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Contents: Volume 2 - Pentecost Sunday (B)
- May 23, 2021

 

 

Pentecost

SUNDAY

(B)


1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Carol & Dennis Keller

3. -- Brian Gleeson CP

4. --

5. --(Your reflection can be here!)

 

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Pentecost 2021

I think that the full understanding of Scripture about the Holy Spirit develops quite gradually and is, let us say, complicated! The Gospel selection from John both leans toward these thoughts and does give us some concrete concepts from which we can begin, however. In one part, Jesus says " "I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth."

We have all experienced the feeling of "It's too much to... hear, listen to, understand, bear, do....." Overwhelmed is perhaps the one feeling that all humanity has felt sometimes during this pandemic. Constantly dealing with so many changes is very real! When things are presented a little at a time, however, our brains simply have more time to process a reasonable meaning for the information and better incorporate it into our general thinking.

Having the Holy Spirit as the guide in our spiritual journey is truly Gift. Having the assurance that the Holy Spirit will guide us to truth, I think, helps us realize that it may take awhile to get there. For those who aren't dealing with the "waiting" part of life really well, particularly right now or in general, just that comfort alone can be a balm.

Wandering around can be discomforting or it can be enjoyable. Knowing from Jesus that we will "get there" to the truth, makes the angst of it all a bit less. It seems that trusting in the Spirit is the best way to both knowledge of the truth and the joy of getting there.

Pentecost is the time to ask the Holy Spirit anew for needed gifts to help us on our journey. I began to suggest that we might ask for perseverance or patience this year in particular... until I realized that opportunities for long suffering might just as well accompany those virtuous gifts. Perhaps we might just pray that we recognize the Holy Spirit as a promised companion on the journey!

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Pentecost Sunday May 23 2021

Acts 2:1-11; Responsorial Psalm 104; 1st Corinthians 12:3-7 & 12-13 (or Galatians 5:16-25); Sequence Veni, Sancte Spiritus; Gospel Acclamation John 20:19-23; John 20:19-23 (or John 15:26-27 & 16:12-15)

[The vigil of Pentecost has readings that are most helpful in coming to an understanding of the presence of the Spirit among and within us. The readings for the vigil are as follows. We recommend reading these in preparation for the Solemnity of Pentecost: Genesis 11:1-9 (or Exodus 19:3-8 & 16-20; or Ezekiel 37:1-14; or Joel 3:1-5) Responsorial Psalm 104; Romans 8:22-27; Gospel Acclamation - Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of the faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love; John 7:37-39]

There is an optional reading from the prophecies of Ezekiel for the liturgy of the Word for the Vigil of Pentecost. I think it applies in a very intense way to the events of these past number of years. Ezekiel was a member of the priestly order in Jerusalem. In his young adult years, he was taken to Babylon where he lived in exile. The future of the Jews was bleak and seemed hopeless. It appeared that this nation would suffer the fate of its sister nation, Israel, the Northern Kingdom. The people of that nation were conquered by the Assyrian empire. Those ten tribes were scattered through out the known world with only a remnant remaining in the land. They intermarried with exiles from other nations and became the Samaritans. The Jews exiled to the nation of Babylon and its many cities, however, retained their individual nationality and practiced their rituals and festivals. During that time in Babylon, there was a revival of their faith. They struggled to understand why it was they were abandoned by their God. They searched their history and the stories of their liberation by God through the years of their formation as a nation. It was during this time that the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures were written down, collected from four traditions and the stories of those traditions. In this environment Ezekiel saw his visions and spoke the lessons of those visions.

In this optional selection from his visions, Ezekiel finds himself in the center of a great flat plain. That plain was filled with the bones of combatants, bleached in the hot sun, strewn about by scavenger beasts and birds. If ever there were a sure sign of death, of absolute defeat, of hopelessness, this plain was the poster child for that. The vision was a vison of the fate of the Jews. Their nation was dead. Their faith lost its connection with reality. Its meaning, its liberation, its favored status in the eyes of God lost. To the prophet’s eyes, it appeared there was no possible life for the bones of this nation so devastated by foreign armies.

