Pentecost Sunday – Breathe On Me, Oh Breath of God

Catholic News World : #Novena to the Holy Spirit for # ...

First reading: Acts of the 2:1–11
When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. 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.
Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem. At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language. They were astounded, and in amazement they asked, “Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans? Then how does each of us hear them in his native language? We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.”

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“Peace be with you.” When he said this, he showed them His hands and His side. – JN 20: 19-20

Holy Gospel according to John 20:19–23

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 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. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

Pentecost…50 days after Easter… the Descent of the Holy Spirit…. or God’s breath... Descending upon the Apostles and Mary… hovering over them like tongues of fire…filling them with the Spirit… God’s Spirit…His Truth ….giving birth to the Church. It is the same Spirit that hovered over the vast dark oceans … all the way at the beginning of Genesis, when there was nothing but darkness and water…There was God’s breath... stirring the waters with life…

It is this same breath moving through the disciples that brings to completion Christ’s mission on earth… By filling them with His Spirit… His Holy breath… which is Truth… His  Church is filled with Life… True life...Offering the faithful His message of peace for all who allow themselves to be filled with this same breath … of the Holy Spirit…  which has been around since the beginning of time… moving  oceans… moving mountains… moving us…

Breathe on me, Oh Breath of God,
fill me with life anew,
that I may love what thou dost love,
and do what thou wouldst do. –
Edwin Hatch – 1878

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Say, Do You Love Me? The Gospel of John- 21:15 -19

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Gospel  John 21: 15 – 19

After Jesus had revealed himself to his disciples and eaten breakfast with them,
he said to Simon Peter,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.”
He then said to Simon Peter a second time,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
He said to him, “Tend my sheep.”
He said to him the third time,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time,
“Do you love me?” and he said to him,
“Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.
Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger,
you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted;
but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands,
and someone else will dress you
and lead you where you do not want to go.”
He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God.
And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.”
How do I love Thee?? Let me count the ways“…Surely these are not the sentiments floating around in the heart of Peter as Jesus is asking him several times if He loves Him... really loves Him in that ‘Lay down my life for you’, kind of love..… Obviously these questions are quite distressing for Peter. He knows that Jesus knows everything…so why does He keep asking him about his love? From many of the meditations I have read,  many of them point to the fact that there are two different words that Jesus has used when asking Peter if he loves Him.
The first word Jesus used for love was ‘agape,’ which is a self sacrificing love…like the love God has…it s a deep love. Peter hears this and responds that yes, he does in fact love Jesus, but he used the word ‘phileo‘, which is the word for love that is like a friendship type of love. A good love to be certain, but not the agape love that Jesus first used.
Now, some have made a big deal about the used of the two different words for love, but I think more to the point is that Jesus is just confirming in front of all the other disciples, that Peter is the rock upon which His Church will be built. When we read this passage, we may be tempted to think that Jesus is being tough on Peter…or we may even wonder why He is bothering with Peter, after all, Peter denied Him three times, didn’t he?
Well, this is what makes Jesus ‘Jesus’…He has the ability to change us…By asking Peter three times if he loves Him, He is really pouring His grace and His mercy upon Peter…He is washing him of his previous sins…cleansing him of his denial… He is using this opportunity to re-establish Peter as the head of the disciples and also to confirm in Peter that He is entrusting Him with His Flock.
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That takes a lot of trust. Most of us wouldn’t even be able to look at Peter again if he had turned against us three times. Heck, most of us can barely tolerate one offense against us. We are that arrogant and proud. But Jesus, not only is He showing us that we must work…’Feed my sheep‘… He is also showing us, that with Him…with His Divine Mercy, all of our past sins can be forgiven…He has the ability to wash us…to cleanse us and transform us into new creatures… Ones that can be trusted to ‘tend His sheep’ and carry out our vocations that He has intended. Even if we have sinned. Even if we have turned away from Him. He is still calling us…asking us to love Him… to follow Him.
When we are feeling hopeless, caught in the shadow of our sins, we must remember that Jesus is still calling us. Still longing for us to follow Him, and turn away from our past transgressions. He is the sacrifice for our sins…  He is our forgiveness and our Mercy… He is our Salvation.
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Saint Brendan the Navigator

detail of a stained glass window of Saint Brendan the Navigator, date unknown, artist unknown; church of Saint James, Glenleigh, Kerry, Ireland; photographed on 9 September 2012 by Andreas F. Borchert; swiped from Wikimedia Commons

Heroes. The history of the Catholic Church is chock full of them. Some of these heroes were pretty ordinary men, who with the grace of God wound up doing great heroic deeds. And others, well, their adventures  just beg for retelling, and with each telling many have grown into stories so grand that they just might seem too hard to believe. Saint Brendan is at the center of one such tale. Some will swear to its’ authenticity while others will just roll their eyes and scoff at such a fantastic journey… Of course we can all agree, that God is the Author of all things and sometimes, even things that seem impossible are possible when it is the Lord who sets your sail…and navigates your journey…

