Wednesday, June 26, 2019

This OrdinaryTime demands extraordinary courage!

(Source Unknown)

Perhaps you have heard the fable about the pig and chicken walking along a highway when they see a billboard depicting a large plate of bacon and eggs with two pieces of toast – the perfect and healthy breakfast. When the chicken says to the pig, “Isn’t it wonderful that we can help so much in providing healthy meals for humans,” the pig quickly responds, “Well, that seems easy for you to say. After all, yours is a contribution….mine is total commitment!”

All of the readings today speak to us about call, which not only involves a willingness to make a contribution to God’s mission, but also requires an everyday response of genuine commitment that is deepened over a lifetime. 

In our first reading, Elijah calls to Elisha to be not only his disciple in the work of prophet, but also eventually, his successor, one of Israel’s greatest prophets. Elijah throws his mantle over Elisha to symbolize God’s choice of him as the new prophet, and Elisha is gifted with Elijah’s authority and powers of miracles.

Despite the obvious urgency of this call, Elisha pauses, offering an excuse to not respond so hastily, wishing to kiss his family, friends, and previous life good-bye, and possibly, cancel his credit cards and pack a change of clothing.

Then with laser-like focus, Elisha comes to an awareness that the voice of God rumbles like thunder within his very spirit, and his life will be upside down and inside out.  He hastily responds by leaving his former ways, willingly trusting in his new life as voice and heart of God’s mission, boldly proclaiming God’s faithfulness.  This sacred call is an invitation that will require Elisha to claim his courage and wisdom, contributing everything as disciple and committing wholeheartedly to God‘s reign while being wrapped in the “mantle of mission.”

Our Gospel today is from Luke, beginning with this section called the Journey to Jerusalem. For Luke, Jerusalem is the focal point of Jesus’ life. It is there that the disciples will form a new community to continue the work of Jesus; and, it is from there that it will spread to every corner of the world.

Jesus, faithful to God’s mission, moves forward with his small company of disciples on the long, dusty road from Galilee to Jerusalem. It will not be just another journey. “He is on the march and will not be turned back,” setting his face toward the holy city.

While passing through Samaria, where centuries old conflicts continually incite mutual retribution, Jesus rebukes his disciples for their need to seek revenge upon the Samaritans. He desires no part of violence or hostility, warning them not to respond with aggression or to seek vengeance against those who reject or oppose them. This is yet another mini-lesson in Discipleship101, preparing them for their future mission.

In the next part of the story, Jesus encounters three potential disciples who ask to join him, and he puts forth rigorous consequences for those seeking to serve in mission.  His first response stresses mobility, a radical discipleship, no shelter or home; the second, to be urgently immediate, moving forward to care for those beyond one’s family; the third is to resolutely look forward, relentlessly proclaiming the reign of God.

For us, this may sound like a “not so nice Jesus,” fierce, perhaps startling us with his intensity and harshness. But Jesus uses this occasion to speak about the true nature of discipleship and the implications of following him. An eager contribution is not enough; he demands a radical commitment, a “radical love and a life of service sharing in the mission of God with the possibility of suffering for the faith…not an easy lesson to learn for the disciples of times past or for ourselves as 21st Century disciples!”

Therefore, in the words of Daniel Berrigan, priest, poet, and peace activist who died this past April, we must envision and speak of this call to discipleship in this way . . . and I quote: “If you are going to follow Jesus, you better look good on wood.”

So what is the Good News for us as we ponder God’s Word today?
God’s calls are purpose, passion, and choice all rolled into one, somewhat clarifying, yet terrifying, taking us beyond the confines of what we thought we knew to regions of high risk and the unknown.

Much like Elisha and the three enthusiastic visitors who requested to follow Jesus, we are quick to establish timelines, agendas, plans, and excuses. We truly desire to contribute to God’s mission, but the call demands a growing into a deepening commitment, which may provide us an opportunity to look good on wood. Oh my!

