This weekend we celebrate Pentecost, the feast of the Holy Spirit. I am struck by the description in our first reading, from Acts of the Apostles, of one of the things that happened: each one heard them speaking in their own language, even though the large crowd was made up of people from all over the known world. In a sense, the presence of the Holy Spirit undoes Babel, all the divisions that we human beings put up among us. Those first disciples were Jews and, as such, thought they were the only chosen people. All through Acts of the Apostles we see how the Holy Spirit opened their minds to accept all people into the community.
One of the last prayers of Jesus before He went to His suffering and death was for unity, that all would be united, as Jesus is with His Father: That they may be one as we are one. We need to take up that call to bring people together as a crucial part of our living a life of Gospel values.
I don’t need to tell you that our country is being torn apart by divisions. Politicians are not able to speak with each other and compromise for the common good. Groups that are different are demonized and viewed as dangerous, leading to all sorts of senseless killing. And, sadly, some of this is done in the name of religion.
After His plea that all may be one, Jesus adds, that the world may believe that you sent me. Jesus knows it is hard for us, as human beings, to accept those who look or believe differently. But when we can do that, we are giving the Gospel witness that will bring people to Christ.
As we celebrate the feast of the Holy Spirit, let us remember that we are called to be one with others, no matter their physical or cultural differences. We cannot exclude others. We need to remember that only God has all the “inside” information, that is, knows what is in someone’s heart. I end with a quote from Pope Francis in his encyclical, Fratelli Tutti: Those who raise walls will end up as slaves within the very walls they have built. They are left without horizons, for they lack this interchange with others.
Come, Holy Spirit, fill us with the fire of Your love!
Church sign of the week: Feeling like an alien? We have a space for you.
This Sunday we celebrate the feast of the Ascension. Our Gospel is Matthew’s story of the Ascension, which concludes his Gospel. Luke also concludes his Gospel with a very short description of the Ascension, but then begins his Acts of the Apostles with a longer, more detailed version, which we also hear this weekend.
The fact that various books of the Bible begin or end with the Ascension underscores that it is a turning point in our salvation history. Jesus has concluded His part of the mission; He is now getting out of the way so that His followers can take up the mission and do their part.
An analogy that came to my mind is that of teenagers leaving home to go to college. While they are at home, their parents are over them, watching them, telling them what to do. Once they leave home for college, they need to find their own way. The parents are no longer running their lives. The teenagers need to take responsibility for their lives and move forward.
What we celebrate today is that we have been given the mission and we must take it up, bearing responsibility for moving it forward. And what is the mission? In the first reading we hear, …you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. In the Gospel, we hear, Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. With various words, all the accounts tell us that the so-called “great commission” is what it is all about: living in such a way that we are bringing all people to Christ.
But the great news is that we do not have to do it alone. We have the gift of the Holy Spirit (which we will celebrate this coming Sunday with the feast of Pentecost). We have the Eucharist (which we will celebrate in 3 weeks with the feast of Corpus Christi). We have the community. We have not been left orphaned, even though Jesus had to leave this world and return to His Father. We have all the help and support we need.
As we celebrate this feast today, let us thank the Lord, who has included us in His great mission to save all people. This is what inspired our Salvatorian Founder, Francis Jordan, to start his work. It is what inspires me to do my best to participate in this mission. My prayer is that all of us at St. Pius will grow in our ability to live the great commission: go and make disciples of all nations. God bless.
Church sign of the week: The journey might be difficult, but the arrival will be worthwhile.
Our Gospel today is a continuation of the Lord’s final discourse to His disciples, given at the Last Supper.
At the beginning of our selection and at the end, Jesus says the same thing to His disciples, including us: If you love me, you will keep my commandments and whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me.
But Jesus knows that keeping His commandment of love is a challenge for us. It is hard to share. It is hard to forgive 70 times 7. It is hard to love an enemy. It is hard to be the Good Samaritan. And so, He assures us that He will not abandon us, that He will give us all the help we need. In our reading we hear, I will not leave you orphans and The Father will give you another Advocate to be with you always.
The “Advocate,” of course, is the Holy Spirit, whom we receive at baptism and confirmation. The Holy Spirit accompanies us through life, the Holy Spirit “advocates” for us, the Holy Spirit helps us find the right path, the Holy Spirit supports us as we struggle to live the great commandment of love. But we have to give the Holy Spirit time and space to speak to us. We do that by reflective listening to the scriptures and homily at Mass, by reading the scriptures, and especially by carving out quiet time for reflection on the questions and challenges of life.
Our readings this Sunday move from resurrection stories to preparing us to celebrate Pentecost, the feast of the Holy Spirit. I invite us to spend some time during these last two weeks before Pentecost reflecting on what a great gift the Holy Spirit is in our lives, asking ourselves if we spend enough time listening to the Holy Spirit and allowing our Advocate to help us as we navigate the complexities of life. The Spirit is always there. We just have to show up and listen. God bless.
Church sign of the week: Open your heart, open your mind, open your bible.
In our second reading from the first letter of St. Peter, we find a very powerful image of “stone,” used to show what Christ is for us and what we should be as a result.
We are told that Christ is a “living stone,” that is, he has risen from the dead and lives again. He is “the cornerstone,” the foundation of a spiritual house. How is he a cornerstone? As we are told in the Gospel, Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He grounds us in the truth, He gives us life, and He leads us on our way.
We for our part, are “living stones…to be built into a spiritual house.” God is building something, something that will last since it is built of stone. Jesus is the foundation; we need to build upon that foundation and help complete his house. In other words, we have been given the foundation that we need in Jesus: our part is to cooperate in being “living stones” in his community. We need to live as he lived, bringing his goodness and kindness to others.
How should we live? Each of us has a different place and responsibility in life. Some of us are parents or grandparents or teachers or students or friends or… The specific details of our responsibilities are unique to each of us and change as we move through life. But HOW we should live in each and every situation we find ourselves is modeled by Jesus: the way, the truth, and the life. He thought of others and their needs, not just himself. He
accepted and gave dignity to those rejected by society. He was forgiving and gracious to those who denied Him. Though He was tired and tried to go off by Himself to rest, He responded to the crowds that found Him. In other words, He included the needs of others in what was important to Him.
My friends, our faith is not just something we profess, but rather something we LIVE. We are to be living stones, built on the cornerstone of Jesus, who showed us the way, the truth and the life. I invite us this week to reflect on the images of “stone” that we find in this reading: how am I doing at being a living stone, built on the cornerstone of Jesus? And let us support each other in prayer.
Church sign of the week: Pray as if everything depends on God. Act as if everything depends on you.