In this vision, God asks Ezekiel, "Son of man, can these bones come to life?" We shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that the nation of dry bones would come to life. We shouldn’t think there is any hope of renewal, of resuscitation, of blood flowing in veins long since disappeared. Ezekiel answers only that God can know such a miracle. Then God instructs him to prophesy over those bones and say to them: "Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord!" As Ezekiel speaks over the bones as commanded, he hears a noise: it was a rattling as the bones came together, bone joining bone. He saw sinews and flesh come upon them and skin cover them. But even as these dry bones became in appearance the bodies of humanity, there was something missing. The prophecy says it perhaps too quickly for our ears to bring it to our hearts and minds. The prophecy says very simply – "there was no spirit in them."

Even without a spirit enlivening these formerly dry bones, it is a frightening sight. Those slaughtered in conflict, those who have lost the battle for the life of the nation, these bodies once hacked, pierced, and mutilated till their life blood watered the barren land – these bodies are once again fit and recognizable as human. But God speaks again to Ezekiel. "Prophesy to the spirit; say to the spirit. ‘Thus says the Lord God, from the four winds come, O spirit, and breathe into these slain that they may come to life.’" And it happened that this vast multitude stood up, a vast army ready to take on whatever adversity, whatever culture that threatened its values. God then sums up the event. "O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them."

The past number of years have seen terrible conflict. There has been an awakening among many of the need for equality in law, in economics, in educational opportunities, in housing – in general in all matters of society. That applies not only to secular society, but as well to religious traditions and cultures. The conflicts have resulted in many deaths and in much destruction. It has caused many to think of themselves as victims to be avenged and to be pitied. As if to make us more aware, we are being visited with a pandemic that has robbed us of the talent, the skills, the loving kindness of more than half a million citizens. Even the pandemic has been a source of division, of anger, and of hatred. Many have succumbed to despair. There are desperate diatribes that seek to blame, to murder, to challenge the very roots of once shared values. Truth has been overthrown. Dignity and respect for others has died in the face of name calling and scapegoating. Dialogue has disappeared from government, from religious traditions, and from neighborhoods. Some of us hide away from all that is going on by creating our own little isolated worlds. The time has changed but the terrors that pursue us are as real as they were in the 7th century before the Christ.

Was there ever a time that needed to hear the prophecies of Ezekiel? Come, Oh Spirit, from the four winds, from all the corners of the earth, and renew the spirits of us billions of earth’s inhabitants. Lift up our hearts, O Spirit of God, O Life of God and amend our minds to the purposes and values of the Lord of Creation. Come, Holy Spirit, come! And from your celestial home shed a ray of light divine!

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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A PENTECOST REFLECTION

Today, Pentecost Sunday, the Feast of the Holy Spirit, we might well ask ourselves again: Who is the Holy Spirit and what does the Holy Spirit do? Let’s begin by doing some remembering. If, as a child, we learned about the ‘Holy Spirit’ (the ‘Holy Ghost’ for some of us who are older), what picture or impression did we get of that person? How do we think of the Holy Spirit today? Is the idea of the Holy Spirit elusive, fascinating, or what? Does the Holy Spirit come to Catholics only? To Christians only? Can someone be influenced by the Spirit, and not realize it?

So, just who is the Holy Spirit? 'God is love' (1 Jn 4:8, 16), the bible says emphatically. As love, God is Father, God is Son, and God is Holy Spirit. As a distinct but connected person, the Spirit is the living and mutual bond of love between the Father and the Son. So, the Spirit lives in God, in an ongoing relationship with the Father and the Son. But the Spirit also lives in people. We call the Spirit of God that dwells in us the ‘Holy Spirit’ because he/she makes us good and holy. The Spirit, in fact, gradually changes us, transforms us. This is to say that the Spirit humanizes us, makes us more truly ourselves, our best selves, helping us to realize our potential to be more genuine and authentic people. The Holy Spirit even makes us somewhat divine, by making us more like God.

We find many references in the bible to the 'Spirit of God’. There the word ‘spirit’ means literally breath, air, or wind. In a poetic story in the Book of Genesis, chapter 1, about how God made the world, we read that ‘a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.’ This suggests that God is not far away and disconnected from us but as near and close and intimate to us as the wind in the trees, the breath of our mouths, and the air that we breathe. It suggests the power of God at work in the creation of the universe, and God's continuing and life-supporting presence to everything and everyone God has made. We recognize the power of the Spirit as God’s life-giving breath in the words of that old hymn: 'O breathe on me, O Breath of God, fill me with life anew; that I may love what thou dost love, and do what thou wouldst do.'

The expression 'the Spirit of God', also suggests the power of God at work at the first Pentecost. Luke sets the scene for the coming of the Spirit to the Infant Church in his words: 'When Pentecost day came round, the apostles had all met in one room when suddenly they heard what sounded like a powerful wind from heaven, the noise of which filled the entire house in which they were sitting' (Acts 2:1-2).

