Pentecost Sunday, (May 11, 2008) John 20: 19-23
Today, we celebrate the great feast of Pentecost, the coming of the Spirit, often referred to as the Birthday of the Church. In the Gospel read for this feast, the Risen Lord Jesus gives his mandate, his commission to all his disciples, including all of you and myself: “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” All are sent as emissaries of the Father, as Jesus was. All receive the Spirit of God. And, finally, all of us are to forgive sins: “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” The followers of Jesus are to go forth to a universal mission of peace and forgiveness. The Church, the People of God, are defined here as a people of peace, mercy and forgiveness. This is what all of us have received from the Spirit and we, fulfilling our part in salvation history, must continue to breathe this life into the people we meet in our little corner of the world.
We have seen many times before in these homilies that peace means things being the way they were made to be. There is a certain order destined to be in the world and this order enables us to love our neighbor and is the result of our loving our neighbor. Violence, terrorism, hatred, killing, fighting do not equal peace. All of these things are the darkness we speak of so often. Jesus and his followers are the light of the world that banishes this darkness, causes it to disappear with no violence involved. When we turn on a light, the darkness of a room disappears without any violence whatsoever. This light produces peace and it is our mission to bring this to the world.
One of the main ways of doing this is to forgive. When we forgive, when we say I love you or it’s OK to someone who hurt us out of ignorance, we are turning on the light switch of Jesus’ way and the anger of darkness and resentment disappears. This is peace. This is the feast of Pentecost. Pentecost is an Epiphany, a special manifestation of Christ to the world. It is our mission to do what we can to bring this to be.
Monday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time, (May 12, Mark 8: 11-13)
Our Liturgical Year now returns to Ordinary Time, Cycle A, and will continue as such until Advent begins on November 30, 2008. The daily Liturgies begin in the sixth week of Ordinary Time and our Gospel selections for this time will be taken from the Gospel of St. Mark.
The Gospel for today is taken from the 8th chapter of St. Mark’s Gospel. This chapter begins with Mark’s version of the miracle of the loaves and fishes and Jesus feeding the four thousand. We have noted before when speaking of this miracle that it is the only miracle found in all four Gospels. The Pharisees undoubtedly heard about Jesus feeding the four thousand with a few loaves of bread and fish and yet they now come to Jesus and seek from him a “sign from heaven” to test him. When Jesus heard this, he left them, got into the boat again, and went off to the other shore.
We can almost feel the frustration of Jesus as he left the Pharisees. How could they be so blind as to ask for another sign after the miracle of the loaves and fishes? It is so easy for us to judge the Pharisees for their blindness but we had better watch out in doing so. We are just as blind as they were. Look at what we see and know and yet we continue to reject Jesus and go our own way, the way of darkness and ignorance. The Gospels from Mark for the next couple of chapters are going to deal with this blindness of the Pharisees, the disciples, and ourselves. Let us pay close attention to them. Lord, help us to see.
Tuesday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time, (May 13, Our Lady of Fatima)
Today the Church offers us the optional memorial of the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima. The various apparitions of Our Lady throughout history provide us with many spiritual lessons but they also serve to bolster our faith and eliminate some of our persistent blindness. God can and does perform many wonderful miracles and signs even in our own agnostic and doubtful times. The apparition at Fatima, Portugal, took place from May 13 to October 13, 1917. There Our Lady appeared to three children and asked that
prayers be offered for reparation of all our sins, for the conversion of sinners and for peace. This message is still timely today.
Our Gospel for today from St. Mark has Jesus warning the disciples about following the mind of the Pharisees and the Roman Emperor, King Herod, King of Judea. Jesus asks them: “Do you have eyes and not see, ears and not hear? And do you not remember, when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many wicker baskets full of fragments you picked up?” Once again, we take the words of Jesus and apply them to ourselves. After all we have heard and seen about Jesus, we still doubt and complain when things don’t go our way rather than trust in the way of Jesus. Our blindness seems to be always there. All of us still have a long way to go in the faith department. Lord, help our unbelief in your ways.