Every Christian is called during his or her lifetime, each in a different and particular way . . . again and again. It is a lifelong conversation with God, as we continue to encounter subtle or glaringly obvious hints to recognize the guidance to become what we are meant to be, or to do what we are meant to do. It is only gradually that we glimpse what God imagines our life might become, ever challenging our insights, abilities, hopes, and gifts.

We are all called to become the best version of ourselves, empowered, sent forth, enwrapped into the “mantle of mission,” proclaiming God’s compassion, forgiveness, mercy, and redeeming love; for, “we must go wherever there is need, encounter whoever is in need, and do whatever it takes to bring the good news of redemption” and hope, so as to reawaken and restore meaning and purpose in people’s lives.

So - In an age of renewed awareness of the suffering of innocent people through human trafficking, exploitation of third world countries, or the tragic systematic death of peoples by means of torture, famine, and genocide, we can be sure that disciples, wrapped in mission, will tirelessly fight to alleviate the suffering of humankind.

In an age of clash between human dignity for all and the restrictive power of a few, we can be sure that disciples, wrapped in mission, will name injustice and call it social sin.

In an age when Christians are often confronted to choose between life and death for the sake of the Gospel, we can be sure that disciples, wrapped in mission, will be there with a holy resiliency, boldly standing in the mess and muck of it all - choosing life - and willing to stare death in the face for the sake of God’s reign.

When discrimination, elitism, or oppression operates in society, governments, or churches, we can be sure that disciples, wrapped in mission, will be there “to proclaim the reign of God, to be voice and heart, call and sign of the God whose design for this world is justice, mercy, peace, and love for all.”

Finally, I suppose we need to ask, What happened to the chicken and the pig? Well, I believe they have become our teachers, showing us that we are all called to be…
• disciples of “Good News-ing”;
• team players, promoting social justice causes
• catalysts for change, as we ponder the bewildered state of affairs in our world;
• bold and strong of heart, meeting the challenges wearying our planet; and
• wrapped in the mantle of mission.

Thus, we learn from them that our purpose, once neither opaque nor transparent, now becomes a dazzling light in which we unmistakably sense God’s thunder within us as we continue to live out God’s mission, and respond wholeheartedly to the call of the God who loves us unconditionally, compassionately, always and forever!

(Source Unknown)

A Celebration of God's Love!

Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

The story is told that once a young boy was about to have open-heart surgery.  To prepare him the surgeon said, “Tomorrow I will look at your heart.”  Smiling, the boy interrupted, “You’ll find Jesus there.”  Ignoring his remark, the surgeon continued, “After I have seen your heart I will try to repair the damage.”  Again, the boy insisted.  “You are going to find Jesus in my heart.”

The surgeon who had suffered losses in his own family and was still in pain from a failed marriage, felt very distant from God. He replied in a chilling tone, “No, what I’ll find is damaged tissue, constricted arteries, and weakened muscle.”

The next day he opened the boy’s chest and exposed his heart.  It was worse than he expected – a ravaged aorta, torn tissue, swollen muscles and arteries.  There was no hope of a cure, not even the possibility of a transplant.  His icy anger at God began to surface as he thought, “Where is God? Why did God do this?  Why is God letting this boy suffer and cursing him with an early death?”

As he gazed at the boy’s heart, he suddenly thought of the pierced heart of Jesus, and it seemed to him that the boy and Jesus shared one heart, a heart that was suffering for all those in the world experiencing pain and loss; a heart that was redeeming the world by love. 

Struck with awe at such goodness, such redemptive, unconditional love, tears began rolling down the surgeon’s cheeks, hot tears of compassion for the little boy.  Later, when the child awoke, he whispered, “Did you see my heart?”  “Yes,” said the surgeon.  “What did you find?” the boy asked. The surgeon replied, “I found Jesus there.” (Source Unknown)

The heart can be understood as a physical part of each of us – that hidden yet vital organ that circulates the full human blood supply three times per minute and whose hundred thousand beats a day are often taken for granted.  The heart is the very core of a person.  When that very center is deeply affected, one’s whole way of thinking about the world, one’s whole way of feeling it, of being in it is profoundly altered.  As in our opening story, the doctor experienced a conversion of heart – a healing from heartlessness to heart-fullness. And the child – who was all heart and shared in the heart of Jesus – had a heart filled with redemptive and unconditional love.

