Saturday, 28 May 2016

Corpus Christi

As the Easter celebration come to a close, the liturgy adds two special feast days, Corpus Christi and the feast of the Sacred Heart. The last chapters of the gospels give the accounts of Jesus resurrection and the disciples encounter with the risen Lord. In Matthew we read: “And when they saw him they worshiped him; but some doubted.” Mtt. 28.17

Luke tells it this way; 
As they were saying this, Jesus himself stood among them. But they were startled and frightened, and supposed that they saw a spirit. And he said to them, "Why are you troubled, and why do questionings rise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; handle me, and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have." And while they still disbelieved for joy, and wondered, he said to them, "Have you anything here to eat?" They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them. Lk. 24.36

The key here is REAL. “…See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; handle me, and see;” St. Paul tells us that if Christ is not raised, our faith is useless. This is the real truth upon which the very existence of church stands. The feast of Corpus Christi focuses on this essential truth; Jesus is really and truly present in his Church for all ages.

There were three main characteristics that made up the first encounters with the risen Lord, and these continue to be with us today. They are:

“When two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in their midst. Mtt. 18:20. Jesus is gathering and forming his church around his real presence. He remains with them to lead and guide them in every age to come. The principle sign/sacrament of that “gathering in his presence”, is the liturgy of the Eucharist. Only Jesus himself can cause such a profound personal faith to arise in another. It is essential that we “encounter the risen Christ”.
 (The two disciples on the road to Emmaus) returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread. Lk. 24:33
The SECOND ESSENTIAL CHARACTERISTIC of the Easter encounters is the instruction. Jesus teaches the disciples the meaning of his resurrection; for them and for the whole world. He guides them through the scriptures, showing how he is the fulfillment of all that has been promised, and how he has been sent to lead them into the fullness of all truth. 
Then he said to them, "These are my words which I spoke to you, while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled." Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, Lk. 24.46

Now with their hearts refreshed by this "communion" in Jesus presence and enlightened by his instruction, the THIRD ESSENTIAL CHARACTERISTIC follows; the commissioning of the Church to go out into the whole world and proclaim this good news of salvation. “Go and announce the gospel of the Lord!” With these words the Mass ends and the work of evangelization begins.

It is impossible to overstate the importance of the Eucharist to the very existence of the Church. Clearly, as the gathering at the Eucharist declines so does the very existence of the church decline with it. 

Sunday, 22 May 2016

St. Paul's Shipwreck

During the Easter weeks, the liturgy takes us through a reading of the Acts of the Apostles. We see and hear of the effects the coming of the Holy Spirit has on the disciples of Jesus, and the conversion of many more believers. From chapter nine on, the central character in the story is St. Paul. In the midst of a murderous rampage against the newborn Church, Paul comes face to face with Jesus and abruptly collapses to the ground. Paul is transformed from enemy of Jesus to champion of Jesus, called to bring the message of the gospel to the whole world.

Would not such a profound intimacy with Jesus bring Paul a "wonderful life" there after? Let Paul's own words describe the life it brought him.
 “… in harder labor, in more imprisonments, in worse beatings, in frequent danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked. I spent a night and a day in the open sea. In my frequent journeys, I have been in danger from rivers and from bandits, in danger from my countrymen and from the Gentiles, in danger in the city and the country, in danger on the sea and among false brothers, in labor and toil and often without sleep, in hunger and thirst and often without food, in cold and exposure.” 2 Cor. 11:23
That beautiful grace of a personal encounter with Christ, that gift of the grace of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, the gift of Consolation without cause, which can so profoundly change one's life, does not mean the world will not still be the world. There is an old song entitled, "Make the World Go Away ... get it off of my shoulders." But that is not the purpose of the Gift of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is given to empower us to engage the world in all its brokenness and transform it.

When we say "the world", it is not the natural world we mean, rather the world of man made systems, by which human affairs are conducted. It is this world that has been corrupted by the evil intentions of people, bringing disorder, pain and suffering into God's good creation.

The suffering of good people is the favorite argument used against a loving God. But when the suffering of good and faithful people, experienced in their struggle against the world's corruption, results in a healed and renewed world, it becomes the ultimate evidence of a loving God. "No greater love does one have then to lay down one's life for another." Jo. 15:13 

My child, if you aspire to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for an ordeal. Be sincere of heart, be steadfast, and do not be alarmed when disaster comes. Cling to him and do not leave him, so that you may be honoured at the end of your days. Ecclesiasticus / Sirach - Chapter 2:1-3
If one is looking for the "comfortable / conforming life" it is not to be found in authentic Christianity. Christianity is at war in this world. From the moment of Jesus birth the war has been on; the Evil One has sought to destroy Christ and Christianity in every generation since. The nature of the conflict may take on different manifestation in different places of the world but it is on.

