Pentecost Sunday – May 19, 2024

Pentecost Sunday – May 19, 2024

PentB24.  Acts of the Apostles 2:1-11.   For Jesus’ disciples “there appeared to them tongues of fire.” “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.”  The Holy Spirit was empowering them to communicate both the news of and the heartfelt goodness of Jesus.  The devout Jews visiting Jerusalem were enabled to “hear them speaking” “of the mighty acts of God.”

John 20:19-23 & 15:26-27; 16:12-15.  Jesus said to his disciples, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”  As God the Father commissioned Jesus to bring the love of God to believers, so too Jesus commissions and empowers his believers with the Holy Spirit.  They administered the forgiveness of sins to enable believers to relinquish and dissolve the barriers that separated them from the love of God.  So too God the Father sends the Spirit to enable us to live with Jesus as the love of our lives.

1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13 & Galatians 5:16-25.  “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’, except by the Holy Spirit.”  The Holy Spirit empowers us to live spiritually, which is beyond our earthly bodily capabilities.  The “Spirit of truth” reveals the fullness of the reality that is eternal; whereas our bodies only enable us to see the earthly realities that end in the grave.  Living in the Spirit enables us to live beyond the demands of our bodies.  The Spirit gives to each individual “different forms of service” or special capabilities to bring Christ to the world.  “To each individual, the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit” to the Church.

 

Pentecost Sunday – 2021

PentB21.     Acts of the Apostles 2:1-11.    With the entrance of the Holy Spirit, divine power was released in its fullness, “like a strong driving wind.” “Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire.”  “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.”  When Jesus was physically present, he was there outside of them, in front of them.  However, The Spirit came as a force, energy, divine life, as God himself within them.  God testified to his presence within them, by giving those proclaiming the Lord, the power to be understood by each of the hearers “in his native language.”

John 20:19-23.  The Apostles were trembling in fear.  Look what happened to Jesus!  They were fearful because it could also happen to them.  In contrast to the trembling of the Apostles, Jesus appeared in the power of his divine peacefulness.  “Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”  He sends them out to bring his loving divine presence to the entire world by empowering them with the Holy Spirit.  Through the power of the Holy Spirit they are to bring the breathe and the life of God’s holiness to those who wish to be released from their sinfulness.

John 15:26-27, 16:12-15.  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.”  The Holy Spirit speaks in unity with the Trinity so that no one divine person speaks ever on his own, but in union with the others.  This world only thinks of what goes from the ‘cradle to the grave’ but the genuine truth that God gives is present and eternal reality.  The glory that the Spirit gives to the Son and the Son to the Father is the recognition of their spectacular, magnificent divinity.

1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13.   “Brothers and sisters: No one can say, ”Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.”  As the branches cannot have life without being connected to the divine vine, so too, it is only by the Spirit that we are able to do anything that is truly good.  God, and only God, is the root source of all goodness.  Without God nothing that is genuinely good is able to occur.  In our individual functions in the Church we draw our capacity to truly benefit the Church from the action of the Spirit within us.

Galatians 5:16-25.   “Brothers and sisters: live by the Spirit and you will certainly not gratify the desire of the flesh.” “Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires.  If we live in the Spirit, let us also follow the Spirit.”  Under whose authority and demands do we live our lives, God or our body?  The natural instincts of our bodies have no spiritual morality, only physical gratification.  It is a true moral crucifixion to live in submission to God and in rejection of the physical desires of our bodies that are not in accord with God’s Will.

Pentecost Sunday – 2018

PentB18.   Acts of the Apostles 2:1-11.  Jesus, the Love, the Center, the Light of their lives had ascended, gone away into the heavens.  They were now without him. Jesus had promised the Spirit and so they waited.  When the Holy Spirit came, he came in great power. “Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.”  The Holy Spirit came to set their tongues on fire so that their words might instill a burning desire in their hearers to be devoted to Jesus as their life-giving God.  The Apostles spoke to a crowd of vastly different languages, yet they heard “them speaking in (their) own tongues of the mighty acts of God.”  The Spirit works today, ordinarily not with such a spectacular show, nonetheless with great, quiet power for those whose hearts welcome him.

John 20:19-23 & 15:26-27; 16:12-15.  John’s gospel has Pentecost and Easter occurring on the same day.  For John, Jesus comes on Easter to give the Holy Spirit to the Apostles so that they may go and bring to holiness those who wished to be saved from their sins.  In the second Gospel option, Jesus says, “the Spirit of truth” “will guide you to all truth,” which he receives from the Son who had received it from the Father, the Trinity working together as the one God.  In John’s gospel the word ‘truth’ is used 52 times, and yet even more times in the epistles.  The ‘truth’ means that we belong to what is genuinely real for all eternity, not what people would like to call the truth but what is only invented to make them feel good, or what they would like to think, or what is in fashion today.  That latter so called ‘truth’ are the lies which the devil uses to deliver us to his realm of darkness, away from the light that is God himself.  The truth that the Spirit brings to us is a continuation of what Jesus had brought to his followers when he was on earth.  God, the Holy Spirit uses the bible, the Church’s magisterium or teaching authority and all forms of teaching as instruments to guide us to all truth.

1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13.  “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.”  All good that is truly good comes radically from God, the only true source of genuine goodness.  All that we do, think or say that is good comes from the work of God. In Matthew 16: 16-17, “Simon Peter said in reply, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ Jesus said to him in reply, ‘Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.’”  In other words, Peter did not figure this all out on his own but God moved him to recognize the truth of who Jesus was.  If the preacher preaches in such a way that we are moved to be a holier people, that is the work of the Spirit in the preacher and in those who hear his words and not something they do on their own apart from God.  To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.  It is the work of the Spirit to build up the church by giving different gifts to different individuals.  It is the “same God who produces all of them in everyone.” “We are all given to drink of one Spirit.”

Galatians 5:16-25.  “Live by the Spirit and you will certainly not gratify the desire of the flesh.”  Here Paul is not writing about the necessary, nutritional demands our bodies make on us to live from day to day but on the illicit cravings that our bodily nature might tempt us to.  The fruit of the Spirit are the good actions that God calls us to.  “Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires.  If we live in the Spirit, let us also follow the Spirit.”

Ascension – May 12, 2024

AscenB24.   Acts of the Apostles 1:1-11.  After his resurrection from the dead, Jesus spent forty days “giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen.”  Jesus gave instructions through the power of the Holy Spirit whom he had received; but the apostles had not, until the day of Pentecost.  The power to do God’s work comes through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.  One day, Jesus “will return in the same way” as he ascended, at the end of the universe.

Mark 16:15-20.   Jesus commissions his disciples to do the same work he was doing when he was physically present, when he said, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.”  The salvation that gives eternal life comes from acceptance of the good news of Jesus Christ.  In the early days of Christianity “the Lord worked with them (the disciples) and confirmed the word through accompanying signs.”  Later the Holy Spirit worked to promote the faith spiritually, without “accompanying signs.”  In John 20:29b, Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

Ephesians 1:17-23.  “May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ give you a Spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of him.  May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened that you may know”—“what is the surpassing greatness of his power for us who believe” in Christ. We benefit now and for all eternity in what Jesus has done for us.  He is Lord of all things with him as the head of the Church, “which is his body.”

Ephesians 4:1-13.  God equips “the holy ones for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.”  The message of the Ascension is that we, the Church, are now to make visible the invisible Jesus by being witnesses of his presence and doing his work in the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ascension – 2021

AscenB21.    Acts of the Apostles 1:1-11.   Luke relates that Jesus, after the resurrection “presented himself alive” to his apostles enjoining them to remain in Jerusalem to wait to be baptized with the Holy Spirit.  The apostles were still thinking that the kingdom Jesus promised to establish was of a political nature.  However, he tells them that the power they will receive is not of a military nature but will be power that will come upon them from the Holy Spirit so that they can give witness “to the ends of the earth” that Jesus is the Messiah.  Jesus ascends up into heaven to make way for the coming of the Holy Spirit.  Then two men dressed in white garments, who we understand to be angels, tell them that one day Jesus will return from heaven, his Second Coming.

