If you could change anything about yourself, what would it be? I don't mean loose weight, or get richer. I mean, what would you change about your personality and your attitudes. What fault or bad habit would you like to get rid of? What gifts or talents would you like to have? How would you like to grow?
Second question, if you could change something about our world what would you change? I suspect we could come up with quite a list.
I ask these questions because today is Pentecost. The Holy Spirit came upon the apostles and things changed. The apostles went from ignorant to eloquent, from fearful to bold, and from hesitant to full of excitement. They went forth to preach the gospel and nothing could stop them. That's why we call this the birthday of the church. Great things started to happen that have continued into our own day. The power of the Spirit was active then and is active now.
At the point of the Mass called the "Preparation of the Gifts," the bread and wine are brought down the aisle and placed upon the altar. The bread and wine represent all of us gathered for Mass. During the Eucharistic Prayer the priest places his hands over the bread and wine and asks the Holy Spirit to transform them into the Body and Blood of Christ. We might picture tongues of fire over the altar and a strong wind blowing, for the Spirit is indeed here. And the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ.
The bread and wine also represent us. So we are asking the Holy Spirit to transform us more and more into the Body of Christ. What does this mean? What is it in us that needs to be transformed?
We can ask the Holy Spirit to come upon us transform.
-- our anger into understanding,
-- our critical attitude into patience,
-- our doubt into faith,
-- our fear into courage,
-- our gossiping into appreciation,
-- our greed into generosity,
-- our hypocrisy into honesty,
-- our laziness into zeal,
-- our prejudice into tolerance,
-- our pride into humility,
-- our self-doubt into self-confidence,
-- our selfishness into self-giving,
-- our unforgiveness into pardon,
-- and our sadness into joy.
This is how we participate in the Passover of the Lord, passing from death to life. This is how we grow in to maturity as Christians, through the power of the Holy Spirit changing us, transforming us more and more into the likeness of Christ.
It helps to prepare for Mass by reflecting on what is it that needs to die in us and what needs to come alive. Does our commitment to our ministry, our job, or our schoolwork need a boost? Do our relationships with others - spouse, children, friends, co-workers - need to grow? Do we need to renew old dreams, discover new possibilities, or find new creativity?
The Eucharistic Prayer is not only a prayer for all of us here. The bread and wine brought to the altar also represent everyone in the world. As this bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ, and as we become more like Christ, so we ask the Holy Spirit to transform the whole world more and more into the likeness of Christ. We ask the Holy Spirit to look upon the needs of our world and bring about God's kingdom more fully upon this earth.
We asked what needs to be transformed in our world.
-- war needs to be transformed into peace,
-- hatred into love,
-- injustice into justice,
-- lies into truth,
-- hunger into satisfied stomachs,
-- sickness into health,
-- and the culture of death into the culture of life.
In Eucharistic Prayer # 4 we pray, ".we offer you (Father) Christ's body and blood, the acceptable sacrifice which brings salvation to the whole world." Our hope for the future is not based on political wisdom, economic power and technological ability. We look to the future with confidence because of Christ's gift of himself to the Father, and Christ's gift of his Spirit to us.
We need to be still, listen, observe and help each other discover the gifts we have been given, because gifts are given, St. Paul tells us, "for the common good." (1 Cor 12:5) We have work to do. Our world is transformed one heart at a time by one soul at a time.
So on this feast of Pentecost we ask the Spirit to transform us, and then use us to...
heal what is wounded,
water what is barren,
warm what has become cold,
direct what is going astray,
drive out fears,
and guide all hearts in the ways of peace.
In short, "Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful.
Enkindle in us the fire of your love.
Through us renew the face of the earth,
...and make that face smile!"