In the Middle East, the war looks like war. Christians are openly and violently persecuted and killed. But in Western societies, societies that have in the past been described as Christian, the weapon of choice is "words", words that flow from a secular/scientific world view. It is preached that there is only what you see, that alone is what you get. Through a calm, rational, philosophical and scientific voice, the minds and hearts of a new generation are ripped from the arms of Christ and carried off. It may not look like the violent storm on the sea that tried to swallow up St. Paul, but it is no less violent, no less deadly.

So if the weapon of choice is words, then so be it. But make no mistake, silence is certain death. Our generation has been called to a New Evangelization. Every believer is to be an evangelist. We are to be visible like the church building that stands visible in the neighborhood. But ask yourself, what message does an empty church send to a community?

"Keep your religion to yourself" is the politically correct behavior expected of people today. One does not have to go door to door with bible in hand to be an authentic evangelist. But the principles and values that flow from a Christian conscience, formed by the gospel, in the community of the Church, must never fall silent in any forum, be it social or political.

Therefore I urge you, brothers, on account of God’s MERCY, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God. Rom. 12:1
 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For Your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Rom. 8:35


Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Thinking Outside the Box

When Jesus speaks of overcoming the world, the term "world" refers to the collective systems created by man in which people operate day by day; what you see is what you get, nothing more.

But man's "big picture" is in fact a very, very small picture of all that is. Bishop Robert Barron explores this in this Word on Fire video.

Friday, 13 May 2016

Pentecost Day

Through  the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit. Unlike the tongues of flame of Pentecost, the sacramental signs that indicate to us that the graces have been given are: +Laying On of Hands +Water +Anointing with Oil. For many people these sacraments are separated in time; such as baptism as infants and confirmation in the teen years.

As Pope John Paul II taught in his  APOSTOLICEXHORTATION, ON CATECHESIS IN OUR TIME (#19), the graces of the sacraments remain with us, as it were, in potential, awaiting our response and cooperation. I have seen many people, myself included, experience the awakening of the grace of the sacraments while participating in special circumstances like retreats, renewal movements etc. In the case of the Charismatic Renewal movement, this awakening was often accompanied by the classic manifestations referred to in the scriptures.

The Feast of Pentecost is a most appropriate opportunity for us to seek such renewal and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Pope John XXIII opened the Second Vatican Council with a prayer interceding for a [ "new Pentecost within the Church" ]. The renewal movements that followed in the 70's, often referred to their experience as receiving the "Grace of Renewal".

Baptism of the Holy Spirit is a major feature in many of the Posts in this blog. Use [ Search This Blog ] on the side panel to get links to these earlier references. The Page: [ Special Series Index Page ] links to a thirteen post series on the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.  The Page [ Prayer for the Baptism of the Holy Spirit ] addresses this directly.

The following are some prayers of the liturgies for Pentecost.

Vigil Mass
Grant, we pray, almighty God,
that the splendor of your glory
may shine forth upon us
and that, by the bright rays of the Holy Spirit,
the light of your light may confirm the hearts
of those born again by your grace.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Prayer after Communion
May these gifts we have consumed
benefit us, O Lord,
that we may always be aflame with the same Spirit,
whom you wondrously poured out on your Apostles.
Through Christ our Lord.

Pentecost Day, Prayer
O God, who by the mystery of today’s great feast
sanctify your whole Church in every people and nation,
pour out, we pray, the gifts of the Holy Spirit
across the face of the earth
and, with the divine grace that was at work
when the Gospel was first proclaimed,
fill now once more the hearts of believers.

It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation,
always and everywhere to give you thanks,
Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God.
For, bringing your Paschal Mystery to completion,
you bestowed the Holy Spirit today
on those you made your adopted children
by uniting them to your Only Begotten Son.
This same Spirit, as the Church came to birth,
opened to all peoples the knowledge of God
and brought together the many languages of the earth
in profession of the one faith.
Therefore, overcome with paschal joy,
every land, every people exults in your praise
and even the heavenly Powers, with the angelic hosts,
sing together the unending hymn of your glory,
as they acclaim:

Prayer after Communion
O God, who bestow heavenly gifts upon your Church,
safeguard, we pray, the grace you have given,
that the gift of the Holy Spirit poured out upon her
may retain all its force
and that this spiritual food
may gain her abundance of eternal redemption.