Mark 16:15-20.    “Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.  Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned.’”  “They went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs.”  What Jesus had begun while he was visibly and physically in this world, the Church, led by the apostles, were to continue, by going to the entire world, giving witness to his saving power.

Ephesians 1:17-23 & Ephesians 4:1-13.  In his resurrection, Jesus was raised from the dead.  In his ascension, Jesus was seated at the right hand of the Father, far above everything and everyone forever.  “That he might fill all things” means whatever is good has Jesus as its life-giving energy and his personal presence.  Without Jesus the vine, nothing can have any value.  His presence and life-giving force or grace equips the holy ones, those devoted to Jesus, “for the work of the ministry, for the building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God.”  By the power of Christ through the working of the Holy Spirit, we grow into full adult Christian maturity, “to the extent of the full stature of Christ.”  He brings us together into his body with him as the head.  With his grace energizing and guiding us, we all must become one or unified in him.

Ascension – 2018

AscenB18.   Acts of the Apostles 1:1-11.   “He presented himself alive to them by many proofs after he had suffered, appearing to them during forty days.”  Jesus had truly died and truly arose from the dead.  He proved that to his apostles in a physical way, visible to their eyes and palpable to their touch.  However, the time of Jesus’ physical presence was shortly to end and Christianity was to enter into a spiritual phase that demands a faith in what we cannot see or touch but which is fostered by the divine work of the Holy Spirit.  Through his powerful presence in the timid, previously fearful Apostles, Jesus’ salvific work was brought “to the ends of the earth.”  Jesus ascended into heaven but some day will return just as he ascended.  That will be Jesus, the divine King, at the end of the universe.  When it will happen belongs to God, and God alone, to know.

Mark 16:15-20.  “Jesus proclaimed to them, ‘go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” He “was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God.  But they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs.”  Through the Spirit, Jesus worked with his disciples, at first in a very visible, physical way but later, in a more spiritual and hidden way, demanding more faith on the part of the believer.

  1. Ephesians 1:17-23. At first Paul calls upon us through the power of God to come to know what hope we have been given from the riches of his glory and infinite power for us who put our faith in him.  Secondly, Paul says that we have put our faith in the Christ who is at the right hand of God the Father far above everything or anyone.  “And he put all things beneath his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body.”  As we receive the body and blood of Christ in communion, we, as church, become his body with him as our head.  We have been given a deep intimacy of union with him, so much is he a part of us and we, a part of him.  Jesus, filled with all goodness and love, fills us with all that is himself.  What eternal joy we have!
  2. Ephesians 4:1-13. The call or vocation that Christ has given us is to live in heaven one day.  We need to start living now as though we were already in heaven, “bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of spirit through the bond of peace.”  Through the Spirit he is equipping us for the work of the ministry by proclaiming the gospel to all in order to build up the church, which is the body of Christ.  We are all called to be one, united in Christ.  The depths of that union enable us to grow and develop as God’s holy ones, “to mature manhood, to the extent of the full stature of Christ.”

6th Sunday of Easter – May 5, 2024

East6B24.   Acts of the Apostles 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48.   It was thought among the Jews that only Jews, that is, “circumcised believers,” were acceptable to God.  Peter rejects that belief saying, “Rather, in every nation whoever fears him (God) and acts uprightly is acceptable to him.” “While Peter was still speaking these things, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening to the word.”  The Holy Spirit was thereby asserting his affirmation of what Peter had said.