Saint Brendan the Navigator

 

Saint Brendan was an Irish monk who was born in County Kerry in 484. He studied and was ordained by Bishop Erc in 512. For the next twenty years or so, he worked establishing monasteries in Ardfert and Shanakeel near the foot of Brandon Hill. He also spent much of his time building ships and sailing around the northwest parts of Europe founding monasteries… large ones…Legend has it that the community in County Galway, housed at least three thousand monks… with the rules of the monastery being dictated to Brendan by an angel…

 

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Brendan and his brothers traveled over the Atlantic Ocean, stopping at every island they encountered to evangelize the inhabitants. It is even rumored that these sailing monks reached the Americas in the 6th century. In fact, in West Virginia, there were stone carvings discovered that have been dated back to between 500 and 1000 A.D. and they were written in old Irish using the same alphabet that Saint Brendan and his brother monks would have used.

As this saint’s tale continues, he journeyed for seven years; at one point even coming upon a small island just in time to celebrate Easter Mass. Lighting the Easter fire, they discovered that the ‘island’ they had landed on is not an island after all, but a giant whale!

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Many of the ancient maps from the time of Columbus often include an island named Saint Brendan’s isle which was located in the western Atlantic ocean. The exact location wasn’t known, but it was thought to have been west of Europe.

Whether or not the grande tale of this sailing monk celebrating Mass on the back of a whale is true or not, it is recorded that he finally returned home to Ireland , concerning himself with charitable works in his homeland. Founding several more churches and  establishing yet another monastery before his death at the age of 93.

 

 

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Saint Matthias – ‘The Twelfth Man’

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Saint Matthias – Replaced Judas as the 12th Apostle – The 12th Man

Acts of the Apostles 1:20-26

20 “For,” said Peter, “it is written in the Book of Psalms:

“‘May his place be deserted;
    let there be no one to dwell in it,’

and,

“‘May another take his place of leadership.’

21 Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us, 22 beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.”

23 So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. 24 Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen 25 to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” 26 Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.

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As we read in Act of the Apostles 1: 15-26,  Peter has gathered with about 120 of Christ’s followers. The Ascension has just occurred and Peter is feeling the reality of what has just happened. Christ has left them and he is still not sure exactly what it all means, but what he does know, is that he needs to fill the seat left empty by the action of Judas Iscariot’s betrayal. He needs a twelfth man to fill the empty chair.

Of the names that were chosen by those gathered, they narrowed it down to two; Joseph and Matthias. After the Apostles prayed and drew lots on who they should pick, Matthias was appointed. An interesting fact that is mentioned on several different websites, is that Matthias is none other than Zacchaeus, the reformed tax collector. After Jesus had come to have dinner with him, Matthias was  converted… and then later, was chosen by God to fill the vacant spot…. And on this Monday after the Ascension of the Lord we celebrate the fact that God has chosen the Apostle Matthias to preach the ‘Good News’ throughout the world.

There is a story that tells of how Matthias traveled into the heathen country of Ethiopia and was drug over rocks and beaten before he was hung from a pillar and then had his stomach sliced open. Surviving all of this, he continued on… Preaching, and suffering many trials in the name of  Christ. One town that Matthias preached in was known as the “city of man-eaters.” Not only were the inhabitants of this village known for the way they tortured Christians… they were also feared because of their practice of ritualistic cannibalism. But Matthias did not let his fear stop him…Entering the town he was captured and had his eyes plucked out before being tossed in prison. He was forced to drink poison while he wasted away in prison, waiting for his captors to seal his fate.

During this time, the Lord appeared to him and said, “Be of good courage, our Matthias and be not dismayed. For I shall not by any means forsake you.” His eyesight was restored along with the other prisoners who had suffered the same ordeal. The Lord promised that He would send the Apostle Andrew to release him and the others. The Lord wanted Matthias to stay in the prison until the arrival of Andrew, so that the other prisoners would be strengthened by his preaching of the Gospel. As promised, when Andrew approached the gates of the prison,  the doors swung wide open… as if of their own accord… But it was the Lord, He had brought Andrew and had released Matthias and the other prisoners… He had kept His Word to the Faithful…

After his release, Matthias traveled to many regions, returning to Galilee to preach to the Jews once again. But the Jews had become filled with anger and malice towards the Christians, and when Matthias returned, they seized him and turned him over to the High Priest Annas. Annas hated all Christians, and had already killed James, the first bishop of Jerusalem. He immediately ordered that Matthias be stoned to death. When Matthias was taken to the Jews for the stoning, Matthias said to them,

You hypocrites, rightly did the Prophet David speak to those like you: ‘they shall hunt down the soul of the righteous man, and the innocent blood shall they condemn'” (Psalm 93:21).

