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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Pentecost 2010

May 23, 2010

Last week I went scuba-diving for the first time. As I began my descent, I mildly panicked and held my breath as I struggled to rise to the surface of the ocean. As I gasped for air, I realized I had all the air I needed in the tube connected to the compressed oxygen tanks. I hesitatingly submerged again and marveled at the comfort I felt when I just breathed in deeply and out slowly. Being underwater was like praying because I just needed to focus on breathing rhythmically. I could then observe the vast beauty the engulfed me. Since it is part of our autonomic nervous system, we often overlook the life-sustaining reality of breathing. On this Pentecost Sunday, we are reminded of the life-giving breath of the Holy Spirit that we receive to renew us.

In our readings today we get images of Pentecost that greatly vary from one another. The Acts of the Apostles sets up our imagination to experience a sudden cosmic divine event replete with a strong driving wind and tongues as of fire that rest upon one another’s heads. John 20 brings us back to Easter night when Jesus appears to the frightful huddled disciples to wish them peace and to breathe the Holy Spirit upon them. In John 13, Jesus promises to send the Advocate who will provide comfort and counsel. We see different functions of the spirit. In Acts, the Spirit unifies all believers irrespective of their particular circumstances; in John 20, the Spirit brings peace through reconciliation with a mission to be sent further into the world; in John 14, the Spirit comforts, consoles and teaches. Paul’s description of the Spirit tells us that each person will have a manifestation of the Spirit for a particular benefit.

It is reassuring to think that Christ Jesus has breathed his life into our mortal bodies. It is the richly vivifying breath from a man who lived, died, rose to new life and can never die again. Because of the life he brings us, we are compelled to live in a way that is set apart so that we can live like Jesus and carry on the tasks he gave us. Pentecost for us is a renewal of our mission to be sent as he was sent. We can do great things for Christ if we invite him more deeply into the ordinariness of our day and realize that it is his Spirit working through us and urging us on to do the good he desires for us. My choice is to let Christ’s Spirit be the breath in my oxygen tank.

Quote for the Week

From The Sequence that precedes the proclamation of the Gospel on Pentecost:

Come, Holy Spirit, Come!
And from your celestial home
Shed a ray of light divine….
Heal our wounds, our strength renew;
On our dryness pour your dew;
Wash the stains of guilt away.
Bend the stubborn heart and will;
Melt the frozen, warm the chill;
Guide the steps that go astray.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: Peter writes about the enduring benefit of believing in Christ, even for those who did not know him. He then reassures them that the prophets and so many other people worked for the Good News brought by Jesus and the Spirit. We are to hope completely in God’s grace and live in holiness. Peter teaches them to live in a now and not yet world with a pure heart and fraternal love. This new holiness is set apart from the world’s desires. The faithful ones are to live up to a new standard that is built upon the rejected cornerstone of Christ. Everyone is to share his or her unique gifts for the glory of God with an intense love and a wide hospitality. All that is essential is getting to know Christ Jesus; we are to build up one another in their journey of faith.

Gospel: Jesus illustrates the difficulties in following his example. A dutiful young man wishes to follow Jesus and can do all things well except for giving his heart wholeheartedly to the person of Jesus. This causes the disciples to wonder if they can make it into heaven. Jesus reassures them that they have responded well to his invitation, but they still get do not understand the radical nature of discipleship as the others find themselves in opposition to James and John who want to be the favored disciples of Jesus in the kingdom. The petitions of the blind Bartimaeus reveal the qualities of real faith: it is coming to see that Jesus is the Messiah. On his way to the Temple, Jesus curses the fig tree, the symbol of Israel, and overturns the tables of the tradesmen who denigrated the temple. All the people and the leaders intensely desired to know by what power Jesus taught, acted, healed, and preached.

Saints of the Week

Tuesday: Bede, the Venerable, priest and Doctor, is the only English Doctor of the church. As a Benedictine monk, he wrote many biblical commentaries and historical treatises. He provided the best and only source of data for early Anglo-Saxon history. He died in 735 CE. Gregory VII, pope, as a young Tuscan man, studied under the great canonist, Gratian. When Gratian became Gregory VI, he served as his secretary, chaplain, chancellor and counselor. Gregory VII reformed the church by asserting Papal authority over civil authorities, which caused much dissension.

Wednesday: Philip Neri, priest, studied theology in Rome in the early 16th century so he could re-evangelize Rome as the Protestant Reformation was coming about. He founded an organization to help pilgrims and a hospital. As he was renowned as a confessor and spiritual director, he set up the Oratorians in 1575 as was attracted many disciples of his wisdom.

Thursday: Augustine of Canterbury, bishop, was sent with 40 priests to evangelize Britain in 596. Augustine was well received and set up the church hierarchy in England and turned many of the pagan feasts into religious ones. Wales was the only holdout to conversion. Augustine set up the first Benedictine monastery at Canterbury.

This Week in Jesuit History

• May 23, 1873. The death of Peter de Smet, a famous missionary among Native Americans of the great plains and mountains of the United States. He served as a mediator and negotiator of several treaties.
• May 24, 1834. Don Pedro IV expelled the Society from Brazil.
• May 25, 1569. At Rome the Society was installed by Pope St Pius V in the College of Penitentiaries. Priests of various nationalities who were resident there were required to act as confessors in St Peter's.
• May 26, 1673. Ching Wei San (Emmanuel de Sigueira) died, the first Chinese Jesuit priest.
• May 27, 1555. The Viceroy of India sent an embassy to Claudius, Emperor of Ethiopia, hoping to win him and his subjects over to Catholic unity. Nothing came of this venture, but Fr. Goncalvo de Silveira, who would become the Society's first martyr on the Africa soil, remained in the country.
• May 28, 1962. The death of Bernard Hubbard famous Alaskan missionary. He was the author of the book Mush, You Malemutes! and wrote a number of articles on the Alaska mission.
• May 29, 1991. Pope John Paul II announces that Paulo Dezza, SJ is to become a Cardinal, as well as Jan Korec, in Slovakia.

Plans for the week

I am back in Pymble (Sydney) where I will begin a week of study of Jesuit social justice efforts that arise from a faith that does justice. Though I have enjoyed my time away, I’m glad to be back home with my brother tertians.

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