Thursday, May 22, 2014

"He will give you another Advocate to be with you always"

This Sunday, May 25, 2014, is the last Sunday of Easter. We are being prepared for the Ascension of Jesus, which comes next week. He has risen from death and now he is ready to be human in another way, that is, to go to up to heaven, as we hope we will too. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Sunday Bible Study sessions with family, friends and church groups.

This week, the Readings move us forward in our consideration of the Easter Mystery. We move from the contemplation of Christ's appearances after the resurrection over the last few Sundays to a meditation on the continued presence of Christ in the Church through the Holy Spirit.

A Comforting Promise

Christ Jesus had to return to heaven so that our salvation might be complete. Fr. Orlando Sapuay, M.S. tells us that Our Lord did this not to complicate things, but to comfort us. In fact, in our text we find that Jesus gives a comforting promise. He promises to care for us, and He promises to be with us always. He said "If you love me you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father and he will give you another Advocate to be with you forever" (John 14:15). Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB  says Jesus identifies the new Advocate as the Spirit of truth, unknown to the world but an abiding presence within the disciples. This then is the foundation of our trust in the guidance of the Spirit.

Fr. Phil Bloom explains to us why we do not fear the dark. We experience life as a mysterious adventure. And we are convinced that - because of Jesus - the adventure will not end with death. That is the reason for our hope. And that is what college student Stephen Chanderbhan is sharing with us when he offers his personal testimony to the message Jesus speaks: God is with us always. God never leaves those who love Him, and will even surprise us if we are open to it!

Jesus does not leave us at all. God has given us His Spirit, but His Spirit does not dominate our lives. Fr. Alex McAllister SDS explains how the Holy Spirit is there in a very gentle way prompting our actions, keeping us faithful, helping us to hang on in there even though God seems so far away. God does this so that we can grow in love, so that it can be stretched to its limits.

The Holy Spirit - The Paraclete

Here's a common thinking among Christians. God the Father–we can get a glimpse of His tenderness and strength, thanks to Michelangelo’s magnificent Sistine ceiling. And baby Jesus in the manger, the savior hanging on the Cross–these are images we can easily visualize. But Holy Spirit, Holy Ghost? Somehow, we can’t feel quite the same way about a dove as we do about a child on its mother’s lap. And then what does this “Spirit” do? The Father creates, the Son saves, but the Spirit?

Fr. James Gilhooley uses Daniel Durkin to summarize the Parakletos in these lyrical words: Eternally the Holy Spirit is love between the Father and the Son but historically the Holy Spirit is love between God and the world. Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio adds that the Holy Spirit is the real thing. He does not just come and go. He is with us always. We must grow into it, this Spirit within us. Or better, we must allow it to grow within us. Fr. John Foley, S. J. reminds us that we must learn to allow Jesus’ real presence to come into us at communion, for instance, and to love and forgive in daily life. We need Jesus to remain actually present in this world, and therefore we need the Holy Spirit.

Real love comes only from God

Everybody needs love. And, Father Cusick points out, 100% genuine real love comes only from God. The commandments protect us from falling for the counterfeits, the shams and the lies that often pass for love in our world. To love Jesus means to trust him.

Fr. Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B. says that means that we trust his radical teaching about an ideal of unselfish loving. The most important consequence of this presence of Jesus in our lives is the profound conviction, given to us by the Spirit, that we are embraced by the heavenly Father's love, just as Jesus was embraced by that love. And that is why we Christians are truly eternal optimists. Fr. Joseph Pellegrino talks about how we may be dying of cancer, we may be in difficult family situations, strained relationships, financially hurting, what have you, but no matter what the situation, we know that if we are true to Christ, He will always be the source of our joy.

However, Fr. Ron Rolheiser cautions us that right truth and right morals don’t necessarily make us disciples of Jesus. What makes us genuine disciples of Jesus is living inside His Spirit, the Holy Spirit, and this is not something abstract and vague. St. Paul tells us that we can live according to either the spirit of the flesh or the Holy Spirit. We live for the Lord. We die for the Lord. That is authentic Christian life.

Conversion, Vocations & More

With ordination season now in full swing, some great vocation stories are emerging. And this one, shared by Deacon Greg Kandra, is just one of them. Inside the burning Twin Towers on 9/11, Paul Carris took an injured stranger's hand - Judith Toppin's - and promised to lead her to safety down 71 flights of stairs. They were among the last to escape. Almost 10 years later, Carris says, he tapped into the trauma of that lifesaving experience to “save my own life” — and became a Roman Catholic deacon.

And here's an "Open Letter" from an evangelical pastor to all his fellow Protestant brothers and sisters. His brother is a Roman Catholic seminarian whom he visited him during the latter's acolyte installation ceremonies before hopefully being ordained a priest. After immersing himself into the spiritual environment of the seminarians, the pastor offered this observation: "Men, what a blessing you were to me! I have news for you. Heaven will be just like this! If these men are any indication of the kinds of people who will emerge as the priests and leaders of the Catholic Church in this new century, there are great days ahead for them, and more and more people are going to experience the Gospel in real, tangible ways." Amen.

Eight years ago this week, Taylor Marshall exchanged his Anglican clerical collar for a layman's necktie. He said it was the best decision that he has ever made. He, his wife and their children were received into the one, holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. It's been a blessing to be a Catholic. His only regret is that they did not become Catholic earlier. Taylor's story is a validation for Michael Coren who was getting challenged by his non-Catholic friends when he titled his new book: Why Catholics Are Right. To the mass of uninformed critics, he says he is often driven to say, "Think and agree, think and disagree, think whatever you like. But in the name of God and the Church He left us, please think!"

This challenge applies to us practicing Catholics as well. Judith Costello uses First Communion as her drawing board. She notes how our young first communicants are so excited on their special day as they feel the glow of love for Jesus. However, the sad reality is that some of the young people who receive the Eucharist for the first time, won’t receive Jesus again for a long time. Too many families see First Communion as the beginning and the end of their obligation for faith formation.

High School Graduations & Looking to College

"Don't believe your report Cards!" Talking about the true and hidden lessons we learned in High School, Dr. Antonio Miguel Dans delivered this message in 2001 to the graduating high school class of the top Jesuit school in the Philippines.  We share this with you because it's a wonderful reflection on the hidden lessons that we all walk away with from high school.

And here's a supposedly true story that happened at the University of Maryland.  We have no way of verifying it's authenticity. But it was simply too good and too inspiring not to pass on. It's about a graduating class who could not pray during the commencements----not by choice, but because of a recent court ruling prohibiting it. The last of the speakers at the ceremonies, a solitary student walked proudly to the microphone. He stood still and silent for just a moment, and then, it happened. All 92 students, every single one of them, suddenly sneezed!  The student on stage simply looked at the audience and said, "God bless you, each and every one of you!"

And to all our high school seniors, here's our Freshman Send Off. This fall over 1.5 million students of you will start your freshman year of college. Some of you will hit the ground running and never look back. For others their freshman year, especially the first few months, will be more of a challenge. Thirty percent of you will actually drop out during their first year. If you’re one of that 1.5 million and don’t want to be part of the 30%, check out our Freshman Survival Guide. It's the "17 Things College Freshman Should Know Before Classes Start."

Another eventful week in our Catholic World. Have a great and blessed new week.

Keep the Faith. Peace.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief

BURNING QUESTION: What does the Holy Spirit do in your life?
FEATURED BLOG: Why Catholics Are Right
PASTORAL HISPANA: Por nuestros frutos seremos conocidos

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