Quick Lessons from the Catechism: Pentecost and ‘I Believe in the Holy Spirit’

Today is Pentecost Sunday, the great day known as the birth of the Catholic Church and the day the Holy Spirit, which was promised by Jesus Christ numerous times in the Gospels, descended upon the Apostles (and more than likely the Blessed Virgin Mary as well) just days after Jesus’ Ascension into Heaven. Pentecost is known as the founding of the Catholic Church as the bearer of God’s spirit to the world. It is one of the great Solemnities in the liturgical calendar and one of the great days culminating the Easter Season.

So before we get to the heart of today’s QLC, ‘I Believe in the Holy Spirit’, lets briefly focus on Pentecost.

Originally, the feast was known as the Feast of Weeks (Dt 16:10) or the Feast of Harvest (Ex 23:16). Later on, among the Jews that spoke Greek, the feast became known as penetkoste, which in Greek means “fiftieth.” The fifty days refers to the timing of the festival – fifty days after the spring celebration of Passover (Lev 23:15-16).

In the Old Testament, the Feast of Weeks, is one of the three major feasts listed in Exodus 23:14-17. The other two feasts are Unleavened Bread and Ingathering. The feast was gauged to happen seven weeks from the day of when the first sheaf was presented from the barley harvest during the Passover celebration (Lev 23:15-21). In the ancient days of Israel, the Feast of Weeks was a harvest festival where baked loaves of bread made with wheat, from the spring harvest, were offered to the Lord as a gift from the first fruits. The day was meant for sacred rest and there was worship with certain prescribed sacrifices (Num 28:26-31).

It became a pilgrim feast in the Deuteromonic Covenant, which required all participants to travel to “the place which the Lord your God will choose” (Dt 16:9-12). This would eventually become Jerusalem. There they would celebrate the sacred rites. To this day, Jerusalem is still a city of pilgrimage (just like Rome).

Now that we have a better understanding of the biblical history of Pentecost, let’s focus on the third person of the Holy Trinity – The Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, as I said above, was promised in numerous places, with numerous names, in the Gospels (Lk 12:12; Jn 14:16, Jn 14:26, Jn 15:26, and Jn 20:22). Jesus promised that he would send the Counselor and the Advocate to give them all that he taught and shared with them.

The Second Vatican Council document, Ad Gentes (Decree on the Church’s Missionary Activity) says this about the Holy Spirit and Pentecost –

“On the day of Pentecost, however, he came down on the disciples that he might remain with them forever; on that day the Church was openly displayed to the crowds and the spread of the Gospel among the nations, through preaching, was begun. Finally, on that day was foreshadowed the union of all people in the catholicity of the faith by means of the Church of the New Alliance, a Church which speaks every language, understands and embraces all tongues in charity, and thus overcomes the dispersion of Babel.”

The Holy Spirit is a gift to the Church who continues to guide and direct the Church even today. The mission of Jesus and God the Father is in union with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Trinity is united as three persons and one God. A simple way to understand the Holy Trinity is through water and it’s three forms – liquid, ice, and steam – they are all water (one nature), but three separate entities (persons).

Mary is the Mother of the Church on Pentecost

Now that we have an understanding of the Holy Spirit, let’s turn to what Catechism of the Catholic Church states on the topic –

“Because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!”‘ (Gal 4:6). [#724]

From the beginning to the end of time, whenever God sends his Son, he always sends his Spirit: their mission is conjoined and inseparable. [#743]

In the fullness of time the Holy Spirit completes in Mary all the preparations for Christ’s coming among the People of God. By the action of the Holy Spirit in her, the Father gives the world Emmanuel “God-with-us” (Mt 1:23). [#744]

The Son of God was consecrated as Christ (Messiah) by the anointing of the Holy Spirit at his Incarnation (cf. Ps 2:6-7). [#745]

By his Death and his Resurrection, Jesus is constituted in glory as Lord and Christ (cf. Acts 2:36). From his fullness, he poured out the Holy Spirit on the apostles and the Church. [#746]

The Holy Spirit, whom Christ the head pours out on his members, builds, animates, and sanctifies the Church. She is the sacrament of the Holy Trinity’s communion with men. [#747]

I would suggest reading paragraphs 683-741 in the Catechism as well. Pope St. John Paul II was one of the pope’s that wrote an entire encyclical on Holy Spirit. It’s titled Dominum et Vivificantem (On the Holy Spirit in the Life of the Church and the World). He also left us a series of Catechesis on the Holy Spirit.

