Pentecost: Lighting the World on Fire with the New Evangelization

There is a scene in the 1991 film, Backdraft, 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). Obviously, 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 Catholics, 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, a few years ago, I read George Weigel’s book – Evangelical Catholicism. His understanding of the Catholic Church and the deep reform (not doctrinal reform) that is needed for the Church in the 21st century is prophetic, and remember we are only at the beginning of it. If you have never read it, I would highly encourage you to do so.

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.

In his encyclical, Redemptoris Missio, Pope St. John Paul II says this –

God is opening before the Church the horizons of a humanity more fully prepared for the sowing of the Gospel. I sense that the moment has come to commit all of the Church’s energies to a new evangelization and to the mission ad gentes. No believer in Christ, no institution of the Church can avoid this supreme duty: to proclaim Christ to all peoples.

Now this is no easy task, especially in a Church that seems to be somewhat conflicted with herself today, but if the mission can be met, it means that we who take on this great call will have to play with fire.

To encourage you to “play with fire”, here are 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 Joseph 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, now more than ever before, 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 – they unite us with Jesus Christ and each other, the Body of Christ.

In the book, The Spirit of Catholicism (another great text!) 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 Twelve Apostles could do this, imagine what we can do with 2,000 years of Scripture and Tradition behind us. My fellow Catholics – Go! Evangelize! And the set the world on fire

Pope Benedict XVI: 65 Years as a Catholic Priest

Today is the 65th Anniversary to the Catholic Priesthood for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. After you read this very short blog post on him, offer up prayers for him – 1 Our Father, 3 Hail Mary’s, and 1 Glory Be. Pray for his health and pray for his prayers.

Pope Benedict XVI & Eucharist

For all my writings on Pope Benedict XVI, please click here.

Don’t forget to say those prayers!

Happy Birthday, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

Happy Birthday to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI!  

Today, Papa Benedict is 89 years old.

Pope Benedict XVI's Weekly General Audience

To read my many blog posts about him or his theology, please click this link.

Like Pope St. John Paul II, I am a huge fan and theology nerd when it comes to Papa Benedict. I have around 21 of his books and papal documents. One of my favorites is Verbum Domini, his Apostolic Exhortation on the Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church. His Jesus of Nazareth series is pretty amazing as well as his book on the Early Church Fathers. If you have never read Ratzinger, what are you waiting for?

On this day of your birth, may Our Lord Jesus Christ through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and in union with the Holy Saints and Angels, pray for you and be with you. Amen.

Was Jesus’ Last Supper Actually a Passover Meal or was it Something Completely New?

This year for Lent I decided to take it upon myself to read the second part of Pope Benedict XVI’s Jesus of Nazareth, which is subtitled – Holy Week: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection. And although I have read a lot of it, I am not completely finished with it yet, but hoping to finish the chapters up to the Resurrection by Saturday morning. My lack of reading though has assisted me to write this blog post or should I say quote Pope Benedict himself.

Last year on Holy Thursday, I wrote the blog post titled, The Four Cups, the Last Supper, and the Cup on Consummation. Using Brant Pitre, Scott Hahn, and James Socias, I wrote about the Four Cups of the Passover Meal and whether or not Jesus drank the fourth cup or if the fourth cup is actually the Cross itself. To read last year’s post, check out the link above.

The reason I am writing today’s post on Good Friday of this year is because last night while sitting in front of the Altar of Repose at my parish, I re-read some parts in the Last Supper chapter that made me rethink some things I wrote about last year. Although Pitre’s book, Jesus and Jewish Roots of the Eucharist, mentions and highlights the Four Cups of the Passover, it’s interesting that Pope Benedict XVI writes nothing about the four cups in the aforementioned book. A somewhat interesting note of fact is that Pitre’s book was published on March 2, 2011 and Benedict’s on March 10, 2011. Theological ships passing in the night?

Why doesn’t Benedict talk about the four cups? Are the four cups not important? Did Jesus use/drink the cups? What about St. Luke’s account that speaks of cups?

Although there is a lot to say on this particular topic, Chapter Five covers the entire Last Supper, I am going to pick up on page 113. The question is – Was Jesus’ Last Supper Actually a Passover Meal or was it Something Completely New?

“We have to ask, though, what Jesus’ Last Supper actually was. And how did it acquire its undoubtedly early attribution of Passover character? The answer given by Meier (John P. Meier – A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus) is astonishingly simple in many respects convincing: Jesus knew that he was about to die. He knew that he would not be able to eat the Passover again. Fully aware of this, he invited his disciples to a Last Supper of a very special kind, one that followed no specific Jewish ritual but, rather, constituted his farewell; during the meal he gave them something new: he gave them himself as the true Lamb and there instituted his Passover.

Jesus & Eucharist - EWTN

In all the Synoptic Gospels, the prophecy of Jesus’ death and Resurrection form part of this meal. Luke presents it in an especially solemn and mysterious form: “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you I shall not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God” (22:15-16). The saying is ambiguous. It can mean that Jesus is eating the usual Passover meal with his disciples for the last time. But it can also mean that he is eating it no longer but, rather, is on his way to the new Passover.

