PENTECOST SUNDAY, May 23
John 14: 15-16, 23-26
As my thoughts turn toward the great Feast of Pentecost, I think it is perhaps a good idea for us to examine the quality of our enthusiasm. Most of the time we use this word to express the ardor, passion, pep or zip that we want in our lives and actions. But, really, enthusiasm is a lot more than these things and I guess we could call it a Pentecost word.
The word enthusiasm comes from the Greek ENTHOUSIASMOS. This Greek word comes from two words, “EN” and “THEOS”, which mean by or from God. Enthusiasm, then, is more properly defined as a special revelation of the Holy Spirit, a strong excitement of feeling, ardor, passion, something inspiring zeal or fervor. The word enthusiasm is a very spiritual word.
I believe it is safe to say that the disciples of the Lord lost their enthusiasm after his passion and death. They became very frightened by what had happened and hid in a secluded room for their own safety. A couple of them took off for Emmaus to get away from it all. Then the Spirit came to them on that first Pentecost and we see their fear leave and their enthusiasm return to A+.
We too, in our own everyday lives, have times when we lose our enthusiasm for living or for what we are about. We become weary, bored, disillusioned, complacent. Religion, work, the family, our marriage, priesthood, life in general – whatever – become a drudgery. We end up just going through the motions. We lose our enthusiasm and life is a bummer. This happened to me with regard to my priesthood because of the disease of alcoholism. I became bored with everything, down in the dumps, negative, critical, antagonistic, and on and on. I was not doing what I was supposed to be doing or being what I was supposed to be.
And just how do we recapture our enthusiasm once it is lost? Good question. First of all, I believe we must have the desire to get it back. This usually happens when we become sick and tired of being sick and tired, of being unenthusiastic. We might at this time whisper a prayer for help from God to be willing, open to his grace, and honestly wanting our enthusiasm back.
This process of conversion back to our enthusiasm often begins or is initiated by what is called a theophany, a visible manifestation of God in a visible form. This is what Dietrich Bonhoeffer refers to as God wandering through the world speaking to us through our friends, family members, the poor, strangers, even enemies. This usually points out to us a solution for regaining our enthusiasm. St. Francis of Assisi encountered this in his so-called Spoleto experience. He was riding along a road on his horse when a Voice asked him which was better, to follow the Master or the servant. When Francis answered that it was better to follow the Master, the Voice then asked him why he was following the servant. Francis then recognized who it was who was speaking to him and exclaimed, “Lord, what do you want me to do?” The Voice answered, “Return to Assisi and I will tell you what to do.” This is a theophany.
So – how is your enthusiasm these days for your family, your work, your relationship with God and neighbor, for life in general? If it is not quite what you would like it to be, ask the Spirit who comes to us at Pentecost for a bit of help in regaining it.
Monday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time, May 24
Mark 10: 17-27
Today, the day after Pentecost, we return to Ordinary Time in the 8th week of the year and pick up the Gospel of Mark in his 10th chapter.
I read a little bit of anonymous wisdom that ties in well with the Gospel selected to be read for today. It goes like this:
When wealth is lost, nothing is lost;
When health is lost, something is lost.
When character is lost, all is lost.
The young man who questioned Jesus in today’s Gospel should have realized this. Maybe he would have made a better decision. He was too engrossed in his material possessions to let go of them. And that is easy to do. There are so many gadgets today that are claiming the attention of us all. I’ve got to have this, I’ve got to have that. Really, I don’t “got” to have anything but God’s grace and I am blocking this if I am too enamored with the material things of the world. They have their place – but their place is not to block me from loving God or neighbor better. There are still certain priorities to be observed and the young man in the Gospel found his in the wrong place.
Let’s look at ourselves today. What are my priorities in life?
Tuesday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time, May 25
Mark 10: 28-31
What is the best thing we can do with the life and gifts we have been given by our Creator? A good question, and one much debated and thought about.
It is a good question for me to ask myself now that I am in my 80th year of life. My experiences, good and bad, have given me the opportunity to know my gifts and talents. I know what I am capable of doing very well. And I also know by this time the areas I am not gifted in and what I cannot do. It is good to know this about oneself.
The best thing I can do with my life is to focus on what I am good at doing and let others do the things I cannot do and that they are gifted to do. And I have discovered that the best thing I can do with the gifts I have is to serve others with them. The gifts I use for this purpose get better and better and give me great joy along with helping others. This way helps me to make a difference and I believe this is what life is ultimately all about. This is how I have come to see things. How do you have it all figured out?
Wednesday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time, May 26
Mark 10: 32-45
Today’s Gospel selection simply reinforces what I said in yesterday’s homily about serving others with the gifts I have been given.
Many of us, I would presume, are familiar with the name of Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. She was a professor of psychiatry who wrote much on the subject of death and dying. In the process, she interviewed many people who had undergone the near-death experience. She discovered that when people experience this phenomena, they conclude that there are only two things in life that are really relevant: the service one has given to others and love. Everything else that we might think would get top rating is irrelevant. Does my life fit this pattern?
Thursday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time, May 27
Mark 10: 46-52
It has been a while since we have had a miracle of Jesus to consider in the daily Gospel what with the long time after Easter we have been involved in. Now Ordinary Time brings us back to the miracles of Jesus. When I first read this Gospel, for one reason or another the old question came to mind: which came first, the chicken or the egg? This problem really doesn’t apply here, but it is obvious from the Gospel that the faith of Bartimaeus had to come before the miracle of receiving his sight. Just as we, on our part, must have a faith desire to receive God’s gift of grace, so it is also with enjoying the gift of healing. We must first have faith in the power of Jesus to work miracles.
We might all ask ourselves today just how strongly we believe in the many promises Jesus has made to us, such as: Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and the door will be opened, whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give to you.Think about this for a while.
Friday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time, May 28
Mark 11: 11-26
Yesterday we spoke of faith coming before miracles and not the other way around, although it also makes sense that miracles will increase our faith when they happen after we have prayed for them.
I recently read a little blurb about Ann Frank, who died in a Nazi concentration camp in World War II. She kept a diary that was published after the war and was also made into a movie. In the diary she wrote: “I still believe that people are really good at heart. I think all will come out right and that peace and tranquility will return once more”.
Looking around at what is going on in our world today, do we have the faith to believe what Ann Frank believed?
Saturday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time, May 29
Mark 11: 27-33
In today’s Gospel Jesus again confronts the Pharisees. They are wondering where Jesus gets the authority to do what he is doing. Jesus gives them a question to answer: Was John’s baptism of human or heavenly origin? This question put the Pharisees in a quandary and they refused to answer it. Jesus also refused to answer their question.
Jesus’ question to the Pharisees, however, is an interesting one. By the Pharisees’ refusal to answer, Mark points out their error in trying to separate the human from the heavenly. Jesus’ words would imply that they belong together. So do grace and humanity. God’s word and our understanding, and so on, go together too. Human beings are not only physical. They have a spiritual side too. Nor are the physical and the spiritual able to be divided, as many are trying to do today.