I would also suggest reading some of my other blog posts from the past on Pentecost – ‘Mary and Pentecost’, 5 Quotes from Pope St. John Paul II on Pentecost, Mary is the Church on Pentecost, Pentecost, Playing with Fire, and the New Evangelization, and Reflections on the Pentecost Readings.

As we celebrate the great Solemnity of Pentecost, let us joyfully proclaim with fire in our souls…Come Holy Spirit! 

Holy-spirit-window

“Mondays with Mary” – ‘Mary and Pentecost’ with Romano Guardini and Hans Urs Von Balthasar

Throughout the Gospels and the life of Jesus Christ, in those very significant events, we witness the Blessed Virgin Mary playing an integral role. From the Annunciation of Our Lord to the Wedding Feast at Cana to the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ, and even in the feast of Pentecost, after Our Lord had ascended into Heaven, we see the strength of the Blessed Virgin Mary as she faithfully and obediently accepts all that God has designed for her life.

As the Church is born and unfolds on the Pentecost Sunday, Mary in the life of the Church begins to take shape. She is the fundamental figure in the life of the early Church.

For this year’s “Mondays with Mary” focusing on Pentecost, I turn our attention to two great 20th century theologians – Romano Guardini and Hans Urs Von Balthasar. This excerpt comes from the book, Mary For Today, by Hans Urs Von Balthasar.

“Here we should trust ourselves to the wisdom of Romano Guardini:

There must have been something divinely great when by the light of the Spirit everything became clear to her who “kept all these things in her heart”: the context and interconnection of Jesus’ existence were revealed. Throughout the years of Jesus’ public life she had to maintain her confidence in heroic faith: now she received the answer, resplendent, and solving everything.

It is easy to think that she must always have understood the Lord, better than anyone else. Humanly speaking – to the extent that in this context one can talk of the human – without a doubt this was so. Historically no one else was able like her to provide information about him. But on the other side it is not without purpose that the Gospel says that she “did not understand the saying which he spoke to them”. Probably she could just not have borne a real, complete understanding. The way of genuine experience of life lived in faith and love is greater than the anticipation of things which in God’s guidance have their place only later.

To recognize that the child, the boy, the youth, the man who lived in her company was the Son of God in the sense that became manifest after Pentecost would probably have put her in an intolerable situation. That security without which existence as a mother is not possible would have disappeared. Now however God’s mystery can be revealed, to the extent that this is possible on earth.

She does not any longer need any protection against what is too great for human understanding. She is able to carry together in her mind the two statements, ‘He is the Son of the eternal Father’ and ‘He is your son’, without breaking down or merely becoming confused. Indeed, is this unity she recognizes the ineffable content of her vocation.

This description by Guardini of the effect of the Spirit on Mary at Pentecost, when, as innumerable medieval representations of the event portray her, she becomes the center and focus of the Spirit-enlightened Church, does her perfection no harm but rather enables it to be seen as something genuinely human. What is unique about her is the Spirit of Pentecost basically does nothing other than to present to her the content of her own experience as her memory had retained it: a memory that contains all the central dogmas of revelation in their complete unity and interwovenness.”

As we conclude this Easter Season, let us, like Mary, keep the memory strong in our minds of the message of Jesus Christ and our duty in being missionaries to the world we encounter each day. As we stand against those who dislike Jesus Christ and His Church, let us ask Mary for her motherly intercession to always guide us in our words and actions.

5 Quotes on Pentecost from Pope St. John Paul II

Today, Pentecost Sunday is the day we celebrate the birth of the Catholic Church. From this day when the Holy Spirit enkindled the hearts of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Apostles, the Church began to grow. As the Apostles went out into the world to preach the gospel message to all the nations, Christ through his Church was with them.

Mary is the Mother of the Church on Pentecost

Before Pentecost they were simple men, but after the Spirit came upon them, they were men of self-sacrifice and full of great strength. In the book, The Spirit of Catholicism, Karl Adam says,  “Twelve simple, uneducated fisherman revolutionized the world, and that with no other instrument than their new faith and their readiness to die for that faith.”

On the day of Pentecost, the Table of the Nations in Genesis 10 is being reunited (reunification) and the Tower of Babel is being undone in the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church is the restoration of the family of mankind under one language, not a literal language, but the “language” of the Holy Spirit. From that moment till today, the Church has become the universal means of salvation for all nations.

No one knew the message of Pentecost better than Pope St. John Paul II, who as Holy Father traveled far and wide across the globe, much further than any of the Apostles originally traveled, to bring the Gospel message of Jesus Christ to nations and continents.

Being that this is the first Pentecost since his canonization, below are 5 quotes from Pope St. John Paul on today’s solemnity. Each one is packed with great wisdom focusing on the importance of the Church as a mission.

