Thursday, May 24, 2012

"Receive the Holy Spirit."

This Sunday, May 27, 2012, we celebrate the feast of Pentecost. We commemorate this important event, which took place fifty days after the Resurrection of Christ, namely: the pouring forth of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and disciples gathered around Mary, the Mother of Jesus, in the Cenacle. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Sunday Bible Study with family, friends and church groups.

The feast of Pentecost is joined to Easter. Canon Dr. Daniel Meynen explains how these two solemnities allow us to call to mind all of the history of Salvation in Jesus the Son of God. What began on Easter, this Sunday finds its fullness and its completion. On the evening of Easter, the risen Jesus gave the Holy Spirit to his disciples for the first time, so that they might receive him in fullness on Pentecost.

The Blessings of The Holy Spirit

Alfred McBride, O.Praem. tells a story of how the first Pentecost could have happened from the point of view of a Greek traveler who stood bewildered in the Jerusalem crowd. What was happening? All about him Jews from many nations milled excitedly and pointed to a group in the center of the square.The apostles were speaking in tongues when they emerged from the Cenacle upper room after being blessed by the Holy Spirit.

What exactly is a blessing? Fr. Ron Rolheiser says it is a way of remaining permanently present to someone. It is a way of giving someone our love, our insight, our strength, our presence, in a word, our spirit, in our physical absence. He points out that Jesus left us with His blessing. His spirit, the Holy Spirit, is received by all who receive that blessing. But, like anything planted so deep in us, it has to have time to make its way into our actions, our words, our deeds.

Fr. John Foley, SJ says whenever we find patches of charity or joy in ourselves, or patience and kindness, or the ability to endure hardship and injuries; when we are tempted toward mildness and modesty, then we can be sure that the Holy Spirit is at work within us. These kinds of qualities are now the signs of the Holy Spirit, much more than heavy winds and tongues as of fire. On Pentecost Sunday, Fr. Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B. explains, we celebrate the wonderful good news that the risen Lord has poured out his Spirit upon us, first of all to convince us of his victory over sin and death, and then to enable us to continue His work of salvation by our own love and concern for others.

On Pentecost, The Church Was Born

In the Acts of the Apostles, the Holy Spirit didn't just fill the Upper Room where the apostles had gathered, it filled them. They were on fire for Jesus. They began to understand the mystery of Christ. They were still afraid to suffer and die, Fr. Joseph Pelligrino points out, but that became secondary to throwing open the door, going out and proclaiming the Gospel.

Three thousand people heard them, and caught their fire, and became Christian. Together they formed the Body of Christ, the Church. Pentecost joyfully announces the birth of our parish/faith communities. As the ancient theological formula said, “Jesus announced the kingdom of God and what came was the church.” But the joy of the Risen Christ is not to be limited to this small flock of disciples. Fr. Orlando Sapuay, MS says God’s act of salvation in Christ needs to be communicated to all: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you”.

Have you received the Holy Spirit?

Jesus calls us out of our Upper Rooms. But, as Fr. Joseph Pellegrino points out, our Lord doesn’t just call us to proclaim the Good News. Jesus gives us the ability to proclaim the Gospel. He gives us Third Person of the Trinity that forms us into Church. That Spirit allows us to speak with our lives the language of the Love of God, to hear God in every one of us. This great outpouring of the Holy Spirit is something that continues in the Church right up to the present day. Indeed, Fr. Alex McAllister SDS adds, it will always be one of the identifying characteristics of the Church.

We receive the same Holy Spirit today with our Baptism and Confirmation, Fr. James Gilhooley explains. And its gifts are awesome: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. But we must learn to use them. Have you ever received a new credit card with a sticker saying “Must call to activate before using?” Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio says the Holy Spirit and his gifts are the same way. You have to call in and activate them. Do it today and every day, and especially every time you attend Mass.

The Spirit enables the baptized believer to begin a transition from this world which will one day end to the fullness of life in the Trinity which will never end. Thus, Father Cusick tells us, we are given a foretaste of eternal joy by “pouring” abundantly “into our hearts” the eternal love of God.

The Birth of the Sacrament of Confession

In John 20:19-23, we hear "Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained." It is in this Gospel for Sunday that Jesus institutes the Sacrament of Confession and its grace to forgive sins upon His apostles and His Church.

Sadly, many today express a rather deep impatience with the whole idea of confessing one’s sins to a priest. Why do we require a mediator when seeking the divine forgiveness? Could God forgive outside of the rituals of the Catholic Church? Rev. Robert Barron says of course. God is held bound by nothing. But the incarnational God, Catholics believe, has desired to convey His forgiveness through the body of the church. And that’s why we go to a priest, an embodied alter Christus, for confession.

Despite this teaching, we still see a decline in the use of Confession among Catholics. They exclaim, "But God accepts and loves us as we are!" Yes, this is true. But Confession is not about God loving you more or less. God will love you straight to hell if that's what you want. Fr. Philip Neri Powell, O.P., Ph.D. says Confession is not about how much God loves you but about how much you love God. And, Elizabeth Esther adds, Confession also opens the door to us forgiving others.

Memorial Day, Suffering & Freedom of Religion

It is providential that Pentecost 2012 falls on Memorial Day. Pentecost Sunday underscores our Christian mission. Memorial Day reminds us of the sacrifice required to maintain freedom. An, Fr. Phil Bloom reminds us, our first and most cherished liberty is religious freedom. Today in America, this very freedom is under siege. As our bishops state: "We are Catholics. We are Americans... Our allegiances are distinct, but they need not be contradictory and instead should be complimentary."

In related Catholic Social Justice news, the percentage of Americans who identify themselves as “pro-choice” is at the lowest point ever measured by Gallup, according to a new survey. A record-low 41 percent now identify themselves as “pro-choice,” down from 47 percent last July and 1 percentage point down from the previous record low of 42 percent, set in May 2009. Gallup began asking people to define themselves as pro-choice or pro-life in 1995. This is consistent with the story we reported last week that the youth of today are more Pro-Life than ever and they are marching in droves to share their belief in the sanctity of human life.

And we can't help but share this video shared by Elizabeth Scalia on homosexuality. She speaks the Catholic truth. And the video by Michael Voris is simply thoughtful and moving. He does a fine job of putting his finger on the exact spot I was unable to find, and does it with beauty and depth. Please watch it. And if you do have friends or family members who are homosexuals, please share this video with them so they may understand how much God loves them and truly understands their suffering.

And on the topic of suffering, Jennifer Fulwiler addresses how to help people who are particularly troubled by the issue of suffering. Whenever the subject of faith would come up, they would ask, "Where is your God when people suffer?" Her simple answer was one word - crucifix. When we suffer, our God is there suffering with us.

Winning, Coffee & a Navy SEAL's Advice to Graduates

Paul Dion, STL's uncle taught him this. "Killing" the person you defeat is not necessary. Making your victory a pleasant lesson for the opponent is the ideal way to win. Losing without learning something is the real loss. And he can't recall how many times his uncle had paraphrased Jean Paul Sartre the existentialist by saying, "It's in dying that you define your life. It's in winning that you prepare your dying." Mighty strong lessons to be learned there.

Eric Greitens is a 38-year-old Rhodes scholar and humanitarian worker turned highly awarded U.S. Navy SEAL. Today, he is the CEO of the Mission Continues, a nonprofit foundation he created to help wounded and disabled veterans find ways to serve their communities at home. To the graduates of Tufts, Greitens issued a unique challenge, one rarely heard at commencements today: to sacrifice, to serve one's country and to live magnanimously. He called students to think above and beyond their own dreams, their own desires, and to be strong. It's a lesson sorely missing in the sad state of today's me-first world.

Finally, Andrew Sciba offers up the top 5 reasons why coffee is better than beer. All in all, he thinks coffee’s wide availability and downright affordable price gives it an edge over beer. Of course, the same could be said for a Honda Civic and a Toyota Supra Turbo.

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: The Advantages of First Confessions at a Tender Age
PASTORAL HISPANA: Fuente del amor para la Iglesia y el mundo

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