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Drink deeply of the 'water of his Spirit'

Archbishop Wenski's homily at lay ministry commissioning on feast of Pentecost

Archbishop Thomas Wenski preached this homily during the Mass where he commissioned the graduates of the archdiocese’s two-year School of Ministry, and re-commissioned others who are renewing their commitment to service. He celebrated the Mass June 8, 2019, at St. Mary Cathedral.

Tonight, we celebrate the great vigil of Pentecost when Jesus gives us his promised Spirit. In this evening’s vigil, the Gospel reading places Jesus outside the Temple on the last day of the Jewish week-long celebration of the Festival of Booths. And as we have just heard in the Gospel according John, Jesus stood up and exclaimed to all the people, “Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink. As Scripture says: 'Rivers of living water will flow from within him who believes in me.'”

And the evangelist explains, “He said this in reference to the Spirit that those who came to believe in him were to receive.”

One of the major rituals of the week would consist of the high priest drawing water from the Pool of Siloam, carrying it in procession into the Temple and then pouring it on the stone altar of sacrifice to commemorate the time in which the Lord God provided for his people during their Exodus journey through the desert by making water flow from a rock.

This is the backdrop of this celebration in which Jesus stands up and exclaims that he is the source of spiritual water and that it is he who satisfies all that we thirst for. In other words, Jesus tells us that he is the Source of Life and that he will send us Life itself in the form of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

Those of you who are completing your formation in our school of lay ministry, or are renewing your lay ministry certification, have – hopefully – drunk deeply of this living water of grace that flows from Jesus. Refreshed by the Water of his Spirit you are commissioned to proclaim Christ to the world.

Remember: The Church exists to proclaim Christ to the world. The various ministries in the Church – and since the Second Vatican Council we have been blessed by an explosion of lay ministries – are the result of the movement of the Holy Spirit within the Church and their purpose is simply to build up the Church so that Jesus Christ may be known, loved, adored, announced and communicated to all. There may be many ministries in a parish; but they are all about helping the Church to more effectively and more coherently evangelize.

As Catholics we have received this great treasure which is the Gospel. The Gospel is not something we created or shaped or formed. Rather it is given to us to shape us, form us, and re-create us so that we become sons and daughters of God. Whether we are ordained ministers or commissioned lay ministers, we have no authority to change the Gospel when it might appear to us as being “inconvenient or difficult”; our mandate is to have the Gospel change us – and in changing us, to enable us to change the world.

I thank you for your generosity – a generosity already shown in your commitment to formation, a generosity that will continue as you take up your specific ministry in your parish community. Your involvement in Lay Ecclesial Ministry has required of you an exercise of great stewardship – balancing the demands of family, work and Church – as you give of yourselves and your time, talent, and treasure for the building up of the Kingdom. 

Les doy las gracias por su generosidad — en su compromiso con la formación y en el ministerio en sus parroquias. Su participación en el Ministerio Laico Eclesial ha requerido de ustedes un ejercicio de “stewardship” en equilibrar las demandas de la familia, el trabajo y la Iglesia al dar su tiempo, talento y tesoro para la edificación del Reino. 

You are commissioned to act in the name of the Church by the delegation of your archbishop in a specific ecclesial lay ministry. In a very real way, you become my co-workers in the vineyard of the Lord. Remember that there is no greater priority for us than to make Jesus Christ known, loved, adored, announced and communicated to all. 

In tonight’s first reading from the Book of Genesis, we learned how after the Great Flood the people attempted to build a great tower. Their project was inspired by an attempt to be able to live their lives without God, without living under his rule and his will. It ended in the confusion of their languages and their scattering in different directions. When we build for ourselves and without God – with pride and seeking vainglory – our projects will also end in confusion. We see this in the world – but too often we see some of this world in the Church, when rivalries often sow disunity and confusion.

But, on Pentecost, the Spirit teaches us a new language – the language of love which brings people together and doesn’t scatter them. Babel is defeated by Jesus’ gift of His Holy Spirit on Pentecost.

Conocer a Jesucristo por la fe es nuestro gozo, seguirlo es una gracia y transmitir este tesoro a los demás es un encargo que el Señor ha confiado a cada uno de nosotros gracias a nuestro bautismo. Que su compromiso con el ministerio laico sea para ustedes —y para la gente que servirán— una alegría, una gracia, un tesoro recibido y compartido. Que el Espíritu Santo nos fortalezca para que trabajemos cada uno según su propio ministerio pero en la unidad del amor para construir el Reino de Dios.

Knowing Jesus Christ by faith is our joy, following him is a grace and passing on this treasure to others is a commission that the Lord has entrusted to each one of us in calling and in choosing us in our Baptism. I pray that your commitment to lay ministry will be for you – and for the people you will serve – a joy, a grace, a treasure received and shared.

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