(known as Laetare Sunday–the Sunday of Joy; and the vestments might be of the color of rose, instead of violet or purple.)
The story of the man born blind man
John the Evangelist is inviting us to ask ourselves: Who are theblind ones? Who are those who see?
This story is amazing. William Barclay, the great Presbyterian scripture scholar, comments that “there’s no more vivid character drawing in all of literature than this. With deft and revealing touches John causes the people in this story to come alive for us.
He says this is the only story in which the sufferer was blind from birth. The Jews had this strange notion that one could have sin in them before one was born. They also believed that the sins of their fathers are visited upon their children.
And there’s something interesting about the pool of Siloam he mentions. When Hezekiah realized Sennacherib was going to invade Palestine, he had a tunnel cut through solid rock from the spring into the city of Jerusalem. It was two feet wide and six feet high. They had to zigzag it around sacred sites so it was 583 yards long. The engineers began cutting from both ends and met in the middle–truly an amazing feat for that time. The pool of Siloam was where the stream entered into the city. Siloam means “sent” because the water had to be sent through the city. Jesus sent the blind there for his cure.
John causes the people to come alive for us.
First, there’s the blind man himself. He began to be irritated by the Pharisees persistence. He himself was persistent that the man who put mud on his eyes had cured him of his blindness. Period! He would not change his story, no matter how many times the Pharisees questioned him. He was a brave man because he was certain to be excommunicated–(if you’re not familiar with the term–that means they would throw him out of the community.)
Second, there were his parents. They were uncooperative with the Pharisees, but they were also afraid. The authorities had a powerful weapon. They could excommunicate them as well, whereby they could be shut off from God’s people and their property could be forfeited as well.
Third, there were the Pharisees. At first, they didn’t believe the man was cured. And then they were annoyed they could not meet the man’s argument that was based on scripture: “Jesus has done a wonderful thing; the fact that he has done it means that God hears him; now God never hears the prayers of a bad man; therefore Jesus could not be a bad man.”
The consequence of this for the man was that the authorities cast him out of the temple. But Jesus, the Lord of the Temple, went looking for him. Jesus is always true to the one who is true to him.
And secondly, to this man Jesus revealed himself intimately. Jesus asked the man if he believed in the Son of God. The man asked who that was. And Jesus said it was He.
And so, this man, who is not given a name in this story, progresses in his perception and understanding of Jesus and so should we.At first, he says, “the man they call Jesus opened my eyes.”
Then when he was asked his opinion of Jesus in view of the fact that he had given him his sight, his answer was, “He is a prophet.” Finally, he came to confess that Jesus is the Son of God.
Before we leave this wonderful story, I want you to take note of the final line that surely sounded Jesus’ death knell and is a warning to us all.
Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”
Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?”
Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.
So in our world today, we ask, “Who are the blind ones?” “Who are those who see? We’re dealing with the reality, or rather the unreality of “fake news” these days, Which politicians are the ones that really see and know what is going on. Which politicians pray in order to bring God’s light into their decision making. As a consequence, it’s hard to know whom to believe these days, where to find and sort out the truth from the falsehood or the lies.
Some people only see the appearances of things. Many of us don’t have the eyes to see the unseen and the unknowable.
A lot of advertising today only shows handsome young men and women.
What do you see when you wander around town?
Are you on the lookout for the truly beautiful?
Like Cindy, the bag lady I found sitting in the park knitting one day next to the main library in downtown Lauderdale.
A while back I took a double take when I noticed her on a cold morning just outside the door. She caught my eye because she was polishing her nails a luminous pink. She had on a fuzzy cardigan to match. I backed up ten steps to say hello.
What impressed me the most was the twinkle in her eye, her cheerful demeanor and her ready smile.
I wasn’t nearly as self-possessed when I was homeless for a short time in the early Eighties. It ain’t pretty. I was scared to death.
What do you See with those eyes of yours, my friend?
Are you able to see the truly Beautiful People, like Cindy?
Can you distinguish between the real and the unreal / the true and the false ~ the True Self from the false self .
In today’s first reading the Lord teaches Samuel, his prophet not to judge by appearances, but tosee beyond–to see into.
“Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance
but the Lord looks into the heart” (1 Samuel 16:10.)
We must not allow the hypocrites — or as I call them the “lipocrites” — to blind us from the beauty that is available to anyone who does have eyes to see.
No! Don’t excuse yourself from finding God or love or a loving community of faith just because there are some who don’t get it.
Jesus healed the blind man;
he let the sensuous woman wash his feet with her hair;
hung out with sinners and the tax collectors;
told people to “Love one another as I have loved you”;
let the youngest disciple lean on his breast during the last supper;
kept his mouth shut when he was accused;
and, most importantly, simply did what his Father told him to do: be obedient (stay on message) until the very end.
And . . . and they killed him for that.
Just remember, if you choose to preach this gospel,
if you tell people to see the beauty — the Christ — in the person in front of you,
whether that one be a bag lady / homosexual / fallen down drunk / drug addict / or the librarians hauled off to jail for protecting their books,
mentally ill, crazy man / Muslim / Republican / Democrat / Jew / Catholic / atheist
they may well crucify you too or cast you out of their life,
or stop their ears to anything you say or do —
just as they did with the blind man in this Gospel story that John tells so dramatically today.
God sees differently, you know. He does not divide–as some are trying to do in our country these days. No! God unifies.
God made us all as his children. God sustains all of us in the present moment.
God loves us all. No matter what!
Can you see yourself with God’s eyes, my friend?
Many people think they’re a piece of junk and so they pretend to be somebody else.
But God made you just-as-you-are.
He wants you to see yourself as he sees you.
When you can do that, then you will change.
The good in you will increase; the not-so-good will fall away because God himself will do the transforming.
The man who was blind was able to see that.
That was the second gift of sight Jesus gave him –not just the ability to see trees and people and flowers but to See with the eyes of the heart.
Why? Because Jesus did more than give him his sight.
He Touched him!
He drew him close!
He treated the man as a person!
And that, very simply, is all Jesus wants US to do:
Treat one another as PERSONS! Someone just like you.
Try it today. With your honey who treated you like vinegar this morning.
Your hyper kids. Your nasty neighbor. Your lousy boss. A bedraggled stranger on the street.
That’s the message of this gospel story.
You are truly My Light.
You help me see the beauty in myself and all around me.
My life and my world are very different because of You!
You have given me true sight,
the ability to see into things.
To have the courage to look at My Reality — good and not-so-good.
To see the beauty in the people in my life instead of their faults.
I want to help people see their own beauty!
To call it forth from them.
To walk around this world and See the beauty our Father has created all around us.
I love You, Jesus.
You are My Light!
I believe that You truly are the Light of the World!
And St. Paul in today’s second reading sums it up:
“Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead,
and Christ will give you light” (Ephesians 5:8-14.)