John 15:9-17.  Jesus said in John 13:34: “I give you a new commandment: love one another.  As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.”  By this, Jesus is changing the Old Testament commandment: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  (Leviticus 19:18b).  The word neighbor among the Hebrews was understood to mean only “your fellow countrymen” and not everyone; and the measure of love was only as a human being loves oneself.  Jesus’ expands the commandment to mean that we ought to love everyone as God loves everyone that he has created.  “God said: ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.’” (Genesis 1:26a) “In the divine image he created him.” (Genesis 1:27b)  Jesus said, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. We are his friends if we accept his love for us by accepting his will for us. In calling us his friends, Jesus is accepting us as beings created by his Father who share something of God’s divinity as long as we choose to live in his image and likeness.

1 John 4:7-10.  “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.”  We are unable to love God without our first and foremost receiving the love of God into our hearts.  By his love for us on the cross Jesus has satisfied the Father for our sinfulness and poured his love into our hearts so that we have love to give one another.

6th Sunday of Easter – 2021

East6B21.   Acts of the Apostles 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48.    Prior to this, Cornelius, a non-Jew, had seen a God-given vision that led him to receive Peter as a messenger from God.  Peter, on the other hand, had been given a vision to accept people who were not Jews nor practiced Jewish ritual ways so that he was opened to accept the work of the Holy Spirit that had “been poured out on the Gentiles.”  So “he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.”  It was astounding for the Jewish followers of the Christ to accept non-Jews as also followers of Christ, so imbued they were with Judaism as a prerequisite for salvation.  Whatever is the will of God, no matter what anyone hadheld before, is what we ought to accept.  The prerequisite for remaining in union with God is to accept and live in union with his will.

John 15:9-17.   “If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.  I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy might be complete.  This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.”  To keep God’s commandments means to live in absolute obedience to God’s will as he reveals it to us day by day throughout the day.  His will is his way of communicating and expressing his love for us.  The cross we bear is to reject and die to our will.   The resurrection that we live is to live in his will.  What joy it is to live in his will that is his love for us!  In Judaism God’s commandments were engraved on two stone tablets.  However, in Christianity God’s commandments are not something written down once and forever but are made known to us by our being in an ongoing, never ending spiritual relationship and communication with Jesus.  In John 14:6-7a, “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.  If you know me, then you will also know my Father.’”  The joy of knowing Jesus personally and spiritually, even though he is invisible to human eyes, deepens and grows as we surrender ourselves to be led by him to live less and less in our own will so to live more and more in his will (commandments) and love.The one expression of his will or commandment that will never change is to love as he loves.

1 John 4:7-10.   “Beloved, let us love one another because love is of God.”  If we have God as the source of our daily life, then our daily life is love.  “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he has loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.”  Divine love is defined by the crucifix, totally selfless love.  Human nature, in itself and apart from God, does not have the capacity to love as God loves.  God is the only one who can enable us to love as he loves.  If we live in the love he pours out into us daily, then and only then can we love as he loves.

6th Sunday of Easter – 2018

East6B18.    Acts of the Apostles 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48.  The Acts of the Apostles 15:1 states:  Some who had come down from Judea were instructing the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the Mosaic practice, you cannot be saved.”  Today’s first reading helps to set the stage for debate that was to rage later in beginnings of Christianity.  Was what Christ was establishing a new form or sect of Judaism or an entirely different religion that was rooted in Judaism?  It is the latter. “Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him (Jesus),” Peter says.  The Holy Spirit poured out himself on Jew and Gentile alike without any discrimination.

