Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Pentecost

Pentecost
June 8, 2014
Acts 2:1-11; Psalm 104; 1 Corinthians 12:3-7, 12-13; John 20:19-23

I can only imagine the joy that God feels when Pentecost is celebrated. God must be thrilled with the unity that results from the sending forth of the Holy Spirit. Think about the Pentecost described in the Acts of the Apostles when those many people of different cultures came together and understood each other. In today’s world, these would be people from Iraq, the West Bank, Israel, Turkey, the Arabian Peninsula, Greece, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Cyprus, Jordan, Libya, and Rome. With the possible exception of Rome, every nation mentioned is experiencing some sort of political upheaval or social dissension. Pentecost is a miracle. God must have been very pleased when all these people got along well with one another – all because they received God’s Spirit of truth and unity.  

We can marvel at what Pope Francis is doing so close to Pentecost with the Orthodox churches. A theological point of departure for the Latin and Orthodox is the procession of the Holy Spirit. The question becomes: Are Father, Son, and Spirit of equal honor and glory as believed in the Western church, or does the Spirit proceed from the Father and the Son, thereby taking on a slightly less elevated role as professed in the Orthodox church? We do not know if we will ever agree upon this point as the readings do not agree. The Pentecost account in Acts happens fifty days after the Resurrection during an agrarian feast while the Fourth Gospel recounts that Pentecost happens on the first evening of the Resurrection. We are left with the question: Should this point continue to separate the churches? I think not. Unity is possible if we choose to work towards it, however, it should not even be our choice since the presence of the Spirit automatically nudges us toward unity.

Notice the major factor that leads towards unity: Hearing. The culturally diverse people were amazed that they could hear each other. After they heard, they understood. Once you understand, you can feel what the other person is experiencing. Once you know how they feel, you can stand in solidarity with them. In other words, we are unified as a people.

Most people do not understand the dynamics or processes of communicating. Some think wrongly that if they hear themselves say what they want, they are successfully communicating. They forget to look at the fact that they are not listening or trying to understand. I can think of parishioners who every week tell me what I should know without ever asking me a single question. They do not want to know what I think or how I feel. They just want their demands met by me. I become their co-dependent crony, if I let them have their way. This type of behavior does not lead to unity.

Developing listening skills and actively seeking to understand another person’s thought requires great energy and active participation. You must first desire it. If you do not want reconciliation that comes from dialogue, you continue to deny the power of Christ’s resurrection and the presence of his Spirit, who ushers in peace. A Christian cannot live this way. If we bury our lives into a grudge, then our choice is to live in a world where we promote dissension.  If we are estranged from others, we have to choose whether we want to continuously live in disunity and promote dissension or decide whether we believe firmly enough in Christ’s Spirit to finally let him bring us peace. Peace is not a magical process that mysteriously comes down from above, but it is a tedious, vulnerable process where compromises must be made for the sake of resolution. Once we have agreement with our disputing neighbor, we experience an enduring peace and only then can we see the divine presence at work in the process. We can marvel retr0spectively at the miracle of reconciliation that was achieved. We have to get past our humanity. We must elevate it if we are going to call ourselves Christian.

Peace comes from the breath of Jesus, the breath of God. We are asked to actively receive it, and when we do, we are to become peace-making agents. It means letting go of a long-held anger and moving forward – onwards and upwards – towards God’s realm. It means enjoying life as fully as we can and exploring the nuances of what it means to be remade in Christ, in God’s image. It means smiling at the person whom we have made our adversary and letting that person become a friend once again. It means marveling at the unity we see and getting excited that we can build the world, here and now, that Christ wants for us. It means we can be free to be who we are – free to love ourselves so we can love others, free to embrace and let go, free to create and to encourage, free to smile and to love with great ease, free to breathe in all that is good and to breathe out all that is good so the world can share the goodness we have to offer. Spirit of God, breathe on me and help me breathe well.

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 yourself 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

June 9: Ephrem, deacon and doctor (306-373), was born in the area that is now Iraq. He was ordained a deacon and refused priestly ordination. After Persians conquered his home town, Ephrem lived in seclusion where he wrote scriptural commentaries and hymns. He was the first to introduce hymns into public worship.

June 9: Joseph de Anchieta, S.J., priest (1534-1597), was from the Canary Islands and became a leading missionary to Brazil. He was one of the founders of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janiero. He is considered the first Brazilian writer and is regarded as a considerate evangelizer of the native Brazilian population. Alongside the Jesuit Manuel de Nobrega, he created stable colonial establishments in the new country.

June 11: Barnabas, apostle (d. 61), was a Jew from Cyprus who joined the early Christians in Jerusalem to build up the church. His name means "son of encouragement." He accepted Paul into his community and worked alongside him for many years to convert the Gentiles. He was stoned to death in his native Cyprus. He was a towering  authority to the early church.

June 13: Anthony of Padua, priest and doctor (1195-1231), became a biblical scholar who eventually joined the Franciscans. Francis sent him to preach in northern Italy, first in Bologna and then Padua. He very especially beloved because of his pastoral care, but he died at age 36.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Jun 8, 1889. Poet Gerard Manley Hopkins died at the age of 44 in Dublin. His final words were "I am so happy, so happy." He wrote, "I wish that my pieces could at some time become known but in some spontaneous way ... and without my forcing."
·      Jun 9, 1597. The death of Blessed Jose de Ancieta, Brazil's most famous missionary and the founder of the cities of Sao Paolo and Rio de Janeiro.
·      Jun 10, 1537. Ignatius and his companions were given minor orders at the house of Bishop Vincenzo Negusanti in Venice, Italy.
·      Jun 11, 1742. The Chinese and Malabar Rites were forbidden by Pope Benedict XIV; persecution broke out at once in China.
·      Jun 12, 1928. Fr. General Ledochowski responded negatively to the idea of intercollegiate sports at Jesuit colleges because he feared the loss of study time and the amount of travel involved.
·      Jun 13, 1557. The death of King John III of Portugal, at whose request Francis Xavier and others were sent to India.

·      Jun 14, 1596. By his brief Romanus Pontifex, Pope Clement VIII forbade to members of the Society of Jesus the use or privilege of the Bulla Cruciata as to the choice of confessors and the obtaining of absolution from reserved cases.