One thing emerges clearly from the entire tradition: essentially, this farewell meal was not the old Passover, but the new one, which Jesus accomplished in this context. Even though the meal that Jesus shared with the Twelve was not a Passover meal according to the ritual prescriptions of Judaism, nevertheless, in retrospect, the inner connection of the whole event with Jesus’ death and Resurrection stood out clearly. It was Jesus’ Passover. And in this sense he both did and did not celebrate the Passover: the old rituals could not be carried out –when their time came, Jesus had already died. But he had given himself, and thus he had truly celebrated the Passover with them. The old was not abolished; it was simply brought to its full meaning.

The earliest evidence for this unified view of the new and the old, providing a new explanation of the Passover character of Jesus’ meal in terms of his death and Resurrection, is found in Saint Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians: “Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be new dough, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Paschal Lamb, has been sacrificed” (5:7; cf. Meier, A Marginal Jew I, pp. 429-430). As in Mark 14:1, so here the first day of Unleavened Bread and the Passover follow in rapid succession, but the older ritual understanding is transformed into a Christological and existential interpretation. Unleavened bread must now refer to Christians themselves, who are freed from sin by the addition of yeast. But the sacrificial lamb is Christ. Here Paul is in complete harmony John’s presentation of events. For him the death and Resurrection of Christ have become the Passover that endures.

On this basis one can understand how it was that very early on, Jesus’ Last Supper – which includes not only a prophecy, but a real anticipation of the Cross and Resurrection in the eucharistic gifts – was regarded as a Passover: as his Passover. And so it was” (pp. 113-115).

I am by no means an expert on this topic. I just find it interesting and I find the absence of the four cups from the writings of Benedict, at least in this book, to be equally interesting. Does anyone know if he speaks of the four cups in another document or even in a homily?

I will conclude with Benedict’s words from the beginning of Chapter Six: “Jesus’ final meal – whether or not it was a Passover meal – was first and foremost an act of worship. At its heart was the prayer of praise and thanksgiving, and at the end it led back into prayer.”

It was an act of worship! This however is a topic for another time.

The Top 10 Blog Posts of 2015

On my blog, 2015 was a very blessed year. I surpassed 2014 with 168,571 views in 2015 and 116,265 visitors. I published 130 blog posts, the least amount of posts over the last few years, but since I my writings are frequently on New Advent as well as Big Pulpit, and now, Catholic Exchange, the reach of my blog has been extended to many others. Thank you to the editors of these sites – Kevin Knight, Tito Edwards, and Michael Lichens.

Another blessing that happened this year was that my first published book came out in September through Emmaus Road PublishingUnderstanding Catholic Teaching on the Blessed Virgin Mary. As I write my weekly blog posts, I am working on two other manuscripts, both which derive from writings on my blog. I hope to share those with you in the near future.

Thank you for the support and prayers this year that you have provided me and my family. I hope that you continue to read my blog and share it with others throughout 2016.

Here are the Top 10 Blog Posts from 2015 –

1. 10 Quotes from the Treatise on Prayer from St.Catherine of Siena 

2. The Four Cups, the Last Supper, and the Cup of Consummation 

3. 7 Quotes from St. John Vianney on the Sanctification of Daily Life 

4. Quick Lessons from Catechism: The Sacrament of Holy Matrimony 

5. The Life of St. Augustine through the Words of Pope Benedict XVI 

6. My First Published Book – Understanding Catholic Teaching on the Blessed Virgin Mary 

7. The Rookie Card of Pope St. John Paul II 

8. My Friend, Bishop-Elect Steven J. Lopes 

9. What was Mary Thinking the Week Before She Gave Birth to Jesus? 

10. Father’s Day Without Dad 

To Our Lord Jesus Christ, through the intercession of Our Lady Guadalupe, to whom this blog post is dedicated, I ask for continued blessings and the grace to work for the Catholic Church and the Kingdom of God. Amen. 

“Mondays with Mary” – The Visitation of Mary in Advent

Yesterday, in the Western lung of the Catholic Church, we heard the beautiful scripture verses many of you know to be the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary as the Gospel reading for the Fourth Week of Advent. For today’s “Mondays with Mary”, I want to share with some of the previous blog posts I have written on the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. However, before I do that, let’s see what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says on the topic as well as Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen.

The Catechism states in paragraph 495,

Called in the Gospels “the mother of Jesus”, Mary is acclaimed by Elizabeth, at the prompting of the Spirit and even before the birth of her son, as “the mother of my Lord”. In fact, the One whom she conceived as man by the Holy Spirit, who truly became her Son according to the flesh, was none other than the Father’s eternal Son, the second person of the Holy Trinity. Hence the Church confesses that Mary is truly “Mother of God” (Theotokos).

And paragraph 2677 states,

Holy Mary, Mother of God: With Elizabeth we marvel, “And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Because she gives us Jesus, her son, Mary is Mother of God and our mother; we can entrust all our cares and petitions to her: she prays for us as she prayed for herself: “Let it be to me according to your word.” By entrusting ourselves to her prayer, we abandon ourselves to the will of God together with her: “Thy will be done.”

Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death: By asking Mary to pray for us, we acknowledge ourselves to be poor sinners and we address ourselves to the “Mother of Mercy,” the All-Holy One. We give ourselves over to her now, in the Today of our lives. And our trust broadens further, already at the present moment, to surrender “the hour of our death” wholly to her care. May she be there as she was at her son’s death on the cross. May she welcome us as our mother at the hour of our passing to lead us to her son, Jesus, in paradise.

Visitation, Oil on Canvas. For more from Steve Bird, visit his website - http://www.stevebirdart.com

Visitation, Oil on Canvas. For more from Steve Bird, visit his website – http://www.stevebirdart.com

In his book, The World’s First Love: Mary, Mother of God, Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen states,

“One of the most beautiful moments in history was that when pregnancy met pregnancy – when childbearers became the first heralds of the King of Kings. All pagan religions begin with the teachings of adults, but Christianity begins with the birth of a Child…”

To read more about the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I would encourage you to check out the five blog posts I have written previously –
“Mondays with Mary” – Pope Benedict on the ‘Visitation of Mary’

“Mondays with Mary” – St. Francis de Sales on the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

“Mondays with Mary” – The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

“Mondays with Mary”- The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Take 2

“Mondays with Mary” – ‘Bringing Jesus to Others’

As we joyfully anticipate Christmas, which is only 4 days away, let ask Mary to help us come to know Jesus more in our every day lives, and that she, as she brought him in her womb to Elizabeth, may continue to bring Him to us and lead us to Him in this life and the life to come.

“Mondays with Mary” – Mary Under the Cross

With today being the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, in both the East and West, I found it fitting to provide you with the previous “Mondays with Mary” that I have written regarding Mary at the Foot of the Cross, her suffering at the Cross, and her role as Our Lady of Sorrows, which is celebrated by the Latin Church on September 15. However, before we get to the previous posts, I want to share with you the words from Pope Benedict XVI. This is from his Angelus following the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross and the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows on September 17, 2006.

“Now, before the Marian prayer, I would like to reflect on two recent and important liturgical events: the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, celebrated on 14 September, and the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows, celebrated the following day.

These two liturgical celebrations can be summed up visually in the traditional image of the Crucifixion, which portrays the Virgin Mary at the foot of the Cross, according to the description of the Evangelist John, the only one of the Apostles who stayed by the dying Jesus.

But what does exalting the Cross mean? Is it not maybe scandalous to venerate a shameful form of execution? The Apostle Paul says: “We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles” (I Cor 1: 23). Christians, however, do not exalt just any cross but the Cross which Jesus sanctified with his sacrifice, the fruit and testimony of immense love. Christ on the Cross pours out his Blood to set humanity free from the slavery of sin and death.

Therefore, from being a sign of malediction, the Cross was transformed into a sign of blessing, from a symbol of death into a symbol par excellence of the Love that overcomes hatred and violence and generates immortal life. “O Crux, ave spes unica! O Cross, our only hope!”. Thus sings the liturgy.

The Evangelist recounts: Mary was standing by the Cross (cf. Jn 19: 25-27). Her sorrow is united with that of her Son. It is a sorrow full of faith and love. The Virgin on Calvary participates in the saving power of the suffering of Christ, joining her “fiat”, her “yes”, to that of her Son.

Dear brothers and sisters, spiritually united to Our Lady of Sorrows, let us also renew our “yes” to God who chose the Way of the Cross in order to save us. This is a great mystery which continues and will continue to take place until the end of the world, and which also asks for our collaboration.

May Mary help us to take up our cross every day and follow Jesus faithfully on the path of obedience, sacrifice and love.”

The Crucifixion - Matthias Grünewald

The Crucifixion – Matthias Grünewald

Now that we have read the beautiful words from Papa Benedict, let us turn towards some of my previous blog posts –

“Mondays with Mary” – Our Lady of Sorrows

“Mondays with Mary” – Blessed John Paul II on the Suffering of Mary

“Mondays with Mary” – 7 Quotes by Pope St. John Paul II on Our Lady of Sorrows

“Mondays with Mary” – Six Words of Pope John Paul II on Mary at the Cross

“Mondays with Mary” – The Method of Praying the Rosary of the Mater Dolorosa

“Mondays with Mary” – The Encounter of Jesus with His Blessed Mother as He Carries the Cross

“Mondays with Mary” – The Crucifixion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ and Mary at the Foot of the Cross

“Mondays with Mary” – The Descent from the Cross, and Jesus in the Arms of His Most Blessed Mother

Today, as we remember the suffering Our Lord endured on the Cross, let us also be reminded of the pain and anguish the Blessed Virgin Mary also endured, and pray that we can embrace our own suffering that comes from carrying our daily crosses as followers of Jesus Christ.

In case you haven’t heard, my first book was published last week – Understanding Catholic Teaching on the Blessed Virgin Mary. I hope you can purchase it and share with others.