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Wednesday, May 15, 2013


May 19, 2013
Acts 2:1-11; Psalm 104; Romans 8:8-17; John 20:19-23

Outside my bedroom window is a majestic hotel designed by an Iraqi developer in the shape of the Tower of Babel. Its monumental height stands as a beacon of human power as its glory reaches towards the heavens. During the day it stands alone in triumph to showcase its solid might and dominance; at night it dazzles with multi-colored design illuminations that tastefully wafts over the land like a gentle breeze eases its way over hill and dune. Humanity reaches for divinity and wants to be acknowledged.

Pentecost is a reversal of the confusion that happened at that imposing tower. Those who once could communicate easily now find their language imprecise and unrecognizable. We have been paying the price ever since – even though Pentecost has come to unite us in faith. Most of the problems we face in our lives stem from the fact that we do not know how to communicate well at all. Dialogue and conversation require a great deal of work and effort that we are not always willing to do.

Notice how the accounts of Pentecost differ greatly. Luke is speaking to a very different audience than the author of the Fourth Gospel does. For Luke, Pentecost happens some time after the appearance of Jesus and his ascension to the Father in heaven. For John, it happens on the first day of the Resurrection. We will never know what truthfully happened in the sequence of events and we have to ask if the events really matter. How can these stories be very different and at the same time communicate the same central theme?

In the Acts of the Apostles, a noise like a strong driving wind comes from the sky and fills the entire house in dramatic fashion. These are not actual events because the author cannot describe them articulately, but he uses metaphor and analogy to explain what the people experience. Then something like tongues as of fire appear, split apart, and lands on each one of them as a sign of the Holy Spirit, and like what happened at the ancient tower, they begin to speak in tongues in their own languages, but everyone understands what they are saying. Hence, unified meaning is expressed in their diverse expressions.

Contrast these dramatic events to the short account of Pentecost in the Fourth Gospel. Jesus, on his day of resurrection, comes into the midst of his Disciples and says, “Peace be with you” and then shows him his hands and his side. After wishing them peace again, he breathes the Holy Spirit onto them and gives them the power to retain and forgive sins – a very simple gesture, but very effective.

What do the two accounts communicate to us? In Acts, Luke stresses the importance of hearing and communicating. In the Fourth Gospel, God is manifest when we forgive and judge sins. The two are connected though, don’t you think? In order for us to really know what is sinful for a person, we first must listen to where he or she has failed to bother to love. We have to listen to the circumstances, motives, actions, the emotions, and the meaning intended and conveyed by the person committing the sin. A behavior that offends in one culture may be normative behavior in another culture and while there are objective sins, the ones we get stuck on are the subjective ones that are more muddled because no accepted principles govern our behavior in all instances.

Listening to another person takes a lot of work. Effectively communicating is an exceptional workout and requires great patience, your active participation, and courageous risks. It is a full time job and it is essential to a fulfilled life. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, places conversation at the heart of Jesuit spirituality because it is this sharing of ideas and feelings that changes a person’s heart around. When we finally listen to the consoling words God speaks to us, our hearts are moved and we settle into a place of peace. Likewise, when we listen to other people, our hearts are moved in love toward them – even those with whom we disagree most. Listening moves us towards understanding, which brings us in closer friendship. We can find that we stand like the people at Pentecost and we hear in a new and usual way. We can then understand what their hearts are saying and we forget about the bumbling words they use to express what is in their hearts. Heart-to-heart is filled with peace and contentment, while voice-to-voice is filled with imprecision and fraught with misunderstanding.

We live today in Pentecost – the time of the Spirit. Let’s find a way to honor this good and holy spirit by being taught ways to listen in new ways because for most of us, our existing ways do not work well. Learning how to see, speak, feel, be moved, and hear with an eye towards what God is doing within a person may save another’s soul. When we learn to let the Spirit within us fully connect with the Spirit within another soul, we will be enlivened by the goodness that overflows. We’ll have a courageous heart that is free to take risks and affirm all the good one encounters. We’ll have serenity that keeps us patient and calm because we are not offended and we do not give offense. We will be content that the Spirit will forgive us our sins as we learn to cultivate the goodness in others. We shall be free and we’ll notice we will breathe easily and live more happily and simply. Receive what the Risen Jesus is trying to give you. It is for your own good. Yield to him and you will find that you will be radically happy even if miserable people surround you, but please know your happiness will be attractive to them and they will want what you possess. Trust that the Spirit is testifying through your happiness and goodwill. It is the reason we still sing ‘Alleluia’.

