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Contents: Volume 2 - Pentecost Sunday - 05/20/2018


 

 Pentecost

Sunday

~~~~

2018

1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP
2. -- Barbara Cooper, OP
3. -- Carol & Dennis Keller
4. -- Brian Gleeson CP
5. --
6.. (Your reflection can be here!)

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Pentecost 2018

In the daytime Gospel reading according to John for Pentecost, Jesus says to the apostles: "I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth." Guiding us to the truth is one of the many things the Holy Spirit "does" for us. Other scripture passages tell us that the Holy Spirit is also the Advocate and the Giver of gifts as well as the River of flowing water... etc.

I think the Holy Spirit is Who/what keeps us going when we would just as soon stop, coast, or even give up! Living as a Christian is hard stuff; living as a good Christian is even harder. Living a holy or "perfect" Christian life as we are called to do, well... that's why we have the Holy Spirit! We really need a Guide on this journey to keep us going and going on the right path.

What is your journey like right now? It seems that Martha and Mary weren't the only ones who struggled with balancing prayer and work even with the physical Jesus in their midst. The apostles weren't the only ones who seemed clueless and faltered even after being instructed by the Great Teacher, Jesus Himself.

So here we are, at Pentecost 2018, the time in the liturgical year when we recall the outpouring upon the first Christians (and us) of everything about the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the Great Sustainer! What is it that you need to continue your journey at this time in your life? Just ask for it or even for guidance to know what "it" is: Come, Holy Spirit!

Blessings,
Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP
Southern Dominican Laity
lanie@leblanc.one

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Pentecost Sunday May 20 2018

Acts 2:1-11; Responsorial Psalm 104; 1st Corinthians 12:3-13; Sequence “Come, Holy Spirit Come; John 20:19-23

This is a difficult liturgy to reflect on, this Sunday of Pentecost. It’s not that the themes, meaning, and purpose of the readings this feast lack content or application. Rather it’s because there are so many themes available for the homilist.

There is the theme of the Spirit of God reminding us of the first verses of Genesis. It is written the Spirit of God hovered over the waters – the dark, churning, out-of-control chaos of the unbounded waters of earth. It is pictured as a sort of wind, a breeze that calms and begins ordering reality. The Spirit is breathed into the nostrils of a figure make of clay. Because of this breath that clay becomes the person Adam. Inert dirt is given life and rationality and a spirit of freedom, choice, and a sharing in creativity. There is the wind – the breath of God – that split the sea and dried its bed that time when the Hebrews escaped Egypt. That breath formed a wall of water to the left and a wall of water to the right and dried the sea bed. The Hebrews walked dry shod fleeing the armies of Pharaoh. There is the whisper of God’s presence that Elijah experienced when he fled from Jezebel. In third verse of our responsorial psalm we learn that God continues his breath that makes creation live and breathe. The verse tells us, “If you take away your breath they perish and return to their dust. When you send forth your spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth.” The psalmist insists each living-being, from the least insect to human persons, are sustained in life by God’s breath. God’s breath is God’s Spirit. In the gospel we are told Jesus breathes on the disciples gathered in the upper room. In that moment he gave them the Holy Spirit as breath. In John’s gospel this occurs on the day of his rising. His breathing is proof that he is a living person and not some ghost or hallucination. Jesus extends to the disciples in his breath the gift that allows them to forgive sins. Who can miss the implication? The gift of breath, the gift of life he gives, means that what kills our spirits can be healed and that we are renewed in the vitality of a renewed gift of life. This forgiveness is not some juridical matter. This is no court of law handing out punishment. It is much, much, much more than that. This forgiveness removes what kills our spirit, robs us of the breath of life: sin makes us ill unto death, robbing us of the life giving presence of the Spirit. The theme of the Spirit as breath, wind, as a force putting order into chaos, as a well spring renewing forfeited life is a powerful theme.

