Pastoral Sharings: "Pentecost Sunday"

WeeklyMessageHomily from Father James Gilhooley 
Pentecost Sunday
Posted for May 24, 2015

The Feast of Pentecost ranks among the most important in the Christian Calendar—it is up there with Christmas and Easter as marking a crucial moment in the story of our salvation.

As we have just heard read to us, on Pentecost Day the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the apostles and they were inspired to leave their place of refuge and go out into the street to proclaim the Gospel eloquently in the languages of all their listeners.

This great outpouring of the Holy Spirit was not a one-off event it is something that continues in the Church right up to the present day. Indeed it will always be one of the identifying characteristics of the Church.

The Lord himself said: I will not leave you orphans. And neither he has. The Holy Spirit has been sent down on the community of believers and he inspires and sustains the Church through all the ages.

This great Feast of Pentecost is rightly considered the birthday of the Church. But it marks much more than merely the birth of an institution. What is happening is that we are being gradually drawn into the life of the Trinity—the life of God himself.

We have been saved by the work of the Son and we now live the life of the Spirit. We are being drawn ever closer to the Father and when we die we shall rise to glory and see God face to face.

Each one of us experiences his or her own Pentecost. The Holy Spirit is poured out on us in the Sacrament of Confirmation but the Spirit does not stop there. We experience many other moments of grace because God never ceases to act in our lives.

Nothing occurs by accident and, while respecting our free will, God constantly cares for us and guides us in the way he chooses. If we want to know whether he has actually done this then simply sit down and count your blessings and you will soon see what he has been doing.

We as Christians want to live in harmony with our creator and we want to follow where he leads us. Sometimes though we find it difficult to discern his will. Does the Holy Spirit inspire this or that particular action or it is just me following my own desires?

To answer this question we simply need to ask ourselves whether the deed in question is good and whether its effects will be good. If there is a shadow of doubt then we will know it is our own desires that are at work rather than the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

God is good and there is no darkness in him. If our actions and motivations are good in themselves then they certainly come from God.

This might not sound like much fun—we may regard being good all the time as rather boring. But this is a basic error on our part. Doing good deeds is certainly pleasurable, working in harmony with our creator is in fact deeply satisfying; and indeed, true personal fulfilment can be found in no other way.

The Lord Jesus breathed on the apostles and said Receive the Holy Spirit, so we are told in the Gospel reading. This is a most interesting action and indeed the Holy Spirit is often identified as the very breath of God.

It is breath that gives life and the Holy Spirit certainly gives us life. We begin to live a new life; we have a new breath in us—the breath of God. We live this new life by doing the things God wants us to do, thinking the thoughts God wants us to think and by speaking the words that God wants us to speak.

By living in such close conformity to the will of God we become more and more in harmony with him. What begins as an act of will, sometimes only with great difficulty, gradually becomes second nature to us. We don’t have to ask what God wants us to do because we instinctively choose the good.

This sounds all very lovely and pious and you might be thinking by now that although I might be saying these rather marvellous things I quite obviously don’t live them! And you would be right.

You might also be thinking that you wish you could live in this way yourself but it would be too hard. There are so many practical things that get in the way. And actually we all quite like our little vices and bad habits and are reluctant to let them go.

And this is understandable and in fact it is an inevitable effect of the original sin that we were all born into. Concupiscence is the technical word—if you want to know.

But look again at our Gospel reading and you see that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is simultaneous with the institution of the sacrament of reconciliation. The Holy Spirit comes upon us and this Spirit is a forgiving, healing and reconciling Spirit.

We want to live the way God wants but we frequently fail, we frequently return to the selfish habits of sin, we frequently choose our way rather than God’s way. But we are aware of this. And when things build up we find ourselves turning to God in repentance to seek his forgiveness and mercy.

When, in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we clear away the backlog of sin we hear the priest say those wonderful words: God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace.

So although we are still fairly hopeless and always will have a certain propensity to sin we can yet make progress. After all the Holy Spirit is guiding us and he guides us along the way to holiness. By letting him do his work we gradually grow in love and goodness. By letting him do his work he draws us to the Father, he leads us to life eternal.

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful,
And enkindle in them the fire of your love.

Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.
And you shall renew the face of the earth.

Let us pray.