Now here’s the song about yearning for light. Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.
And here are today’s Mass readings that accompany this Gospel.
We’re in an important series of Sunday scriptures used to help catechumens (those preparing to meet their Lord in baptism) on their way to a deeper faith. This is a series of three stories (1st) The Woman at the Well, (2nd) The Man Born Blind (next Sunday) and (3rd) The Raising of Lazarus. The Church has used these stories of John the Evangelist all through its history for these three Sundays to interpret for those first getting to know Jesus for the first time because they are so clear, and if you open your heart, they can have devastating, even ravishing impact for you as well.
This Sunday’s gospel (Jn 4:5-42) has Jesus and his buddies passing through Samaritan territory.
Here are a few notes from Scripture scholar William Barclay once again. Jesus was on his way to Galilee in the north of Palestine from Judaea in the south. But he had to pass through Samaria, unless he took the long way across the Jordan River. Jacob’s well stands at the fork of the road in Samaria, one branch going northeast, the other going west. This place has many memories for Jews as Jacob bought this ground and bequeathed it to Joseph who had his bones brought back here for burial. The well itself is more than 100 feet deep. You also need to know the Jews and Samaritans had a feud that had lasted for centuries.
William Barclay tells us that this story shows us a great deal about the character of Jesus.
~ It shows us his real humanity. He was weary from the journey and he sat by the side of the well, tired and trying to relax a little.
~ It shows us the warmth of his empathy. From an ordinary religious leader, from one of the orthodox church leaders of the day the Samaritan woman would have fled in embarrassment. She at last had met someone who was not a critic, but a friend; it seemed so easy and relaxed for her to talk with him.
~ It shows that Jesus is one who breaks down barriers. The quarrel between the Jews and the Samaritans was an old, old story, going back to 720 B.C. when the Assyrians that invaded the northern kingdom and captured it. The Samaritans lost their racial purity and therefore lost their right to be called Jews. Jesus wades into the middle of this controversy.
~ And there is still another way Jesus was taking down barriers. The Samaritan was a woman. The strict Rabbis forbade Rabbis to greet a woman in public, not even their own wife or daughter. And not only that, she was also a woman of “notorious character”. No decent man, let alone a Rabbi, would have been seen in her company, or even exchanging a word with her, and yet Jesus entered into conversation with her.
And now here’s my telling of the story . . .
Jesus and his buddies came to the well; and his buddies went off to the nearby town of Sychar, apparently, to find some food. The hour’s about noon and Jesus is weary, hot, dusty, sweaty (I presume) and thirsty.
He sits down by Jacob’s well but has no bucket; the cool stuff is right down there but he can’t get himself a drink.
Along comes a woman with a bucket and he’s about to break all kinds of taboos: One, Jews don’t associate with Samaritans, as I said. Second, men don’t speak to women in public. She is shocked by his shattering both of these impenetrable barriers and is quite flustered. And third, she’s not exactly a woman of high moral standing.
He soon puts her at ease by asking her for a drink. As the great Teacher he is, he reverses the symbol and says he will give her “living waters so she will never be thirsty again.”
She’s intrigued and begins to relax into his accepting, easy manner.
(We forget that He was probably a handsome 31-year-old.) In fact, she quickly feels such total acceptance that she trusts him to touch her–on the inside. And at some point, I realized that I had to learn how to proclaim (share ) the Good News not over the heads of masses of people but to share it as Jesus did here in a stranger’s town–one person at a time.
I ache inside when I realize so many have turned a deaf ear to people’s needs because we priests and bishops often do not match our words with the lives we lead or because we use harsh and condemning words that push people away and sting their souls instead of drawing them close. Pope Francis is showing us the way to do this too.
In my videographer’s eye I can see the two of them sitting close to each other on the wall of the well, gently conversing as Jesus listens to the story of her brokenness. I’ve learned that the only legitimate way to preach the gospel is to do so in mutual regard and respect and in mutual vulnerability.
If we keep yelling at people in harsh words we will be justifiably tuned out. St. Francis of Assisi is known to have said, “Preach the gospel; when necessary, use words.”
I look to Pope Francis and am in awe of this holy man at–now eighty-six-years-old with his youthful vigor and eternal smile and his message of “mercy upon mercy upon mercy.” Oh! How I wish I could serve again like that. I pray that in some small way that it would be so!
The story of the woman at the well ends by telling us that this wonderful human being in Whom-God-shown-through (re: the Gospel of the Transfiguration — Second Sunday of Lent) broke down the wall of prejudice and hostility between Jews and Samaritans so dramatically that the whole town welcomed him; and he and his buddies–his twelve apostles–stayed for two days.
And there you have it, dear friends. This is the Jesus I know and love. And desire so much to be like.
I give thanks that I have had mentors who drew me close.
In whose loving embrace I received non-judgmental love
and through whose example I myself desire to love without judgment.
In my own thirst to receive the faith of those I meet and care for
may I always bring them to You, the spring of living water
so that the water you give them “will become IN THEM
a spring of living water welling up to eternal life.”
So be it! AMEN!
Here’s Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge over Troubled Waters Click here.
Years ago when I first heard this song, I thought Jesus was / is the bridge!
And here are all of the Mass readings that accompany this story, that is with catechumens or candidates for the sacraments of Initiation present, Click here.
William Barclay: the Gospel of John – Volume 1 Revised Edition pp. 146 – 151. / The Daily Study Bible Series The Westminster Press – Philadelphia 1975
“I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse.
Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live, by loving the Lord, your God, heeding his voice, and holding fast to him” (Deuteronomy 30:15-20).
One often hears the words Choose Life as a Pro-Life message. That’s important, but we’re invited to choose life again and again, every day. This Lent is an acceptable time to choose the life that affirms and nourishes us and to deliver ourselves from the dysfunctional communication and game-playing within our own homes that damages the souls of our spouses and our children.
Let’s choose Life this day in the way we speak to and about the folks we meet today.
Choice is an act of the will, the highest power of the human person. We need to choose our words carefully. To preside over–take responsibility for what comes out of our what comes out of our mouths. To realize our words create life or death.
And then in today’s gospel, Jesus says,
“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must take up his cross daily and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.
What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself? (Luke 9: 22-25)
Jesus gives us a koan here. That’s a Zen word for a riddle given to a student to mull over until the the student gets the insight.
Try to get into it this great saying of Jesus this Lent. Ponder its meaning for you right now. Copy it on a card and repeat it often until you get it.
Jesus’ message is so counter-cultural. In our society people do anything to avoid the smallest bit of pain. There are even numbing pads so that you don’t feel it when you prick your finger for the Accu-check for diabetes. And we avoid emotional pain by not thinking through our problems. Some folks do this by getting a hasty divorce to run away from their problems or by dumping a girlfriend who no longer suits them via way of a cruel text message.
