Each one heard

266297.pToday, Sunday, June 9, 2019 is Pentecost, that great feast of the promised coming of the Holy Spirit.
At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd,
but they were confused
because each one heard them speaking in his own language.

Yesterday I read this at church, and as I stood at the ambo, I was filled with a Holy Spirit moment of my own. Having practiced the reading enough to memorize some of it, I was able to look up and out at the congregation before me, I had one of those Thomas Merton moments. If you are not familiar, one day he was standing on a street corner and saw through new eyes, in a Pentecost-like moment.

42b3fc66-c2d1-4bd7-9291-7bc6f6e931fcEveryone looked the same – yet so different to me at that moment. Not unlike what we read in the Acts of the Apostles, “When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together.” Yes, here we were, a church full of Catholics, a big church – literally and figuratively – gathered as one in Christ. At a time when I feel deeply upset and highly frustrated about the Church, I felt awash in a wave of love.

Somehow that love eluded me today as I read some things in the newspaper that were upsetting to me.  In these fractious times, as we grow Continue reading

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Disturbances

Disturb us Adonai Shabbat

Shabbat is over until Friday night, or Sunday – depending on your faith practice. That said, I found this graphic on my computer and it has been rubbing up against my consciousness, so I figured I better pay attention before the next sabbath sneaks up on me.

Honestly, I find Sunday to be one of the more stressful days of the week. Saturday feels more relaxed, even if I do more errands. And I typically attend mass on Saturday at 4PM. So what is it about Sunday that Continue reading

Stop, look, listen – Pentecost

FOTO 7

Villa Borghese, Rome

 

It was  a warm autumn Sunday in Rome, sometime during the month of October in 1990. The sun is out after days and days of rain, and people are everywhere. I’m walking through a park, heading down a hill towards a road where about a gagillion, well maybe not that many, but where many tourist coaches are parked. You can tell they come from different countries by the words emblazoned on the side of each giant bus.

In front of me, heading down the same hill is an older lady. Even just looking at her back I can see her nice trench coat, and she is wearing hose and low heeled shoes. In her right hand is a bouquet of colorful flowers with the stems wrapped in foil. This sight made me think of my mother who would cut often flowers and wrap them in foil, sending me off to deliver them to some neighbor in need. This thought made me smile to myself.

In an instant everything changed, my reverie broken as the woman took a tumble and rolled down the hill, getting muddy along the way. Then she rolled into the street, ending up behind a bus… which was just about to back up. Believe it or not, those flowers were still in her hand, although crumpled looking at that point. I did not know what to do, she was clearly stunned, I was not even sure she was conscious. It did not seem like anyone else noticed, so I had no choice, or she would die. I screamed. Loudly. Really loudly. No – REALLY LOUDLY.

You’ve never heard me scream. I Continue reading

Pentecost! What God has done for us

182522278_640I have so many thoughts about Pentecost that it is difficult for me to write about it! Hence the lateness of this post. “Come, Holy Spirit!” How I prayed, but many unfinished drafts litter my drafts folder, and no real idea.

About to give up and put the finishing touches on my post for tomorrow, a book review of “Under the Influence of Jesus” (Loyola Press)  by Joe Paprocki, I took a look at Facebook. Right there before my eyes a new post popped up on the Loyola Press page, a video about Pentecost from Joe himself. I stopped to watch and Holy Spirit inspiration came in a mighty wind!

Joe uses the analogy of a tremendous amount of debt amnesty along with the influx needed to start a new business. I’ll post the video so that you can see it for yourself. His use of the phrase “what God has done for us,” got me thinking.

What has God done for us? Continue reading

I believe in the Holy Spirit… and other annoyances

kendell_geers_what_do_you_believe_in_01_full“I believe in the Holy Spirit…” The words are right there in the Nicene Creed:

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.

If you are Catholic, you are saying these words at mass on a regular basis. You may read them off of a page, you may mumble along, you may say nothing at all.

So what do you believe?

I’m kind of stuck on that last bit – “who has spoken through the prophets.”  Prophets – they are so annoying, aren’t they?

0506_news_Ollila_Seamann_KHIf you immediately want to say “No! They’re great!” that might be because you, if you are like me, feel that way about your prophets. You know the ones, the ones that you like. By extension, if they are challenging to those “other” people, but comforting to you, I might suggest this…

Listen to those prophets.

639ef11062a9013019e7001dd8b71c47Even when you want to bop them in the head.

Trust me when I tell you that I want to listen to “my” prophets. And I do listen to them, and I am comforted by them, as well. The hard part is, and I am not so good about this, is listening to the “prophets” who completely annoy me.

Those prophets are the one that challenge you at every turn. They say things that you vehemently disagree with, things that you believe turn the meaning of Church on its head. Those prophets are comforting someone else. And to those folks I say, listen to the prophets that annoy you.

You see, the Holy Spirit speaks through the prophets. God afflicts the comfortable and comforts the afflicted. Here’s the rub, if you ask me, we are all comfortable and we are all afflicted.