Pope St. John Paul II - Pentecost 1982 in the United Kingdom.

Pope St. John Paul II – Pentecost 1982 in the United Kingdom.

“The Church of Christ is always, so to speak, in a situation of Pentecost: she is always gathered in the Upper Room in prayer, and at the same time, driven by the powerful wind of the Spirit, she is always on the streets preaching” (June 8, 2003).

“On the day when we celebrate the memorial of the Church’s birth, we want to express heartfelt gratitude to God for this twofold, and ultimately one, witness, which has involved the great family of the Church since the day of Pentecost. We want to give thanks for the witness of the first community of Jerusalem which, through the generations of martyrs and confessors, has become the inheritance of countless men and women down the ages around the world” (June 10, 2000).

“Mary Most Holy, since Pentecost you have kept watch with the Church as she prays for the Holy Spirit: remain with us at the centre of our extraordinary Upper Room. To you, whom we venerate as Our Lady of Divine Love, we entrust the fruits of the City Mission, so that through your intercession the Diocese of Rome may offer the world a convinced witness to Christ our Saviour” (May 22, 1999).

“How can we not give thanks to God for the wonders the Spirit has never ceased to accomplish in these two millenniums of Christian life? Indeed, the event of grace at Pentecost has continued to bear its marvellous fruits, everywhere instilling apostolic zeal, a desire for contemplation, the commitment to live and serve God and our brothers and sisters with complete dedication” (May 31, 1998).

“In the Acts of the Apostles, St Luke describes the extraordinary manifestation of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost as a communication of the very vitality of God who gives himself to men. This divine gift is also light and power: light, to proclaim the Gospel, the Truth revealed by God; power, to infuse the courage of witnessing to the faith, which the Apostles begin at that very moment” (May 18, 1997).

Let us pray…Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and enkindle us the fire of your love. O Lord, on this day of Pentecost, give us the grace and strength to go forth from our homes and parishes to bring the Gospel message to the world we encounter each day of our lives. Amen.

 

“Mondays with Mary” – Mary is the Church on Pentecost

Yesterday was Pentecost Sunday – the day we celebrate the Holy Spirit descending upon Mary and the Apostles. This day also commemorates the birth of the Catholic Church. It’s a joyful time of the year when we rekindle the fire of the Holy Spirit in our hearts as He came upon the Apostles and Mary 2,000 years ago. As the Mother of the Church, Mary plays an important role in the life of the Early Church as well as the Church today.

Her intercession and mediation as the Queen Mother is beneficial for the Church and world since she aids us in our friendship with Jesus Christ. Without her motherly mediation, our relationship with Jesus Christ may not be as strong. We see Mary as the Church since the Church is our Mother and Mary is our Mother. The two are synthesized as one to bring us closer to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Along with the Holy Spirit, Mary’s role in the salvation history is fundamental for our redemption.

In his book, Immaculate Conception and the Holy Spirit, Fr. H.M. Manteau-Bonamy, OP, explains the importance of Mary as the Church. The aforementioned book is a text based on the Marian teachings of the great saint – Maximilian Kolbe. St. Maximilian Kolbe is famous for being martyred in a concentration camp under the Nazi Regime. He is also the founder of the Militia Immaculata.

Mary is the Mother of the Church on Pentecost

In Chapter Six – The Immaculata and the Church, Fr. Manteau-Bonamy says, “Mary is already the Church on Pentecost, when after having prayed along with the Apostles, “calling down by her prayers also the gift of the Spirit who, in the Annunciation had already overshadowed her” (Lumen Gentium, n. 59) [Emphasis mine], she became “the Mother of the Shepherds and of the faithful, in a word, Mother of the entire Church” (Paul VI, November 21, 1964). Almost a quarter century before this pronouncement made during Vatican II, Father Kolbe had said:

Whoever does not wish to have Mary Immaculate as his Mother will not have Christ as his Brother either; the Father will not send his Son to him; the Son will not descend into his soul; the Holy Spirit will not make him a member of the mystical body of Christ; for all these mysteries of grace take place in Mary full of grace, and in her alone. No other creature is or will ever be immaculate like her, or full of grace, or capable of being so intimately united to the Lord as was the Immaculate Virgin. And since the first-born Son, the Man-God, was conceived only through the specific consent of the Most Blessed Virgin, the same holds true of all other humans, who must imitate in all things their primary model, Christ. (Sketch, 1940)”

During this week of Pentecost, let us strengthen our relationship with the Blessed Mother so our friendship with Jesus Christ can stand against the sin we encounter each day of our lives. Let us ask for Mary’s intercession to guide us and help us know Jesus better each day. Let us pray that the fire of Pentecost can enkindle our hearts so that we renew the face of the Earth and share the love of Christ and fire of the Holy Spirit with whomever we encounter.

