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The Holy Spirit allows us to become the light of Christ in a dark world

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,

Fr Greg

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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.

The Holy Spirit is Real

Pentecost Sunday

Church projects ’17

Receive the Holy Spirit
    Real, concrete, physical
    Like tongues of fire
Holy Spirit within us
     “Rivers of living water”
          Spirit of mercy – Confession
          Spirit of peace and joy – Eucharist
          Spirit of love – service
          Spirit of wisdom – evangelization
Better for us (Jn 16) than those who walked with Jesus
     Spirit of Christ inside, not just outside
If we get this, we will get Him more.

Ahhh, Holy Spirit

6th Sunday of Easter

Ghana

Spirit as Consoler
Peace, joy
Within us

Spirit as Advocate
Speaks for us
Evangelization, prayer, praise of Father and Son
Down upon us

Baptism/ Confirmation
Loved
Spirit leads us to F and S / Eucharist

Are you living out your Confirmation?

Are you living out your mission? Are you living out your Confirmation?

 When I was in seminary, I met a young woman who was studying at a Lutheran Bible college. We talked about Christ, faith, and Scripture on many occasions. One time, we were discussing the sacraments. She asked me a question that I have thought about very much since: “why did the Apostles need to be confirmed? They received the Spirit of Christ at Baptism, and you’re telling me that they received the whole Christ in the Eucharist. So, why did they need to be confirmed in the Spirit?” (Acts 2:1-11). Great question!

Truth be told, she stumped me. We were concentrating on what the sacraments do for us, with a particular emphasis on the Eucharist (we spoke for almost twenty hours on the Real Presence!). But, Confirmation is one of two sacraments that are less about what they do for us and more about what they do for others through us. A quote from St. Augustine about Holy Orders (the other sacrament) clarifies this: “it was for my sake that I was baptized; it was for your sake that I was ordained”.

This has become my focus in understanding the point of Confirmation. For us, yes, the sacrament seals the gifts of the Holy Spirit (wisdom, knowledge, etc.) that we received at Baptism. But, for what reason? To go out to others. Confirmation is all about mission. At the “first Confirmation” (Acts 2:1-11, today’s first reading) which is the Catholic feast of Pentecost, the Apostles were sent out on mission by the Holy Spirit. They proclaimed the Gospel to Jews from around the world on that feast, “about three thousand persons were added that day” (Acts 2:41), and the Catholic Church began. Pentecost is the birthday of the Catholic Church (est. 33 A.D.). Happy Birthday, Church!

What occurred on Pentecost should help us in discerning our own mission. Look at the Apostles prior to that event: they were cowering in the Upper Room, keeping Jesus to themselves and afraid to share Him with others. Then, the Spirit came upon them as “tongues as of fire” (Acts 2:3), and they went out to proclaim the Gospel to thousands of people. So, it’s not about us! Evangelizing is not about our own abilities or courage. It’s all about the Spirit. The Spirit dominates the Acts of the Apostles, leading the Apostles and the early Church on

So, it’s not about us! Evangelizing is not about our own abilities or courage. It’s all about the Spirit. The Spirit dominates the Acts of the Apostles, leading the Apostles and the early Church on mission. The Holy Spirit continues to lead the Catholic Church through its leaders and members. For all of us confirmed Catholics, our Confirmation was our Pentecost. The Spirit confirmed (or sealed) the gifts of Baptism and sent us out on

For all of us confirmed Catholics, our Confirmation was our Pentecost. The Spirit confirmed (or sealed) the gifts of Baptism and sent us out on mission. How have we lived out our mission? How have we lived out our Confirmation? Have we gone out and proclaimed the Gospel? Or, have we kept Jesus to ourselves and been afraid to share Him with others? If we want to be faithful to our mission as Disciples of Christ, then we need to be close to the Holy Spirit and His gifts.

We are a church on a mission, and each one of us plays an important role. As we close out the Easter season and celebrate our birthday as Catholics, let us be renewed in our mission. With the help of the Holy Spirit, let us courageously and wisely proclaim the risen Christ!

May you know the peace of the risen Christ,

Fr Greg

Early days of the Church

During the Easter season, the first readings at Mass take us through some of the Acts of the Apostles. This book of the Bible is an incredibly dramatic account of the first days of the church that Christ founded. It begins with the Ascension of the Lord into heaven (Acts 1), and then the descent of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2). The power of the Holy Spirit is revealed immediately, with the Spirit coming upon the Apostles as “tongues of fire”. The Spirit set them on fire for the Lord, and they went out and preached Christ with great courage and zeal.

As a result, “three thousand persons were added that day”, and the Catholic Church began. The Holy Spirit has been leading the Church ever since then. In fact, the Acts of the Apostles is commonly known as the “Gospel of the Holy Spirit”.

So, Acts 2 is probably the best Scriptural defense of the Catholic Church. What I mean is that when people say that the Church is a human institution only, you can say that Acts of the Apostles shows us it is led by the Holy Spirit…it is a divine institution!

This might help to answer the popular question, ‘where is that in the Bible?’ Here are answers to that question on some other beliefs and practices of the Church:

WHERE IS THAT IN THE BIBLE?? (Acts of the Apostles edition):

Confirmation – Acts 2 (again).

Pentecost was the “first Confirmation”. The Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles who had been baptized and made their first Holy Communion…!

Eucharist – Acts 2:42, 46

“They devoted themselves…to the breaking of bread”.

Holy Orders – Acts 13:3, 14:23

Apostles ordained other men as priests when “they laid hands on them” and “appointed presbyters (priests)”.

Deacons – Acts 6:1-6

The Apostles select “seven reputable men, filled with the Holy Spirit and wisdom whom we shall appoint to this task” (to serve at table).

Relics – A) Acts 5:15-16 and B) Acts 19:11-12.

Healings and miracles occur through the shadow of St. Peter (A) and the hands, aprons, and handkerchiefs of St. Paul (B). The grace and power of Christ is in relics of His saints – first class (hands), second class (aprons and handkerchiefs) and third class (shadow).

May you know the peace of the risen Christ,

Fr Greg