Fr. Thomas Leitner shared his thoughts at Holy Mass this morning. A video is below.
The famous 19th century evangelist Dwight L. Moody was a pastor in Chicago; there is still a Bible Institute there that bears his name. Mr. Moody was a successful minister.
One day though two women came up to him after a service. "We have been praying for you for an anointing by the Holy Spirit,” they said. “You need the power of the Spirit." Moody wasn’t immediately open to the women’s comment. "I thought I had power,” he said, remembering the incident. “I had the largest congregation in Chicago, and there were many conversions!" Yet the encounter came back to his mind time and again. "There came a great hunger in my soul,” he recalls. “I did not know what it was and I began to cry out to God as never before. I felt I did not want to live if I could not have this power for service."
Rev. Moody began crying out for God to fill him. He withdrew, and remained in that state of fervent prayer for some time. He writes: "Well, one day, in the city of New York -- oh, what a day! -- I cannot describe it, I seldom refer to it; it is almost too sacred an experience to name. Paul had an experience of which he never spoke for fourteen years. I can only say that God revealed Himself to me, and I had such an experience of His love that I had to ask Him to stay His hand. I went on preaching. The sermons were not different; I did not present any new truths, and yet hundreds were converted. I would not now be placed back where I was before that blessed experience if you should give me all the world."
Today’s gospel is a prayer of Jesus for his disciples and—as the verse immediately following today’s passage says—also for those who believe in him through their word. He prays that they may have what he has with his heavenly Father: unity. In prayer form, Jesus touches again on what he had said earlier in these Farewell Discourses, namely that it’s necessary for believers to keep his word and command and to remain in his love.
Only a branch that is connected to the vine can bear fruit. If it’s cut off, it will wither and die. He prays that God may keep them, who will continue to live in this world, from the power of the evil one.
In this prayer a person can feel the anguish, love and concern that Jesus has for his disciples. He knows that if they live the way he lives and speak the same words of truth that he spoke, they will experience opposition. The world will hate them, too. But he trusts that they will take up his mission.
Today’s first reading tells us about the days before the first Pentecost. The apostles, Mary and some other disciples spend most of this time in the upper room in prayer, waiting for “the promise of the Father,” for the coming down upon them of the Holy Spirit with its power.
As we just heard, Peter announced during these days to a larger group of disciples that it’s necessary for Judas to be replaced as one of the Twelve. Why is this necessary? The number 12 is symbolic. The twelve apostles represent the twelve tribes of God’s original people. With the apostles as the core, the risen Jesus wants to establish God’s new people all-over the world by sending his disciples to give witness to him: in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
Dear sisters and brothers in the Lord, Jesus desires also our unity and our deep connectedness with him. Through his Holy Spirit, he empowers and enables us to be his witnesses. So many things appear to be impossible or nearly impossible, humanly speaking:
· unity of Christians in spite of and in the midst of all the variety;
· unity even within the Church;
· standing up for gospel values in a secularized society
For example: for the sanctity of life from conception to natural death, for the Christian family, for freedom of conscience, and for the rights and needs of refugees and immigrants. All this is not easy and cannot be achieved by human strength alone.
The nine days between Ascension and Pentecost are a time of waiting and praying fervently for the Holy Spirit, whom Christ has sent and sends to us ever anew, the Holy Spirit who heals our wounds, renews our strength, washed the stain of guilt away, melts the frozen, warms the chill and guides the steps that go astray.
We need D. L. Moody’s hunger in our souls for the anointing of the Holy Spirit and its transforming power in us. Let’s pray today and throughout this coming week, for ourselves, for our monastic community, for our families and friends, for our work places, for our church, for our society and for our world—that God may bring about a new Pentecost. AMEN.
Fr. Thomas Leitner, OSB