of the synod which for us was a type of a new Pentecost. Three words came to mind which I believe, in a succinct form, captured the spirit of the synod. They were ignite, renew and energize.
I had the congregation repeat the words with me, just so that whatever else was mentioned in the homily they might remember those three words and remember the experience they were privileged to encounter.
Ignite: Pentecost is depicted with the tongue of flame that appeared over the heads of the Apostles in the upper room. (“Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them” Acts 2:3).
In every one of us there is a burning desire to connect with our God. There is a longing to express that love and unashamedly proclaim it to others. From the very first moments of the Archdiocesan Synod the participants were on fire with their love for Christ and his church.
They shared their stories of faith — stories that reflected their love for the parishes which they represented. There were not tongues of flames over the top of their heads, but their hearts were ignited and they spoke clearly the language of committed discipleship.
Renew: Many of the delegates and observers were already active members of the church. But like all of us engaged in the work of the church or in many of the tasks we have in life, we do things, but seldom stop and ask why.
That’s why anniversaries and memorials are important; they force us to remember our dedication, commitments and deep relationships. On Holy Thursday, the celebration of the Last Supper, the ordained are asked to renew their commitment to the priesthood.
During Easter season, we are asked to renew our baptismal promises, and at various wedding anniversaries, couples renew their vows. We are reminded of why we do what we do and for whom we do it.
The synod renewed our relationship to Christ and his church and affirmed the dynamic opportunity of living faith-filled lives.
Energize: The whole purpose of the Archdiocesan Synod was to give direction to the Archdiocese of Milwaukee for the next 10 to 15 years. The direction we would take needed the voice of those who were the living reality of the faith in our pews.
The delegates and observers needed to feel empowered and needed to know the advice they offered would be heard and could make a difference. Confident of that process, they could move forward, energized to proclaim the power of the Holy Spirit to make a difference in the lives of their communities.
They were, as St. Paul states, ambassadors of Christ representing the love of Christ in his church. There is a power which comes from a shared experience, and others are inspired by the testimony and the work of believers.
It is my hope that our delegates will tell their parishioners about the synod and share their energies in increasing the mission of the church.
I wonder if the Apostles ever returned to the Upper Room perhaps just to remember Pentecost, the moment that transformed their lives and the community of the church, born from that experience.
I hope that in a year we might return to the Cousins Center with lives changed and our church engaging in a vision for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee for the next 10 to 15 years.
Synod 2014 was open to the working of the Holy Spirit who ignites, renews and energizes.