There once was an elderly woman who had four grown sons, all of whom were tradesmen, one a plumber, one an electrician, one a carpenter, and one a bricklayer. As bad luck would have it, the woman’s house burned to the ground, leaving her homeless, so each son independently thought it would be a great idea to build their mother a new home. But they encountered some trouble. The first son, the carpenter, didn’t know anything about plumbing, masonry or electrical work. So he thought there was no way he could build his mother a home. Each of his brothers –all perfectly qualified tradesmen – unfortunately had similar thoughts. They didn’t know anything about the other building trades, so thinking only as individuals, they each decided there was no way any of them could build a new home for their mother. So the house never got built. And worse, each brother blamed the other for stymieing the project. And sad to say, the house was never built.
Maybe our life as a Church and a parish is sometimes like that story of the mother and her sons. How often do we think that the Church could not possibly need or make use of our God-given talents? Sometimes, we might catch ourselves thinking that we can’t get involved, we tell ourselves we don’t have the time, or the ability. We walk straight past whatever signup sheet might be in the back, we pay no attention to an announcement asking for whatever kind of help may be needed; our usual excuse is that we’re far too busy to be able to give any time to our parish. We hope and pray nobody comes up to us to ask for our help, and we’re happy when we get to our cars unscathed by anyone asking for it.
Let us consider for a moment the diversity of gifts that are necessary to bring to life a parish like our own. Our parish life is not just about those whose talents we see and hear publicly at Mass each Sunday, like what you presently see here right now, the lector, the Eucharistic ministers, the altar servers, the ushers, the music ministry. It is also about those whose talents are used “behind the scenes” – so to speak – the people who help keep the church clean each week by policing all those bulletins and tissues left in the pews that they find after each Mass; the people who decorate the sanctuary to make it beautiful and seasonal; the volunteer cantors and musicians, the professional tradesmen who paint and fix things with little or no cost to us, even the person who refills the holy water fonts at the doors. And what about the volunteers who work in our religious formation programs, our catechists, who volunteer to make sure our children are formed in the faith? Our Youth Group directors. Our sacristans who set up the altar for each Mass. All of these people contribute immeasurably. Can you imagine what would happen to our parish if we had to rely on paid staff to take care of all these important things? It wouldn’t take us very long before we’d go under, literally… And would you really want to come to a parish where these things weren’t taken care of because of a lack of volunteer help?
God continues to pour out the Holy Spirit to touch the lives of each of us. This feast of Pentecost is all about being able to see and to sense how God has touched each of us with gifts that are necessary for the life of the Church. Yes, some gifts are used more visibly, but all those God-given gifts are necessary. In the second reading from Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians for the Mass during the day, we hear these words: “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.”
Pentecost is about believing that the power of the Holy Spirit has been poured out upon each of us. Those gifts can be pooled and put to use humbly and selflessly. Pentecost is about building a house, together, that no one person can do alone. It is about building up the Church. It is about building up the parish.
So let me ask you and challenge you, all of you, not just some of you: do you walk past those signups in the back of the church, hoping that someone else will chip in to provide the ‘good stuff’ you desire and expect when you come to church? Do you at least consider responding when we put out the call in an oral announcement? I know, people like to be asked directly, but on the other hand, there’s a lot of need and a lot of talent out there that doesn’t get asked because we don’t know it’s out there. If it fails to come forward with a ‘how can I help’ attitude, there’s no way we can know about it. We as a parish must heed the words of Saint Paul in that second reading, and remember that for each of us, the manifestation of the Spirit, given to all of us at baptism and Confirmation, is given for some benefit, not to be put under a bushel basket or hidden from view.
That mom’s house never got built because four talented brothers never coordinated their talents. What a shame. My friends, remember who we are, followers of Jesus Christ and led by the Spirit of Pentecost. May we heed the promptings of the Spirit, and with a constantly renewed sense of community brought about through the grace of the Holy Spirit, may we go forward, using our talents, for the good of the parish, for the good of the Church.