Sunday, May 31, 2009

Pentecost 2009

When you send forth Your Breath, they are created, and You renew the face of the earth. (Ps 104:30)

Today’s Solemnity of Pentecost marks what is traditionally considered the birthday of the Church. Ten days ago on the feast of the Ascension we heard: Jesus enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for "the promise of the Father about which you have heard me speak; for John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit." (Acts 1:4-5) In today’s first reading we continue with the familiar account of our Blessed Mother and the Apostles waiting in the upper room as they were instructed. And 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 2:2-4). Perhaps even more intimately in the Gospel we hear: Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit” (Jn 20:21-22).

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

At the beginning of the first Creation, a mighty wind swept over the waters (Gen 1:2) and thus, the heavens and the earth were born. On Pentecost the Spirit comes in a strong, driving wind, thus re-creating and renewing the face of the earth. Just as the Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being (Gen 2:7), Jesus breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit”, thereby re-creating man.

Send forth Your Spirit, Lord, and they shall be created.

What does this rebirth require? In both accounts the occupants of the upper room had a personal knowledge and relationship with Jesus. They walked, ate and conversed with Him. They had faith. All of us by virtue of our created nature in the image and likeness of God, and our baptism in water are called to have a personal relationship with Jesus as well. But this is not enough. The Gifts of the Spirit require us to spread the Gospel message to everyone. Salvation is available not just to a chosen people, but the entire world. It is at Pentecost that the Church becomes catholic-universal. The manifestation of one’s interior faith is the outpouring of that personal love to others. In Mark chapter 12 one of the scribes asks Jesus which is the greatest commandment. Jesus responds, ‘you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these. Love of God demands love of neighbor. Charity therefore is essential and is required of all baptized in the Spirit through Pentecost and the sacrament of Confirmation. This is the heart of Evangelization.

And You shall renew the face of the earth.

New Evangelization
Is this message of the Gospel still relevant today? Is there still a need for personal conversion and relationship with Christ? Does the Pentecostal commission still demand making this message known to the ends of the Earth? In his Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte at the close of the great jubilee of the year 2000, Pope John Paul II said:
Over the years, I have often repeated the summons to the new evangelization. I do so again now, especially in order to insist that we must rekindle in ourselves the impetus of the beginnings and allow ourselves to be filled with the ardour of the apostolic preaching which followed Pentecost. We must revive in ourselves the burning conviction of Paul, who cried out: "Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel" (1 Cor 9:16). This passion will not fail to stir in the Church a new sense of mission, which cannot be left to a group of "specialists" but must involve the responsibility of all the members of the People of God. Those who have come into genuine contact with Christ cannot keep him for themselves, they must proclaim him.

Echoing the theme of New Evangelization, Pope Benedict XVI (then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger) in addressing catechists and religion teachers on 12 December 2000 answers the questions:

Human life cannot be realized by itself. Our life is an open question, an incomplete project, still to be brought to fruition and realized. Each man's fundamental question is: How will this be realized—becoming man? How does one learn the art of living? Which is the path toward happiness?

To evangelize means: to show this path—to teach the art of living. At the beginning of His public life Jesus says: I have come to evangelize the poor (Luke 4:18); this means: I have the response to your fundamental question; I will show you the path of life, the path toward happiness—rather: I am that path.

The deepest poverty is the inability of joy, the tediousness of a life considered absurd and contradictory. This poverty is widespread today, in very different forms in the materially rich as well as the poor countries. The inability of joy presupposes and produces the inability to love, produces jealousy, avarice—all defects that devastate the life of individuals and of the world.

This is why we are in need of a new evangelization—if the art of living remains an unknown, nothing else works. But this art is not the object of a science—this art can only be communicated by [one] who has life—he who is the Gospel personified.
Everyone needs the Gospel; the Gospel is destined to all and not only to a specific circle and this is why we are obliged to look for new ways of bringing the Gospel to all.

Thereby, to convert means: not to live as all the others live, not do what all do, not feel justified in dubious, ambiguous, evil actions just because others do the same; begin to see one's life through the eyes of God; thereby looking for the good, even if uncomfortable; not aiming at the judgment of the majority, of men, but on the justice of God—in other words: to look for a new style of life, a new life.

All of this does not imply moralism; reducing Christianity to morality loses sight of the essence of Christ's message: the gift of a new friendship, the gift of communion with Jesus and thereby with God. Whoever converts to Christ does not mean to create his own moral autarchy for himself, does not intend to build his own goodness through his own strengths.

Here we must also bear in mind the social aspect of conversion. Certainly, conversion is above all a very personal act, it is personalization. I separate myself from the formula "to live as all others" (I do not feel justified anymore by the fact that everyone does what I do) and I find my own person in front of God, my own personal responsibility.

But true personalization is always also a new and more profound socialization. The "I" opens itself once again to the "you," in all its depths, and thus a new "We" is born. If the lifestyle spread throughout the world implies the danger of de-personalization, of not living one's own life but the life of all the others, in conversion a new "We," of the common path of God, must be achieved.

Roman Catholic Identity: the Art of Living

The New Evangelization presupposes knowledge of self and knowledge of Church: Identity. It is the knowledge that each person is created in the image and likeness of God, possessing a unique dignity, whose natural ends is holiness that defines interior faith. It is the knowledge of what and why the Church professes what she does that defines the mission of the outpouring of that interior disposition of faith.

Hence, it is the purpose of this blog. Polite society does not talk about politics and religion, but what is of greater import? By talking about ‘Godly things’, focusing on spiritual reflection, catechesis, newsworthy events, we seek to practice the Art of Living and engage in the New Evangelization.

Let us pray,
O God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit did instruct the hearts of Your faithful; grant that in the same Spirit we may be truly wise and ever rejoice in His consolation. Through the same Christ, our Lord. Amen.

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