The very moment that we start to rest on the idea that “we,” whoever we means to you, are God’s special ones, we are in trouble. The idea, especially if we have been paying attention to John’s Gospel in these recent weeks, is that “all might be one.”

Um yeah – that means… all. How annoying is that?!

Read these words from Corinthians, from the possible mass readings for this weekend, and see what you think and feel:

Brothers and sisters:
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.

Now, if there was ever a ragtag group of people struggling to believe, obey and be as one, it was those Corinthians. Yet, here we see St. Paul reminding them that… all may be One.

How different are we? And why should I expect you to be like me? And why would you expect me to be like you?

I don’t know about you, but I know that I am often surprised when someone that I “like” expresses an opinion that is not my own. What-the-what, I think; how could they actually say that? Think that? Believe that?

Can we be as St. Paul indicates, many people with One Spirit?

Quite often those people are my prophets, the ones that I need to listen to. Not necessarily to take what they are saying and make it my own, but rather to open my heart and my mind, to try to understand what God is saying.

943156_363544423745321_1675203907_nI like to think about how the image of the Holy Spirit as dove is so pervasive and so beloved. Did you see the image above, earlier in the week? I thought “oh, how wonderful!” and saved the photo. But what happens when that bird flies off and defacates on your head? What about THAT Holy Spirit? Don’t think that is not the same Holy Spirit… it is. Like with a prophet, annoyance is part of the package.

Prophets are generally reviled in their own time, so if you like someone who feels prophetic to you, I simply ask you to balance it out by finding someone who feels completely annoying, and who stands in contradistinction to “your prophet.”

The Holy Spirit lives in those spaces, challenging, annoying, and persistently getting in the way of the great “I,” as opposed to the very great, “I AM,” which is God. If nothing else, getting up close and personal to the most annoying “prophet” you can find, may help you to know and understand what you do believe. It is not just about changing our mind, it is about how we are transformed by God.

Oh yes, I truly do believe in the Holy Spirit and am annoyed by Her on a persistently regular schedule.

Go find someone who annoys you, near or far. And when you do, experience that flame that wants to flicker upon your head, like that of the Apostles on Pentecost. That flame will shape us all, so that we may be One.

How annoying!

Come Holy Spirit Come, We Are Gathered in One Place on Facebook and Blogs

A Reflection on the readings for Pentecost.

A long time ago I heard a homily on Pentecost that has never left me… The priest said these words and whatever else he said has evaporated in my mind, but not the main point of his message.

“Easter makes me not afraid to die; Pentecost makes me not afraid to live.”

He spoke these words as my faith was being renewed and as I tentatively returned to the Catholic church. They really stuck and have lived on in my heart. I wish I could even remember his name, he was a visiting priest, but no, that is gone too.

I’ve spent a lot of time since then, about 20 years ago, trying not to be afraid to die or live, but have only made limited progress on both. This I know, the more deeply I enter into the life of faith and the more intimately that I become part of the unity of the Body that being Church calls us to, the more those words have helped me.

Are you on Facebook? So many people are – astounding numbers of people. It is quite remarkable to watch. A big part of my own ministerial life is lived online. There are many conversations about whether this is “good” or “bad.” Sadly, I hear more about the “bad” but that just returns me to the not being afraid part.

One of the great things about not being afraid to “live” online would be the many chances for evangelizing and being evangelized, the many opportunities for interaction in the name of Christ and a constant demand for the presence of the Holy Spirit to guide our ways.

“Living” online, especially in matters of faith,  came to mind as I read and prayed with the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles.

When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled,
they were all in one place together.

We are not all physically “in one place together” but when we gather at a blog or participate in a Facebook conversation, we actually are together. If it is a faith post, then we are hopefully there in the name of Christ.  

And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit
and began to speak in different tongues,
as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim
.

Well we are certainly all out there, speaking in what would seem “different tongues.”  In the past week alone, I have participated in several conversation threads on Facebook and each one has left me, and no doubt others, frustrated. We were all talking about somewhat the same thing… why couldn’t we understand each other?

What we hear described in that reading is the rush of the Holy Spirit, coming to enable each one to hear, no matter what the language. Once again, I am grateful for our Roman Catholic imperative to not interpret Scripture literally. This reading was not some early iteration of BabelFish or Google translate, but rather the Spirit coming to unify the many voices.

Oh please Holy Spirit, come to Facebook, please! Enlighten us, open us up, give us wisdom, give us charity, give understanding please!

For those of us who do profess our faith in Christ Jesus, we are called to literally “re-member” the Body of Christ. In doing so we must find ways to speak and be heard in One Voice. That is another gift of our Church, we are many members of One Body – not each parish unto itself, but part of a much larger liturgical whole.

Also it is our mission as Christians to unify (unify, not wrestle to the ground in dominating submission) God’s people as one in Christ. So this would really required that whole “understanding the many voices” part of Pentecost.

