Sunday, May 27, 2007

Pentecost: the birthday of the Church

The following is Pope Benedict XVI’s homily on Pentecost, 2006:

“Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended with power upon the Apostles; thus began the mission of the Church in the world.

Jesus himself prepared the Eleven for this mission, appearing to them on many occasions after his Resurrection (cf. Acts 1: 3).

Prior to the Ascension into Heaven, he ordered them "not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father" (cf. Acts 1: 4-5); that is, he asked them to stay together to prepare themselves to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. And they gathered in prayer with Mary in the Upper Room, awaiting the promised event (cf. Acts 1: 14).

To stay together was the condition laid down by Jesus in order to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit; the premise of their harmony was prolonged prayer. In this way we are offered a formidable lesson for every Christian community.

Some think at times that missionary effectiveness depends primarily on careful programming and its subsequent intelligent application through a concrete commitment.

The Lord certainly does ask for our collaboration, but before any other response his initiative is necessary: his Spirit is the true protagonist of the Church. The roots of our being and of our action are in the wise and provident silence of God.

The images used by St Luke to indicate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit - wind and fire - recall Sinai, where God revealed himself to the people of Israel and offered his covenant (cf. Ex 19: 3ff.). The feast of Sinai, which Israel celebrated 50 days after the Passover, was the feast of the Covenant.

Speaking of the tongues of fire (cf. Acts 2: 3), St Luke wants to show Pentecost as a new Sinai, as the feast of the New Covenant, where the Covenant with Israel is extended to all the nations of the earth.

The Church has been catholic and missionary from her birth. The universality of salvation is meaningfully manifested with the list of the numerous ethnic groups to which those who heard the Apostles' first proclamation belonged (cf. Acts 2: 9-11).

The People of God, which had found its first configuration in Sinai, extends today to the point of surmounting every barrier of race, culture, space and time. As opposed to what occurred with the tower of Babel (cf. Gn 11: 1-9), when people wanted to build a way to heaven with their hands and ended up by destroying their very capacity of mutual understanding, in Pentecost the Spirit, with the gift of tongues, demonstrates that his presence unites and transforms confusion into communion.

Human pride and egoism always create divisions, build walls of indifference, hate and violence.

The Holy Spirit, on the other hand, makes hearts capable of understanding the languages of all, as he re-establishes the bridge of authentic communion between earth and heaven. The Holy Spirit is Love.

But how is it possible to enter into the mystery of the Holy Spirit? How can the secret of Love be understood?

The Gospel passage takes us today to the Upper Room where, after the Last Supper, a sense of loss has saddened the Apostles. This is due to the fact that Jesus' words arouse disturbing questions: He spoke of the world's hatred of him and of his own, he spoke of his mysterious departure; and there were still many other things to be said, but for the time being the Apostles were not able to bear the weight (cf. Jn 16: 12). To console them, he explains the meaning of his departure: he will go, but he will return; meanwhile, he will not abandon them, will not leave them orphans. He will send the Consoler, the Spirit of the Father, and the Spirit will enable them to understand that Christ's work is a work of love: love of the One who gave himself, love of the Father who has given him.

This is the mystery of Pentecost: the Holy Spirit illuminates the human spirit and, by revealing Christ Crucified and Risen, indicates the way to become more like him, that is, to be "the image and instrument of the love which flows from Christ" (Deus Caritas Est, n. 33).

The Church, gathered with Mary as at her birth, today implores: "Veni, Sancte Spiritus! - Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love!". Amen.”


At 12:32 PM, Blogger fran said...

A few days ago, I had to pick up my daughter early from school, so she could attend her sister's graduation ceremony. As I pulled into the St. Andrew parking lot, I came face to face with a modern day Bible illustration. There, on a crystal clear, blue sky day, under the tree between the rectory and the field, was Father Greg, enthusiastically speaking to a group of junior high students.

I instantly thought of Christ preaching to the apostles, and the blessing of the children when Jesus says, "Let the little to me." Had father been wearing a robe and sandals, he could have been Christ himself!

I keep a mental photo album of sorts, with visual memories of moments in my life which have caused me to stop for a minute or two and capture that particular moment for future reflection. This image has found its place there.

On the first anniversary of your ordination to the priesthood, I think I speak for many, when I say "Thank you Father Greg for your love of children, your endless energy, your love of the Blessed Mother, your devotion to the Eucharist and myriad ways you have been a blessing to St. Andrew Apostle School and Parish.

In your own words, "God is soooooo good!

At 12:35 PM, Blogger fran said...

Should have said "let the little children, come to me." sorry...

At 2:32 PM, Anonymous St. Francis Friends said...

Father Greg,

We can not believe it has been a year since your ordination, first Mass, and the celebration of it all!