If we turn to the historical feast celebrated by Judaism there is more to think about on this Pentecost. Pentecost in the Jewish tradition is the celebration of the feast of weeks. Like so many ancient liturgies, there is an agricultural basis to this celebration. Just as the celebration of Passover has a strong connection with ancient feasts celebrating the first harvest of the year, the harvest of barley, so also this celebration of the feast of weeks is the celebration of the wheat harvest. As the socio-economic conditions of their nation became more diverse, the feast became the celebration of the nation’s reception of the Law through Moses at Mount Sinai. There Moses had ascended the mountain and in a display of nature by wind and by fire, the Ten Commandments were carved on stone tablets. Clearly this stone meant the permanence of the Covenant of the Law. However, as we recall, Moses descended the mountain and found the people engaged in an orgy as practiced by the worshipers of Baal and Astarte. He fractured the stone tablets indicating the covenant with God had been broken by the people. How easy it is for us to break the commandments spoken by God and carved in stone. The gift of the Mosaic Law formed the nation, the people into God’s People, a chosen race, a holy people, a nation of priests. By his ministry of healing, teaching, and his work of death and resurrection there is a new nation being built, a new race of persons, a new priesthood, a nation of prophets, and a cadre of servant leaders to transform and create a new earth which is the Kingdom of God. Luke’s narrative of the Descent of the Spirit in our first reading carries images of a strong wind and tongues of fire. Luke wants us to recall the images of Moses receiving the Law on the mountain top. God’s presence is visible in the bursts of wind – perhaps we can say “breathings of God” – and flashes of purifying intense fire. It was only Moses whose appearance changed – his face so bright as to blind the Hebrews who saw him. In Luke, each disciple receives the flame that purifies, gives warmth, and enlightens others. This is another theme this Pentecost Sunday that a new Law has been received.

The Apostles and their successors taught and continue to teach that Pentecost is the birth of the church. Church is another theme this Sunday. The key to understanding this new creation, the creation of the church, is found in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. The entire passage chosen for this Sunday’s second reading teaches us that the church is a community of support, a community of kindness, and a community of self-less love for others. It is characterized by the revelation of God through Jesus the Christ. That revelation insists that God is recognized by his compassion for his creation. No greater love has any person than that they lay down their life for their friends. Paul teaches that the Spirit given us individually is not for our self-glorification. “To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.” And that benefit is for the community. If we think of church as a building, we’ve been misled and think as a child would think. Throughout Easter we’ve heard that the “stone rejected by the builders has become the corner stone.” And that corner stone is the starting point of a building made up of living stones. Each person builds up, according to that person’s talents and gifts, the community. The community is home and source of vitality and the Breath of the Spirit of God. It is the community in which we practice the compassion Jesus exemplified for us. We may think of the church in terms of an organization. We then think of the administrators as the church – the Pope, Cardinals, Bishops, Priests and deacons. This is wrong thinking. These leaders are not the church. Their role is that of servant-leadership. The church is truly the community, those called together for support and as visible symbol and sign of God’s presence. It’s when we look to those gathered with us as members of one body, the Body of the Christ, then we understand what church is. The very term, “church”, comes from a Hebrew word (quahal) which means, “Those called together.”

Another theme is the theme of Trinity. Next Sunday we celebrate the Trinity with its very own liturgy and feast day. The understanding we derive from the readings this Sunday reveal God the Creator who breathes life into all that lives – vegetable, animal, and human. Even inert minerals and rocks have their source and continuation dependent on God’s breath. The Son’s work brings the Breath of God into the world and into the hearts and minds of all persons with compassion and self-sacrifice. The Spirit of God gives us life, animates us, inspires us, brings us to knowledge and understanding, strengthens our hearts with fortitude and courage, and nurtures us to love others even when love is risky and lacking in reward. The Trinity brings us to understand and imitate their living in community.

There many other possible themes. However, if we reflect on the currents that flow through our time the themes outlined seem irrelevant, out of touch, and in conflict with contemporary socio-economic-political-religious culture. While we speak of God in terms of unity, oneness, compassion, hope, and unselfish and unconditional love, the world in which we live focuses on rugged individualism. Much of our work and community living has to do with being the “best”: accumulating more than others, competing with others for resources, seeking notoriety and prestige through manipulation of truth. God is used as a footnote to support our view of how life should treat us individually. Such a god is not God but a graven image made in our own image and likeness. Where there is no God there is no common good. Where there is no common good there is no community of compassion and care. When we succumb to such attitudes we become nothing more than individuals whose destiny is the grave.

When we are followers of the Way of Jesus, we become persons. A person is one who relates to others with compassion, understanding, charity, hope, and with the faith that all of us are images and likenesses of the Creator God. When compassion and empathy takes a back seat to anger, violence, grasping greed, envy, avarice, and autocratic domination of others we no longer follow the Christ. From this comes war, terror, destruction of the earth, murder, violence, and laws created for the benefit of a privileged few. The secularism of our time denies the reality of the Sacred, of God, of Goodness, and of Truth. With no god there is no source of dignity and worth for every person. Creation itself is for us to use and forget. When lies become the alt-reality, appeals by leadership to their god are appeals to nothing. God is and will always be the source and judge of truth.