Lent places before us the Cross of Jesus and his loving embrace of it as our Savior, but also as a model for us. He willingly stretched out his arms to be nailed. Jesus knew he would have to face a lot of suffering on his journey. He knew he would make people angry by proclaiming the truth he saw in his heart. He knew that it would lead him to death, but he never strayed from the road to Jerusalem.
The issue is Acceptance of whatever life calls us to.Jesus accepted the Cross because he chose to be faithful to his mission.
He was a person of absolute integrity. No one was going to dissuade him from being who he was.
This is the Jesus I know and love: The one who has the strength to love, no matter what. He’s my Lord, my Savior–and my mentor, if you will. I would like very much to be like Him–if he would grant me that grace. How ’bout you?
Tomorrow we begin to reflect on Jesus forty-day retreat into the desert’ (the Mass text for this coming Sunday) to prepare for his mission.
Now before you go, here’s the old hymn “Jesus walked the lonesome valley” Click here.
And here are today’s Mass readings if you would like to reflect on them. Click here.
Many of us are thinking of our Valentine’s these days — our lovers, intend-eds, spouses, classmates, mothers and also spouses remembering their deceased loved ones, even–or maybe especially during or after, this pandemic.
Hallmark would encourage us to “send the very best.” And marketeers would like to get their greedy fingers on our credit cards for this one-day holiday, wouldn’t they? I don’t have a TV but I was in a doctor’s office some time ago and saw a commercial for edible ‘floral’ arrangements’ that looked awfully tempting.
And later I stopped by the Post Office and as I was standing in line, I noticed this young black dude posting dozens of what looked like small pink cards and dropping them one by one in the mail bin. I went over to him and teased, “Are you sending those to all of your Valentines?” He turned around toward me and grinned, “I wish! he said.
But let’s go a little deeper here. What is true love, really?
I’ve officiated at the marriages of many young couples during my years as a priest who have chosen St. Paul’s Ode to Love for their wedding Mass.
It has to be one of the most glorious pieces of prose of all time.
Take the time to take it in and see how you measure up. In First Corinthians 13 the great apostle writes to us . . . .
. . . . If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love,
I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.
And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge;
if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing.
If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient,
love is kind.
It is not jealous,
Love is not pompous,
it is not inflated,
it is not rude,
it does not seek its own interests,
it is not quick-tempered,
it does not brood over injury,
it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.
It bears all things,
believes all things,
hopes all things,
endures all things.
Love never fails.
So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is Love.
~ I Corinthians 13
You are Love itself.
We give you thanks for the people in our lives who have loved-us-into-the-Persons-we-have-become.
We rejoice in them and remember them in love.
But so many of us are wounded because we have not experienced the parental love that would allow us to know how to love.
Help us take your apostle Paul’s words to heart that we may truly know the true meaning of love.
May we have a heart open to all persons, all of life, all of the universe.
To You Lord, be glory and praise, now and forever.
Before you go, take a moment to listen to Bette Midler’s “The Rose”. Click here. It’s a song I’ve always favored–one of my generation. I think it sets the tone for what I want to say here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen and have a great day! It’s a song I’ve always attributed to Our Lady.
I’ll be publishing three more Valentine’s blogs trying to unpack the meaning of St. Paul’s Ode to Love next week until Valentine’s Day Tuesday, the 14 of February.
On this coming Monday, January, 16, 2023, we will honor a great American ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He was 39 when he was martyred on April 4, 1968.
On that fateful day, Dr. King took an assassin’s bullet that he knew was waiting for him at any time. It came while he was leading a strike for sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee. He inspired and led the Civil Rights movement that acquired great change in our land. This man is one of my mentors. I was in his presence only once in 1963 when I was in the seminary in Baltimore. Our Rector arranged for some of us to hear him speak when he came to Baltimore.
He was a man who committed himself to nonviolence like Mohandas Gandhi, and also Jesus my Lord who died on the Cross for us. Dr. King and I believe that nonviolent action is the only way that justice and peace can be achieved. Dr. King inspired ordinary folks, black and white, to stand up for their rights and to sit down and accept the vicious blows of police and others in their racial hatred. His organizers trained them to have the courage to go to jail for what they believed.
On, the day after his assassination on April 4, 1968, I formally entered the service of the Roman Catholic Church as an ordained deacon. I was a seminary student at the Theological College of the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
The shrill sound of sirens all over the city mingled with the ancient chant melody of the Litany of the Saints as I lay prostrate on the floor of our chapel with my brothers to be ordained. As I looked up to this man and his ideals of justice and peace and freedom, I also wanted to absorb them into my body and soul, I took in a deep breath and pledged my life to Christ.
Today, in this land of America, the freedoms and ideals that Thomas Jefferson told us all men are created equal and have the right to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness are seriously in danger of slipping away from us. We witnessed the desecration of our Capitol.
Racism that was covert for centuries before it reared its ugly head and been condoned when it should have been severely condemned in Charlottesville, Virginia, the very home of Jefferson’s great University of Virginia, in the bombings of Jewish Synagogues, in Muslim Mosques and violence in El Paso deliberately against brown people, and the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing, in Uvalde, Texas and so many other school shootings across our country.
The number of race-based killings and other incidents in our country in the last two years has been astounding — some by officers of the law. It has taken our young people to lead the way to and advocate for real change against gun violence led by the courageous leaders from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
O God of Justice, raise up men and women in our day who will inspire us and restore us to the original ideals of our nation. Enable us to wake up from our slumber and see what we have lost, and safeguard our freedoms. Give us the strength and courage to pledge our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor to win this spiritual revolution of justice, peace and love that now lies before us in 2023.
We also ask you bless President Joe Biden and all our elected officials, and our whole country that we may heal, come together and start anew in this new year of 2023. We pray to you, God, for You are the God who cries for justice for your children and who still hears the cries of those who know and realize they are poor without You. We pray–for only You can can restore us to the ideal of freedom and justice FOR ALL.
To You Glory and Honor and Power, now and forever. Amen!
May we call each other more than a generation later to the principles of Nonviolence Dr. King instilled in his followers.
They were trained to sit down on the ground and take blows of the police because they knew that Nonviolence was a more powerful weapon than guns and bombs.
Dr. King held no public office. He persuaded us by the power of his words and the depth of his conviction.
And his willingness to give his life for what he believed in ~ no matter what.
What areyou are willing to give your life for?
I continually ask myself the same question and pray the answer is Yes! (Or at least I hope so.)
It has been a generation since Dr. King delivered his most powerful and eloquent speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963 that led subsequently to President Lyndon Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act into law on June 2, 1964, I offer this video reflection from the History Channel on Dr. King’s “I have a Dream speech at the Lincoln Memorial, followed by some powerful excerpts from that speech. Click here.
Then follow with this excerpt from his speech. Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.
The Feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ-King of the Universe Sunday November 20, 2022
Today’s feast is Good News for most of us who are weary (and fed up?) with all that’s gone down with the election and it’s aftermath and the Pandemic too. I just did a bit of research in the liturgical archives: this feast has gotten an upgrade! Before it was just “The Feast of Christ the King.” Now it’s the Feast (we give it the fancy name of Solemnity) of Our Lord Jesus Christ King of the Universe. That offers us a lot more richness for our spirituality and even our politics as you’ll see in a few moment.
* * * *
Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
And as we look forward to Thanksgiving and Advent and Christmas—the New Year this feast brings us, not just a sigh of relief from all we’ve been through this past year, for me at least, but an explosion of new hope and wonder as we realize the implications of living in Jesus’ kin-dom here and now!
I was blown away by the insights of famed Franciscan author Father Richard Rohr’s recent book The Universal Christ from which I unabashedly quote extensively here.
I am making the whole of creation new . . . It will come true . . . It is already done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, both the Beginning and the End. ~ Revelations 21:5-6
Jesus didn’t normally walk around Judea making “I AM” statements; if he did, he very soon would have ended up being stoned to death. He didn’t normally talk that way. But when we look at the phrase we all love, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life,” we see a very fair statement that should not offend or threaten anyone. He’s describing the “Way” by which all humans and all religions must allow matter and Spirit to operate as one.
Once we see that the Eternal Christ is the one talking in these passages, Jesus’ words about the nature of God—and those created in the image of God—seem full of deep hope and a broad vision for all of creation.
The leap of faith that the orthodox Christians made from the early period was that the eternal Christ presence was truly speaking through the person of Jesus. Divinity and humanity were somehow able to speak as one, for if the union of God and humankind is “true” in Jesus, there is hope that it might be true in all of us too. That is the big takeaway from having Jesus speak as the Eternal Christ.
He is indeed “the pioneer and perfector of our faith,” as Hebrew puts it (12:2).
As the “Father of Orthodoxy,” St. Athanasius (296—375) wrote when the church had a more social, historical and revolutionary sense of itself: “God was consistent in working through man to reveal himself everywhere, as well as through the other parts of creation, so that nothing was left devoid of his Divinity and self-knowledge . . . so that the whole universe was filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters fill the sea”.
~ Athanasius De Incarnatione Verbe 45
I have a note in the margin or Rohr’s book at that quote: WOW!!!
Athanasius was writing in the Fourth Century! Think about that when today we’ve seen images of our blue planet taken from the moon; when scientists are discovering black holes and other solar systems beyond our own. And mystics like Athanasius are still with us too! And yet for a Christian—Catholic or otherwise—who clings only to Jesus as their personal savior in a “Jesus and me” kind of faith is much too myopic and narrow-minded, and therefore missing the real depth of their faith.
As a counterpoint, he says, the Eastern church, has a sacred word for this process, which in the West we call “incarnation” or “salvation”. They call it “divinization (theosis). If that sounds provocative, Rohr suggests, know that they are building on 2 Peter 1:4 where the author says, “He has given us something very great and wonderful . . . . you are able to share the divine nature!
Most Catholics and Protestants still think of the incarnation as a one-time and one-person event having to do only with the person of Jesus of Nazareth, instead of a cosmic event that has soaked all of history in the Divine Presence from the very beginning. Therefore, this implies . . .
+ That God is not an old man on a throne. God is Relationship itself, a dynamism of Infinite Love between Divine Diversity, as the doctrine of the Trinity demonstrates.
+ That God’s infinite love has always included all that God created from the very beginning (Ephesians 1:3-14). The Torah (first five books of the Hebrew bible) calls it “covenant love,” an unconditional agreement, both offered and consummated on God’s side (even if we don’t reciprocate)
+ That the Divine “DNA” of the Creator is therefore held in all creatures. What we call the “soul” of every creature could easily be seen as the self-knowledge of God in that creature! It knows who it is and grows into its identity, just like as seed and egg.
Faith at its essential core is accepting that you are accepted! We cannot deeply know ourselves without knowing the One who made us, and cannot fully accept ourselves without accepting God’s radical acceptance of every part of ourselves. And God’s impossible acceptance of ourselves is easier to grasp if we first recognize the perfect unity of the human Jesus with the divine Christ. Start with Jesus, continue with yourself, and finally expand to everything else. As John says, “From the fullness (pleroma) we have all received grace upon grace “(1:16).
And for my concluding prayer this day, I rely on the wisdom of St. Paul who himself realized the awesome dimensions of Jesus’ reign . . .
Brothers and sisters: Let us give thanks to the Father, who has made you fit to share in the inheritance of the holy ones in light. He delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things he himself might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile all things for him, making peace by the blood of his cross through him, whether those on earth or those in heaven.
(Colossians 1: 12-20)
I will offer my Mass on Sunday for all of you, my readers—for yours and your families’ needs and intentions, Blessings to you this day!
Now before you go, I’m offering you a choice of music.
The first is “Crown Him with Many Crowns with about 3,000 voices. Click here,
The second is “Worthy is the Lamb” by the Australian young people’s group Hilsong. Clickhere,
And here are the Mass readings for today’s Feast, if you’d like to reflect on them. Click here.
Acknowledgements . . . .
Richard Rohr The Universal Christ / Convergent Books New York 2019 /pp. 26-29.
Magnificat / November 2022 edition cover art / Odessa Art Museum / Ukraine
Nearly everyone is fascinated by angels, whether they are into religion or not. You may recall the popular TV series Touched by an Angel,starring Della Reese, Roma Downey, Toby Keith that ran from 1994- 2003.
Angels have an important role in the Bible and in our history because they’re God’s Pony Express–or in our day–“Break News” and extra beeps on your text messages, saying, “Listen up! Get this! This will change your life. They are taught as part of our Catholic teaching tradition.
The witness of Scripture is as also clear as it was handed down to us ( tradition). For Jews have always known angels in their tradition, both as they lived it and in their Scriptures.. The Old Testament makes numerous references to them. Witness the angel that led Israel’s camp and protected them from Pharaoh.
The same is especially true of Christians. In addition to what is given to us in the Old Testament, almost every book of the New Testament shows us that the angels are a real and active force in our lives. And since in the life of Jesus as man and his eternal existence as God consists of numerous encounters with the angels, you cannot believe in Jesus as Christ without encountering angels.
So what are angels?
St. Augustine says: “‘Angel’ is the name of their office, not of their nature. If you seek the name of their nature, it is ‘spirit’; if you seek the name of their office, it is ‘angel’: from what they are, ‘spirit’, from what they do, ‘angel.'” With their whole beings the angels are servants and messengers of God. Because they “always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven” they are the “mighty ones who do his word, hearkening to the voice of his word”.