As someone who knew you before you became a priest, I have seen less of you and more of Jesus in the past year. You were a wonderful deacon too!

Our prayers are always with you even though we are apart. St. AA is truly blessed.

Truly it was an honor to share that special day with you!

At 2:52 PM, Anonymous Kelly's Question said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts-really touched me. As Father Greg has a gift for children and teens, your school/parish is blessed immensely.
Kat-It is obvious to most on this site that you have the gift of knowledge which you share so generously. Again, all who accept your gift are blessed. Thank you.

So here is my question for FG, Kat, or anyone else who would like to answer.

Do certain people have gifts to care for the dying, the suffering, the grieving? My reason for asking is that God seems to keep bringing people in my life (who are experiencing this). When I am with them, here it is, LESS of me and way MORE of Him, is what happens. Seems as if the Holy Spirit gives me great strength to help the grieving, the ill, and the dying. My problem is that when I am not with them, I have a hard time shrugging off their sadness/suffering(this includes strangers, friends, family, and even people who seem to just appear in my life). Am I not praying enough? This is a hard ministry but not when the Lord calls me to actually do it. It is just the in between times, I have to fight off despair.

Kat, FG, Fran, Mindy, and other bloggers, any suggestions?

At 4:10 PM, Anonymous mindy said...

I believe there are people who are gifted in their ability to ease pain and suffering. Whether that gift comes in the form of a talented and caring doctor/nurse or the person who sits by your bedside and holds your hand. One of the greatest gifts one can gift is companionship. When someone is sick or grieving, it is a huge gift to sit next to them so they aren't alone. Quite honestly, I'm not very good at giving myself in that way and am inspired by you. Maybe you actually "carry" some of others' pain because you are carrying it away for them. When someone says they are praying for me, those are far from hollow words to me. It makes me feel connected to them in a special way. Maybe in the same way, feeling their pain (when you aren't any longer with them) is one way to still "be with them". I'm sorry it is making you sad, but try thinking about how much suffering you are able to alleviate. I will pray for you.

You always write such nice things. I like the image you portrayed, as I do think our kids have benefitted so much from the wisdom, experience and enthusiasm of both of our priests at SAA. We have all been blessed.

At 4:51 PM, Blogger fran said...

Even before today's post, the words you write here have always struck me as being written by someone who is thoughtful, warm, caring, self-giving and deeply spiritual. It seems fitting that Christ would place those who are suffering in your path, as I am certain these qualities shine forth as you minister to these individuals and bring comfort.

I think it is also because of these characteristics that you feel great sadness after leaving, as how can a kind and caring soul, separate herself completely from those with whom she has shared such an emtotional experience?

I have posted this prayer previously and share it again, as it brings me a great sense of peace and lightness of heart whenever I say it, especially when I am feeling overwhelmed by life:

"Mary mother of Jesus, be my mother now."

At 11:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did anyone catch Deacon Mike's homily yesterday? Ok, the B-day song was a little corny (sorry, deacon Mike), but it was a prelude. He talked about the gifts and charisms of the Holy Spirit, and when he started listing them, I almost lost it. As he went down the list, I thought- yeah- I could use that one, and that one would be huge, and when he got to self-control, I had to will myself to keep it together. After Mass, I had the opportunity to spend a little time alone. I took out my journal (something I haven't done in a while) and started writing. It's been a decent while since I took an inventory of my life. I was thinking about the deacon's talk and put the seven deadly sins into columns. I began to put my recent actions, inactions and thoughts into the corresponding columns. I did it without emotion- just "matter of factly". It was clear to me how to ask for the Holy Spirit to guide me with the specific gifts and virtues he offers. I went to bed at 11:30 and didn't wake up until 4:00 (I NEVER sleep that many hours in a row). I stayed awake for two hours then went back to sleep and didn't wake back up until 10:30. My body actually feels different. I guess I'd been carrying quite a load lately. I have had a "pull" towards the church in past last year, and in the past several months I reacted to it. I have so much appreciation for what has been offered me here. I know that faith is the key to my life being not only managable but good. Thank you, Deacon Mike for a great homily.

At 8:32 PM, Anonymous Kat said...


I think that we all have gifts that God has blessed us with. At times I can be knolageable and at others I am as dumb as a rock.

At 6:47 PM, Anonymous KELLY said...

Fran, Mindy & Kat,

I am out of state for the week and just picked up my messages. I am using the hotel conference computer. Hope that you all refer back to this blog date.

Thank you for your encouragement and for a new way of viewing things!

Lastly, a group of dear friends have treated me to a vacation. What a gift! What generosity! Hubby is so happy for me too.

Hope to meet all of you in person.



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