On the Solemnity of the Ascension, Cardinal Vincent recorded this message, reflecting on these days leading up to Pentecost and encouraging everyone to spend time in fervent, focused prayer on the Vigil of Pentecost, Saturday 30th May, for the coming of the Holy Spirit.
My brothers and sisters,
I’m very glad to have this opportunity to speak with you directly. I want to do so, in order to reflect on these moments that we’re living through, but especially in the context of the feast of Pentecost.
I’m making this message, this video on the feast of the Ascension of the Lord, the day on which we live through that moment when Jesus’ bodily presence among his disciples came to an end. They were told to await the coming of the gift of the Holy Spirit. We have this image of them gathered in the Upper Room, awaiting this gift. When that gift comes, it creates a whole new energy. The Holy Spirit fills them with the energy of God, and the mission of the Church, as it were, bursts out of the Upper Room.
Jesus had said he would breathe on them the gift of the Holy Spirit. And when it comes, it removes fear, it deepens joy, and it deepens this desire to let others know of the message of Jesus, of what he brings to us in our lives: the love, the compassion, and the service he inspires within us.
There are little parallels with what we’re living through now. In a sense, I could say we are living through an experience of being closed in in the Upper Room. We don’t go out so much. We certainly at this point can’t gather in our churches; but we do gather faithfully together at home to do exactly what those first disciples with Mary were doing. They gathered in prayer, they ate together, and they obeyed the Lord: they waited for the coming of this gift. We have a sense of that waiting too: waiting when we can move more freely in society, when we can gather, and therefore, of course, what we’re really looking forward to is gathering in our churches, being able to visit the church just to pray, and then wanting to gather again at Mass as best we can when it’s safe.
There’s a much deeper theme I would like to come to as well, and that is the experience we have of being in the presence of the Lord and, as it were, breathing in all that he wants to give to us, and then being sent out to breathe out his mission, his gifts, all that he asks of us to do. This breathing in and breathing out is the very rhythm of Christian life, and so it happens when we’re at the Eucharist, we receive, as it were, the very life of God, the very breath, the flesh of Jesus. It’s given to us so that, when we leave that gathering, it can flow out of us. It can flow out as compassion, as service to the poor, all those ways in which we try to express our faith.
What I really hope is that this Pentecost will deepen both aspects of the life of the Church, as I’ve just tried to explain them. That, as we go through this strange experience, maybe we’re learning more about the ways in which we breathe in deeply the gifts of God. We’re learning more about how to do that at home, how to that in terms of new media, how to do that in encouraging each other, and also in which we can strengthen the way in which we breathe out.
I’m so grateful to so many parishes, so many of you who are providing service for those who are poor and needy. Many parishes around the diocese are providing hundreds of meals, some of them every single day. That’s a gift that flows from all that we have received from the Lord. As we move forward, and as we make the preparations which we have to make for the opening of our churches, we need to be drawing together all that we have learnt over these weeks, about nurturing faith between us, at home and in new ways within a parish.
We need to garner, to bring together all that we have learnt about service, and about the generosity in people’s hearts and minds, as they want to serve the Lord.
As we approach Pentecost, let’s have a fervent, focused prayer for the coming of the Holy Spirit afresh within us, in our families, our parishes, and in this family of this diocese as a whole. I hope that, on Saturday evening next, the Vigil of Pentecost, you will choose to spend a bit of time in prayer. There will be things to help you if you want to use them. There will be, I think, a meditation on the diocesan website, using the richness of Christian art, but there are many other ways as well of spending a bit of time, precious time, in prayer for the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Vigil of that great feast. Please do so, please pray for me. And we say very simply: ‘Come Holy Spirit. Fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Amen.’