June 9, 2019: Pentecost Sunday
Reading: John 20:19-23
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”
It was a beautiful fall day October 1842. The harvest had been collected and stored in the barn. St. Theodore Guerin, foundress of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, was speaking with a novice when there was a cry of “Fire.” Water wise there was only the spring. As the first vessels of water arrived to fight the fire, the flames burst through the roof of the barn. The nearby house was in jeopardy. Sister St. Theodore asked God to spare the house.
Firefighting in those circumstances was awaiting the flames to run out of fuel. At first glance, that would seem a lonely and scary place to be as one waited. Might it seem an eternity trusting in God’s plan revealed in God’s time?
In today’s Gospel, Jesus enters a locked room to be with the frightened Disciples.
His first words are “Peace be with you.” Then Jesus grants them the gift of the Holy Spirit. Jesus describes the Holy Spirit as an Advocate from God who will instruct them and be with them always. Jesus then assigns the disciples a journey.
Though she could not predict the outcome of the fire, Sister St. Theodore did know and trust in a Provident God. Even as the fire raged, she knew she was not alone. Whatever the fire’s outcome, God would provide for them. Her journal words, “Men watched all night near the fire so as to be able to do all they could to save our house, which is still in danger if there is the least wind; but it is so still that even the leaves on the trees are not moving.”
The fire had been set deliberately. The harvest was gone. The cold Indiana winter would be arriving soon. Sister St. Theodore trusted in the Holy Spirit’s guidance throughout the rebuilding.
For us, trusting in God’s Providence may start with one time or event, but it is much more than that single instance. It is a way to choose to live each moment of one’s life.
Today, one hundred and seventy-seven years after that fire, the Sisters and Providence Associates of the community that Sister St. Theodore Guerin founded each live their life trusting in the love of a Provident God.
Last week we each spent some time thinking about a time when we had to wait patiently trusting in God. Do we recognize the Holy Spirit with us in the wait? Did God’s answer serve to provide an alternative or unexpected solution? If so, spend some time thinking about how that unexpected path allowed us to grow.
For those who wish to read more about Sister St. Theodore Guerin, I recommend Penny Blaker Mitchell’s book “Mother Theodore Guerin – Saint of God: A Woman for All Time.”