Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink. As Scripture says: Rivers of living water will flow from within him who believes in me.
How often have you caught yourself saying something to children that your parents said to you? As children we depend upon the guidance of our parents, we need them to guide us and correct us....
As we grow older, those lessons imposed upon us, become a part of us. We know how to protect ourselves, make decisions and hopefully stay out of trouble. The messages we have received become a part of us, they are absorbed into our souls and direct us to the point that we share that same wisdom with others.
As we celebrate the great feast of Pentecost, we acknowledge a similar reality. With the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, we, therefore, have Jesus’ values and attitudes operating within us. We see things as he sees them. We begin to recognize him in the people we meet. We begin to understand that it is Jesus speaking to us when we read the Bible. Just as we absorb our parents’ attitudes and values by the discipline they imposed on us, so Jesus’ word begins to penetrate our hearts and minds through the gift of the Holy Spirit, and we begin to change from within.
Through the sacramental life, the Holy Spirit takes up residence within us and like the rivers of living water the presence of Christ begins to overflow in us. We live in a culture that tells us that religion is something private, something we should keep to ourselves. However, Christians who have really experienced the power and love of the Holy Spirit can’t keep the message to themselves. Where would we be if the apostles had decided that Jesus’ resurrection would be their little secret? Where would we be if those who witnessed Jesus’ miracles and heard his words didn’t pass the stories along to the next generation of believers? And what will become of our children and grandchildren if we fail to share with them the power of God’s love made manifest in the person of Jesus Christ?
Today’s feast, Pentecost, is the celebration of the birthday of the church. We are the church because of the Holy Spirit. This Holy Spirit, through faith, now lives in the hearts of over two billion women and men who call themselves Christians. There are women in Africa, men in Asia, children in Europe, old ladies in South America, and teenagers in Australia who believe and worship just as we do. This didn’t all take place over the past two thousand years because the apostles had a good business plan and marketing strategy. It happened because the Holy Spirit worked in a powerful way, giving authority to the words of those who preach, and making those who hear ready to give their hearts over in faith. That same Holy Spirit is among us now strengthening me as I preach and touching your hearts as you listen.
The task now falls to us who have been given to drink of this life-giving water in the Spirit of Jesus. Will we keep it to ourselves? Or will we speak about it to everyone we meet so that all creation, which is groaning and in agony, can be transformed by the values and the attitudes of Jesus, our Savior?
We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more; death no longer has power over him.
HAPPY EASTER! We celebrate today as a parish family and with all our guests, the very simple and yet awesomely profound truth that death had no power over Jesus. So, we too live in hope that death may have no power over us, who profess our faith in the Resurrection. No matter what the “death” experience may be, we through faith celebrate that new life is always possible.
Throughout these last few weeks, I have been thinking about the historic Holy Week and Easter of three years ago, which occurred during the weeks of the Covid-19 quarantine. On that Easter Sunday I, and my fellow priests, prayed before the Blessed Sacrament in an empty church. I celebrated Easter mass and visited with my family via Zoom. It felt like a perpetual Good Friday, rather than Easter Sunday.
I also remember the questions that repeated in my head during those days. “What will happen when this is all over?” Will our longing for an opportunity to receive the Eucharist again, increase our desire for Him and bring about a true and lasting conversion? Or will we grow complacent again? I wondered if when public masses began again would we be like the crowd who one day cheered him and several days later rejected Him? Would we who longed for the Resurrected Christ on that Easter Sunday value that presence when our lives were restored to us? In many ways these questions remain. The recovery took longer than expected. A reluctance to return to public activity remained, as waves of the pandemic ebbed and flowed. We know that the virus is still among us but not nearly as pervasive or lethal. We have, in most cases, “returned to normal.” But what about our faith and the practice of it? Has there been a resurrection in our relationship with the Lord?
Throughout our lives we have many “death” experiences. The loss of a job, the breakup of a marriage, devastating illness, addiction relapses and of course the sorrow that comes with the physical death of a loved one. A common response to these death occurrences is the thought that we must “move on.” While it is true that life continues, what we celebrate today is that we do more than “move on.” Post occurrences of death and post a pandemic suppression of our faith life, we hope to live a resurrected life, by the grace of God. The resurrected body of Jesus still has scars, the wounds are always there, but the unbelievable has happened to those fatal wounds. They are healed. The resurrected body of Jesus eats, speaks, moves, and lives. In our celebrations today we seek a resurrection of faith and a revival of our encounters with the Holy Eucharist. The gift of eternal life awaits us but the power of the resurrection is efficacious now. We rejoice because He is risen, and our faith can arise with him.
Lent 2023: “Did God really tell you not to eat from any of the trees in the garden... God knows well that the moment you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods who know what is good and what is evil.”
The falling to temptation as described in the Genesis account is an accurate depiction of the battle each of us faces in our desire to be faithful to God. As we hear in today’s Gospel, Jesus too must battle temptation. For every temptation the devil proposes, Jesus fights back. Not with fists or knives, but with the word of God.
During Lent, we have an opportunity to fortify ourselves for this serious combat against whatever tempts us to rupture our relationship with God. Just as Jesus fasted and prayed for forty days before his encounter with evil, we fast to strengthen our self-control, we give alms to strengthen our generosity, and we pray to strengthen our faith in God’s providence. A sincere effort now, in the “desert” of Lent, can lead us to victory as we engage in the ongoing spiritual battle for the allegiance of our souls.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR FASTING - The discipline of fasting is one which helps us to recognize our dependence on the blessings of Almighty God. We give up food, practices, and behaviors—so we might make room for God in our lives too. Many of us will give up certain foods or treats we like. Perhaps fasting from television or the internet will be our choice. We might also choose to fast from those things that we never want to pick up again because they are harmful to us. When we fast from harmful things like smoking, bad language, alcohol, gossip, drugs, gambling, or pornography we break our dependence on what is spiritually deadly. What will you fast from?
OPPORTUNITIES FOR PRAYER - We don’t just give things up for Lent, but we also take up something to strengthen our faith. Attending daily mass, and participating in the Stations of the Cross are two popular prayer choices people take up during Lent. Finding time to pray with the scriptures, particularly the Sunday scriptures, praying the rosary or devoting time to spiritual reading are other ways for us to take up prayer during Lent. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, creating a time and space for silence, may be the best way we can take up prayer during Lent. In what way will you take up prayer during Lent?
OPPORTUNITIES FOR ALMSGIVING - Sharing our treasure during the season of Lent is another way in which we become more aware of our own blessings. Giving to the needs of others also “empties” us so we have room to be filled with the generosity of God and others. We can use our almsgiving to support the good work of the Church here on Long Island, through the Catholic Ministries Appeal. The needs of the poor are as close as our neighbor. In what way will I practice almsgiving this Lent?