Today’s feast is the celebration of the “enlarged heart” of God as it was enfleshed in the heart of Jesus through the womb of Mary – a heart filled and overflowing with unconditional love and mercy.  Today is not necessarily a feast of our devotion to the heart of Jesus, but it is a celebration of God’s devotion to us by offering us a heart of love beyond our comprehension, a heart of love beyond any Hallmark card expression, and a heart full of love that is unfathomable. Our God’s love is tender; Our God is totally in love with us, and desires to be of one heart with us.  For as John writes: God is Love!

As we celebrate this feast today of God’s love for us it was different in the Middle Ages – as the devotion was not to the heart of Jesus but to the wound in the side of Jesus.  In later times, especially rising from the visions of St. Margaret Mary, the focus shifted more to the Heart of Jesus.

In the writings of Margaret Mary, she describes what happened one day as she was praying when she received a vision of Jesus:   “For a long time he kept me leaning on his breast, while he revealed the wonders of his love and the mysterious secrets of his Sacred Heart. Till then, he had always kept them hidden; but now, for the first time, he opened his Heart to me.”

Margaret Mary continued to describe in her writings how Jesus revealed his heart as a heart on fire with love as he said: “My divine Heart is so passionately fond of the human race, and of you (Margaret Mary), that it cannot keep back the pent-up flames of its burning love any longer.”  She then reveals what followed. “Next, he asked for my heart. I begged him to take it; he did, and placed it in his own divine Heart.  He let me see it there – a tiny atom being completely burned up in that fiery furnace.  Then, lifting it out – now a little heart-shaped flame – he put it back where he had found it.”

In Scripture we find a number of examples of how Jesus’ love was lived out. . .
• Let the children come to me . . .then he embraced them and blessed them, placing his hands on them
• At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them.
• Moved with pity, Jesus touched their eyes and immediately they received their sight.
• (Rich man) Jesus looking at him loved him.

So what is the good news for us today?
Let us through our daily reflection imagine ourselves resting in the heart of God hearing the heartbeat of God in the intimacy of our own prayer. 

(Nouwen)- “when we come to hear the heartbeat of God in the intimacy of our prayer, we realize that God’s heart embraces all the sufferings of the world.  We come to see that through Jesus Christ these burdens have become a light burden which we are invited to carry.  . . It is in the heart of God that we come to understand the true nature of human suffering and come to know our mission to alleviate this suffering not in our own name, but in the name of Jesus.”
For God’s heart goes out to us and God’s love is always there for us –

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

John is his name . . .

The story is told that in Valladolid, Spain, where Christopher Columbus died in 1506, stands a monument commemorating the great discoverer.  Perhaps the most interesting feature of the memorial is a statue of a lion destroying one of the Latin words that had been part of Spain’s motto for centuries.
Before Columbus made his voyages, the Spaniards thought they had reached the outer limits of earth.  Thus their motto was “Ne Plus Ultra,” which means, “No More Beyond.”  The word being torn away by the lion is “Ne” or “No” thus it reads “Plus Ultra.”  Columbus had proven that there was indeed “more beyond.”

Today, we celebrate the feast of John the Baptist, whose witness and voice called his hearers to a baptism of repentance and to recognize the “more beyond” in his prophetic message; the “more beyond” restrictive rules, regulations and religious customs, the “more beyond” predictable practices, and certainly the “more beyond” an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth!
From the beginning of his life to the end, John the Baptist was a living witness to God’s unconventional and unpredictable ways of acting.  Elizabeth, his mother, was “more beyond” the age of childbearing when she conceived.  Her relatives and neighbors rejoiced at God’s intervention on her behalf, but they had very definite ideas about how things should go after that.  Religious convention prescribed how the rite of circumcision and naming were to proceed.  

