Sunday, May 24, 2015

PENTECOST


WE are at the end of seven weeks (49 days) of the Easter season. And we find ourselves on Pentecost (from the Ancient Greek: Πεντηκοστή [ἡμέρα], Pentēkostē [hēmera], "the Fiftieth [day]").

Our greater feasts (solemnities) have vigil celebrations and Pentecost is one of them.

Pentecost celebrates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples as they waited in prayer, at the Lord's instruction (Acts 1:4-5), after he ascended into heaven. Pentecost is also sometimes called "the birthday of the Church."

This feast is an occasion for us to reflect on the presence, power and gifts of the Holy Spirit in the Church and in the life of each one of us - and on the Spirit's desire that we all be one in the Body of Christ.

I encourage you to prepare for celebrating Pentecost by reading and reflecting on the scriptures for this feast.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Sunday Word - Pentecost

If you were a Buddhist, your big day would be Buddha’s birthday which falls on April 8th this year — but there are no Buddha birthday cards at the store and, even if there were, they’d probably be ignored in favor of more enlightenment. 


Mormons celebrate “Pioneer Day” on July 24 — the date in 1847 when Brigham Young and his followers pushed their handcarts over the mountains to the Salt Lake Valley in Utah. There,Young proclaimed, “This is the place.” The whole state shuts down that day with parades and celebrations. For the Latter Day Saints, it’s a bigger occasion for parades, fireworks, and jell-o based casseroles than Christmas and the Fourth of July combined. And yet, no card.

Up the hill in Park City, Utah, celebrities engage in the annual January festival of camera lights called Sundance, while in Native-American culture, the Sun Dance is the time of thanksgiving for the harvest. Lots of dancing in both places — but no cards.

Hindus do Diwali, Sikhs get down on Guru Nanak’s Day, and pagans celebrate Samhain on October 31 by leaving out food for the dead. Interesting stuff, but still not card-worthy.

The Judeo-Christian tradition has similar holy days that aren’t considered to be Hallmark holidays. While Hanukkah and Yom Kippur are great Jewish holidays, the Feast of Weeks, doesn’t make the card cut. And while Christmas is the ultimate card-sending event and Easter a feast of chocolate bunnies, Christians and card writers tend to look past Pentecost.

Now, you’d think a greeting card giant like Hallmark would be all over this holiday. After all, what’s not to like? You got your fire, your wind, your speaking in other languages, your birth of one of the great religious movements in history, your built-in holiday Spirit — all the stuff that makes for a memorable event. It even lends itself to great slogans like “Hope you get fired up this Pentecost” or “More (Holy Spirit) power to ya!”

But the shelves of your local greeting card merchant are empty of Pentecost cards.

Pentecost was the catalyst for the explosive growth of the church as the Spirit moved among them. That same Spirit would move many of those same people into dangerous and deadly situations where they were forced to rely fully on the Spirit indwelling Christ — the only “Advocate” they would have in front of mobs and murderous monarchs. While we may not be called to give up our lives in the same way as they did, if we take the Spirit seriously as the guide for our lives we may find ourselves living quite uncomfortably. Jesus promised the Spirit, but he didn’t promise that life would be easy.

Given the work laid before those first disciples and their mission, which we continue as their spiritual descendants, we might look at Pentecost as being a true “holy day.”  The coming of the Spirit is present, active reality — one that motivates us to work, to act, to represent Jesus to the world. You just can’t confine that to one day a year. Sure, we need to gather on Pentecost Sunday and be reminded. But, then again, every day should be a new Pentecost: a fresh wind of the Spirit and a firing up of our desire to serve God with our whole hearts.

Don’t need a card for that!

Friday, May 22, 2015

EASTER - Speak to me as you did to Mary


Sometimes, Lord,
my heart aches for a message,
looks for an angel, 
strains and listens for
a much-needed word from you...

My heart waits to hear what you speak
to my life and my worries,
my fears and confusion,
my decisions and choices... 

My heart waits 
for tidings of encouragement 
and for a word of wisdom and counsel
to strengthen and empower me,
to guide my way and guard me...


My heart waits to hear you say,
Don't be afraid... I'm with you...
I'm always with you... I'll never leave you...
I'm beside you, before you and behind you,
above you, below you, within you...

My soul strains to hear you say:
You've found favor with me...
I care for you... I care about you...
I watch out for you...
I keep a place in my heart for you,
a place to hold you...

Send me an angel, Lord:
come speak in my heart
the word I need to hear...

Speak to me as you did to Mary:
when I'm not expecting you...
when I'm confused and don't understand...
when I'm not sure what you want of me...
when I'm afraid of what tomorrow may bring...

Fill my heart with your grace, Lord,
to help me welcome every messenger
who comes to speak your word to me,
the word you know I need to hear...

Amen.

- A Concord Pastor Comments

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

EASTER - Our Newest Saints




During his homily, Pope Francis reflected on the Book of Acts’ account of the election of Matthias to replace Judas as one of the Twelve Apostles in being “a witness to Jesus’ resurrection.”

The Pope observed that many people believed in the Resurrection through the testimony of these witnesses, and Christian communities were born.