O God, who has taught the hearts of the faithful by light of the Holy Spirit, grant that by the gift of the same Spirit we may be always truly wise and ever rejoice in his consolation. Through Christ our Lord. Amen

Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
May 24, 2015

The Solemnity of Pentecost: Called from Safety into Love

The doors were locked. The bar was firmly in place.  The Temple police who had hunted Jesus down Thursday evening would not so easily get into the Upper Room on Sunday.  The disciples really didn’t know what they should do now that Jesus was dead.  What they did know was that for the time being they were in a safe place.  They were there on Easter Sunday.  Perhaps they were there all fifty days after that fateful Passover.  The Acts of the Apostles has them there for those fifty days, thus the name Pentecost.   The Gospel of John doesn’t mention how long they were there.  But it also points out that the disciples were in a safe place. 

The Difference that the Spirit Makes
As a teenager, I thought the clergy were supposed to do everything.  We laity were just called to pray, pay, and obey.  Oh yes, and keep the commandments, of course. The original 10 seemed overwhelming enough. Then I discovered the Sermon on the Mount and nearly passed out.

Perhaps this is why many inactive Catholics are so resentful of their upbringing in the Church.  For them, religion means frustration, failure, and guilt.

Somehow they, and I, missed the good news about Pentecost. OK, we Catholics celebrate the feast every year and mention it in Confirmation class, but lots of us evidently didn’t “get it.”

Pentecost Sunday, Year B—May 24, 2015
On Resurrection Day, Jesus breathed on His disciples, a gesture odd in itself but packed with meaning for our celebration of Pentecost today.

Gospel (Read Jn 20:19-23)

Today’s Gospel tells us that Jesus surprised the disciples “on the evening of that first day of the week” by appearing in their midst without using a door (locked “for fear of the Jews”). We wonder if He had to calm them down a bit, because He said, twice, “Peace be with you.”

Padre Pio on Listening to Your Guardian Angel
Padre Pio had encounters with angels throughout his life and got to know them very well. He also received interior locutions; he had to discern from whom they came and how he ought to react to them.

In a letter he wrote on July 15, 1913, to Annita, he gives her (and us) invaluable advice regarding how to act in relation to our guardian angel, locutions, and prayer.

The Hidden Story of Jesus in the Old Testament
There are many figures that foreshadow Jesus in the Old Testament—Adam, David,  and Moses come to mind—but the basic story of Jesus itself is deeply embedded in it.

It can be found in the mysterious figure of Wisdom, who is personified in books like Proverbs, Job, Wisdom, and Sirach. In Proverbs 8:27-30, it is said that,

How Can We Know the Way to God? (Part II of II)
Editor’s Note: In Part I, we looked at the effects of a darkened mind and the coming of the Light. Today, we will reflect on the deepest questions and talk about the fullest answer to them. Here is the particular issue we are examining:

Dear Father John, I know the apostles ask Jesus this same question: How can we know the way? But, seriously, what if we want to go to God but we don’t know how. How can we know the way?

Comfort the Sorrowful – A Consideration of the Fourth Spiritual Work of Mercy
The fourth Spiritual Work of Mercy is to “comfort the sorrowful.” Sometimes it is listed as to “comfort the afflicted.” This description broadens the work just a bit and also fits more with the original notion of the word “comfort,” as we shall consider in a moment.

But of all the spiritual works of mercy, comforting the sorrowful requires the greatest patience, sensitivity, and also silence.

The Ascension, Jesus’s Priesthood, and the Mass
“Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven.” (Luke 24:50-51)

For many who read the Gospels, Jesus’s ascension seems to be the completion of his ministry. They are sorely mistaken, though. At the ascension our Lord’s ministry reached new heights; he serves as humanity’s high priest before the Father in heaven. The Epistle to the Hebrews goes so far as to say that Christ “lives to make intercession” for us (Heb. 7:25). The very way that Jesus ascended into heaven speaks to this mystery.

The Smoke of Satan…
There are many problems in the Catholic Church that might be thought to be the ‘smoke of Satan’ entering the church, but for my money one thing, above all others, has been the successful work of Satan, which has undermined the church, emasculated her ministry, sabotaged the aims of the Holy Spirit and captured a multitude of souls.

Not Crowded, but Close – A Brief Reflection and Clarification on the Communion of Saints in Heaven
Many of you know that I write the weekly “Question and Answer” column for the Our Sunday Visitor newspaper. Every now and again I get a question that stands out as unique, one that I had not thought of before. And such is the case with the question below. I had never thought of Heaven as potentially being crowded or considered it a drawback. But the question led me to reflect on the deeper experience of what we call the Communion of Saints in Heaven.