Wednesday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time, May 14, (Feast of St. Matthias)
The first order of business for the 11 remaining Apostles after the Ascension of Jesus to the Father was to restore the number of Apostles once again to 12. This was important for 12 was the number of the Tribes of Israel and because the new Israel was to come from Jesus, 12 Apostles were needed.
The successor of Judas had to be someone who had been a disciple of Jesus from the beginning of his ministry right up to the time of his Ascension. He had to have been a witness of Jesus’ resurrection and a believer in the teachings of Jesus. Two men fit these criteria and Matthias was chosen. This is the first we hear of Matthias in the Scriptures and the last time we hear his name mentioned. We can assume that he was martyred in his service of the Lord as were the other Apostles.
Clement of Alexandria, one of the early Greek Fathers of the Church, makes a point about all this for our own reflection. He says that Matthias, like all the Apostles, was not chosen so much for what he was as for what Jesus saw he would become. He was chosen not because he was worthy of being an Apostle but because he would become worthy. This also applies to all of us
who have been chosen as disciples, followers of Jesus. We have been chosen not because we were worthy of being such but because of what we would become. The question we can ask ourselves on this feast of St. Matthias is: What does Jesus wish me to become?
St. Matthias, pray for us.
Thursday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time (May 15, 2008) Mark 8: 27-33
The Gospel chosen to be read today finds Jesus and his disciples on the way to the village of Caesarea Philippi, a city north of Palestine. When we hear the name of this city, we know what is coming next in the Gospel for we recognize this as the place where Jesus asked the disciples the question: “Who do people say that I am?” And we anticipate Peter’s reply: “You are the Christ.” We can ask ourselves, however, just what Peter meant by this.
Immediately following Peter’s response in the Gospel, Jesus proceeds to tell the disciples that the Son of Man (a title of Jesus that implied the necessity of his suffering and death) would suffer, be rejected by the elders, be killed and rise after three days. But this is not what Peter had meant by saying: You are the Christ. There was no place in Peter’s image of the Christ for suffering and death. Neither he nor the rest of the disciples were ready for this.
How about us? We have been called to be followers of Jesus. This includes the fact that we too are going to suffer in our lives. We too are going to be rejected, persecuted and perhaps killed. Is this part of our image of being a Christian or are we looking for some kind of ice-cream and apple pie existence?
Friday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time, (May 16, 2008) Mark 8: 34 – 9:3
In today’s Gospel, Jesus continues the line of thought with which we ended yesterday’s homily: he is going to tell us what it meant for him to be the Christ and, consequently, what it means for us to be his followers and walk in his footsteps: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny him/herself, take up their dross, and follow me.” Aha! It is not all ice-cream and apple pie after all!
The Christian, the follower of Christ, is going to have to deny him/herself. Their lives cannot be “all about me.” The true follower of Christ is going to love their neighbor, even their enemies. They are going to do away with that extreme selfishness they were born with. They are going to suffer and accept the will of Jesus, know that they are not always going to understand why, knowing that we are not always going to understand all the riddles of human existence. Furthermore, they are going to carry their cross just as Jesus carried his cross. Jesus suffered for us and we are going to carry the cross of suffering and service to others. In other words, we are all going to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. As he did so must we do. We all know this but it is good to refresh our memories every now and then. Today’s Gospel helps us to do just this.
Saturday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time (May 17, 2008) Mark 9: 2-13
Again, today’s Gospel selection is going to compliment, fulfill, the one that went before. What’s in it for us if we accept the criteria for being a disciple enumerated in yesterday’s Gospel, and follow Jesus by denying ourselves and daily carrying our crosses and sufferings whatever they may be?
Again, we know the answer. We are going to be transfigured as was Christ in today’s Gospel. In following Christ and his sufferings, we are going to experience a spiritual awakening, we are going to change, we are going to be a new people, we are going to rise above the usual failings of our human nature, our humanness is going to participate in the divine, we are going to be special in the sight of God, we are going to be intimate members of his
divine family, we are going to be his adopted children! Pray tell, in view of all this, how can we not follow him?