we celebrate Pentecost, the 50th day that signals the start of the universal mission of the Church -- a mission that overcomes human obstacles and has the Spirit as its driving force. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Sunday Bible Study sessions with family, friends and church groups.
"Receive the Holy Spirit."
Pentecost is not just another Sunday. Fr. John Foley, S. J. explains that it is a feast equal to Christmas and Easter themselves.
The Feast of Pentecost, originally the Jewish Feast of weeks
commemorating the gift of the Law to Moses on Mt. Sinai 50 days after
the Exodus, was the day when the Holy Spirit was poured out in the Upper
Room upon the apostles and other disciples in the form of tongues of
fire and a strong wind, fifty days after Easter Sunday, the day marking
the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.
In the Gospel we are told that the apostles, imprisoned and bound by
fear of the Jews after Jesus' death, have locked themselves into the
upper room. Then Jesus came and stood before them. He breathed on them
and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit." And immediately, the apostle's
fears vanished. But what changed the disciples from fearful hiding
behind locked doors to fearless witnesses in the world? Fr. James
Gilhooley says the Holy Spirit is the master of surprises who makes the impossible possible. He is the one who reminds us that it does not require great people to do great things - just unselfish ones.
So who exactly is the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit is the animating principle of the Christian life, the Soul of the Christian soul, explains Dr. Anthony Lilles. Despite this knowledge, many people today still want to know where the Church “came up with” the Holy Spirit. Mark Shea attempts to answer the question for them.
Fr. Phil Bloom explains that the Holy Spirit - Jesus' first gift - is His greatest gift to us. And this is because this gift contains God Himself, the Third Person of the Holy Trinity. But the Holy Spirit is not just a person inside the Trinity, hopelessly abstract and beyond our conception, Fr. Ron Rolheiser reminds us. He points out that Scripture
tells us that the Holy Spirit is also very concrete, conceivable, and
tangible inside of charity, joy, peace, patience, goodness,
longsuffering, fidelity, gentleness, and chastity.
Pentecost Marks the Birth of the Church
is considered to be the birth of the Church. The Holy Spirit was
poured out into the apostles on Pentecost. The First Reading from tells
the story of how - upon receiving the Holy Spirit - the apostles began
to speak in different tongues and proclaimed the Good News of Jesus
death and resurrection to people of all nationalities in Jerusalem.
Today's Church also speaks in the tongues of all men and women of every race, culture, and nationality. She speaks with a common language because she utters God's only and unitary Word. Fr. Charles Irvin explains that of all the diversities in humanity, the Church makes one inter-dependent unity. All of us together are formed by the Holy Spirit in the one Body of Christ. Fr. Joseph Pellegrino advises us that in our own parishes today, we have to get away from the thought that someone or some group is rather an exception than a norm in the Church. As Catholics we don't just put up with each other's differences, we value each other's differences as a unique manifestation of the Holy Spirit without which our faith body would be incomplete.
Pentecost invites us once again to walk with the Church, breathe with
the Church, hope with the Church, feel with the Church. Fr. Orlando
Sapuay, M.S. says Easter therefore is not just coming to a wonderful,
inspiring worship service. It is about being sent back into the hostile world, empowered by the Holy Spirit, to bear witness to the identity of God as revealed in Jesus. Just as Jesus was sent by the Father, so also he sends the community.
Therefore, Fr. Alex McAllister SDS points out, for Christians everyday is a Pentecost Day.
"Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them"
In the Gospel Jesus says, "Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and
whose sins you retain are retained.” The power of the Spirit not only
authorizes, but also empowers the apostles to forgive and to retain
sins. Father Cusick explains further that the Apostles Creed links "the
forgiveness of sins" with its profession of faith in the Holy Spirit,
for the risen Christ entrusted to the apostles the power to forgive sins when he gave them the Holy Spirit. With this act, Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB adds, Jesus formally sends out to the world His apostles, just as He had been sent to the world by the Father.
