My dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ
Today we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit to the apostles gathered in the upper room. Those apostles, who had been with Jesus during his ministry and since his resurrection, were waiting for the arrival of the Holy Spirit. They believed the words of Jesus at his Ascension that he would send the Spirit and now they received what he had promised.
And the power of that Holy Spirit drove them from that room to go out into the world and spread the Gospel of Christ that they had heard and experienced. They were no longer timid or worried for themselves. They were alive with the Spirit of God and able to communicate this message to the people who had gathered from many different nations. This message was for all people.
We have received this same Holy Spirit. We have received this same mission to go out and spread the Good News of Jesus Christ. The life of God dwells in us, giving us the strength and power to be his witnesses in our world.
Unlike those first apostles we are not just starting out on this quest. We are the recipients of the fruit and work of so many before us. The faith has been handed on to us, and we have experienced in our faith communities the graces of gathering together to worship God, to support one another spiritually and indeed practically. We call this our parish and we have been very blessed with the parishes that have been established and the life of faith and witness that have come from them.
On this day in 2020 our Pentecost celebrations also mark the establishment of new parishes for those members of our diocese living in the Christchurch and Selwyn areas. These new faith communities are bringing together parishes which have been beacons of the faith. They have been wonderful communities and now our new parishes bring the best of these places together for the sake of being more effective in our mission and also so we are able to pray and worship God together and support one another in faith.
While the ramifications for the practical elements of parish life are more obvious in these newly constituted parishes this day is significant for all parishes in our diocese. It marks our desire to be more deliberate in our pastoral planning, in forming our parishes to be places where people’s faith is supported and nourished every day of the week, where we are focused on going out from our parishes to witness to Christ by our words and actions. This is a time of reinvigoration and renewal for us all. It will involve changes in the way we function as a parish, what we offer for spiritual support and nourishment, where we target our resources and energies. We have an urgency to bring this Good News to our society where so many are hungry and yearning for peace but looking for it in the wrong places, rather than in the power of the Good News of Jesus Christ and in the faith communities that worship in our Catholic churches.
My prayer is that this day marks the beginning of new life and grace in each of our hearts, in our faith communities and in our diocese. Please pray for the new parishes that come into existence today and for all our parishes that the Holy Spirit will inspire us all the members to work together for the mission to which we are called. I encourage you as part of your baptismal call to examine your own lives and hearts and see what is it that God is asking of you? Are there things that you can do to deepen your faith commitment?
May you be blessed this day, especially as we are able to gather again for Mass after our time of lockdown. We join the psalmist in asking God to ‘send out His Spirit to renew the face of the earth’.
Yours in Christ
† Paul Martin SM
Bishop of Christchurch