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

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

Living Under the Influence – a book review

404618_LARGEA phrase often overheard – for good or ill – at a bar is, “I’ll have another.” Yes, have another drink, you’ll loosen up and feel good.

Or will you? Perhaps you will end up, “under the influence” and that is not necessarily so good.

Years ago I heard Richard Rohr speak about the notion that alcohol was called “spirits,” something that I had not thought of before that moment. But we consume “spirits” or alcohol, to get a little buzz and feel good, and we begin to fall “under the influence.”

In his latest book, “Under the Influence of Jesus,” (Loyola Press, 176 pp, $15.95)  the wise and prolific Joe Paprocki sets forth a vision. The subtitle of the book says it all – “The Transforming Experience of Encountering Christ.” Forget how we feel if we have a few drinks, how do we feel after we experience Jesus? 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!