Pentecost was the second of the three great Pilgrimage Festivals celebrated by Israel, feasts which imposed a pilgrimage to Jerusalem upon Israelites. The other two were the Feast of Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles. The Passover commemorated the sparing of the Israelites when God’s avenging angel passed by their homes and slew the first-born of the Egyptians (Exodus 11:1-10). The Feast of Tabernacles (also called the Feast of Booths) was a harvest festival, celebrated in the fall. Pentecost, the Feast of Weeks, was also a harvest feast, but it marked the spring harvest, and was called the day of the first fruits (Numbers 28:26-31). It was a day of Sabbath observance, marked by prayer and sacrifice. This was the feast, the harvest feast, which Christ’s followers were celebrating, when “suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim” (Acts 2:1-4).
If anyone has ever worked with a group or committee that had a special project, you would know that success was dependent on the commitment of the members of the group, that the group shared the same ideas and principles and that they had the same goal. In other words they were united in their work for success of the project. Although the members of the group may have had different gifts and talents, they came from different backgrounds, and may have differed in other parts of their lives; it did not matter as long as there was a common goal and unity.
The final wishes or words of a loved one nearing death have a way of remaining with us. As a priest, I can think of various occasions where I have had the privilege of being with parishioners and/or family members as they saw a loved one prepare to go home to God.
This passage in John’s gospel is often referred to as Jesus’ farewell discourse. Jesus has an appreciation of the end of his earthly life approaching, and with a sense of urgency is offering some parting words about what He thinks is most important for us to remember.
Frank – the little story goes – was worried that the lady he married forty years ago was growing deaf. So one day when she was working in the garden, he went out, stood on the other side of the yard, about thirty feet behind her, and called out, “Mary!”
Jesus is famous for telling his disciples, “Unless you become like little children, you cannot enter the kingdom of God” (Matt 18:3). But what does that mean? How does a person become like a child again? Surely, Jesus does not mean we must become physically small and chronologically young, since that’s impossible. In John’s gospel, Jesus tells Nicodemus that we must be born again, but he doesn’t mean that we must come forth from our mother’s womb once more.
Easter is a time of year in which each of us has the opportunity for an “extreme makeover.” So many of the reality TV shows available to us are about such makeovers, but they all have to do with a transformation that is superficial. A Christian Easter makeover is about an in-depth transformation – one in which the Risen One living within us as Light of our lives, illuminates us deeply within our core, opening up the dark spaces in our existence, so that the image and likeness of God in which we were created can once again shine.
Good Friday was the end of the journey for the Pilgrim God, Jesus Christ. After 33 years of walking and talking with human beings he ended his pilgrimage on earth by dying on the cross. Easter Sunday was the beginning of his life as God Triumphant, his life beyond death.
Today’s great feast, Pentecost – the birthday of the Church – recalls another great story in our salvation history. This feast of Pentecost makes me think of a story that God’s people began to tell many, many centuries before today’s powerful events occurred.
There are not many details that I recall about the novel, The Three Musketeers, by Alexandre Dumas. There is one detail, however that has remained with me over the years. It is the seven-word phrase chosen by the title characters as their motto, “One for all and all for one!” This motto is something that helps define what a team does.
Let me start with a story from the Jewish tradition by the late Brooklyn-born Philadelphia writer Chaim Potok, about a young boy whose father was a good man. The boy, though, was troubled because the father was away often serving their religious leader the Rebbe during some very difficult years for their community
Riding in a taxi in Lima recently, I was struck by the quantity of rosaries and religious images that the driver had placed on the rear-view mirror and on the dashboard. Even for a devout and pious culture, this was exceptional. As we were nearing my destination, the driver looked in the mirror, and asked “are you a priest?”
There are many things and experiences in life that create fear in us. Anything from heights to speaking in public. Fear is a crippler. It prevents us from enjoying life in its fullness. Think about the fears you have or have dealt with in the past that made your life more difficult than it needs to be.
I have to be honest, I wasn’t entirely successful in my Lenten promises. I was hoping to enter Easter with a renewed sense of accomplishment. However, because of my missteps, and good intentions gone awry, I was confronted by what I could not do. I was humbled. I felt defeated ...but then I remembered a line from one of my favorite artists. In his song, Anthem, Leonard Cohen sings: There is a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in.
Easter is a story about dirt and graves and uncertainty. Even Mary Magdalene mistook Jesus for a gardener.
Nadia Bolz-Weber, a theologian and author, reminds us that the depictions in churches of the risen Christ never show dirt under his nails. Somehow, we needed to ‘clean things up’ for Easter, so no one would be offended by the truth.
Today we celebrate Pentecost. The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles describes the event for us: there was a noise like a strong diving wind and it filled the entire house. Tongues as of fire appeared and came to rest on those in the house. They were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak as the Spirit enabled them.
There are two points which I would like to share with you today, the Seventh Sunday of Easter. The first is how we are all connected and related to one another, as members of God’s family and particularly as Christians and Catholics, as members of the Church, the Body of Christ. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ.
Have you ever felt like an orphan? Maybe when a parent died, or when a friend died or left you? When my own mother died suddenly-she was sixty-four and I was thirty-three-it felt like the world ended. How could it go on? How could I go on without her?
“Don’t let your hearts be troubled.” (Jn 14:1) Don’t let them? Do I have control if my heart gets troubled or not?
It is easy for Jesus to say that I shouldn’t let my heart get troubled as I experience the death of a close relative or friend, as I myself have a serious ailment or I experience the serious sickness of someone close to me, as I deal with an addiction-my own or someone else’s, as I experience a divorce, as my parents are fighting, or as I am out of work. How can I prevent myself in these situations and many others from being troubled?
“I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” We have heard for ever that Jesus came to save us from our sins, but we cannot forget that that salvation includes having an abundant life. We need to keep focused on the goal of our salvation: LIFE, and ABUNDANT life!