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading: In his first letter, Peter tells the faithful ones to rejoice while they can because suffering awaits them. All their choices are to be made through the type of love Christ extended to us. For the salvation of your souls, live soberly and set your hopes completely on the grace brought about by the revelation of Jesus Christ. We have been ransomed from our futile conduct by the blood of Jesus. Love one another because we have been born anew. Be hospitable to one another and use your gifts so Jesus Christ may be glorified through you. Do not be surprised by trials, but rejoice that you share in Christ's sufferings. Jude tells us to build yourselves up in the love of God and wait for the mercy of Christ. Praise the one who is able to keep you from stumbling.

Gospel: As we return to ordinary time, we pick up again with Mark's Gospel. Jesus meets a man who asks what he can do to inherit eternal life. Jesus tells him, but it makes him sad because he cannot see the relationship between his moral life and possession retention. Peter and the disciples ask if they can be saved. After all, they gave up everything to follow him. Jesus tells them that everyone who has given up all possessions and family will enter the kingdom of heaven. James and John Zebedee ask for the privilege of sitting at his right hand in the kingdom. Jesus tells them the chalice from which they are to drink is one of suffering and new life. In Bethany, Jesus looked around for some food because he was hungry. He cursed the barren fig tree and used it as an example of Israel's barrenness because they were unable to remain faithful to God's life-giving commands. When Jesus and his disciples returned to Jerusalem, the chief priests and scribes demanded to know by what authority Jesus performed miracles and spoke with authority. When they failed to answer an obvious question that pitted them against each other, Jesus thereby refused to answer their question. He invoked their authority.

Saints of the Week

May 20: Bernardine of Siena, priest, (1380-1444) was from a family of nobles who cared for the sick during plagues. He entered the Franciscans and preached across northern and central Italy with homilies that understood the needs of the laity. He became vicar general and instituted reforms.

May 21: Christopher Magallanes, priest and companions, martyrs (1869-1927) was a Mexican priest who served the indigenous people by forming agrarian communities. He opened seminaries when the ant-Catholic government kept shutting them down. He was arrested and executed with 21 priests and 3 laymen.

May 22: Rita of Cascia, religious (1381-1457), always wanted to become a nun but her family married her off to an abusive man. He was murdered 18 years later. Rita urged forgiveness when her two sons wanted to avenge their father's murder. They soon died too. Rita wanted to enter a convent, but he marital status kept her out. Eventually, the Augustinians in Cascia admitted her. She became a mystic and counselor to lay visitors.

May 24: Our Lady of the Way or in Italian, Madonna della Strada, is a painting enshrined at the Church of the Gesu in Rome, the mother church of the Society of Jesus. The Madonna Della Strada is the patroness of the Society of Jesus. In 1568, Cardinal Farnese erected the Gesu in place of the former church of Santa Maria della Strada. 

May 25: Bede the Venerable, priest and doctor, (673-735), is the only English doctor of the church. As a child, he was sent to a Benedictine monastery where he studied theology and was ordained. He wrote thorough commentaries on scripture and history as well as poetry and biographies. His famous work is the "Ecclesiastical History of the English People," the source for much of Anglo-Saxon history.

May 25: Gregory VII, pope (1020-1085), was a Tuscan who was sent to a monastery to study under John Gratian, who became Gregory VI. He served the next few popes as chaplain, treasurer, chancellor and counselor before he became Gregory VII. He introduced strong reforms over civil authorities that caused much consternation. Eventually, the Romans turned against him when the Normans sacked Rome.

May 25: Mary Magdalene de'Pazzi (1566-1607), a Florentine, chose to become a Carmelite nun instead of getting married. Her biography, written by her confessor, gives accounts of intense bouts of desolation and joy. She is reputed to have gifts of prophecy and healing.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      May 19, 1652. Birth of Paul Hoste mathematician and expert on construction of ships and history of naval warfare.
·      May 20, 1521. Ignatius was seriously wounded at Pamplona, Spain, while defending its fortress against the French.
·      May 21, 1925. Pius XI canonizes Peter Canisius, with Teresa of the Child Jesus, Mary Madeleine Postal, Madeleine Sophie Barat, John Vianney, and John Eudes. Canisius is declared a Doctor of the Church.
·      May 22, 1965. Pedro Arrupe was elected the 28th general of the Society of Jesus.
·      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 Pope St Pius V in the College of Penitentiaries installed the Society. Priests of various nationalities who were resident there were required to act as confessors in St Peter's. 


  1. One of the greatest needs of people in our culture today is to have someone listen to them. I find this all the time. Thanks for highlighting this.

    1. And after we listen to them, maybe they can learn to listen to others. This is how we know the Spirit is at work.