Hurray! Once again we are in that long, long time in the liturgical year that simply measures the time in-between Pentecost and the Feast of Christ the King. Remember that the Church coves the entire story of salvation in only 52 weeks so we really have to hurry.
I really think that this is a wonderful aspect of life in the Catholic Church. Most of us are so easily distracted, we find it so difficult to keep our minds on the essential truths of God’s revelation, and so I think that the idea of rolling it by each and every year is a good one.
The readings today are special and we are back to that old balancing act where the editors of the lectionary balance an event in the life of Jesus of Nazareth with a comparable event from the Old Testament. In the first reading, the great prophet Elijah calls back into life the son of a very poor woman who had been offering him hospitality. The story is the same in St. Luke’s Gospel but there are aspects of it that make it stand out. For the first time Luke refers to Jesus as “the Lord” and the Gospel narrative has Jesus in direct confrontation with the symbol of evil, namely death. A beautiful part of this story is that the mother having just lost a son doesn’t even have to ask for anything. Jesus looks, has pity and calls the boy back to life. Then comes this beautiful sentence. “Jesus gave him back to his mother.”
Can you get a more beautiful thought? How many mothers over the centuries have lost one of their children in tragic and agonizing ways? They do not all hear that joyful sentence from Jesus but we all know that he is with us and that he will reunite all of us in eternal life because of what he did in his life among us. At the time of the story onlookers were shocked and amazed. We can only be joyful. He has redeemed us and ultimately he will reunite us.
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Today is the day the Lord has made! Oh, how I love the great feast of Pentecost. It is exciting, it is invigorating, it is challenging.
We all know that the Church has three great feasts – Christmas Day, the Nativity; Easter Sunday, the Resurrection; and Pentecost. Those first two Church celebrations get a lot of attention because the secular world likes them too but for the wrong reasons. I think that the followers of Jesus Christ ought to draw just as much joy and enthusiasm out of the Feast of Pentecost as we do at Christmas and Easter. On Pentecost Sunday a spotlight in heaven swivels around having been shined lo these many months on our Lord that spotlights slowly swivels around on us and WE are under the spotlight.
On Pentecost Sunday each one of us should recommit ourselves to our baptism, call for the grace of Confirmation and endeavor to make knowledge of Jesus of Nazareth our Lord and Savior better known on this battered and sinful world. Just before his return to his Heavenly Father, Jesus commissioned the apostles to be preachers of his word in Jerusalem, in Judea and Samaria, and even to the ends of the earth. In some limited sense, that command has been fulfilled. Communities of faith are now everywhere on the planet but in varying conditions.
As we think about the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity descending upon the apostles and the other disciples who were present on this awesome day. Since we should be conscious that the Holy Spirit has been given to us as well as to the apostles, we should look inside ourselves and ask if we ever do anything to move forward the message of Jesus. There are many ways to do this. You don’t have to go to the Congo or Guatemala as a fulltime foreign missionary. The main way to teach people about Jesus of Nazareth is to try as best as we can to live like Jesus of Nazareth, namely to be honest, sensitive, generous and when necessary courageous. To the extent that we find ourselves more and more like our Savior, we can then say like St. Paul, “I live now not I but Christ lives in me.”
It is a wonderful job. It is a wonderful opportunity. Let’s thank God that we have it.
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With the extraordinary feast of Pentecost approaching, I’ve been reflecting on the Holy Spirit, and how we in our lives go about spreading the Good News. Frankly, I believe that in our country, we tend to keep our practice of religion slightly out of sight, so that we don’t offend anybody or step on anybody’s toes…and I think that is a big mistake! Everyone has his or her own faith, own values, and ultimately their own religious beliefs. Our practice of our own faith does not automatically infringe on another person’s beliefs.
I have always said that religious arguments are pointless (because I have never seen one that changed the views of the participants). Openly demonstrating our faith and values, however, speaks volumes. Our own Pope Francis had a marvelous tweet (Twitter post) yesterday- he notes,”We cannot be part-time Christians! We should seek to live our faith at every moment of every day.”
I could not agree more. Let’s get busy!
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Queen of All Saints
What’s your favorite feast? Thanksgiving? Many people say Christmas, especially if they are into “receiving” . Others are for Easter because of the wardrobe boost. Celebrating the Lord’s birth and resurrection provides us with wonderful religious experiences, but I’m holding out for the third most important feast in the life of the Church- Pentecost
. This coming Sunday, we will be wearing red to celebrate Pentecost, rejoicing that the Spirit of God flowed into the lives of the frightened followers of Jesus to give them a clear understanding of what it was that they had been called to do. Those followers were essentially confused cowards before Pentecost, and following that dramatic event they became courageous men and women prepared even to die as witnesses to Jesus.