So as I return to my Facebook and blogging “mission” I will once again, God knows I start anew each day, to doing so taking the words of another Catholic with me. About a month ago, Catholic writer and blogger, Elizabeth Scalia (aka The Anchoress) was in Rome at the first ever Vatican Bloggers Meetup. She spoke about and wrote about the need to be present online “with clarity and charity.” 

Doing so is very difficult and I know that I struggle with it all the time. As I said, just in the past week alone, I was in several online discussions that turned intense, one into a skirmish of sorts. And one of them was with Elizabeth Scalia herself; we descend into these things more often than I care to admit and I am the instigator of sorts; going to her FB page or blog and saying something that is not necessarily in sync with her or her readers.  However I really want to understand what they are saying and I can only hope and pray that they understand me.

It has been a marginally successful effort, but we press on in faith. At least Elizabeth and I do!

Does this mean that we fold up our tents and go home? No. It means that we are called to what that same Elizabeth spoke of… interacting with clarity and charity. That is what we are called to as Catholics, Christians, all followers of Christ. And to do so means to wait in hope for, listen to and cooperate with the great Holy Spirit, whose arrival comes to us at Pentecost.

So do not be afraid to die, our hope is in resurrection. But do not be afraid to live, our hope is in the restoration of The Body of Christ.

Pentecost 2010

I have not yet completed my personal Pentecost story. In any event, I decided to instead share what I wrote for my parish blog today. 

“I’ve always found beautiful about the sacrament of the bread is the way one has to stop talking in order to communicate.” – Garret Keizer

I found that quote in an article that is not only completely unrelated to Pentecost,  and it written by an Episcopalian, it actually might be an article found abhorrent by many. With that disclosure made – along with the thought that things are not always what they seem, I carry on.

It is Pentecost and we celebrate the gift of the Spirit as promised by Jesus at Ascension and as was hinted to all along during the 40 days that followed Easter.

Another favorite Pentecost quote of mine is one I heard at a homily for Pentecost in 1991 or 1992. “Easter makes me unafraid to die; Pentecost makes me unafraid to live.”  That pretty much sums it up!

In any case, today I wanted to write about the gifts of the Spirit and about how we find the real unity of the Pentecost and then I went to mass at 4pm on Saturday and my line of thought changed.

We have had a series of First Eucharists at St. Edward’s these two weekends.  It was quite wonderful to finally see First Eucharist incorporated into our regular liturgy schedule in my opinion. There are those who might say that the kids should have their own special mass. There are many, and I do understand this, who might say that they don’t want mass made any longer, louder or more complicated with the addition of this sacrament.

Well – who said that mass, church or anything about faith should be anything even remotely related to one’s own personal comfort or preference? Not wanting to sound harsh, but just saying. I mean we all get put out, but that’s not the point, is it?

Which brings me to wanting to try and say something comprehensible about Pentecost, First Eucharist, and unity.

Which is what good eucharistic theology is all about.

If you go to St. Edward’s and if you have been paying attention, you have to have heard Father Pat say this countless times… Why do you come to the table? Do you come here to get something? Or do you come here to give something and then ultimately be part of something?

Most of us were taught the former one, but it is so much about the latter two.

On Saturday, at the Pentecost vigil, Fr. Pat pointed out that even in the old Latin – yes he was there with his very own St. Joseph’s Daily Missal from when he was a little kid growing up in Troy – it is about what you bring as you offer yourself!

Yes, of course Jesus offered his life for all. (Yes, I am aware that is about to revert to many. Another post, another day as we begin to consider the implications of the new translation and liturgy that will begin in December 2011.)  However, good eucharistic theology – good theology period – is about something dynamic, not something linear.

The very relationship of ongoing movement, which I hope to explore next Sunday for Trinity Sunday, is at the heart of this.

Jesus offered his life for the world and gave us his Body and Blood. When we “eat this bread and we drink this blood” we do so much more than commemorate that death and rebirth.

We become what we eat. It is hard to ponder.

So what does this have to do with Pentecost? It is in this very becoming of Eucharist, I believe, that the moment of Spirit that brings us into the mutuality, unity and understanding that Pentecost brings the world.

And I purposefully say that Pentecost brings and not brought because it is ongoing and very dynamic.

We see this every time we come to the table at mass. Or at least we have the chance to see it that way if we chose to enter into it that way.

This is why it is, again to paraphrase Fr. Pat, so easy and attractive to want to follow Jesus. And it is exactly why it is so hard to actually do so. However, as he also says, we keep coming back, all of us, week after week – trying.

And that is what we do. And that is a good thing.

So, the world of individualism, personal preference, comfort and convenience must be reconsidered in the world of Jesus, the world of good eucharistic theology, the world of Pentecost. It is the world of, again quoting Fr. Pat – common union.  To which I will spell out – common union with God through common union with each other.

Community comes with great cost and if we proceed, comes also with great and endless gift.

What an awful lot of words for someone who quoted this at the beginning:

“I’ve always found beautiful about the sacrament of the bread is the way one has to stop talking in order to communicate.” – Garret Keizer

Time to stop talking and to start communicating.