Mass of the Holy Spirit for Chancery Staff – September 17, 2020
Thursday of the 24th Week in Ordinary Time 

We gather in prayer as many of us do every day – to give thanks to God for the gift of life – to pray for the grace to make our way through these strange and difficult times – and to ask for the guidance that we need to get from one day to the next with a sense of peace.  …  Today, we also come together in prayer as Diocesan staff to pray for the blessings of the Holy Spirit as we begin a new season of service to the people of God in our local Church.

For our Diocesan staff, it is certainly fair to say that this annual fall gathering is unlike any that we have ever experienced.  In some respects, it is quite literally the beginning of a new season of service – isn’t it? – with our administrative offices having been largely shut down for months in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic and only formally re-opening in early July in a provisional way, with many staff members continuing to work remotely.

Yet, for as unusual as our gathering may feel to many of us with this being the first time we have all gathered together in the same place, this moment also represents a constant in our lives a Christians, doesn’t it?  This annual fall Mass reminds us – as does this pandemic – that for all our efforts and expertise, life is precarious and we are all ultimately at the mercy of God for our life and our well-being.  If we are to at all participate in the mission of the Church in whatever way we have been given, we owe that privilege to the grace and power of God at work in our lives and in our world.

Today’s gospel speaks very powerfully to this reality – to the blessing of faith – and to the mercy and love of God that sustains throughout our life’s journey.  …  A Pharisee named Simon and his guests were appalled by an exchange that they witness between Jesus and sinful woman of the town who approached him while he was at table in Simon’s house.  To their surprise, Jesus didn’t dismiss the woman but graciously accepted her act of loving hospitality as she anointed his feet.  And a tension was created between Jesus and his host.

Jesus’ acceptance of the sinful woman in the face of criticism by the self-righteous is hardly unique in the gospels.  Time and again, we see Jesus lifting people out of the boxes in which they have been placed, from the most despised tax collector to the poorest serving girl.  Despite what the self-righteous conclude from judging the externals of their lives, Jesus recognizes and acknowledges the authenticity of the movement of their hearts and heals them.  Recall that even the condemned criminal hanging next to him on Calvary was promised paradise in return for the compassion that he extended to the dying Jesus.

In short, today’s gospel – and particularly this unsettling and challenging moment in our lives – beckon us to turn our hearts to God and to seek his sustaining grace and mercy as the only true source for our life and well-being.  May we take comfort in God’s promise to sustain us in our struggles, our fears and our weaknesses.  And may we be humble enough to make as our own these words of St. Paul taken from his second letter to the Church at Corinth.   “I willingly boast of my weakness, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, it is then that I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:9,10)