This celebration is one day per year, but we ought to be prepared and look for opportunities to witness on a daily basis what we believe about the carpenter from Nazareth. You do not have to be in church to witness! Witness simply means to share the message of God’s love with all our very human brothers and sisters. This does not always require trips to third world countries by the way-you can do it right here in your own stomping grounds, by visiting with your lonely neighbor or reaching out to a frustrated coworker. Every day provides opportunities to be kind and thoughtful to those around us. His Spirit is challenging us!
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We are still very much in the Easter season and the joy of the Resurrection should carry us through towards the approaching Feast of Pentecost. To keep our liturgical spirits high, the Church has put some really great days in front of us. The first I would like to mention is the Feast of St. Catherine of Siena. Her feast was celebrated on April 29th but I failed to mention it. The Diocese of Austin has one of its largest parishes named in honor of St. Catherine and it is a great parish. I am sure she is very proud of it.
In her lifetime, Catherine was revered for extraordinary holiness and touched countless lives of those who came in contact with her. She was also extremely intelligent with great knowledge of Dominican theology and, of course, one of the great influences in her life was Thomas Aquinas. He just preceded her by just a few decades. One interesting thing about Catherine is that she got deeply involved in Church politics but at that time it was hard to separate ecclesiastical conflicts from political conflicts. It was a difficult period of conflict and one of the popes had moved the organizational structure of the Vatican to Avignon in southeastern France. Catherine influenced Pope Gregory XI to move the Curia back to Rome in 1376 but tragically the great schism would appear and the confusion about who was the true pope would set the Church back for many years.
If you want to read an interesting life, get a biography of St. Catherine of Siena. She was a very holy Dominican Sister, an excellent theologian, a superb writer and deeply involved in the activities of the hectic world of her period. I hope that those faithful of St. Catherine of Siena Parish are given instructions from time to time about the greatness and uniqueness of their patron saint.
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It may very well be that the greatest teaching tool that the Church utilizes to convey the story of salvation to its members is the liturgical year. The Church year has very little to do with our day to day calendar. It begins in the fall with the first Sunday of Advent and begins to prepare for Christmas. It continues until the last Sunday after Pentecost when you celebrate the fact that Jesus Christ is Lord of all creation and we honor him with the title of “Christ the King.”
The space in-between is filled with fairly reasonable divisions – Advent, Lent, Easter, Pentecost, the time after Pentecost, etc. – but it is not always that neat. Take a look at the next week and I will show you what I mean. You don’t have to be reminded that yesterday was Christmas Day and I hope that for you and your family it was truly memorable and faith-filled and a celebration of joy and thanksgiving. Turn the page to December 26th and you see the Feast of Saint Stephen.
He was my confirmation patron. Yesterday was Christmas and today you are dealing with hate, rejection of faith, murder and execution. Is that a change or what? Stephen was the first person to die for his faith in Jesus Christ and he would start a long procession of heroic men and women that continues on to this day.
The 27th? Another fast switch. John, the beloved disciple. Tradition has it that the apostle John protected Mary in her old age and he himself was not only one of the 12 apostles, but wrote the fourth Gospel. The ancient tradition also has it that was the only one of the apostles who did not die as a martyr.
December 28th – more death, more blood, more sacrifice by humans related to the birth of Jesus. King Herod was very worried about the rumors that the Messiah had been born, that someone had come who would be the long awaited King of the Jews and who would reign forever. As a brutal precautionary measure, he had a large number of infant boys living in the area killed and they have come down in history to us as the Holy Innocents. They did not have the opportunity to get to know Jesus while on earth but my guess is that when they arrived at the Pearly Gates they were marvelously well received. They symbolized the conflict between faith in God and his Word and an erroneous commitment to a materialistic and sinful world.
In closing out this interesting week of Christmas, the Church reminds us of a more modern heroic martyr, Thomas Beckett. He did know Jesus. He did have faith in his Savior and when he was placed with a choice between the king and his commitment to the community of faith, he stayed there on the side of righteousness and was killed for that.
And so we have a magical week that is marvelously reflective of life itself. Jesus dominates and martyrs abound and God’s plan is carried out. As we close the calendar year with fireworks and loud music, let’s try to keep our mind focused on THAT BABY, the reality of God’s presence there.
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It’s over. It’s finally over. Once again, the Church across the world completes the liturgy year, the year of prayer, the year that has been centered on preparing for, receiving, suffering with and walking behind Jesus of Nazareth. We started back on November 27th in 2011 with the first Sunday of Advent. We spent a month symbolizing the time between the creation of Adam and Eve and the coming of Jesus. Then we were at Christmas, the Resurrection and the third great feast of the Church year, the Feast of Pentecost. Then we were urged to acknowledge the fact that not only have we received the faith, but we have a responsibility to strengthen it and carry it on.