Here in our Gospel, all of Elizabeth’s family and friends gathered around her for the purpose of circumcising the child.  But they also decided that her newborn child would be named Zechariah, Jr. after his father.  And then in this awkward moment, Elizabeth’s voice is heard in the wilderness of promise and possibility, and she says: “No, no, the child’s name will be John” … which translates, Yahweh is gracious. 

These people are faithful Jews, good people and lovers of God.  But at this moment, God is about to reveal a mystery that has never so much as entered their minds or hearts.  God was preparing to do something new.  Something “more beyond” their imaginations.  God and not social convention was to give John his name. 

Perhaps the miraculous and unusual circumstances surrounding John’s conception, birth, and naming are clues as to God’s plan for this child who will be a prophet – one chosen to be "voice and heart, call and sign" of the God whose design for the world is justice, compassion, forgiveness, love and peace.

"In every age God sends prophets to remind us how God desires to be involved in our lives.  Prophets do as much as they can to carry out their purpose, which is to interpret the will of God and to proclaim it to the people.  They stand in our midst and tell it like it is, speaking disturbing words that people don’t like to hear."

We might ask  . . . Who are those in our time who have been called to be the prophetic voices to speak disturbing words that people don’t like to hear?
  • Let us remember, Bishop Oscar Romero:   He wrote . . . “Do not consider me, please, an enemy; I am simply a pastor, a brother, a friend of this Savadoran people.  One who knows their sufferings, their hunger, their anguish.  It is in the name of these voices that I raise my voice to say: Do not idolize your wealth!  Do not horde it to let the rest die of hunger! I speak in the first person, because this week I received notice that I am on the list of those who are to be eliminated next week. But let it be known that no one can any longer kill the voice of justice.”

  • Sr. Dorothy Stang : a Notre Dame de Namur sister, who worked among the peasant farmers in the Amazon and who was assassinated in February 2005.  In her journal she wrote, “O God, we have given all.  I have even sacrificed my home, country, family, my trust, to work among your people. God, my lover and Creator, I love You but I don’t understand why they (ranchers and military) seek to destroy our simple life-joy-caring among the people.  I never came to create hate or division but to build love, confidence and caring among a beautiful abandoned people.  Does this have to be part of life’s struggle?”

  • Finally, John Dear, a peace activist, who had at one time been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.  His challenge to us all is to be contemplatives of non-violence, be students, teachers and visionaries of non-violence, be activists of non-violence, and be prophets of non-violence and stand publically for peace.
So what is the Good News for us today?
Let us be open to the graces of these powerful readings.
Let us be open to risk the “more beyond” our comfort zones so that we, too, can be "voice and heart, call and sign" of the God who unsettles us.
Let us pray for all who are called in our time to be prophetic and speak words of challenge that people don’t want to hear.
And let us pray that John the Baptist will intercede for our world today so that we, too, will choose to live “more beyond” violence, greed and power and truly live peace, be peace.   

Deep Listening . . .

In this century and any century,
Our deepest hope, our most tender prayer,
Is that we learn to listen.
May we listen to one another in openness and mercy
May we listen to plants and animals in wonder and respect
May we listen to our own hearts in love and forgiveness
May we listen to God in quietness and awe.

And in this listening,
Which is boundless in its beauty,
May we find the wisdom to cooperate
With a healing spirit, a divine spirit,
Who beckons us into peace and community and creativity.
We do not ask for a perfect world.
But we do ask for a better world.
We ask for deep listening.

Author: Jay McDaniel

Ready, Set, Summer!

A Summer Prayer

May you breathe in the beauty of summer with its power of transformation.
May this beauty permeate all that feels un-beautiful in you. 

May the God of summer give us beauty.

May you seek and find spaces of repose during these summer months.
May these moments refresh and restore the tired places within you.

May the God of summer give us rest.

May you be open to times of celebration and recreation that are so much a part of summer.
May you find happiness in these times of play and leisure.

May the God of summer give us joy.

May your eyes see the wonders of summer's colors.
May these colors delight you and entice you into contemplation and joy.

May the God of summer give us inner light.