The pontiff said that the faith in the risen Lord which exists today is based upon the Apostles’ witness passed down through the Church’s mission.

“Our faith is firmly linked to their testimony, as to an unbroken chain which spans the centuries, made up not only by the successors of the Apostles, but also by succeeding generations of Christians,” he said.


Pope Francis added that all those who follow Christ are called to be witnesses to the Resurrection, “above all in those human settings where forgetfulness of God and human disorientation are most evident.”




“If this is to happen, we need to remain in the risen Christ and in his love,” the pontiff explained.

The Pope reflected on how each of the newly canonized women bore witness to Christ’s Resurrection by abiding in his love and promoting unity among Christians.

Sister Jeanne Émilie de Villeneuve (1811-1854), was the French foundress of the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of Castres.

In his homily, the Holy Father observed how she “consecrated her life to God and to the poor, the sick, the imprisoned and the exploited, becoming for them and for all a concrete sign of the Lord’s merciful love.”






Sister Maria Cristina Brando (1856-1906) was an Italian religious who founded the Congregation of the Sisters, Expiatory Victims of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament at the beginning of the 20th century.

“She was completely given over to ardent love for the Lord,” the Pope said. “From prayer and her intimate encounter with the risen Jesus present in the Eucharist, she received strength to endure suffering and to give herself, as bread which is broken, to many people who had wandered far from God and yet hungered for authentic love.”

Pope Francis spoke also of the two Palestinian women canonized during Sunday’s Mass.

Sister Mariam Baouardy (1846-1878), a mystic and stigmatic also known as Mary Jesus Crucified, was the Palestine-born foundress of the Discalced Carmelites of Bethlehem. She and her family were members of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church. As a vowed religious, she spent time in France and India before helping to found the Carmelite congregation in Bethlehem in 1875.

“Poor and uneducated, she was able to counsel others and provide theological explanations with extreme clarity, the fruit of her constant conversation with the Holy Spirit,” the pontiff said. “Her docility to the Spirit also made her a means of encounter and fellowship with the Muslim world.”

The fourth newly canonized saint, Sister Marie Alphonsine Danil Ghattas (1843-1927), was a Turco-British Palestinian and co-foundress of the Congregation of the Rosary Sisters. Born in Palestine, she spent much of her life in Bethlehem and its area, assisting the poor and establishing schools and orphanages.

As the pontiff explained, she understood “clearly what it means to radiate the love of God in the apostolate, and to be a witness to meekness and unity. She shows us the importance of becoming responsible for one another, of living lives of service one to another.”

Pope Francis stressed the importance of unity in witness to the resurrected Jesus, reflecting on the day’s gospel reading in which Jesus prays “that they may be one, even as we are one” (John 17: 11).

“An essential aspect of witness to the risen Lord is unity among ourselves, his disciples, in the image of his own unity with the Father,” the Pope said.

He concluded his homily by inviting the faithful to imitate the four new saints, praying that we may “take with us the joy of this encounter with the risen Lord,” cultivating “in our hearts the commitment to abide in God’s love.”

At the end of Mass around noon, Pope Francis delivered a short pre-Regina Caeli address. He greeted all the pilgrims and delegates from Palestine, France, Italy, Israel, and Jordan present for the canonizations.

“Through their intercession, the Lord will grant a new missionary impulse to their respective countries of origin,” he said.

“Inspired by their example of mercy, of charity, and of reconciliation, Christians from these lands look with hope to the future, continuing on the path of solidarity and fraternal coexistence.”



The four newest saints showed how “to abide in God and in his love, and thus to proclaim by our words and our lives the Resurrection of Jesus, to live in unity with one another and with charity towards all,” the pontiff said in his May 17 homily

The Pope’s words came during the canonization Mass of Saint Jeanne Émilie de Villeneuve, Saint Maria Cristina Brando, Saint Mariam Baouardy, and Saint Marie Alphonsine Danil Ghattas in Saint Peter’s Square.

These women–two Palestinians, a Frenchwoman, and an Italian–offered a “luminous example” challenging the lives of Christians, he said.

“How do I bear witness to the risen Christ? How do I abide in him? How do I remain in his love? Am I capable of ‘sowing’ in my family, in my workplace and in my community, the seed of that unity which he has bestowed on us by giving us a share in the life of the Trinity?” Pope Francis asked.

Tens of thousands of people took part in the Sunday morning Mass, as tapestries bearing the images of the new saints hung from the facade of Saint Peter’s Basilica.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

EASTER - Tuesday Tunes

Rivers and stones and the trees of the field, they sing in the night
And a thousand tongues lay deep in your lungs to raise to the sky 

Don't lie to yourself, O my soul - love your God. 
Don't lie to yourself, O my soul - love your God. 

Deep in your heart you feather and tar your folly and fear:
Expose them all for the fools they are, and the world becomes clear. 

Don't lie to yourself, O my soul, just love your God. 
Don't lie to yourself, O my soul, just love your God. 

Love your God. Your worries will never love you 
They'll leave you all alone But your God will not forsake you O my soul, my soul. 

Don't lie to yourself, O my soul - love your God. 
Don't lie to yourself, O my soul, just love your God. Love your God.