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After he spoke these words, two men claimed they witnessed him blaspheme and picked up stones, for the satisfaction of being the first to stone him. In the midst of hurling stones, St. Matthias asked that these first stones be buried with him as a testimony of his suffering for the Lord. Angered by his request, they not only continued to stone him, but beheaded him as well, gaining for St. Matthias, his red crown of martyrdom … his red crown of glory for the Lord.

As we celebrate the Feast of the Lord’s Ascension and begin to focus our attention on the coming  Feast of the Pentecost… We must remind ourselves that Christ has not abandoned us either. We must allow ourselves to be filled with the same hope that sprang forth in those first disciples…We must know that Jesus opened heaven for each of us who believe. He bridged the gap between man and God, Our father in Heaven.

As children of God, we are much like those first disciples…God has chosen us... Each of us. We each have a calling from the Lord. We each have a vocation that God will lead us to… but only if we let Him. But first, we must pray, and we must meditate on Christ in the Eucharist, opening our hearts to His very presence… to His very Words.  And we must also rely on the guidance of Our Dear Blessed Mother as well. And finally, we should seek  the intercession of this  brave saint, who like many of us, was living a life that was contrary to what the Lord wished for him before he experienced his own conversion. Think about it….Matthias had been living the life of a swindler… a no good  tax collector who had been cheating men out of their hard earned wages. But when he met Jesus, he was so moved by His love that he converted immediately… Promising to pay back everything he had stolen … seeking atonement from the Lord, for the sins he had committed… he was bathed in the Lord’s mercy… Then after his conversion, he did not stray from serving the Lord…with all of his being… God’s mercy is there for us as well. We must remember, for those who repent… there is no sin greater than the mercy of God…

As Catholics, we need to understand that God is still calling saints out of darkness. He is still choosing His disciples from out of the world to go and spread the ‘Good News.’ He is touching hearts and converting many. Before you wonder if He is calling you… rest assured that He is. He has created each of us to be with Him in Heaven… and that is greatness…His created greatness.…for each of us. We need to have Faith and believe and then. we just need to  do as He said ‘and,

Go into all the world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature. (For) Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; (and) whoever does not believe will be condemned.”( Mark 16:15)

 

 

 

 

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Sixth Sunday of Easter – Gospel of John 15: 9-17

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Jesus said to his disciples:
“As the Father loves me, so I also love you.
Remain in my love.
If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love,
just as I have kept my Father’s commandments
and remain in his love.

“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you
and your joy might be complete.
This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.
No one has greater love than this,
to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
You are my friends if you do what I command you.
I no longer call you slaves,
because a slave does not know what his master is doing.
I have called you friends,
because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.
It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you
and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain,
so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.
This I command you: love one another.”

There is so much about this particular passage from the Gospel of John that should give Christians a sense of authentic hope. It is a proclamation from the very Words of God Himself, that it is not us who chooses Him…but He Who chooses us!  In speaking to His disciples,  Jesus reveals to them that out of the goodness of love; which is God Himself, He has created all men to experience His joy. It is a revelation not only intended for those disciples standing near Him…but for all men who would dare call themselves disciples of this same Lord. It is a message intended for us. It should cause our hearts to spark and ignite in a flame of love so bright that no one would ever doubt our vocation… That no one should ever see us and not want a bit of whatever it is that makes us bright. But unfortunately it is not like that. We are marked with the heavy stain of original sin and it shows. We have the smudges of doubt to prove it.

Just think. Christ has just told His disciples that they are...(in essence…that we are)...no longer slaves, because He has revealed to them what the Father, the Master, is doing…He calls them...He calls us…friends… He has bridged the gap between us and the far off God of the old… That stern Father Whom the prophets could not even approach without fear and trembling.

Daily Reading: 19 May – The Fall of Israel: Elijah and the ...He has removed the distance…. Jesus has given us an intimacy with God the Father that was missing from the old way of worship. If we look in the Old Testament, we find that the great Prophets were called servants of God…Moses…David, Joshua, Elijah, Enoch…they were are prophets of the Lord…and they were all pleased to be called servants of God.

But Jesus, He has come to unite our bond with the Lord in a much closer way. By dying on the cross, by “laying down his life” for us, Christ gave us the greatest gift that one could give…He gave us an intimacy with God the Father who is always there for us. Welcoming us…forgiving us…consoling us.  He has opened the door to His Father’s heart … A place where we can find comfort and strength any time we need it. And even though this is still a place of His Divine Justice…. there flows from it a river of His Mercy which washes over all who seek it. It is an offer made for all men…but we must be willing to accept it.

