From awed followers to courageous missioners – getting practical

Dumbfounded, open-mouthed apostles frozen in time “looking intently at the sky” as Jesus ascended. Their teacher, friend, and hope vanished from their sight. It wasn’t supposed to end this way. So they asked, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” Their question tells us a lot about their deep down expectations of the proverbial Hollywood ending.

Jesus answered them,

“It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

They didn’t get it… then they did… but not fully.

What happened? Pentecost and gift of spirit came upon them in the form of tongues of fire. Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice, and proclaimed to them,

“God says ‘that I will pour out a portion of my spirit upon all flesh. Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams.

On Pentecost, they received the gift of God’s Spirit and they realized they had a mission to accomplish. Pentecost changed them… but not fully. As we have seen in the readings of the Acts of the Apostles they still had a lot to learn about their mission.

  • They had to learn that the Good News was not just for Jews but also for the Gentiles, the people who were different from themselves.
  • They had to learn new ways of doing things, things that went beyond the scriptures they lived by. What was the deeper meaning of circumcision, could they eat meat sacrificed to idols?
  • They had to figure out practical details about leadership.
  • They had to figure out how to balance responding to the spiritual and physical needs as well as how to make sure all the widows, Greek as well as Jewish, were treated equally. Acts 6:1-7

This last point caught my interest in terms of our emphasis on direct service rather than addressing the root causes of inequality and the effects of poverty. They were good at taking care of their own widows. But what about this new group of Greek widows. They had to organize in a new way of serving that respected that they were called to serve all widows.

What new things need we learn?

We have been chosen… and chosen… to walk in the way of St. Vincent and St. Louise and our other founders. We have learned very well how to bind up the wounds of the stranger. But is the challenge for us today learn another dimension of serving. I raise the question of learning to recognize and address underlying causes of exclusion and division.

Vincent was constantly going upstream to learn why so many bodies floated downstream. In this sense, we are remembering a forgotten truth about the Vincent who was the voice of the marginalized of his days and who addressed the roots causes of the lack of formation of the clergy.

May we be gifted with the fire of the spirit to accept the challenge of looking to roots causes.

Food for thought

  • Who was the voice of the marginalized widows that got the attention of the community?
  • Have we become too comfortable in doing what we have always done and no longer dream?
  • If we see something, do we say something?
 

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