Pentecost, Playing with Fire, and the New Evangelization

In the 1991 film, Backdraft, there is a scene when Robert De Niro’s character asks Donald Sutherland’s character (an imprisoned pyromaniac), “what do you want to do to the whole world Ronald”, and he replies “burn it all.” If you have never see the movie, I encourage you to see because it’s a great film, however the reason why I quote this film is because as Catholic Christians living in the world, we should want to do the same thing to the world, but in a Evangelistic way. We should be seeking to light the world on fire with the light of the Holy Spirit.

As Catholics, we should be spiritual fire-starters for Jesus Christ and His Church. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus says, “I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled” (Lk 12:49). Now I am not talking about starting literal fires, but I am speaking about playing with the fire of Pentecost and the fire that we receive in the Sacrament of Confirmation. As Catholic Christians, it is our fundamental duty to evangelize the world by playing with the fire of the Holy Spirit.

At the direction of a good friend of mine, who is also in the trenches fighting for Jesus Christ, I have begun reading George Weigel’s latest book – Evangelical Catholicism.  To say the least – it’s simply fantastic! His understanding of the Catholic Church and the deep reform (not doctrinal reform) that is needed for the Church in the 21st century is beyond compare. Having read other titles by Mr. Weigel, I can honestly say that he could be the greatest catholic author in the last half century. His arguments are concise, clear, and follow simple common sense. In Chapter 1, there is a section called – Pentecost, Again. He begins this section by stating that through the pontificates of Pope St. John XXIII (and the Second Vatican Council) and Pope St. John Paul II, a new Pentecost is on the horizon in the Catholic Church. The marching orders that will lead this new Pentecost is the New Evangelization. Now this is no easy task, but if the mission can be met, it means that we who take on this great call will have to play with fire.

pentecost

Instead of providing a commentary on the readings from this year’s liturgical cycle on Pentecost, I provide you with some dynamic and powerful quotes from Evangelical Catholicism and the section on the new Pentecost –

Quoting Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger –

“the Holy Spirit is fire; whoever does not want to be burned should not come near him.” This fire…”is an “inimitable” part of the “relationship between Christ, Holy Spirit, and Church.””

Fire of the Holy Spirit and the Body of Christ –

“The fire of the Holy Spirit purifies, inspires, and fuses men and women together into a new human community, the Church. Through each of its members, and in them as a whole, the Church is the Body of Christ on earth.”

Fire of the Holy Spirit, Cardinal Ratzinger –

“Faith is a tongue of fire that burns us and melts us so that ever more it is true: I am no longer I…When we yield to the burning fire of the Holy Spirit, being Christian becomes comfortable only as first glance…Only when we do not fear the tongue of fire and the storm it brings with it does the Church become the icon of the Holy Spirit. And only then does she open the world to the light of God.”

Evangelical Catholicism is Not Easy –

“The cultural Catholicism of the past was “comfortable” because it fit neatly within the ambient public culture, causing little chafing between one’s life “in the Church” and one’s life “in the world.”…Evangelical Catholicism does not seek to “get along”; it seeks to convert.”

Evangelical Catholicism in the Church –

“…Lukewarm Catholicism has no future: submitting to the transforming fire of the Holy Spirit is not longer optional…Evangelical requires a generosity about time from the laity, who must make time amid the rush of postmodern life for a deeper encounter with Christ than that permitted by an hour’s worth of weekly worship…more attention to sacramental preparation and sacramental discipline…”

Evangelical Catholicism, Community, and Holiness –

“Evangelical Catholicism builds up the community of the faithful not for the sake of the community but for the sake of a common reception of the mysteries of the faith, which in turn become the fonts of grace…The tongues of from which the Church is formed thus become the fire of mission by which the world is set ablaze…Evangelical Catholicism calls the entire Church to holiness for the sake of mission.”

I don’t know about you, but these words from George Weigel get me fired up…pun intended! As Catholics, it is time for us to light the world on fire with the love of Jesus Christ and the Church. Find strength in the Sacraments, especially the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Eucharist. Cardinal Timothy Dolan has said, “The Sacrament of Reconciliation is the Sacrament of the New Evangelization.”

In the his book, The Spirit of Catholicism, Karl Adam says, “Twelve simple, uneducated fishermen revolutionized the world, and that with no other instrument than their new faith and their readiness to die for that faith.”

If the Apostles could do this, imagine what we can do with 2,000 years of Scripture and Tradition behind us. Catholics – Go! And the set the world on fire!