Jesus came to reveal the Will of His Father… He was sent to bring us…each of us… to reside with Him… and He with us….in our very heart… our very soul!  He came to spread this message…this call, to our new life with Christ. It is a call to recognize that as Christians we are called to experience the true joy that comes with this type of intimacy with the Lord… it is a deep down, all the way to the center of our hearts, kind of joy. As a follower of Christ, we are reminded that we are called to share in this joy. We are chosen to share in this Love.

Because He loves us and wants us to be with Him forever, He has given us this ‘key’. He has revealed it to us in this one command… this One little command…that is so grande, that to obey it, will bring us our eternal happiness. He tells us, “to love one another”… That’s it. So simple and complete. But we can’t do it on our own. We need God. We need His goodness and His grace. We need Him in all things. Every single moment. Every single day. Which ever way we want to read it… It’s a Truth that stays the same. A Truth that doesn’t change. It is constant and unchanging, to the very end… It Is God. Who is Love.

So yes, I guess, that’s all we ever really need, is Love.

 

 

 

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Honoring the Request of Our Blessed Mother at Fatima

 

 

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There could perhaps be no better way to honor our Blessed Mother than by trying to do what She asks. Since today is the first Saturday of the month it would be a  good idea to try and make it to Mass and honor our Blessed Mother’s request that she made in Fatima just over 100 years ago. I know everyone’s Saturday are already pretty hectic, but if you could try to attend a First Saturday Mass for just five consecutive months, that is all she has asked. The first Saturday devotion is a wonderful way for us to love Our Dear Mother during this month of May in which is dedicated to her in the Holy Mother Church.

If we truly wish to  love the Lord with all of our heart, all of our mind, all of our body we would avail ourselves to fulfilling the requests of His dear Mother. Think about it, she made these requests to simple shepherd children who obeyed and followed Her requests… Are we to think that she would expect anything less than that from us? Probably not.

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May – The Month of the Blessed Mother

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With the flowers all abloom and the sweet fragrance of roses in the air, it is easy to see how our thoughts and hearts turn to our Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Heaven and of earth. During this month, Catholics, both in church and in the privacy of their own homes, offer up special prayers and veneration to Our Blessed Mother.

Many faithful Catholics have held a special love for the Blessed Mother, and rightly so. She is after all the perfect example of how we are to follow Christ. She completely submitted herself to His Will. She knew that there was going to be pain and sacrifice but she also knew that this was exactly what God desired of her…and even though her humble submission was wrought with agony and immense pain, her heart being pierced with Seven Swords…. She placed all of her trust into the hands of the One Who created her… She gave back to the Lord everything that she was able…

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Throughout the centuries many Popes have established devotions and written about the Blessed Mother and her role in the Church. Pope Paul VI proclaimed her to be the “Mother of the Church.” In an excerpt taken from his address we read:

 “The doctrine of the Church presents itself as an exaltation of mankind. And you know where it reaches its summit: in the human creature who possesses within herself, through divine privilege, the fullness of human perfection and who was chosen to give to the Word of God, when He became man for our salvation, our flesh, our nature; to be, that is to say, the Mother of Christ –  God- man- according to the flesh, and our spiritual Mother through the mystical union which makes us brothers in Christ. As we know, Mary has a most singular position. She, too, is a member of the Church; she is redeemed by Christ, she is our sister, but, by virtue of being chosen to be the Mother of the Redeemer of mankind, and because of her perfect and eminent representation of the human race, she has the right to be called, morally and typically, the Mother of all men, and especially ours, of us, the believers and the redeemed, the Mother of the Church, the Mother of the faithful.

“For this reason, beloved sons and daughters, we are happy to announce that we will end this session of the council, which has traced the doctrine of the Church, with the joy of acknowledging to Our Lady the title which she well deserves of Mother of the Church.

It will be this title which will help us to celebrate the Most Holy Mary as the loving Queen of the world, the maternal center of unity, the pious hope of  our salvation.”

Unfortunately many of our Christian brothers and sisters have fallen away from this fundamental truth of Mary and her role in the salvation of man. God knew from the moment of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden that He would need to send His Son to redeem mankind… He knew that this was going to be one of those all in moments... Everything had to be perfect…He could not risk it to chance...He chose perfection… He created the Blessed Mother from the beginning of time to save mankind…She had to be perfect… She had to be Immaculate...After all, she was going to be the tabernacle of the Most High…She had to be spotless…blemish free…and totally devoted to God in thought…in word and in deed…every single one of them!

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As we enjoy these last days of the Easter season, with our hearts still filled with the joy of the Resurrection… let us not forget to spend some extra time in this month of mothers, to honor our Blessed Mother, the ever Virgin Mary… sending to her our spiritual bouquets and our special Marian prayers. Remember our devotion to the Blessed Mother will only aid in our salvation…She will never stand between you and Her Son…she will only draw you in closer union to One Who has redeemed us all.

 

 

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