Advice From the Trenches: 3 Practical Tips for Discerning God’s Will
If I have learned anything in life, I have learned that discernment never ends. Even after you discern the vocation God is calling you to, there are constantly different situations that need prayerful discernment.
It might be discerning which house to buy or how many children to have or what job to take; every year has its own challenges and decisions to make. Just when you think you “have it all figured out,” something new pops up!

Why Do We Go To Mass? Four Essential Reasons
Infinite is the one great mystery of Christian faith. The more men ponder over its parts the more bewildering it appears, for the mystery of the Triune God is continually upholding its hidden power. How grandly impressive is Catholic worship! What an awful holocaust is its sacrifice! Far surpassing the power of human concept is the adorable Sacrifice of the Mass, the supreme worship of the Church. Fearful and thrilling is this, the greatest of all sacrifices; God, the victim slain; God, the High-priest daily offering Himself to the Almighty Father in mystic sacrifice, through the hands of His minister, for the soul redeemed through the precious blood-shedding of Calvary; – offering Himself both for the adorer and the scoffer of His sacred humanity, it is not strange that men stand in trembling awe and have fallen prostrate in every age before the God who assumed man’s nature to die the awful death of the cross when veiled in the uplifted Host He is hourly offered in solemn sacrifice from Catholic altars.

The Power of the Spirit
“Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
With those words to the apostle Thomas, Jesus bestowed a wonderful blessing upon all of those disciples who chose to follow him yet never actually heard him preach a sermon or saw him heal a leper.

Building a Culture for Christ
John Paul the Great Catholic University ( in Escondido, Calif., will soon celebrate the completion of its first decade of operation, reported Derry Connolly, the university’s president.

The university will graduate its seventh undergraduate class this fall, as well as its fifth graduate class. It will also welcome its ninth class of new students.

It has much of which to be proud, he said, as it marks the “closing of our first chapter.”

It Takes Two to Two Step
I’ve been dancing a lot lately – two step, cha cha, waltz, triple step, triple two step. These dances are different from line dancing, different from the kind of dance I do around my living room when my favorite song comes on, different from the movement encouraged in some of my yoga classes. They are different precisely because they require two people.

It is impossible to two step alone.

Two Takes on Chastity
Ave Maria Press recently published two books on chastity. While the books come to the same conclusions, the authors do so from very different viewpoints. The first, Chastity is for Lovers: Single, Happy, and (Still) a Virgin, by Arleen Spenceley, is by a twenty-nine year old woman who is still looking for Mr. Right. She has high standards, refuses to lower them, believes that God has a plan for her (which may or may not include marriage), understands that true love is hard and involves sacrifice, and says that she is not “saving herself for marriage,” because “only Christ can save us.” Rather, she believes that she is “saving sex” by “redeeming it. By God’s grace, I have chosen to resist the damaging cultural trends that trivialize the purpose of human sexuality. I refuse to use or regard the human body in any way that doesn’t revere its dignity or sanctity. In marriage, sex is a gift of the totality of oneself to another person.”

10 Ways to Win the Battle for Purity
Flashy billboards, provocative dress and apparel, Hollywood fashions spread far and wide, suggestive innuendos, off-color jokes, indecent movies, and the ever-present danger of the Internet, seducing souls into visit the numerous and poisonous websites—all of these and a plethora of other alluring and seductive temptations can trap even the best of us into falling into the sin against the virtue of purity. In a certain sense, the world can be depicted as a moral land-mine, where at every turn and corner in the road there is an immoral spiritual bomb that can be stepped on and explode!  Let us be honest and to the point—we live in a society of dangerous and often pernicious images.

Fatima and the Rosary: Solution for Peace
Exactly 98 years ago, the simple solution to cure the world’s and our country’s freefall into turmoil was given to us. But how many have paid attention to the prescription or the instructions?

We have yet another chance to start this week. We have to pick up what St. Padre Pio called “the weapon.” Hint: It’s what Our Lady of Fatima, whose feast we celebrate on May 13, told us over and over to use for peace when she appeared in 1917.

Created to Be You
“So they’re both napping?” asked my husband, incredulous, “Can you nap?” Quiet time has been pretty rare around my house since my eldest abandoned naps a year ago. Nevertheless, I cheerfully replied, “Nope, I’m going to bake some cookies,” because I knew that doing something I loved and making something for others was the best way for me to recharge.

