Sept. 26, 2021
TWENTY-SIXTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
Mark 9:38-43, 47-48
If it’s true that the Lord came down in a cloud and bestowed upon the elders a portion of the same spirit that was on Moses, and if Moses did wish that the spirit would be given to all the people, and if Jesus did recognize anyone giving a cup of water to someone in need to be of his company, and if Pentecost really did send God’s spirit upon all people of faith, then it must be that even today people of faith live with a portion of that same spirit.
I find myself thinking of people in my life who seem to have shared a portion of that spirit, people like Charlie Kleefisch, my first pastor when I was a new priest still learning how to be a priest to people. He was never fearful that his young associates would come off looking good as we served the parish, because if we looked good then it would also reflect upon him and the entire parish, he said, and everyone would look good. The only time he ever said no to me was the time the parish was sponsoring a costume party around Halloween, and I suggested that he and I go as a horse. I would even be the back end, I told him. He declined. Yet Fr. K was always the pastor one would hope to have, a good man and a good priest who was loved by the parishioners. I think he, too, had received a portion of God’s spirit.
I think of Frieda Eicher, an old German-born woman who lived across the street from St. Catherine Church on Center Street. She opened the church each morning, even though her legs no longer moved as well as they once did. She always insisted that she wanted to come and pray before anyone else was up and about, when it was quiet and she could be alone with the Lord. Nor would snowstorms deter her, though we would plead that she stay home where it was safe. Yet her German stubbornness always prevailed. She built and sold mangers for Christmas crèches out of scrap lumber, donating the proceeds to build churches in Africa, she said. It seems Frieda, also, had received a portion of God’s spirit.
I think of John Kinsman, a farmer from western Wisconsin. In the 1970s, he initiated an exchange program between white families in Wisconsin and black families in Mississippi. The dream was for children from Wisconsin to live with Mississippi families for a week in summer while children from Mississippi would come and live with Wisconsin families for that week, each getting to know each other as they built bridges between cultures and states. Each summer, John drove an old school bus back and forth between the two states, fostering his dream. There was certainly a portion of God’s spirit that had settled upon John.
I think of Marianne Curley, who had lived in the heart of Milwaukee, but when age caught up with her and husband Dan, they moved to a retirement home in one of the suburbs. After Dan died, Marianne decided she wanted to move to a retirement home back in the city, where residents would be a mixture of people, where the white was not so blinding, she would say. Her service there in her new home was to keep the dining room tables a delightful mixture of people and interests and backgrounds. A portion of God’s spirit seemed to have been allotted to Marianne as well.
And, finally, I think of Henry Riordan, who was the pastor as I was growing up at St. Joseph Parish in Fond du Lac. He was a legend in his own time and, even now, stories still abound 50 years after his passing. He could be gruff and a fearful disciplinarian if you became a problem in school and would find yourself being sent to Msgr. Riordan. There, he would make us “walk the porch” alongside his office windows. He also seemed to have an eagle eye for catching anyone throwing snowballs. They, too, would walk the porch. Yet, he was passionate about injustices by the local lending institutions and just as passionate about everyone saying morning and evening prayers, adults as well as children. A priest in the style of old-time religion, no one disputed his care for parishioners. In his own way he, too, had a portion of God’s spirit.
All of them have now passed on to life in God’s love, yet the memory of them and how God’s spirit played out in their lives still lingers with me. No doubt there are those in your life who were captured by the spirit of God’s ever-present love, being prophets by the lives they lived. If you think of them, tell their story to someone.
Who do you know today who has been given a portion of God’s spirit?
What portion of God’s spirit has been given to you?