My birthday is May 15th and my sister Julie’s is the 16th. So, we often celebrate ours together. Last Friday we got together at the Denk household to celebrate our birthdays. My mother cooked a special dinner, with each of our favorites, and at one point amidst all the talking and laughing there was a moment of silence, and we noticed that everyone was there. No one was missing. And for a brief moment we all sat there just enjoying the fact that we were all together around the table: my parents, all of my brothers and sisters, and my three nieces. I can’t think of the last time it was like that. I wanted to take a picture, but couldn’t figure out how to do it without one of us leaving the table. But in my mind I will always remember that dinner. It was one of those rare moments in life where all is well, everyone is ok, and everyone is there. And then, as usually happens, someone got up to leave early and that beautiful moment was interrupted. It’s just not the same when we are not all there together in one place.
In the first reading, from the Acts of the Apostles, the time of Pentecost is fulfilled when they are all together in one place. Amazing things start to happen…
Suddenly there came from the sky
a noise like a strong driving wind,
and it filled the entire house in which they were.
Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire,
which parted and came to rest on each one of them.
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit
and began to speak in different tongues,
as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.
Right now at this moment as we are gathered together around the altar the Holy Spirit is falling upon us. This is the day of Pentecost. Similar to celebrating birthdays with our families today we celebrate the birthday of the Church. Pentecost is sometimes described as the "Birthday of the Church". We are all here gathered together in one place.
What I have noticed though is that inevitably someone is going to sneak out early. I’ve noticed that every Sunday immediately after we celebrate the Eucharist the church has emptied out. People leave and we miss that sacred time when we have received the Body and Blood of Christ, and what is supposed to be the greatest time of unity and togetherness becomes a time for people to leave, the air is let out, the power that God is stirring up in our midst is dispersed. We are not all together in one place.
I’m not sure why people leave early. Maybe it’s too intense for them, maybe there’s a fear of something amazing happening and we don’t know how to deal with it. Maybe people believe nothing is happening, it’s pointless to be here. Maybe your mind is somewhere else the whole time and you’re just waiting to leave. Maybe for some reason you are not able to receive communion and you feel awkward so you duck out. Maybe you don’t want to have to talk to people after mass so you sneak away. Maybe there is an emergency. Maybe you just do it because you always have and it is a habit.
You’re leaving early impacts the entire community. What should be the most celebratory moment, the time for lighting the candles and singing happy birthday, you are gone. And it’s just not the same without you. We want you here. We need to be together. The whole reason we celebrate the Sunday Eucharist is so that we can all be together in one place. It was when the disciples came together in one place that the Holy Spirit descended upon them and it is when we are all together that the Holy Spirit descends upon us.
Don’t cut this time short. Enjoy every moment of it. Sing, praise, reflect, and take it in. And if you are tempted to leave early, ask yourself: Why? Why do you want to leave early? What is taking you away from this moment? What is pulling you from this sacred time?
The Holy Spirit comes when we are all together in one place.