Called to Deep Waters
In Matthew’s telling of Christ walking on water (Matt 14:22-33), we hear Peter say to our Lord, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” Christ assures him that it is indeed Him who walks on the raging seas and calls to Peter to join Him. Peter, who was so brave just a moment before, becomes fearful as the winds howl around him and the sea heaves and rolls. His lack of faith causes him to sink and he cries out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus extends His hand and pulls Peter up from the raging waters and says to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

How often are we like Peter – anxious for God to call to us and yet so doubtful when we step out to meet Him? Do we lose faith and sink when it seems the storms of life are raging around us, threatening to pull us under? Are we like Peter and repeatedly cry out, “Lord, save me!”?

The Fruit that Came from Obeying God’s Will
Last September, on the day after turning in the manuscript for Joyful Witness: How to Be an Extraordinary Catholic to my publisher, I went to Eucharistic adoration seeking peace and quiet time before the Blessed Sacrament. I was exhausted, having written three books in 18 months in addition to running my business and performing my normal duties as a husband and father. All I wanted was to clear my mind and lose myself in prayer. God, however, had other plans.

Ask Fr. Mike: Why Do We Need Purgatory?
Question: I get that we know purgatory exists, but why?

​Answer: Great question. Most of the time Catholics talk about Purgatory, it is when we are trying to defend the doctrine to other Christians. But many people might not understand the necessity of Purgatory. I think this is because we don’t quite get the goal of the spiritual life…or the goal of life, for that matter. The goal of life is God Himself. And Purgatory makes complete sense once one grasps two more concepts. First, free will and grace. God initiates and we cooperate. This exchange might be termed “grace” and “free will”. God is always the one who moves first; He always invites us. We are free to either say no to that invitation or to say yes…

which is to cooperate. This exchange is always “organic”. That is to say, it is never imposed on us; God never forces us to change. We are always free.

The second concept is love. More to the point: true love. Loving God for His own sake (not for what He gives or can do for us).

Only a Rightly-Ordered Heart Feels Grief
Social media was at its best yesterday. My feed started out the morning with an explosion of irritation against a DIY theologian. His ideas about sex, marriage, and God’s will could be summarized by changing the name of The Bible to “How to Make Sure Wimmin Don’t Win.” Anger and refutations were the right response to his loathsome ideas, and it was good to see such an articulate, vociferous rejection of them.

It was even better to see another article slowly take over my feed.  At The Catholic Company, blogger Gretchen shared the words of John Chrysostom, who had more or less the opposite to say about what marriage ought to be like (and his words were all the more refreshing, in contrast with the intellectual squalor of the previous article):

How Not to Kill Catholicism
Catholicism is in the crosshairs. There’s little doubt about that. The secularist elites of the West are intent upon driving Catholicism from the public sphere and perhaps out of existence altogether. But on the other hand there’s really nothing new about that. So many people have put killing Catholicism on the top of their to-do list throughout the centuries.

Catholicism has, of course, outlived all these attempts. But that doesn’t mean some will not continue trying.

You see, Catholics have a guarantee from no less than Jesus himself that the gates of Hell will not prevail over the Church. But those hellish gates always seem to want another crack at it, that’s for sure.

Pope to Parents: You Are Responsible for Educating Your Children
VATICAN CITY — his general audience, Pope Francis spoke of the essential role parents play in educating their children, a role he said has been usurped by so-called experts who have taken the place of parents and rendered them fearful of disciplining their children.

“If family education regains its prominence, many things will change for the better. It’s time for fathers and mothers to return from their exile — they have exiled themselves from educating their children — and slowly reassume their educative role,” the Pope said May 20.

15 Historic Wonders Housed in the Vatican’s Secret Archives
First, a caveat: Anyone with a strong grasp of Latin—or a distaste for Dan Brown novels—will warn others not to get too excited about the name of this papal library. Archivum Secretum looks like it would refer to a “secret” archive, but the translation is actually closer to “private archive,” and it serves as a place where the personal documents of all the popes are stored. The contents inside were never intended to be kept secret.

Top 11 Catholic Beards
“If I am shaved, my strength will leave me, and I shall grow weaker and be like everyone else”
                                                                                  (Judges 16:17)

“The beard signifies the courageous … the earnest, the active, the vigorous. So that when we describe such, we say, he is a bearded man.”
                                                                                   -St. Augustine

“[God] adorned man like the lions, with a beard, and endowed him as an attribute of manhood … a sign of strength and rule.”
                                                                           -Clement of Alexandria

The beard has long been a sign of manliness and strength. Throughout the centuries, men of great wisdom (see Socrates and Plato) have rocked the facial fur. But, the beard is also a symbol of great holiness. Many a saint has donned the scruff throughout the history of the Church.  Here are the top eleven, ranked for your viewing pleasure. Not ten…this list goes to eleven.

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