We seem to be killing consciousness of the reality of God and God’s presence. Our daily life is focused on making our way in the world. The sacred, what is beyond our physical perceptions, is relegated to an hour on Saturday or Sunday. With the advance of the physical sciences, with the growth of the human sciences of sociology, economics, politics, and psychology, with the advance of greater centralization of power and wealth – there is less and less consciousness of God’s presence. Secularism focuses us on our efforts, our energies. We lose our personhood and our ability to relate to others except as things to be used and discarded. The issues of immigration, of refugees, of war, of criminal punishment, of honoring and respecting life unborn and aged and disabled has become an economic and social liability in current cultural attitudes. Secularism focuses on competition. Who is there who can take from me? Whose existence costs me power, wealth, or prestige? Faith in the sacred views all reality, visible and invisible, as God’s work. The church is a gathering point where persons come together to relate to each other and to God. The need to worship is hard-wired into our DNA. We are persons in our minds, perceptions, and encounters with others when we discover the truth of existence.

This Pentecost is an opportunity to look again at our approach to life. In his farewell address to his disciples at the last Supper, Jesus prayed that God take care of his people who are in the world. Our prayer today is that God once again sent forth the Spirit to renew and recreate the world. May it be so!

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

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THE SPIRIT AT WORK: PENTECOST SUNDAY B

For this Pentecost Sunday let me start with a true story about how strongly the Holy Spirit works for good outcomes in human situations. The story comes from Northern Ireland (with thanks to Paul O’Reilly SJ for its core).

Northern Ireland is a particularly beautiful scenic place. But until recently it was a nation at war between two groups of people, Catholics and Protestants, divided along ethnic, social, cultural and religious lines. But after more than 40 plus years of violence, murder, injury, pain and suffering, peace has at last come to places where people simply did not expect to see any outbreak of peace in their lifetimes.

How and why has peace been happening? Because the Holy Spirit of God has been at work. The long and drawn-out peace process has been the work of the Spirit. Slowly and tentatively – two steps forward and one step back – this peace process has gradually been replacing what people there have called ‘the Troubles’.

It seems, looking back, that there was one decisive turning point when the cycle and spiral of violence came to a sudden full stop. It was when a bomb exploded on Remembrance Day, November 8th, 1987, in the small town of Enniskillen (population about 10,000 persons). 12 people were killed and 72 were injured. Among those killed was a young woman called Marie Wilson. It was her 21st birthday. Some birthday present! Her last dying words to her father, Gordon Wilson, the Methodist minister of the town, were these: ‘Daddy, I love you very much.’

An hour after the blast the BBC interviewed him. The journalist asked him how he felt about the people who had just blown his daughter to bits on her birthday. Without a moment’s hesitation Gordon answered: ‘Of course I forgive them. I only hope that her Spirit may be with us and bring us to Peace.’

The interview was played on the news that night. It was a moment that touched the nation. Since that moment of faith and forgiveness the momentum towards peace has changed for the better the long, violent and tormented history of Northern Ireland.

That must surely be the work of the Spirit of Pentecost, the Spirit that Jesus let loose among us on the first Pentecost Sunday, the Spirit that breathes where it chooses, the Spirit that will never be snuffed out. That Spirit of God keeps on overcoming resistance and breaking down barriers.

Here in Australia, the Catholic Church has begun today the countdown to a very vital and promising event, scheduled to take place in 2020. It’s called ‘the Plenary Council’. It will be an assembly of the whole Catholic Church of Australia. It will engage the entire People of God, by means of its representatives. It will involve a comprehensive process of deeply listening to one another, of seeing, feeling, judging and acting together, and all this for the sake of a complete review, renewal and reform of the Church’s mission, outreach, structures and workings. The Holy Spirit present to the gathered Council can shine a spotlight on everything to do with the Church - the good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful.

Surely, this planned Plenary Council cannot succeed and will not succeed without the powerful presence and action of the Holy Spirit, who is the love of God at work within us and among us, the love that empowers us to listen to one another, understand one another and work together for the good of the whole Church. It will be concerned with every group and every individual within the Church, and especially, one hopes, with the poorest, the last and the least, those paricularly dear to the heart of Jesus.

That wise international Jesuit scholar, Gerald O’Collins, has said so well: ‘What we DO with the Church depends upon what we THINK about Jesus.’ So, in short, the Plenary Council 2020 will focus most of all on discerning, discovering, and applying the dream of Jesus for his Church in Australia.

So let us pray today and every day, and over and over again, to the powerful Spirit of God that can overcome all resistance and break down every barrier: ‘Come Holy Spirit! Be for us the love of God at work, the love that “changes everything” and everyone. Create among us all a new and lasting Pentecost!’

"Brian Gleeson CP" <bgleesoncp@gmail.com>

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Volume 2 is for you. Your thoughts, reflections, and insights on the next Sundays readings can influence the preaching you hear. Send them to preacherexchange@att.net. Deadline is Wednesday Noon. Include your Name, and Email Address.

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