But many today ask aloud why go to a priest to confess our sins? Could
God also forgive outside of the rituals of the Catholic Church? Of
course. Fr. Robert Barron explains that God is held bound by nothing.
But the stubbornly incarnational God, Catholics believe, has desired to
convey his forgiveness through the body of the church. As the priest
administers the sacraments, the priest is operating, not in his own
person, but in persona Christi (in the person of Christ). His voice, his
gesture, and his embodied presence are a sacramental representation, a
bodying forth, of Christ’s embodied presence.
And to this discussion we add this wonderful resource for all: 20 Tips For Making A Good Confession.
Gifts and Charisms of the Holy Spirit
If you ask Catholics and Pentecostals about the number of gifts of the Holy Spirit, and what those gifts are, you'll likely get two different answers.
Pentecostals, and some other Protestants, believe that there are nine
spiritual gifts. In contrast, Catholics believe that there are seven
spiritual gifts and we receive them all in the Sacrament of Confirmation.
These are powerful gifts, freely given to all. So what if you, just like Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio, did not quite “get it” when you were confirmed? I’ve got good news for you. You actually did get the Spirit and his gifts. Thus, Deacon Greg Kandra explains, we
need to know that what we are undertaking in the Sacrament of
Confirmation, is not just a thing of joy, but something more vast and
more intimidating than anything we've ever encountered. To be in church, to receive the sacraments, is to stand before the presence of God. The good deacon tells us that we need to be awestruck. While Pope Benedict said the Holy Spirit will make us "fearless witnesses of Christ."
Pentecost Novena, Prayer, & Being Catholic
The Pentecost novena in honor of the Holy Spirit is the oldest of all novenas.
It is still the only novena officially prescribed by the Church. This
novena is supposed to begin last bweek on the day after the Solemnity
of the Ascension. To those who did not participate in the novena, it's never too late to start it today.
And are you familiar with Theology on Tap? It
started with an idea in 1981 that parishes should do something to make
young adult Catholics feel more welcome and more connected to their
faith. Now, over 30 years later, the program has blossomed, reaching
into parishes and dioceses across the United States and some countries
overseas. Plus Fr. Anthony Lusvardi, SJ notes that there are still plenty of things to love about being Catholic. Here's his not very scientific list of the small pleasures of our ever-new, ever-ancient faith. Its his Top 10 Small Pleasures of being Catholic.
Judith Costello shares a blog post she composed after sitting in the
bleachers watching her son’s basketball practice. During the game, a
man started ranting about how Catholic don't care about the poor. She
penned a response to the man's assertion that all the poverty in the
world would end if the Church would only sell all their artwork and
statues and gold and give it to help the poor.
Graduation 2014, Spelling Bee & More
High schools and colleges all over the US are celebrating graduations this week. Rev. James V. Schall, S.J. asks what college graduates actually learn before they graduate?
Depending on the student and the faculty, the answer ranges from “not
much” to “an amazing amount.” While a commencement speaker at one high
school graduation ceremony opened the eyes and minds of his young
audience by talking about the true and hidden lessons we learned in high school.
Meantime, Marc Hack reflects on how today is a perfect day to make
lasting memories – the kind you may someday share with your
grandchildren. He offers his list of "20 Ways To Make Today Unforgettable."
And we bring you back a story from the 2011 Scripps Spelling Bee contest that concluded last week, we share with you the "Last 10 Words of the 2011 Spelling Bee." Cymotrichous, Periscii, Sorites. They're just some of the tounge-twisting, strange words the finalists actually faced.
If those were a piece of cake for you, maybe you’re ready to see if
you could actually make the cut. Check out the rest of the list and
give it a shot.
Another eventful week in our Catholic World. Have a great and blessed new week.
Keep the Faith. Peace.
Publisher & Editor in chief
BURNING QUESTION: Do you Confess before you receive Communion?
FEATURED BLOG: Smacking You into Sainthood
PASTORAL HISPANA: Pentecostes es la fiesta del nacimiento de la Iglesia
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