Saturday, June 03, 2006

Not a trickle, but a Flood (Pentecost Vigil)

I usually read this Gospel at a baptism.
When there are other children at a baptism,
I will ask them,
what do you see in the baptismal font?
"Water!" Right.
Does that look like a river of water?
Of course, the answer is no.

Picture rivers of water—
The Great Miami…the Ohio…the Mississippi.

Not during a drought, but at flood stage:
gushing, overflowing torrents!
All that, flowing out from within us!
That’s the image: not a trickle, but a flood!

That font can only hold so much.
When we’re thirsty,
our insides can only so much;
even all the rivers and oceans of the world
can only hold so much water.

The Holy Spirit,
God’s "Living Water," is beyond all that!
That’s what the Lord Jesus is promising us.

Not a trickle—but a flood!
What kind of power could that be?
We can’t begin to imagine!

We think the power of our nation—
our technology, our economy—
it’s all so impressive!
We’re like the folks in the first reading:
they were very impressed
with the city and tower they built:
"to touch the sky."

But notice what it says next:
"The Lord came down to see it!"
You and I have 20/20 vision;
God has 20-gazillion vision!
And yet, to see their great, big city,
God had to lean way down…
"Hmm, I think I see something!"

What a huge difference
between what you and I accomplish on our own—
that so easily impresses us!—
and the truly great things only God can do!

Which do we really want:
A trickle, that we control?
Or a flood, from God, under his control?

That first reading: we might wonder why
God scattered them.

It wasn’t because they made him mad,
and they certainly weren’t any threat to him!

It was because they were closing themselves
into their safe, little city!
And leaving God out!
They did it; we do it.

So God scattered them—
and all their big dreams were dashed.

Is it not true
that the terrible events of our lives
are also the times when you and I go deeper:
we step out into darkness, and
we find out just how strong God is,
precisely when
we have no strength left in ourselves.

Along the way,
you and I become more compassionate,
we become…more human.

That’s why God ran them out
of their snug little city;
and he sometimes does that to us.

So let’s bring it right home,
to our little city of Piqua,
our parish of St. Boniface:
isn’t it just possible that you and I
could be too comfortable,
too snug in what’s familiar to us?

Change is coming.
In a few weeks, for the first time,
the two parishes in Piqua will share a pastor.
No one really knows
all that will mean, including me.
We’re going to find out.

Both parishes are used to going their own way:
that’s going to change.

After this Mass,
I’m headed "over there" for St. Mary’s Festival:
would you like to come with me?

With change comes opportunity.

Opportunity for men and women
to answer the call of leadership
in our two parishes.

Opportunity for men to answer the call
to be deacons and priests!
Men: you want to make a difference?
You want to build something for God?
Here it is! Be a priest!

Look at where God put this parish.
Why did God put us here?

Like it or not,
the future of our school and our parish
is tied directly to the future
of this neighborhood and this city!

You and I can justly
be proud of our school,
our involvement in the Bethany Center,
our 24-hour chapel,
and so many other ways
that many of us, quietly,
make our community better.

But all that is just the beginning
of what God wants to build here!

With the power of the Holy Spirit,
what might you and I do
to change this neighborhood?
About crime, drugs? To help broken families,
and to keep kids in school?

I’m not sure—
I’m just beginning to ask the questions!
And I’m asking you to do the same.

Every Sunday, the Holy Spirit
comes down on us, here.
You and I have a little bit of heaven,
here in our church.
How about we take that
out into our neighborhood,
and share it and spread it, block by block?

I know—it’s not as though
we don’t all have enough to do!
But God put us here:
not to produce a trickle, but a flood.


Mark Anthony said...

"Is it not true
that the terrible events of our lives
are also the times when you and I go deeper:
we step out into darkness, and
we find out just how strong God is,
precisely when
we have no strength left in ourselves."

Amen, Father! If I'd only learn that lesson, God might not have to keep teaching it to me!

Anonymous said...

Fr. Martin: I just posted a Gerard Manley Hopkins poem on my website in the hope that they might remember what Pentecost is all about. There's a person who often lived in the "dark night of the soul" and yet came up with poetry that cheers and inspires and beckons and lures the soul to see God.

Two parishes is an extraordinary responsibility for one pastor. How wise of you to remind your flocks of their calling in baptism to be leaders in their congregations. There's no way (even keeping in mind Paul's statement that he was all things to all men and women so as to save some)that you could do everything.

Excuse my ignorance, but...where is Piqua? And how big is it?

By the way (thinking of an earlier post, with which I definitely concurred about going to the amusement park in civilian clothing) you wear your clergy collar to clergy retreats? I have to admit I wondered about my colleagues who came to collegial gatherings clad in black. My guess (not to be irreverent) is that they had matching pajamas in case they were called out in the middle of the night! Sometimes we take ourselves very seriously...

Peace, Elizabeth+ (Pastorliz)

Tracy said...

Another great homily Father. I love how you challenge us to step out of our comfort zones. And I love how you encourage vocation to preisthood. I read part of your homily to my son, just so that he could hear a priest encourage others to vocation.

God Bless, especially as you take on the responsibility of shepherding these two parishes,


Fr Martin Fox said...

Pastor Elizabeth:

Piqua is in Miami County, Ohio, approximately half-way between Dayton and Lima, at the junction of I-75 and U.S. 36.

What I might wear at a "clergy conference" depends on what else I might have to do that day. When we have one-day meetings, if I have been in the office, or will go later, I may well wear clerical attire; otherwise, I may not.

Anonymous said...

I know this is pedantic, but:
20/20 vision is normal, and 20/200 vision is legally blind... so God has gazillion/20 vision, since He's certainly not blind. ;)
I liked the image of God having to lean down to see the tiny speck of a city though :)

Fr Martin Fox said...


Yes, that is very pedantic.

Fr Martin Fox said...