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Ascent to the Upper Room

From my room to the Upper Room. Come Holy Spirit, come!

From the Ascension to Pentecost

While meeting with them, he enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for “the promise of the Father about which you have heard me speak; …… in a few days you will be baptized with the holy Spirit.” Vs. 4&5

But you will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses …… to the ends of the earth. Vs. 8

When they entered the city they went to the upper room where they were staying, …… all these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers. Vs. 13&14

What a significant and important period of time this is, from the Ascension to Pentecost. Why? Firstly, it is a direct instruction from the Lord. “Go and prepare for the coming of the Holy Spirit.”  

Recall these words from Jesus: “I am the vine and you are the branches. The one who remains in me, and I in him, will bear much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” Jo. 15:5. 

This is critical, for without this communion with Jesus, our religious efforts remain just that, our efforts. We may look the part, but there will be no real fruit. There is more to authentic religion than just looking the part. To be authentic it must be alive, an ongoing, daily, person to person relationship with Jesus. More than merely taking the talk, it must be walking the walk, with Him. Anyone can claim the name Christian when convenient, but does Jesus known that person?

Consider these words of Jesus recorded in Matthew; “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ Mtt. 7:21-23

So how do I know where I stand? You'll recognize them by their fruit.” Mtt. 7:16 You must put your Christian life to the test, the test of discernment. In what ways do I manifest the "Fruits of the Spirit", in my daily life. Traditionally they are identified as:
Charity + Generosity + Joy + Gentleness + Peace + Faithfulness + Patience + Modesty + Kindness + Self-control + Goodness + Chastity.
We have already referred to this text in Acts, While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul traveled through the interior of the country and came down to Ephesus where he found some disciples. He said to them, “Did you receive the holy Spirit when you became believers?” They answered him, “We have never even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” Acts 19:

We may say we have heard of the Holy Spirit, but how well do we know the Spirit? Let this be the focus of our prayer as we lead up to Pentecost.

The following is a link to a concordance of scriptures under the heading Holy Spirit. Ask the Spirit to guide you to which of the passages that will most benefit your prayer at this time. 

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Pentecost + Baptism in the Holy Spirit + Grace of Renewal

Throughout these days that began with Easter, the liturgy of the Word has taken us on a journey through the Acts of the Apostles, recounting how the coming of the Holy Spirit transformed the lives of those who were the first Church. From being known as Jesus Disciples to Followers of the Way, to Christians, their new identity unfolded.

It is important for us to realize, that our baptism unites us to this dynamic history. Today, we are the continuation of that same Church, the work of the Holy Spirit in this generation.

That work of the Holy Spirit today is essentially the same as it was on that first Pentecost - breathing New Life (supernatural life of the Spirit) into each new member; uniting us to Christ and to the Communion of Saints. The manifestation of this reality also remains essentially the same, the same gifts and fruits of the Spirit continue to be given, equipping us for our participation in the work of the Spirit in the world today.

On October 16, 1979, Pope John Paul II gave the Church an extraordinary document, the APOSTOLIC EXHORTATION, ON CATECHESIS IN OUR TIME. In paragraph #19, Pope John Paul lays out the distinction between "initiation" into the Faith, that is personal belief and "attachment" to the Person of Jesus, and catechesis which is the ongoing formation and maturing in the message of the gospel. 
Again, many pre-adolescents and adolescents who have been baptized and been given a systematic catechesis and the sacraments still remain hesitant for a long time about committing their whole lives to Jesus Christ - if, moreover, they do not attempt to avoid religious education in the name of their freedom. Finally, even adults are not safe from temptations to doubt or to abandon their faith, especially as a result of their unbelieving surroundings. This means that "catechesis" must often concern itself not only with nourishing and teaching the faith, but also with arousing it unceasingly with the help of grace, with opening the heart, with converting, and with preparing total adherence to Jesus Christ on the part of those who are still on the threshold of faith. This concern will in part decide the tone, the language and the method of catechesis. #19
How well this applies to our generation. The expression, "... as long as you are a good person ..." is not the same as a "devout" Catholic. 

The Easter cycle is drawing to its end. It has been a time to rediscover a strong and true faith in the person, Jesus Christ, to have the gift of faith, given in baptism, born anew in the fire of the Holy Spirit; to be baptized in the Holy Spirit.


Resourses for your personal prayer

  • Novena to the Holy Spirit. (Begins this year, Friday May 6th. [...LINK...] 
  • Guide to praying for the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, the Grace of Renewal. [... LINK ...]

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