John 15:9-17 & 17:11b-19. (Since in the Wilmington Diocese we do the Mass for the Ascension on the second Sunday from now, thus leaving the readings of the Seventh Sunday without any coverage, I would like to bring the second and third readings from the Seventh Sunday into this reflection so that they get some attention.  In John 15:9, “Jesus said to his disciples: ‘As the Father loves me, so I also love you.  Remain in my love.”  In other words, remain in and live in the divine love that I pour into you.  We have always heard, “Love with all your heart, with all your mind and all your soul,” as if we ourselves create the love from within ourselves from our own resources that enables us to respond positively to this command.  I believe that it is not our love with which we love but rather the love that God is always giving us that is the love that we bring to the commandments of love.  In other words, I understand that on our own, apart from God, we cannot truly love.  In John 15:5b, Jesus says, “Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.”  It is only that we have received love from God that we have love to bring to anyone.  In our second reading for this Sixth Sunday of Easter, we read, “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.” God is always at the center of our bearing any fruit.  In John 15:16a, Jesus says, “ It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.”  What we must ask for is true love in the midst of a world that all too often wants to love itself and a life in the flesh that only wants to love pleasures for the flesh.  It is now as Jesus said in John 13:34, “I give you a new commandment: love one another.  As I have loved you, so you also should love one another,” and no longer, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”  Jesus who offered himself up as a sacrifice for our sins to open the gates of heaven to us showed us that love is what we do for the true unadulterated benefit of others and not for what we can get out of it.

In John 17:6, Jesus says, “I revealed your name (you) to those whom you gave me out of the world.  They belonged to you, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word” (lived by what they have been taught.) In John 17:9, Jesus says, “I pray for them.  I do not pray for the world but for the ones you have given me, because they are yours.”  Since we Christians belong to God, he protects and guards us from the evil one.  The devil roams about the world trying to steal away from God those who have chosen to belong to God.  We are in the world but do not belong to the world and the devil but to God and heaven.  In John 18:36, in speaking to Pilate, “Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom does not belong to this world’.”  In John 17:17, Jesus says, “Consecrate them in the truth.  Your word is truth.”  To be consecrated means to be given or devoted completely and totally to God who is the fullness of truth, of what is eternally divine and not just a temporary gloss or veneer that appears to be momentarily pleasing in the eye of the world.

1 John 4:7-10, 11-16 (the second readings of both the Sixth and Seventh Sundays of Easter).       In 1 John 4:16, we read: “God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.”When our life comes from the love that God is giving us every moment of our lives, then we remain in God and in his love.  If we cooperate with the Holy Spirit’s work for our sanctification, then we build holiness within ourselves from the Spirit’s developing within us a sharing in God’s divine life that is the result of God’s endless act of loving us. The love that has been poured into us is what we share by loving one another as he has loved us.  God demands to see the fruit of his work of love in us.  Jesus says in John 15:16-17, “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.  This I command you: love one another.”  When we do God’s work of love, we do it with him.  He never leaves our side, so to give us whatever we need to accomplish his Will, his work of love through us and in us.

5th Sunday of Easter – Apr. 28, 2024

East5B24.   Acts of the Apostles 9:26-31.  Saul, as the newly converted Paul, makes his entry into the community of the followers of Jesus, whom he had formerly viciously persecuted.  As the Holy Spirit had worked so magnificently with Paul, he also was working successfully to build the Church in “all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria.”

John 15:1-8.  This gospel gives us what we truly need to live the Christian life.  The supply chain to receive what we must have to live in Christ comes from God the Father through Jesus to us.  Jesus tells us, “Remain in me, as I remain in you.”  The Christian life only comes through the life of Jesus living in us.  “I am the vine, you are the branches.”  Our humanness naturally encourages us to seek life from other sources sending us in useless or destructive directions.  God prunes away all that extraneous growth.  Who I am is no longer my body and this world.  We glorify the Lord when we were live solely with him as the source of our lives.  Daily I am being created by the Lord.

1 John 3:18-24.  “Those who keep his commandments remain in him, and he in them and the way we know that he remains in us is from the Spirit he gave us.”  Our intimate and deep union with the Lord leads us to live our lives out of the love he has for us.  His will is our never ending wish and desire since his will comes out of his love for us.  The Holy Spirit enables us to live spiritually, helping us to get infinitely beyond this material world and body we live in.