As purely spiritual creatures, angels have superior intelligence and will: they are personal and immortal creatures, surpassing in perfection all visible creatures, as the splendor of their glory bears witness. (CAC, no, 330)
The more powerful Messenger- Angels can appear in human form and interact with us, but those bodies are only temporary mirages and pass away when their interaction with certain humans ends. As purely spiritual beings, angels don’t have DNA and those bodies may feel like ordinary bodies to us, but are not part of the angelic nature and thus vanish after the encounter because they have no use for physical bodies as we do.
The purpose of all of the angels is to serve, and praise God, worship, and pray to God. In the process of serving God, they also protect us, pray for us, inspire us, encourage us, and guide us during our journey on Earth. Some early Christian traditions indicate that even after our death, the angels continue to guide us in our journey to our final place, whether it is to Heaven or to Hell. It is speculative that those who have to go through the final state of purification on the way to Heaven known as Purgatory might also have their guardian angels (Psalm 91:9-12; Matthew 18:1-4,10) with them during their time of purification of sin.
Angels also pray for us. We see in Isaiah 6:3 and Revelation 4:8 that the angels continue to sing and pray to God, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Hosts!” We also see in Tobit 12:12 and Revelation 5:8 and 8:3 that along with the Saints who are in Heaven, the angels serve as intercessors for us in prayer to God. Jesus tells us in Matthew 18:10 not to despise or bring harm to children, “for I tell you that in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven.
And yes, everyone has a guardian angel.
Our Guardian Angels love us and do everything within God’s Will to protect us from harm. Sometimes though we reject God’s protection, and by consequence their protection too, we have to deal with the consequences of our sins when we don’t ask forgiveness and change our ways. (CAC, no. 336) Their Feast Day for our guardian angels is October 2nd. I’ll post a blog that day (God willin’) and share about them some more.
Angels also pray for us. We see in Isaiah 6:3 and Revelation 4:8 that the angels continue to sing and pray to God, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Hosts!” We also see in Tobit 12:12 and Revelation 5:8 and 8:3 that along with the Saints who are in Heaven, the angels serve as intercessors for us in prayer to God. Jesus tells us in Matthew 18:10 not to despise or bring harm to children, “for I tell you that in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven.”
St. Gregory the Great notes that angels do not have names unless and until they are given a mission from God to announce a message. There are untold millions of angels in heaven, all created as pure spirits, in continual praise and adoration of our God. Scripture also makes clear that at great events of salvation history, God sends an “archangel” to proclaim a message.
The three Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael are three of the seven archangels named in Sacred Scripture and all three have important roles in the history of salvation.
Saint Michael is the “Prince of the Heavenly Host,” the leader of all the angels. His name is Hebrew for “Who is like God?” and was the battle cry of the good angels against Lucifer and his followers when they rebelled against God. He is mentioned four times in the Bible, in Daniel 10 and 12, in the letter of Jude, and in Revelation.
Michael, whose forces cast down Lucifer and the evil spirits into Hell, is invoked for protection against Satan and all evil. Pope Leo XIII, in 1899, having had a prophetic vision of the evil that would be inflicted upon the Church and the world in the 20th century, instituted a prayer asking for Saint Michael’s protection to be said at the end of every Mass. (I’ll include that prayer at the bottom of this blog, though it was suppressed with the Vatican II changes in the liturgy.)
Christian tradition recognizes four offices of Saint Michael: (i) to fight against Satan (ii) to guard or rescue the souls of the faithful from the power of the enemy, especially at the hour of death. (iii) to be the champion of God’s people, (iv) to call us away from earth and bring men’s souls to judgment. Gabriel is, he who stand before God.” (Luke 1, 19)
Saint Gabriel, whose name means “God’s strength,” is mentioned four times in the Bible. Most significant are Gabriel’s two appearances in the New Testament: to announce the birth of John the Baptist to his father Zacharias, and at Incarnation of the Word when he announces to Mary that she will be the Mother of the Most High . He again appeared to Joseph in a dream and guided them on their way to Egypt to flee from Herod’s clutches.
Christian tradition suggests that it is he who appeared to the shepherds, and also that it was he who “strengthened” Jesus during his agony in the garden of Gethsemane.
“I am the angel Raphael, one of the seven, who stand before the Lord” (Tobit 12:15)
Saint Raphael, whose name means “God has healed” because of his healing of Tobias’ blindness in the Book of Tobit. Tobit is the only book in which he is mentioned. His office is generally accepted by tradition to be that of healing and acts of mercy.
Raphael is also identified with the angel in John 5:1-4 who descended upon the pond and bestowed healing powers upon it so that the first to enter it after it moved would be healed of whatever infirmity he was suffering.
THE FEAST OF THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS ~ Friday, June 19, 2020
This is a Feast for our present moment when we are harried and frustrated and hurting from the fallout of Covid 19 upon all of us, and all of what has been going on the past few weeks with the racial tension in our country.
Reflecting on the Love that flows continually from the heart of Jesus has been a devotion of mine since childhood. I had an altar in my bedroom with flowers that I picked from our garden. In May, the backdrop was blue for Our Lady and in June, it was red for Our Lord.
I wrote the article below in 1981 at a difficult time in my life and then preached these words as a Good Friday homily in 1992.
I hope you enjoy it; I think it can have some practical value for you in managing the suffering in your own life ~ and in America and our whole world today.
* * * * * *
The Heart of Jesus
(Jesus the Tremendous Lover)
“What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul? What wondrous love is this, O my soul?
Jesus is the one who is our tremendous Lover.
He came to live among us to reveal to us, his sisters and brothers, that we have a Father/God who loves us with a Love that is once a passionate, unconditional love and yet gentle, always inviting, never coercing. Jesus came among us to be our Love, to show the human race how to use the supreme power which God could give us: the intimate, infinite Love which is ours, if only we would claim it and model our lives after Jesus, who is Love itself.
Jesus was to be for us the model of Love because he was willing to experience in his heart the depths of human emotion. He risked time and again to embrace the sorrow, the agony, the unfreedom, the need of those who came to him to be healed. He risked being burdened by the needs of others. He risked being disheartened by those who would take from him and not even say thanks. He risked being misunderstood and rejected by the authorities of the day and even his neighbors in his home town. He risked the pain of realizing that even his closest disciples and friends had narrow vision and missed the main point of his message.
He risked all, and realized that, in spite of the pain and sorrow, in his heart, the soft Voice of the Father within him was asking him to keep going, to risk even more. To go deeper into his heart and to carve out still more and more places for those he would touch and heal, until one day there would be room in his heart for the whole world.
I doubt that Jesus ever forgot a single individual that he encountered, not even those who oppressed him. He kept them all in his great heart, remembering them, praying for them, hoping that they would open their hearts to the One who Loved them with a passionate Love — the Father/God of all. He must have realized how important it was to see and feel the tragedy of the corruption he witnessed among the religious and political leaders of the day, to keep even these things in his heart. As painful as it was, he hoped that by keeping them there some of the great evil he saw would be disarmed and tamed.