May you feel energy of summer rains penetrating thirsty gardens, golf courses, lawns and farmlands.
May these rains remind you that your inner thirst needs quenching.
May your inner self be refreshed, restored, and renewed.

May the God of summer give us what we need for healing.
May you savor fresh produce that comes to your table and enjoy the fruits of summer's bounty.

May the God of summer give us a sense of satisfaction in the works of our hands.
May you find shelter when the stormy skies of summer threaten your safety.

May the God of summer give us shelter when inner storms threaten our peace of mind and heart.
May you enjoy the unexpected and find surprises of beauty and happiness as you travel the roads on summer vacation.

May the God of summer lead us to amazing discoveries as we travel the inner roads of our soul as well.

By: Joyce Rupp

God our visitor . . .


You came down from your throne and stood at my cottage door.
I was singing all alone in a corner, and the melody caught your ear.

You came down and stood at my cottage door.

Masters are many in your hall and songs are sung there at all hours.

But the simple carol of this novice struck at your love.

One plaintive little strain mingled with the great music of the world,
and with a flower for a prize you came down and stopped at my cottage door.

Song Offerings

Welcoming All That Is . . .

The Welcoming Prayer (by Father Thomas Keating)

Welcome, welcome, welcome.
I welcome everything that comes to me today
because I know it's for my healing.
I welcome all thoughts, feelings, emotions, persons,
situations, and conditions.
I let go of my desire for power and control.
I let go of my desire for affection, esteem,
approval and pleasure.
I let go of my desire for survival and security.
I let go of my desire to change any situation,
condition, person or myself.
I open to the love and presence of God and
God's action within. Amen.

Summering . . .

Thank you, God
for this season of sun and slow motion,
of games and porch sitting,
of picnics and light green fireflies
on heavy purple evenings;
and praise for slight breezes.
It’s good, God, as the first long days of your creations.

Let this season be for me
a time of gathering together the pieces
Into which my busyness has broken me.
O God, enable me now to grow wise through reflection,
peaceful through the song of the cricket,
recreated through the laughter of play.

Most of all God,
Let me live easily and grace-fully for a spell,
so that I may see other souls deeply,
share in a silence unhurried,
Listen to the sound of sunlight and shadows,
explore barefoot the land of forgotten dreams and shy hopes,
and find the right words to tell another who I am.

Ted Loder, Guerrillas of Grace,
1984, Innisfree Press, Philadelphia, PA

Saturday, June 15, 2019

A Father's Day Story . . .

A Box Full of Kisses!
Author Unknown

The story goes that some time ago, a man punished his 3-year old daughter for wasting a roll of gold wrapping paper.  Money was tight and he became infuriated when the child tried to decorate a box to put under the Christmas tree. Nevertheless, the little girl brought the gift to her father the next morning and said, “This is for you, Daddy.”

The man was embarrassed by his earlier overreaction, but his anger flared again when he found out the box was empty. He yelled at her, stating, “Don’t you know when you give someone a present, there is supposed to be something inside?” The little girl looked up at him with tears in her eyes and cried, “Oh, Daddy, it’s not empty at all. I blew kisses into the box. They’re all for you, Daddy.”

The father was crushed. He put his arms around his little girl, and he begged her forgiveness.

Only a short time later, an accident took the life of the child. It is also told that her father kept the gold wrapped box by his bed for many years and, whenever he was discouraged, he would take out an imaginary kiss and remember the love of the child who had put it there.

(Author’s comment):
In a very real sense, each one of us, as human beings, has been given a gold container filled with unconditional love and kisses . . . from our children, family members, friends, and God.  There is simply no other possession, anyone could hold, more precious than this.         

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Threshold of Vulnerability . . .

To acknowledge and cross a new threshold is always a challenge. It demands courage and also a sense of trust in whatever is emerging. This becomes essential when a threshold opens suddenly in front of you, one for which you had no preparation. This could be illness, suffering or loss.

Because we are so engaged with the world, we usually forget how fragile life can be and how vulnerable we always are. It takes only a couple of seconds for a life to change irreversibly.

