Happy feast of Pentecost! As we celebrate the birthday of the Catholic Church today with the Coming of the Spirit upon the Apostles, the following reflection from my spiritual father and mentor, the late Msgr Thomas Wells, is illuminating and inspiring.
May you know the peace of the risen Christ,
May 18, 1997
Sometimes I find that, if I want to work without interruptions, it is best to do it very early in the morning. And, if I am trying to compose something, I will often find myself staring out of the window waiting for inspiration to strike. In the dark mornings of winter, I have found myself preoccupied on several occasions by the office building across the street, about one-third of which I can see from my desk. I find myself fascinated as, one by one, lights come on in the darkness, until finally, every window reflects the decision of whoever turned on the switch that day.
Faith tells us that in Baptism and Confirmation we are filled with the Holy Spirit, the very life of God Himself. Like the building across the street, that Spirit allows us to become lights of Christ in the darkness of the world. Perhaps my greatest satisfaction as a priest is that of knowing so many people who do so reflect the light of Christ. Just last weekend, for example, two couples, themselves best friends, both of whose weddings I had ten or so years ago, invited me to dinner. I guess I should have told them, but it really did not dawn on me until I was driving home, how inspired I was by the effects of their commitments to marriage, faith, and family, and by the obvious joy that enlivens them. Financially, especially, neither of these couples has an easy time, and in different ways, each has had to struggle in their surrender to the call of faith. But their decisions to live the life of the Spirit is reflected in their love of life! (And, incidentally, how little they would recognize themselves in this “holy talk.”) But, as I say, any priest can name countless numbers of such people who are obvious signs that the Holy Spirit can make us proofs of the gift of faith.
Two thoughts come to me as we celebrate this day of the Holy Spirit: Pentecost. The first is to ask the Spirit to use us so that, because of the way we live our faith, we might be the light of Christ for at least one other person. Secondly, I more and more come to understand why the Lord saved a people, not just a bunch of individuals. We need each other, if only to find encouragement in a world that so often does not believe in the apparent absurdity of the Gospel message. My prayer this Pentecost is that the Spirit will give to each of us, as He has so generously given to me, people whose lived faith in Jesus will inspire us to deeper faith in our own lives.
Visa / Temporary citizenship
6th Sunday of Easter
Spirit as Consoler
Spirit as Advocate
Speaks for us
Evangelization, prayer, praise of Father and Son
Down upon us
Spirit leads us to F and S / Eucharist
Have you been confirmed? Made your first Holy Communion? Do you or someone you know need to be baptized?
A pastor at a nearby Catholic parish asked his people these questions in the past year. He was asking more to double-check that everyone in his parish had received all three of the Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Eucharist). He didn’t expect many of his parishioners who have been filling the pews of his parish for decades to let him know that they still needed to be confirmed. Some even needed to be baptized! He was surprised – pleasantly, I guess – that twenty or thirty people came to the classes at the parish in order to be confirmed, etc. He seemed quite happy to be able to have the conversation with these courageous folks not just about the sacraments, but about faith and life in general. He was a proud spiritual papa!
So, of course, I will ask you all the same questions. (Well, I already did in the first few lines here). If you need to be confirmed or baptized or make your first Holy Communion, then please attend our RCIA classes starting in January. The “classes” are more like discussion groups that I will lead after 10 am Mass on Sundays from January through April. We’ll use a book that will be a very good resource for you and will help facilitate our discussions on Catholic teachings and practices. As you might have noticed, I don’t like to waste anyone’s time, so our talks will be informative and substantial, but not boring. There won’t be any tests; we just need your commitment to attend the meetings.
Even if you don’t need to receive any of these sacraments, it would be good to attend the discussions and learn more about your Catholic faith. RCIA is normally for adults who are preparing to become Catholic. But even non-Catholics have said that every Catholic should attend RCIA classes!
To see what one of these classes would look like, here are some of the notes from the discussion on Baptism (in today’s Gospel, St. John the Baptist offers his “class” on Baptism to the Pharisees and Sadducees):
Can someone get to Heaven without being baptized?
“Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned” – Mark 16:16
Does baptism in the Spirit only occur through water?