That’s all he could do, after all — absorb the tragedy, the struggle, the sin, the failures in Love of the human race in his great, great heart. Yes, he healed a few sick and gave the gift of sight to some, but most of all he Loved: He let people into his heart (that’s the definition of Love, after all: to let someone into one’s heart) there to be comforted, if just for a moment. For one brief moment in the heart of the Lord Jesus is enough for any of us.
He had room for young John and impetuous Peter. And for Judas. He had room for the outcasts of his day, Zacchaeus and Matthew and Mary Magdalen. And he sat at the table of outcasts who invited him to their table. He had room for beggars and lepers and blind people. And he had room for the Pharisees who broke his heart by their refusal to see and understand.
We remember that he was capable of deep emotion. He wept profoundly when he saw in prophecy what would happen to Jerusalem because of the hardness of the people’s hearts. And yet, even the gift of his tears and the greatness of his Love would not stop the destruction that would come because of Israel’s hardness of heart and lack of vigilance.
In the end, he wept in the garden. I like to believe that his agony was not focused on the trauma he personally was about to endure but because the Father permitted him, in that moment, to experience to the depths the reality of evil and tragedy in the world. He must have experienced some of the pain and loss that many of us feel when we ourselves encounter hardness of heart and misunderstanding.
Jesus embodied the compassion of God — the mercy, the tenderness, the Hesed of God (to use the wonderful Hebrew word). God wanted to be known as the Merciful One. And we, likewise, are instructed to “Be compassionate as our heavenly Father is compassionate.”
Jesus became for us the “Man of Sorrows”, familiar with suffering” — the suffering Servant of Yahweh. He bore the weight of the world’s refusal to Love and even worse its refusal to be Loved by the God of Love. He allowed that evil, that senseless tragedy of the human race, to be absorbed, and thereby redeemed and purified, with his own blood. In his own bloodstream the cosmic battle between the forces of Love and Hate was waged. And “his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood.” In him the great cosmic battle was focused. Our great compassionate God sent his Son to bear within his soul the brunt of that cosmic storm.
We are filled with awe at such overwhelming Love. And so we honor today his great, great heart. But most importantly we should realize that he has become for us Love itself so that we will also might become Love.
The one essential ingredient of the Christian religion is to Love as Jesus has Loved us. We are to become compassionate as Jesus is compassionate. We, like Jesus, are called not to be afraid to embrace the suffering, the tragedy, the sin of the world, so that in Love we will join our hearts to his and, as St. Paul says, “to make up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ.”
Perhaps we can say, therefore, that there are two kinds of people in the world — those who are willing to accept their own share of suffering in the world (and a bit more for Jesus’ sake) and those who cannot or will not bear even the suffering caused by their own failures and sins. The compassionate ones do what they do out of Love, a seemingly foolish Love. Some Love because they have been opened up to a mystical awareness that they, like Jesus, are making their own soul and body available as an arena for the cosmic drama of interaction between the forces of light and the forces of darkness.
I do not pity those who suffer. I rather pity those who are afraid to suffer. Out of suffering comes understanding — a larger perspective of the world and with it a practical wisdom that tempers Law and Life with Mercy. Out of suffering comes the ability to see the face of Christ in even a hardened criminal or a seemingly pitiful alcoholic.
The ability to see, to understand, the inner workings of people’s lives is a gift far greater than the suffering one must endure to attain it. To-suffer-unto-understanding (a definition of compassion) is to be able to look upon the world as Jesus does and as he invites us to do in the Beatitudes.3 (Of course, a person can suffer without understanding — especially when we are angry about and refuse to accept our lot of suffering. But if we pray faithfully while we suffer, God will most assuredly gift us with his own very special kind of understanding.)
Understanding is the goal of suffering for those who have eyes to see. Understanding which sees through the eyes of Jesus. Understanding allows us the courage to be with Jesus hanging on the Cross and to see what he saw from that perspective. Understanding allows us the courage to go with Jesus into the bowels of the earth and descend into hell and to see what Jesus saw. Then, too, understanding allows us to feel what Jesus felt when he was lifted from the grave.
I have always had an inner sense that the fastest, most efficient way to handle a crisis was to face it head on — not to avoid it. And so, I invite you to “go with” the suffering. Explore it. Allow yourself to experience the feelings, as painful and confused and frightening as they may be. The more you fight it, the more you will suffer. Ask Jesus the Light to lead you through the darkness. Then have faith and confidence that he will. (After all, the worst you will experience is what Jesus experienced, as long as you follow the will of God. (Other persons have suffered more cruel deaths than crucifixion.) And if you truly want to follow the will of God and are praying daily, then be assured that God is leading you. Take his hand in the darkness and follow — even if you can barely see the ground in front of you!
The pain may feel unbearable for a while, and the temptation is to avoid it as long as we can, and, of course, to worry about it. (I have always found worry most bothersome, like walking around with a pebble in my shoe. Far easier to bend down and take it out than to walk around with it for years!) So, too, with suffering. Even in one of my earlier bouts with emotional and mental suffering, I somehow found myself diving into it to seek its cause.
From what I can see there is always a cause of suffering. Discovering the cause can often lead to alleviating the suffering. In fact, the pain oftentimes will be transformed the moment the cause is recognized and diagnosed, so it is to the person’s advantage to stay with it and find out who or what the “bugger” is. (Perhaps there is an analogy to the oyster who “suffers” an irritation that will eventually through which it may become a pearl of great price.) If we see the larger picture of reality, seen through the eyes of Christ, some joy and satisfaction and relief will enter our soul. We will thus be on our way to recovery and new life.
The easiest way through suffering is to stretch out our arms and allow ourselves to be nailed to our cross. Don’t fight it. Surrender to the will of God. Jesus in his agony on Thursday night saw through the nails in his hands and the crown of thorns on his head to the Resurrection. He didn’t ignore the Cross; he saw it and the horizon beyond it.
Jesus didn’t focus on the pain. The pain of the Cross was only a brief moment (which he knew he had the strength to endure) in the history of his lordship presiding over the business of the universe. So you, too, should not focus on the painful aspects of our life. Look instead for the cause of the pain. Look for the reality — the truth! And remember that Jesus said “the truth shall make you free!” See as Jesus sees; that is, see and accept the truth. And leap from your cross as a butterfly leaps from the cocoon and as Jesus leapt from the grave.
“Impossible!” you may say, especially if you have been suffering for years.
“Not so!” says Jesus and the whole company of prophets and martyrs and confessors and virgins.
Ask for strength and you will receive strength.
Ask for guidance and you will be led through the darkness to a point you will recognize.