Over the centuries, believers have experienced the influence and power of the Spirit of God in a variety of ways. These experiences have led to a variety of names for the Spirit. Jesus calls the Spirit the 'Paraclete', the ‘Advocate’ (Jn 14:16,26; 15:26; 16:7) i.e., the one who is on our side, the consoler, the comforter. He speaks too of 'the Spirit of truth' (Jn 16:13), the one who reminds us of the truth about Jesus and the truth which he taught. Paul speaks of the 'Spirit of Christ' (Rom 8:9) and the 'Spirit of the Lord' (2 Cor 3:17). Paul implies that the same Spirit which motivated, animated, energized, and filled the person of Jesus, and led him to go about doing good - loving, healing, and helping - has been put into us. In other words, you and I have been given the Spirit of Jesus to help us become good and loving people, and do good, loving, helping, and healing things. Just like Jesus!

Believers have also found a range of symbols to express their experience of the Holy Spirit at work in their lives. Water has expressed the action of the Holy Spirit at Baptism. Just as our first birth is from water, so our birth into the life of the church and the life of God takes place in water blessed, enlivened, and energized by the Holy Spirit. So, in the Nicene Creed we pray at Mass, we call the Holy Spirit 'the Lord and giver of life.’ Pouring out the oil of chrism on candidates at confirmation and ordination has signified pouring out the Holy Spirit on them for their tasks either of being a Christian, or being a Christian leader. Fire has symbolized the energy of the Holy Spirit, which consumes and transforms what it touches. John the Baptist announces Christ as the one 'who will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire’ (Lk 1:17; 3:16). Jesus says of the Spirit: 'I have come to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were blazing already' (Lk 12:49). On the morning of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit rests on the first disciples in the form of ‘tongues of fire' and fills them with the same Spirit. Fire is one of the most expressive images of the Spirit's action. So much so that Paul warns us not to put out the fire of the Spirit when he says: 'Do not quench the Spirit' (1 Thess 5:19). The laying on hands by the Apostles, and by bishops since, e.g., by Archbishop O’Regan on Fr Tony Simbel CP in Adelaide, Australia, a few days ago, has been a sign of the giving of the Spirit to people entrusted with a mission of loving service to others (cf. Acts 8:17-19; 13:3; 19:6). When Jesus comes up from the water of his baptism, the Holy Spirit comes down upon him in the form of a dove, and remains with him (Mt 3:16 par.). Ever since, Christian art has been representing the hovering, abiding presence of the Spirit, in the form of a dove.

It is the Spirit in our church community and in each of us who makes us aware of Jesus Christ, both as he was on earth and as he is now, risen and glorious, with God and with us. It is the Spirit who reveals Jesus to us as the visible image, the outward reflection or mirror of the invisible God, as God’s human face. It is the Spirit who reminds us of the teachings and values of Jesus, and helps us to live them in our personal and community situations. It is the Spirit who makes present to us in each of the seven sacraments the power of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and brings us into a deep sharing of love with both God and one another. So much so that St Cyril of Alexandria has said: 'All of us who have received one and the same Spirit, are in a sense blended together with one another and with God.' The refrain of a well-known hymn, sums this up in a beautiful way when it says, 'where there is charity and love, there the God of love abides'. St Paul has left us with a brilliant list of down-to-earth ways in which the Spirit is constantly present and active in people – a kind of checklist! ‘What the Spirit brings is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness, and self-control ...’ (Gal 5:22-23).

Australian theologian Tony Kelly has written: 'The more we go out of ourselves in love, and leave behind the deadly isolation of "the heart of stone" for the vitality of the "heart of flesh," the more we share in the Spirit of God's own loving.' In a nutshell, therefore, as Paul insists: ‘Since the Spirit is our life, let us be directed by the Spirit.’ In our prayer together for the Feast, then, let us keep saying to God for ourselves and others: ‘Send forth your Spirit upon us and we shall be recreated, and you shall renew the face of the earth.’

"Brian Gleeson CP" <bgleesoncp@gmail.com>

 

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Volume 2 is for you. Your thoughts, reflections, and insights on the next Sundays readings can influence the preaching you hear. Send them to preacherexchange@att.net. Deadline is Wednesday Noon. Include your Name, and Email Address.

-- Fr. John Boll, OP


 

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