Today is the last day of the year and we mark it with joy and triumph. When we look around, we see our own weakness, our own family problems, the difficulties that the United States faces, our concern for more wars, our inability to deal with the tragic poverty on this planet. Sometimes everything looks so grim. But Jesus Christ is king. He is the Lord of the universe and on this day, in a very special way, we acknowledge his triumphant power over anything and everything. God has given the human family the gift of freedom. It is frequently misused but ultimately his plan will be carried out in the lives of individuals and for the whole human family.
Viva Cristo Rey! Viva!
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One of the things that I really love about Roman Catholic traditions is the way that we have divided the entire year into phases or chapters that center around Jesus of Nazareth. Part of the year prepares for his coming. That is Advent. Part of the year marks the time when Christ was present among us. That is from Christmas Day until fifty days after the Resurrection. The third chapter and the longest begins with Pentecost and continues until Advent begins again. It is really a wonderful system where throughout the year we are constantly reminded of the need to have our lives centered on Jesus of Nazareth, to know him better, to love him profoundly and to motivate ourselves to walk in his footsteps.
I love Pentecost because on this day the spotlight swings away from the life of Jesus of Nazareth and shines squarely on us. Jesus came to be our savior, to be our redeemer and he accomplished that, but He wanted to have the human family involved in its own salvation. He wanted us to be partners with him in preaching the good word of God’s love for the human family.
Regretfully, sometimes we don’t get as much out of the Scripture readings as we should when we are at Sunday Mass. I would suggest that you take three or four minutes and open up your bible to Acts of Apostles 2:1-11. The story related there is short but awesomely dramatic. It provides a jump start for this little band of battered, confused men who now have the responsibility of carrying forward the work of Jesus and, believe me, they do well. Next week we will see that Peter gave one of the most successful homilies in the history of the Church. Following the reception of the Holy Spirit, Peter and the apostles go out into the streets of Jerusalem and Peter preaches to the crowds and the text says that, “There were added that day three thousand souls.” That would certainly have been the shortest RCIA in Church history.
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This is a wonderful day. This is a day which should be celebrated with the same preparation and enthusiasm, beauty and joy as the great feasts of the Nativity and the Resurrection. Pentecost Sunday is one of the three great feasts of the Church and yet regretfully it is hardly noticed as being anything other than a regular Sunday liturgy with an interesting Gospel!
Christmas is about Jesus when we joyfully celebrate his birth. Easter is about Jesus and we celebrate his resurrection in awe. Pentecost, however, is about you and me and maybe that is the reason that it doesn’t get as much attention as it should because it is a challenge, a call to work, a call to sacrifice and, if necessary, to die for our faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The Church really began on that first Pentecost Sunday. Through all of those weeks of Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter, the accent was on Jesus of Nazareth. With Pentecost Sunday, the accent is on the coming of the Holy Spirit and the conferring upon the baptized and confirmed the responsibility to carry out the saving message which was the purpose of Jesus’ coming among us as our brother. That message is simply about the awesome, in fact, unimaginable love that God has for each one of us and that we, as the recipients of that love, should respond in like manner – to love God with all our heart, be committed to walking in the footsteps of our Divine Lord and to be willing to tell others about God, his goodness to us and our need to respond to that love.
During my years in office, I tried to really expand the celebration of Pentecost; for example, urging everyone to wear red clothing to Mass on this special Sunday. I would say that some progress was made but not enough. The Feast of Pentecost and our own Confirmation come together in our lives and the reality behind them is not simply an important date in history or the memory of a beautiful religious ceremony, but a challenge day-by-day to be more faithful and committed in the living out of our faith.
Let’s hear it for Pentecost!
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A major portion of the Church year is slowly coming to an end. Remember, it began back on the first Sunday of Advent helping us to prepare for the coming of Christ. Then we celebrated Christmas, the public life of our Lord, Holy Week and Easter and now roughly forty days after Easter we celebrate the great feast of the Ascension.
The Church has always taught that while the second person of the Blessed Trinity assumed a true human nature with the incarnation and that this nature would not decay because Jesus was never touched by original sin being perfect in the second person of the Blessed Trinity. From the first generation of faith the Church held the idea that Jesus would be transformed without decay upon his return to his Heavenly Father.
The first reading in today’s Mass is from the first chapter of the Acts of Apostles and it describes the actual events of the Ascension. The Gospel gives a hint of the fast approaching Feast of Pentecost when it describes the transfer by Jesus of his authority to that of the apostles when he stated, “Full authority has been given to me both in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teach them to carry out everything I have commanded you and know that I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS until the end of the world.”
Next Sunday is Pentecost, the birthday of the Church.
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