Suddenly you stand on completely strange ground and a new course of life has to be embraced. Especially at such times we desperately need blessing and protection. You look back at the life you have lived up to a few hours before, and it suddenly seems so far away.

Think for a moment how, across the world, someone’s life has just changed – irrevocably, permanently, and not necessarily for the better – and everything that was once so steady, so reliable, must now find a new way of unfolding.
(Author Unknown)

Monday, June 10, 2019

Ordinary Time Ponderings . . .

In 2007, the film, The Inconvenient Truth,  aired and starred former United States VP Al Gore which told the “unbelievable” facts about climate change and specifically global warming.  In the film, Gore reviews the scientific evidence for global warming, discusses the politics and economics of global warming, and describes the consequences he believes global climate change will produce if the amount of human-generated greenhouse gases is not significantly reduced in the very near future. In one particular scenario, he presents the film footage of his presentation on this subject to the U.S. Senate in 1992 and he also brought in climate scientists to authenticate his findings. He thought that once legislators heard the compelling evidence, they would be driven to action.  Not so.  Some listened, some became skeptical and others shirked it off.  It was simply viewed as an inconvenient truth.

In the Gospels, we are presented with numerous episodes of Jesus’ power over disease, demons, blindness, fevers, the sea and sin itself.  As we read between the lines, we discover Jesus, too, was an Inconvenient Truth  for both the religious and political leaders of his time. Their economic and religious interests were threatened by him, and they were often rebuked for their hypocrisy. He moved to the “margins of society” and hung out with those who were “outsiders.”  He banqueted with sinners and tax collectors; he healed women, touched them, raised them up, and freed them from demons and patterns of life which restricted them. He challenged everyone to become light and salt; to forgive and love their enemies, to ask, to seek, and to knock on the door of God’s heart; to walk through the narrow gate; and that when they fasted or gave alms that it would not be done for show; that they would give away their extra cloak, go the extra mile, and bend and wash each other’s feet.Truly, he was an Inconvenient Truth.

At this time as I write, we, as caretakers of planet Earth, are experiencing fires, along with other climate issues, such as, floods, drought, and extreme heat. Seems that global warming, which in the recent past skeptics made efforts to discredit, now scientists’ truths about our climate are being heard; a noticing is happening and countries the world over are taking steps to slowly remedy these large-scale planet issues. 

So what is the Good News?
We are all called to listen to the falling leaves, to the melting glaciers, to the gasping of earth from our greedy clutching, and to the sacred voices of nature crying out their lamentations. We are all called to listen to our souls, to the souls of one another, and to our Mother Earth.

So - May God bless us with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that we will live deep in our hearts. May God bless us with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people and the earth so that we will work for justice, equity, and peace. Let us do as much as we can to take up the challenge to be prophetic voices in our church, our government, and the world, and to speak for the least, the last and the lost so that all that is scattered may be gathered, healed and treated justly. And may God bless us with the foolishness to think that we can make a difference in the world, so we will do the things which others say cannot be done.   Finally, may we ask for the graces we need throughout this week to create a climate change of hope and peace in our world as we entrust our lives to the One who is the Way, the Life and the Inconvenient Truth.
(Previously posted)

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Ablaze with the Spirit . . .

Image by: Doris Klein, CSA
(previously posted)

It is said that at one time Rabbi Lot went to see Rabbi Joseph and said, “Rabbi, as much as I am able, I practice a small rule of life, all the little fasts, some prayer and meditation, and remain quiet, and as much as possible, I keep my thoughts clean.  What else should I do?”  Then the old Rabbi Joseph stood up and stretched out his hands toward heaven, and his fingers became like the torches of flame.  And he said, “Why not be turned into fire?”   (From the Desert Fathers and Mothers)

Today we celebrate the feast of the Spirit and God’s unrelenting, never-ending, eternal invitation to us, much like that to the early disciples, to become People of the Flame!  For they became on fire with the mission of Jesus and set the world ablaze with their message of God’s love by their bold witness of life! These followers of Jesus were given the power promised by Jesus to further the reign of God.