Saint Matthias – The Man Who Replaced A Traitor

During those days Peter stood up in the midst of the brothers (there was a group of about one hundred and twenty persons in the one place). He said, “My brothers, the scripture had to be fulfilled which the holy Spirit spoke beforehand through the mouth of David, concerning Judas, who was the guide for those who arrested Jesus.He was numbered among us and was allotted a share in this ministry. He bought a parcel of land with the wages of his iniquity, and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle, and all his insides spilled out. This became known to everyone who lived in Jerusalem, so that the parcel of land was called in their language ‘Akeldama,’ that is, Field of Blood. For it is written in the Book of Psalms: ‘Let his encampment become desolate, and may no one dwell in it.’ And: ‘May another take his office.’

Therefore, it is necessary that one of the men who accompanied us the whole time the Lord Jesus came and went among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day on which he was taken up from us, become with us a witness to his resurrection.”So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. Then they prayed, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this apostolic ministry from which Judas turned away to go to his own place.” Then they gave lots to them, and the lot fell upon Matthias, and he was counted with the eleven apostles (Acts of the Apostles 1:13-26).

Not much is known about Saint Matthias. The first we hear of him in the Scriptures is also the last time we hear of him in the Scriptures. All we know through Sacred Tradition is that he preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the Palestine region. He was so faithful to the end that he was stoned to death around the year 64 A.D.  Writing briefly on Saint Matthias, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI says in his book, The Apostles, “To the greatness of his fidelity was later added the divine call to take the place of Judas, almost compensating for his betrayal.”

What was it like for Saint Matthias to go from disciple to Apostle? The Scriptures speak of “his office” (v. 20) – but what does this mean? The term ‘office’ in the Greek comes from the word – episcopos (episcopacy), which translates to “overseer”, and in English translates to “Bishop.”

So does this mean that Saint Matthias was a Bishop? Yes – he was one of the first Bishops along with the original 11 Apostles. They were the first Bishops of the Catholic Church since they were “overseers” of the Gospel and the churches they developed as they spread from Jerusalem. The primary mission of the 12 “Bishops” was to preach the word of God (see Acts 7:2-6). This mission is still primary in the Church today for our Bishops.

St. Matthias

So what was it like for Saint Matthias – the man who replaced the traitor? We can only speculate on the amount of pressure that he felt when he was chosen to replace Judas. Did others think he would betray as Judas betrayed? Would our Lord himself have chosen Matthias before he chose Judas? Is Matthias the right person for this important task?

I don’t think many faithful Christians ponder the importance of this decision by the Apostles when they hear this passage from Acts. It is a passage that is squeezed between two great events in the early church – the Ascension of Our Lord and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. However, I think it’s an important question to ask because some of us have been in this situation before.

Have you ever had to replace a co-worker that did a terrible job, but was well liked by others? Have you ever had to replace a person you did not know, but was the favorite of the students before you arrived? There is no doubt that there is great hardship in situations like these. Although the Apostles knew Judas betrayed Our Lord, were there friends of Judas’ who followed Jesus? Were they misled by Judas and eventually lost their faith in Christ because one of the original Apostles was a traitor. These are speculative questions that we may never know the full answer to, but are worth thinking about in the life of the Church.

The election of Saint Matthias teaches us two things – first, we are all called to preach the Word of God no matter our place in life. As stated above, we know very little about Matthias, but he, like many of the other apostles died a martyr’s death for Jesus Christ because of their faith in him. Second, it also teaches us that there will always be traitors (wolves in sheep’s clothing) that we must endure and protect ourselves from within the Church. These are the people who seem to be in agreement with us, but in reality, have their own agenda in mind, just like Judas. They would sell us for 30 pieces of silver without blinking an eye. We must always be on careful watch of these individuals.

Let us pray that we remain faithful to Our Lord Jesus Christ even when traitors among us seek to destroy our relationship, faith, and overall love for Him through temptation and their own Judas like agendas. Let us pray that the Blessed Mother protects us from these wolves with her mantle of motherly protection. And let us pray for the protection of our Bishops against those seek to destroy their credibility and teaching authority. 

 

The Resurrection of the Lord!

“T0 behold the risen Christ was an experience that burst the bounds of the ordinary.” — Romano Guardini

“Jesus’ Resurrection was about breaking out into an entirely new form of life, into a life that is no longer subject to the law of dying and becoming, but lies beyond it — a life that opens up a new dimension of human existence.” – Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth – Holy Week: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection

HAPPY EASTER!

HE IS RISEN TODAY!

ALLELUIA!

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