Ask to understand and Jesus will let you see yourself through his eyes.
But remember! Don’t focus on the pain. All those gory pictures of Jesus in agony and bloody crucifixes of the past generation, hopefully, are, hopefully, gone for good.
The Cross is the focal point in that we realize the great Love which Jesus has for us and what he personally has done for us. But one must not forget to look at the horizon beyond the Cross. The sky on that first Good Friday afternoon undoubtedly was an awesome sight to behold. The cross, the pain that is our lot in life to endure, is there only to be transformed and transcended. The cross is but a moment.
Suffering in life is only a means to greater life. It is not our final lot. Resurrection is. Glory is. Triumph is. Though the paradox is that we must accept our cross totally to be through with it. We are invited to surrender to our Father in complete abandonment as Jesus did, as if we were to leap off a cliff and know that we will land in the Loving arms of our great God.
A further delusion of spirituality of the past generation is that our reward will not come until the next life. What is delusional about that is that we fail to realize the kingdom is already inaugurated by Jesus in history by his triumph on the Cross. Our lives are already illumined by the light of the resurrection. And there is no reason that we cannot triumph here and now — if we accept our cross. And, in fact, I am convinced that it will be Christians bold enough to take up in their hand and in their minds the Cross of Jesus who will lead us in XXI and XXII Centuries, just as this has been true in every age of the Church.
And so, the question that we ponder this feast day is, once again:
“What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul? What wondrous love is this, O my soul?
And the answer is: “The great, great Love of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who Loved us so much that he stretched out his arms in the most loving, indeed, the most-nonviolent act, the world has ever seen. He stretched out his arms in the face of his enemies and said from his Cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Come, then adore the Lord who wants to be for us all our Beloved. Come, then, adore the Lord, the tremendous Lover. Renew your Love for him and know even more than ever before that it is by his holy Cross that we have been redeemed.
What wondrous love is this, O my soul?
What wondrous love is this?
And now, before you go, here’s that wonderful hymn, What wondrous love is this? Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.
The Feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christ)
Sunday, June 19, 2022
Today is our Roman Catholic Feast of Corpus Christi in which pause to appreciate and give thanks for the wonderful gift of the holy Eucharist.
I’d like to reflect for a moment on what we Catholics believe this wonderful sacrament.
We believe in theReal Presence of Jesus ~that the bread and wine are transformed into his Body and Blood. Thus, for us communion is a sharing in divine life, not just as symbol.
It is stumbling block for many – not only for many Protestants but many a Catholic who never really gets it because they don’t let it transform their life into common-union or a deeper union with Christ.
And, um, I know some priests who don’t get it or live it either.
The Eucharistic story included for today is the charming one in which Jesus feeds five thousand (men) on the hillside. Our Scripture Scholar-friend William Barclay tells us that this the only miracle that all the four gospels include. Luke’s, account (the one proclaimed at Mass today) begins with the folksy story about the Twelve coming back from their initial attempts to spread the word. And Jesus needed the time to be alone with them; so he took them to the neighborhood of Bethsaida, a village on the far side of the Jordan to the north of the Sea of Galilee. When the people discovered where he had gone “they followed him in hordes” says Barclay –”and he welcomed them.”
There’s all the divine compassion here. Most people would’ve resented the invasion of their hard-won privacy. How would we feel if we sought out a lonely place to be with our most intimate friends and suddenly a clamorous throng of people show up (with paparazzi in tow perhaps) with their insistent demands? Sometimes we’re too busy and too tired to be disturbed, but to Jesus, human need took precedence over everything.
The evening came, home was far away, and the people were tired and hungry. Jesus, ordered his disciples to give them a meal. Now, there are two ways we can look at this miracle. First, we can simply look at it simply as a miracle in which Jesus created food for this vast multitude. Second, some people think that everyone had something but the Twelve laid before them the little they had and the others were moved to produce their shares and in the end there was more than enough for everyone.
Before Jesus distributed the food he blessed it; he said grace. Jesus would not eat without giving thanks to the giver of all gifts.
This story tells us many things, Barclay says.
First, Jesus was concerned that people were hungry.
Second, Jesus, help was generous. There was enough and more than enough
Third, in Jesus, all our needs are supplied. There is a hunger of the soul There is a longing in each of us in which we can invest our lives. Our hearts are restless until they rest in him (Luke 9 :10 -17)
Now to add a theological dimension to this, Bishop Robert Barron whom you may have seen me quote earlier in this blog has this to offer. I enjoyed his article in the Magnificat Liturgical magazine that I use for my daily prayer . . . .
“How strange and wonderful is the Catholic faith! The Buddha offers wise teaching to his followers. Muhammad presents to his devotees a revelation that was once given to him. Confucius passes on to his adepts in an intricate moral system that he has developed. Moses comes down the mountain bearing a Law he received from on high.
But Jesus presents, offers, bears, and passes on . . . his very self. On the night before he suffered at the Passover table, he gathered with his Twelve Apostles. Taking bread in his hands, he said, This is my body, and lifting up the cup, said, This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.
He gave them, not a teaching, a discipline, or a spiritual insight, but his substance—his very own flesh and blood.And this is why the Christian Faith is not a matter of learning or walking a religious path, but of eating and drinking Jesus’ Body and Blood.
From this Eucharistic fact, the Church Fathers derived the splendid teaching of theiosos or deification. We disciples do not just follow Jesus, we become Jesus; we become adopted sons and daughters of the Father in the Son. And this is the object of our bedazzled contemplation on the Feast of the Lord’s Body and Blood.
That is what Jesus did, and he allied this dramatic action with the ancient feast of his people so that it would be the more imprinted on the minds of his men. He said, “Look! Just as this bread is broken my body is broken for you! Just as this cup of red wine is poured out my blood is shed for you.”
For me, the Eucharistic words have sustained me as I experienced my sinfulness, my woundedness, my brokenness and also profound joy and at times, a deep affection for my Jesus.
When I receive our Lord in holy communion I pray:
Lord Jesus, You became — You are still — bread-broken
and blood-poured out for the sake of the world.
As I receive the precious gift of the Eucharist
may I become Your body
and Your body become mine.
May Your blood course through my own blood stream.
I want to be transformed by my communion with you, Lord.
Transformed from my self-centered lusts and angers and petty jealousies
Let me become Your Body-broken
and Your Blood-poured-out
into a world that needs You
now more than ever.
To You, Jesus, be honor and glory and praise
this day and forever!
So be it! Amen!
And now. before you go, here is the Eucharistic hymn “Adoro Te Devote sung in procession. On this day throughout the world, it is the custom to have public with the Blessed Sacrament such as the one in this video. Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.
And here are today’s Mass readings with the Ancient “Sequence” or Eucharistic poem included before the gospel. Click here.
William Barclay / The New Daily Study Bible / the Gospel of Luke / The John Knox Press / Louisville. KY 2001 pp. 139-42.
“[Then] suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind,
and it filled the entire house in which they were.
Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire which parted
and came to rest on each one of them.
And they were all filled with the holy Spirit
and began to speak in different tongues,
as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim(Acts 2:1-21.)
“In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss, while a mighty wind swept over the waters.”
“When the day of Pentecost came it found the brethren gathered in one place. Suddenly from up in the sky there was a noise like a strong driving wind.”
The Holy Spirit is associated with that wind. The wind that blows where it wills. The wind that stirs things up and gets them moving.
The word for “wind” in Hebrew is “Ruah” — the same as the word for “breath.”
Often at night, sitting in my chair, I would just pay attention to my breathing for a while. I imagine that the Holy Spirit is the breath entering me, and when I exhale, I’m breathing out the Holy Spirit as well.
What a wonderful image is breath. Breath is life itself. No breath, no life in the body.
The mighty wind of Pentecost stirred things up. And the church was born! The apostles and the others who were part of their company, and the women who were present, were given enthusiasm. No longer afraid, they courageously preached the message that Jesus established a new order for people’s lives. They began gathering the church. The Acts of the Apostles is in so many ways the gospel of the Holy Spirit.
In the beginning of scripture, there is a story about the tower of Babel, that tries to explain why there’s so many different languages on the earth that we cannot understand each other; why there’s so much discord, so much disharmony.
The story has God confusing the languages of the people at Babel (Gen. 11: 1-9) and from that day onward they were scattered.
On the day of Pentecost the opposite happened. People were gathered together. Parthians and Medes and Elamites; people from Cappodacia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia and Egypt — all heard the apostles speaking to them in their own languages.
On the day of my ordination, I was filled with enthusiasm. It was day before Pentecost, May 24, 1969.
I was reminded of this prophecy of Joel:
“I will pour out my spirit upon all humankind.
Your sons and daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
your young men shall see visions.
Even upon the servants and handmaids,
in those days, I will pour out my spirit.” Joel 2:28, 29)
Those were the days immediately following the Second Vatican Council. There was a lot of enthusiasm all over the Church. Those of us who were young, had wonderful opportunities to serve.
The enthusiasm that poured onto me and into me lasted the first full three years of my priesthood. The Spirit really touched my ministry, as he did with another priest who was ordained the same day with me.
Nine years later, the opposite happened. My life crashed in upon me. And I was reminded of still another scripture about the Spirit — the prophecy of the dry bones.
“Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord: “See I will bring spirit into you that you may come to life again. Breathe into these slain, O Spirit, that they may come to life.” (Ezekiel 37: 1)
That’s what Pope Francis is trying to do. Breathe new life into the Church that the Holy Spirit will draw the church together in a new way.
There is still something else to note from the Pentecost story. A tongue of fire rested individually on the heads of each person. The Spirit of God has a special relationship with each of us, just as the Father and the Son do. The Spirit will enliven us according to the gifts and talents of each one of us.
So this Holy Spirit does wondrous things for us!
The Spirit is the source of inspiration for all who would design and create.
No one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.
There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.
As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit. (I Cor. 12:3b-7, 12-13)
In the seminary I learned to pray for the inspiration of the Holy Spirit before each class. And for me it was a powerful devotion. I realized that the work I produced was more than the sum of its parts. I realize that is still true into my elder years. If we seek and cooperate with God’s grace, wonderful things can and will happen that are so far beyond what we ever imagine!
But I must realize that there were also times in my priesthood when I experienced a great deal of powerlessness. I felt like Samson who had lost his strength. My soul had become like the valley of dry bones. I didn’t like my own mediocrity.
It is clear that I needed to bring the Holy Spirit to the foreground of my life again and again. I would like to have a vibrant and vital relationship with the Holy Spirit from moment to moment. In each moment of my life I hope that I will discern and follow the Spirit’s lead.
And so, an important role of the Holy Spirit is to encourage gifts. To invite risk. To reach out beyond safe boundaries, as Pope Francis is encouraging his priests to do. To make connections. To unite. To celebrate diversity. The story of Pentecost states that the Spirit of God is uncontrollable – by us. It comes as a “strong driving wind’ and “tongues [on] fire! Or in “Trekkie” language, to go “where no one has gone before.”
The greatest saints did just that! Catherine of Siena (a very young woman religious!) chastised the pope. Francis Xavier undauntedly stepped off the boat in Japan into a culture very foreign to him. A peasant girl named Joan rallied the French army to victory and was burned at the stake because of it. Katharine Drexel stepped beyond boundaries to revere Blacks and Native Americans as persons. And a supposed “care-taker pope” John XXIII shocked everyone by calling a solemn Council of the Church.
They improvised! They pushed the boundaries of the established ways of doing things! They were not afraid to do things differently. They were bold and convicted in the confidence they received from the Spirit of God – just like at Pentecost. They were the innovators, the Reformers. The ones who led and changed the Church. They listened to the Holy Spirit who prompted / disturbed / prodded / inspired them / led them, and who became their “Defense Attorney” or Advocate, i.e. “Paraclete.” They simply learned to trust that they were tuned into God from moment to moment and discovered God would guide them in what to say and do at the appropriate time.
Our world, our our country, desperately needs people with that kind of enthusiasm and conviction today. I pray that as I may still have some of that enthusiasm and joy and conviction to serve God’s holy people in this, now beginning the fifty-third year of my priesthood. As my anniversary of ordination was just this past May 24th, there’s still a lot of joy and and eagerness within me to serve!
And may we celebrate today the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives, in the Church, in our world and in, indeed, all of creation!
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful,
and enkindle in them the fire of your love.
Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.
and You shall renew the face of the earth.
May it be so. May it be so.
Now, here’s the ancient Sequence for the Feast ~ or if you will, a poem that occurs within the Pentecost Mass . . .
Come, Holy Spirit, come! And from your celestial home Shed a ray of light divine! Come, Father of the poor! Come, source of all our store! Come, within our bosoms shine. You, of comforters the best; You, the soul’s most welcome guest; Sweet refreshment here below; In our labor, rest most sweet; Grateful coolness in the heat; Solace in the midst of woe. O most blessed Light divine, Shine within these hearts of yours, And our inmost being fill! Where you are not, we have naught, Nothing good in deed or thought, Nothing freefrom taint of ill.
Heal our wounds, our strength renew; On our dryness pour your dew; Wash the stains of guilt away: Bend the stubborn heart and will; Melt the frozen, warm the chill; Guide the steps that go astray. On the faithful, who adore And confess you, evermore In your sevenfold gift descend; Give them virtue’s sure reward; Give them your salvation, Lord; Give them joys that never end. Amen. Alleluia.
And before you go, (A little different than “Come Holy Ghost” for a change.) Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen. Click here.