We have today in the first reading, the story of God’s astonishing revelation of the Spirit in which Luke gets our attention through the images of a sudden, cosmic, divine event abounding with a strong driving wind and flames of fire that rest upon all those gathered in the upper room.  For Luke, Pentecost happens sometime after the Easter appearances of Jesus and his ascension.  It is on the Jewish feast of Pentecost that the Spirit descends upon the disciples in a dramatic, mysterious, and powerful way. They experience a strong wind blowing through the house, are touched by flames of fire, and begin to speak in other languages. There is a radical transformation in the disciples . . . from fearful, unbelieving people, to courageous and bold women and men with a mission. 
Throughout the rest of the Chapters in Acts, we will hear stories of their conversion of heart again and again. They will preach about God's love, uniting them in mind and heart to other Jews, Arabs, Cretans, Gentiles, and those beyond the borders and boundaries of their limitations; and all will understand. This is the mission of God’s Spirit . . . to unite and bring together people of every nation and language.  Now the Spirit's language unites the hearts and minds of the believing community.  It is not bound by any limitations. The fringes of faith are flung open, unrestricted by language, culture, or ethnicity. Every cultural expression is able to find the divine. No one who loves God can be excluded; for the gifts of the Spirit are diverse, and we share in the mystery of Pentecost when we celebrate each contribution with gladness and gratitude.
John, in our Gospel, brings us back to Easter night, when the frightened disciples are huddled in the upper room; the risen Jesus comes to them through locked doors and speaks the language of the Spirit to them.  He greets them . . . breathes the breath of God upon them and blesses them with peace, comfort, and forgiveness. He does not hold them captive with such words as, “Where were you when I needed you most”?  Instead, Jesus offers them healing and peace in the midst of their fear and turmoil from the post-traumatic stress of the past days in Jerusalem.

Jesus, knowing their doubts and insecurity, reveals to them the wounds in his hands and side.  There can be no doubt: it is the crucified Jesus himself, risen from the dead.  As their fear changes to an unspeakable joy, Jesus again wishes them peace and the life of his Spirit, saying: “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

He goes on to say, “Those whose sins you forgive are forgiven…”  This is no mere authority of the law in which people are declared free of guilt.  It is much more than that.  The disciples are being given the power to bring people back to God, to reconcile those who have become separated from their God, and to discern which people are not yet ready for reconciliation. And, then he declares their mission, the same as his own: continue doing what he did – the celebration and expansion of God’s reign.

So what is the good news for us today?
Pentecost is the feast that calls us to be willing and courageous to become people of the flame.  We all are people of the Spirit filled with gifts that the “world needs so desperately . . .wisdom for a world searching for meaning,  knowledge, and understanding for a world seeking truth and insight, healing for a world torn apart by violence, and the gift of discernment for a world in need of direction and inspiration.”
So, let us ponder these closing thoughts, as we reflect on our call to become people of the flame:

“To live a life of the Spirit takes all the life we have. To live a life of the Spirit takes the heart of a hermit, the soul of a mountain climber, the eyes of a lover, the hands of a healer, and the mind of a rabbi. It requires total immersion in the life of Christ Jesus and complete concentration on the meaning of the Gospel today.” (Adapted/Joan Chittister – Fire in These Ashes)

So what else should we do?   Why not be turned into fire?

A "Spirited" Prayer . . .

Come, Holy Spirit
Replace the tension within me with a holy relaxation,
Replace the turbulence within me with a sacred calm,
Replace the anxiety within me with a quiet confidence,

Replace the fear within me with a strong faith,
Replace the bitterness within me with the sweetness of grace,
Replace the darkness within me with a gentle light,

Replace the coldness within me with a loving warmth,
Replace the night within me with Your day,
Replace the winter within me with Your spring,

Straighten my crookedness, fill my emptiness,
Dull the edge of my pride, sharpen the edge of my humility,
Light the fires of my love, quench within me the flames of envy,
Let me see myself as You see me,
that I may see You as You have promised
And be fortunate according to Your word,
 “Blessed are the pure of heart,
                    for they shall see God.”                          

Image by: Doris Klein, CSA