1) By desire – the good thief on the cross, e.g.
“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom”
“in truth I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise” – Lk 23:42-43
2) By blood – sharing in Jesus’ baptism by blood
“The cup that I shall drink you shall drink, and with the baptism with
which I shall be baptized, you shall be baptized” – Mk 10:39
What do we receive at Baptism?
● Life in Christ
● Indwelling of the Holy Trinity
“I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit”
Real (vs Protestants who say Baptism is merely symbolic)
“For all of you are children of God, through faith, in Christ Jesus, since every one of you that has been baptized has been clothed in Christ” – Gal 3:26-27
● Forgiveness of sins
“by Baptism all sins are forgiven, original sin and all personal sins, as well as all punishment for sin”
● Gifts of the Holy Spirit
Wisdom, knowledge, understanding, reverence, fear of the Lord, right judgement, courage
● Incorporation into the Church, the Body of Christ
“For by one Spirit, we were all baptized into one body” – 1 Cor 12:13
● An indelible spiritual mark
“Baptism seals the Christian with the indelible spiritual mark (character) of his belonging to Christ. Given once for all, Baptism cannot be repeated.”
(Catechism, # 1272)
May you know the peace of Christ,
Thanks be to God, we had a beautiful celebration of the Birth of Christ at Assumption. What an incredible blessing it was to be here for my first Christmas as a pastor. The liturgies were top-rate, thanks to all of our ministers and choir members. And, how exquisite does the decorated church look?! I think that’s the Christmas card for the parish next year; and maybe, for some of you. Hope you enjoyed the crèche, poinsettias, Christmas trees, lights, garland, and candles…and took a picture of it all! They will be taken down this week because the Christmas season ends with today’s feast of the Baptism of the Lord.
Why liturgically do we make such a big jump in the life of Jesus from the Epiphany at His birth to His Baptism as an adult on consecutive Sundays? The Navarre Bible commentary provides the following answer which gives tremendous insight into the mind of the Church for these Sundays in January:
In its liturgy the Church remembers the first three solemn manifestations of Christ’s divinity:
The adoration of the Magi (Mt 2:11)
The baptism of Jesus (Lk 3:21-22)
The first miracle our Lord worked, at the wedding at Cana (Jn 2:11).
In the adoration of the Magi God revealed the divinity of Jesus by means of the star. At his baptism the voice of God the Father, coming “from heaven”, reveals to John the Baptist and to the Jewish people – and thereby to all men – this profound mystery of Christ’s divinity. At the wedding at Cana, Jesus “manifested his glory; and his disciples believed in him” (Jn 2:11).
So, the Church is focusing last Sunday (Epiphany), today (Baptism of the Lord), and next Sunday (wedding feast at Cana) on the divinity of Christ being revealed in these three events. It’s very clear in today’s Gospel that the Father revealed that Jesus is His Son: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (Lk 3:22).
We might take for granted the divine nature of Christ. But, this feast – along with the other two – highlights not only the first manifestations of Christ’s divinity, but it helps us reflect more deeply on a divine person taking on a human nature. “Come then and see new and astounding miracles: the Sun of righteousness washing in the Jordan, fire immersed in water, God sanctified by the ministry of man” (St. Proclus of Constantinople, bishop). God sanctified by the ministry of man!
The last line of that quote should get us thinking, again, about the incredible reality of the divine and human natures of Jesus Christ. But, it also leads us to ponder why Christ was baptized in the first place. In his human nature, he was “sanctified by the ministry of man”, no doubt. John’s baptism brought sanctification to the body and pointed to Christian baptism which sanctifies the soul. “I baptize you with water, but one mightier than I is coming…He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit”.
Each of us who have followed Christ’s lead and have been baptized with the Holy Spirit has also had the Father say the same words about us: “you are my beloved (child); with you I am well pleased”.
–Sincerely in Christ
Interesting linksHere are some interesting links for you! Enjoy your stay :)
Fr. Greg Shaffer
3401 Martin Luther King Jr. AVE, SE
Washington, DC 20032
Fr. Greg Cell: 240-463-9960
Outreach Center: 202-561-5941
Reach us by email: