PENTECOST SUNDAY (A) – 31st May 2020

Theme: THE HOLY SPIRIT HELPS US TO PROCLAIM THE GOOD NEWS AND TO BUILD CHRISTIAN COMMUNITIES OF LOVE AND UNITY

  • Acts 2:1-11;
  • Psalm 103:1. 24. 29-31. 34. R/ cf v.30;
  • 1 Corinthians 12:3-7. 12-13
  • John 20:19-23

 A happy and blessed Pentecost Sunday to all of you! Today we celebrate Pentecost Sunday, Liturgical Year A.

The first reading tells us that on the Day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles. The first reading tells us that there was a loud noise which sounded like a strong wind that filled the room and there were tongues of fire resting on the apostles and the apostles spoke in foreign languages! The wind symbolizes the Holy Spirit (Jn 3:8). In Greek, as in Hebrew, one word serves for both ‘wind’ and ‘spirit’ (NJB). The loud noise and fire symbolize the presence of God as at the covenant on Sinai (Ex 19:16. 18).

The first reading also tells us that the Jews from all the nations of the world assembled at the loud noise and each of them heard the apostles preaching the marvels of God each in their own language! The first reading foreshadows the universal mission of the Church to preach the good news to the whole world! When we receive the Holy Spirit we preach the good news to the whole world!

The responsorial psalm follows the theme of the first reading. Thus the response:

“Send forth your Spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth.” (Ps 103:30; SM)

The responsorial psalm is a hymn of “Praise of God the Creator” (CSB). But in today’s liturgy, it is a hymn of praise to God the Savior! The responsorial psalm has three stanzas. The second stanza from which the response is taken is the most important! Thus the second stanza:

“You take back your spirit, they die, returning to the dust from which they came. You send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the earth.” (Ps 103:29-30; SM)

The responsorial psalm tells us that the Holy Spirit gives us life, without the Holy Spirit we die, but with the Holy Spirit, even though we die we will live!

The second reading tells us that the Holy Spirit is the Holy Spirit of unity! The second reading tells us about unity in diversity, not unity in uniformity! The second reading tells us that though there are many different gifts, they are from the same Spirit; though there are many different services, they serve the same Lord; and the same God is working in all of us! And all the different gifts are given for the common good!

The second reading also tells us that just as the human body has many parts, the many parts make up one body, so it is with the body of Christ. We are different parts of the one body of Christ! We were all baptized with the one Spirit, “Jews as well as Greeks, slaves as well as citizens”, and we were all given the one Spirit to drink in baptism! Again, the second reading tells us that the Holy Spirit is the Holy Spirit of unity, not of division!

The Gospel Acclamation tells us that the Holy Spirit is the Holy Spirit of God’s love! Thus the Gospel Acclamation:

“Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love.”

The fire of the Holy Spirit is the fire of God’s love that burns away our sins! Only the fire of God’s love can burn away our sins! That is why at a Penitential Service we were asked to write our sins down on a piece of paper and burn it with the fire of the Easter Candle and throw it into a bin symbolizing hell! And we were told that hell is a place where God burns away our sins with the fire of his love so that we can go to heaven! Hell is the love of God experienced by a sinner for his conversion!

The gospel today also tells us about Pentecost, but the gospel today tells us that the Holy Spirit was given on the day of the Lord’s resurrection and not fifty days after his resurrection! The gospel today is from St. John. The gospel today tells us that on the day of his resurrection the Lord appeared to his disciples and said to them, ‘Peace be with you,’ and showed them his hands and his side and the disciples were filled with joy! Again, he said to them, ‘Peace be with you. As the father sent me so I am sending you’. After saying this he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit, those whose sins you forgive they are forgiven, those whose sins you retain they are retained’.

That is, proclaim the good news, those who believe and are baptized will have their sins forgiven, but those who do not believe and are not baptized will not have their sins forgiven. (NJBC; Fuller) The Holy Spirit forgives our sins in the sacrament of Baptism! The Holy Spirit also forgives our sins in the sacrament of Penance/Reconciliation. And above all, the Holy Spirit forgives our sins in the sacrament of sacraments, the Eucharist, the “Perpetual Pentecost”! The Holy Spirit forgives our sins in the Church, particularly, in the sacraments of Baptism, Penance and Eucharist! That is why it is most important that we come to Mass every Sunday!

Today, fifty years after the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), the Holy Spirit continues to renew the Church through the Charismatic Renewal, the Life in the Spirit Seminars, and the Prayer Meetings; the Holy Spirit continues to renew the Church through the Neo-Catechumenal Way, the Neo-Catechumenal Communities; and the Holy Spirit continues to renew the Church through the BECs (Basic Ecclesial Communities)! All these three movements involve the proclamation of the good news and the building of Christian communities of love and unity, so that our Church may be a community of communities of love and unity and a sign and sacrament of salvation for the whole world!

That is why it is important that we attend Mass every Sunday and we attend the Life in the Spirit seminars and we attend the Neo-Catechumenate Catechesis and the BECs so that we may receive the Holy Spirit and proclaim the good news and build Christian communities of love and unity and so that our Church may be a community of communities of love and unity and a sign and sacrament of salvation for the whole world! Again, a happy and blessed Pentecost Sunday to all of you! Amen!

7th Sunday of Easter (Year A) – 24th May 2020

Theme: LET US PRAY FOR THE COMING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT UPON US

  • Acts 1:12-14
  • Psalm 26:1. 4. 7-8. R. v. 13
  • 1 Peter 4:13-16
  • John 14:18
  • John 17:1-11

Today we celebrate the 7th Sunday of Easter! The 7th Sunday of Easter is sandwiched between “the Ascension of the Lord” which we celebrated last Thursday and “Pentecost Sunday” which we will celebrate next Sunday! That is why the readings today tell us about the Ascension of the Lord and more importantly, about the Descend of the Holy Spirit upon us!

The gospel today is from St. John on the Last Supper discourse of Jesus Christ, the night before he died. It is the priestly prayer of Jesus Christ to his Father, but what concerns us today is the last part of the gospel on the Ascension of Jesus Christ: “I am not in the world any longer, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you” (Jn 17:11).

But more importantly, the “Gospel Acclamation” today tells us that Jesus Christ ascends to heaven not to abandon us nor to rest from his work, but to sit at the right hand of his Father, meaning, in power, to rule the universe, and to send down his Holy Spirit into us, so that he can come back to us and into us and continue his work in us and through us: “I will not leave you orphans, says the Lord; I will come back to you, and your hearts will be full of joy” (Jn 14:18).

That is why the first reading, from the Acts of the Apostles, tells us that after the Promise of the Holy Spirit and the Ascension of Jesus Christ into heaven, the apostles and Mary the Mother of Jesus were praying for the Holy Spirit – the first and original novena for the Holy Spirit: “All these joined in continuous prayer, together with several women, including Mary, the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers” (Acts: 1:11). We have to pray for the Holy Spirit! We cannot receive the Holy Spirit without prayer and praying for the Holy Spirit!

The “responsorial psalm” is a meditation on the “first reading”. It is a psalm of “Trust in the Lord”, but what concerns us today is the “response” of the “responsorial psalm”: “I am sure I shall see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living” (Psalm 26:13).

It can be translated or paraphrased thus: ‘I believe I shall see the Lord’s goodness in the land of life’! The “land of life” is the Jerusalem Temple where the faithful have access to the life-giving presence of God (CSB/NAB)!

Obviously, the Church has chosen this verse for the “response” of the “responsorial psalm” today to tell us that the Holy Spirit in us is the Life-giving presence of God! St. Paul tells us that we are the temples of the Holy Spirit! The Holy Spirit does not dwell in heaven, nor in temples, nor in churches, but in us!

“The Lord’s goodness that we shall see” is consequently the goodness of the Holy Spirit, that is, love, joy, peace, forgiveness, freedom, mercy, salvation, wholeness, holiness, health, healing, etc.!

Finally, the Church has chosen the second reading from “1 Peter” to tell us that when the Holy Spirit comes upon us we will suffer for being Christians! We will not suffer for doing evil, for murder, for theft, for crime, etc., but we will suffer for doing good, and for bearing the name of Jesus Christ! Be not ashamed, but be happy, we will be blessed; we will give thanks to God, for when we suffer with Jesus Christ, we will also share in his glory, now and forever, in the Resurrection, and in the Ascension into heaven, body and soul, with Jesus Christ, in His Second Coming, at the end of time!

Today in this Mass, let us pray for the coming of the Holy Spirit upon us! A Happy Easter, Ascension, and Pentecost to all of you! In the early Church of the first century, Easter, Ascension, and Pentecost were all celebrated as one Mystery in the Sunday Eucharist! It was only in the second century that Easter was celebrated as an annual event, and it was only in the fourth century that Ascension and Pentecost were separated from Easter with a period of forty and fifty days respectively (MCE)! Again, a Happy Easter, Ascension and Pentecost to all of you! Amen!

The Ascension of The Lord (Year A) – 21st May 2020

Theme: THE RISEN LORD ASCENDS INTO HEAVEN IN ORDER TO SEND US THE HOLY SPIRIT AND TO PREPARE A PLACE FOR US IN HEAVEN

  • Acts 1:1-11;
  • Psalm 46:2-3. 6-9. R. v. 6;
  • Ephesians 1:17-23
  • Matthew 28:16-20

Today we celebrate the Ascension of the Lord into heaven! The readings today tell us that the risen Lord ascends into heaven not to abandon us, but to be with us until the end of time, that is, to give us the Holy Spirit to proclaim the good news to the world, so that the world may believe and be baptized and be saved, and then the Lord will come a second time at the “Parousia”, that is, at the end of the world, to take us all into heaven!

The gospel today tells us that the risen Lord sends out his disciples to make disciples of all the nations, and to baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. And to teach all the nations to observe all the commands that he has given to them. And the risen Lord promises to be with the disciples until the end of time!

The gospel makes no mention of the ascension of the Lord and the giving of the Holy Spirit! The gospel presupposes the ascension and the giving of the Holy Spirit!

The first reading tells us that after his resurrection the Lord spent forty days with his apostles, before ascending into heaven and sending down the Holy Spirit on the fiftieth day, and sending out his apostles to be his witnesses not only in Jerusalem, but also in Judaea and Samaria and indeed to the ends of the earth, that is, to proclaim the good news not only to the Jews in Jerusalem, but also to all the Jews in the whole of Judaea, and to the “half-Jews” in Samaria and to the non-Jews in the ends of the earth!

The first reading also tells us that two men in white told the apostles not to keep looking into the sky after the Lord’s ascension, because the Lord will come back in the same way as he has gone to heaven, that is, they will receive the Holy Spirit and proclaim the good news so that the world may believe and be baptized and be saved and then the Lord will come a second time at the end of the world to take us all into heaven!

The responsorial psalm is a song of praise to God who is enthroned as king of all the earth! The Church in its liturgy today uses this psalm to give praise and glory to the risen Lord who has ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father and is the ruler of the whole universe!

Thus the response of the responsorial psalm: “God goes up with shouts of joy; the Lord goes up with trumpet blast.”! (Ps 46:6)

Finally, the second reading tells us that just as the Lord rose from the dead, ascends into heaven, sits at the right hand of God the Father, and rules the universe; one day we too will ascend into heaven and share in his glory!

Thus we read in the second reading: “May he enlighten the eyes of your mind so that you can see what hope his call holds for you, what rich glories he has promised the saints will inherit and how infinitely great is the power that he has exercised for us believers. This you can tell from the strength of his power at work in Christ, when he used it to raise him from the dead and to make him sit at his right hand, in heaven, far above every Sovereignty, Authority, Power, or Domination, or any other name that can be named, not only in this age, but also in the age to come.”! (Ep 1:18-21)

Today in the Eucharist, we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and we eat his body and drink his blood, and the risen Lord will give us the Holy Spirit, to proclaim the good news to the world, so that the world may believe and be baptized and be saved, and so that the Lord may come a second time at the end of the world, to take us all into heaven! A happy Ascension day to all of you!  Amen!

6th Sunday of Easter (Year A) – 17th May 2020

Theme: JESUS GIVES US THE HOLY SPIRIT SO THAT HE WILL BE WITH US FOREVER

  • Acts 8:5-8. 14-17;
  • Psalm 65:1-7. 16. 20. R/ v. 1;
  • 1 Peter 3:15-18
  • John 14:15-21

A Happy and Blessed Easter to all of you! Today is the 6th Sunday of Easter, Liturgical Year A, and next Sunday will be Ascension Sunday and the Sunday following that will be Pentecost Sunday, that is, the coming of the Holy Spirit! Jesus ascends into heaven not to abandon us, but to send us the Holy Spirit so that he will be with us forever!

The gospel today tells us that Jesus will ask the Father to give us the Holy Spirit to be with us forever. The gospel tells us that Jesus will not leave us orphans, but just as Jesus is in the Father, we are in Jesus and Jesus is in us through the Holy Spirit. Finally the gospel tells us that not only Jesus, but Jesus with the Father will dwell in us through the Holy Spirit. These we can read from the Gospel Acclamation (Jn 14:23; CSB) and from the last verse of today’s gospel (Jn 14:21; NJB)!

God is love. God created us out of love, but when we sinned he loved us even more, he became man in Jesus Christ to save us, but when we killed him on the cross, he loved us even more, he rose from the dead and gave us the Holy Spirit! The Holy Spirit does not dwell in heaven, or on earth, but the Holy Spirit dwells in us and within us.

He is nearer to us than we are to ourselves, he loves us more than we love ourselves and he knows us more than we know ourselves. He will continue to love us until we love God, love our neighbor and love ourselves! Then will come the end of the world, that is, the end of the evil world and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ when all will be saved!

The first reading tells us that those who received the Holy Spirit will proclaim the good news! The first reading of last Sunday tells us that the Twelve apostles chose seven men filled with the Holy Spirit to help them to distribute food so that the apostles can have more time for prayer and for proclaiming the good news!

And among the seven were Stephen and Philip! But not surprisingly, after that we never hear of Stephen or Philip distributing food, but instead we hear of them proclaiming the good news. In fact Stephen proclaimed the good news until he was stoned to death and became the first martyr!

The first reading today tells us that Philip proclaimed the good news in Samaria and the people of Samaria accepted the word of God, because they have heard or have seen for themselves the miracles Philip worked! Those possessed by evil spirits were exorcised and those who were sick were cured and the people were filled with joy!

The first reading also tells us that when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that the Samaritans had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to pray for them so that they will receive the Holy Spirit! Does it mean that we do not receive the Holy Spirit at Baptism? No! Does it mean that if we are baptized only in the name of Jesus and not in the name of the Trinity we do not receive the Holy Spirit? No! Then what does it mean? It means that we have to be in “communion with the apostles”/Church! (NJBC) Peter and John represent the Twelve apostles. They represent the Church! They represent “the role of the Church in the bestowal of the Spirit”. (CSB)

That is why Christians who are not Catholics have to be confirmed before they are accepted into the Catholic Church and that is why Christians who are baptized only in the name of Jesus have to be baptized again in the name of the Trinity and have to be confirmed before they are accepted into the Catholic Church.

The second reading tells us that the good news that we proclaim is that by his death and resurrection “Christ the righteous one saved the unrighteous”! (CSB) Thus we read in the second reading:

“Christ himself, innocent though he was, had died once for sins, died for the guilty, to lead us to God. In the body he was put to death, in the spirit he was raised to life”. (1 Pt 3:18; SM)

And it is all the work of God! And that is why in the responsorial psalm we give praise and thanks to God for our salvation!

The responsorial psalm is a hymn/prayer of praise and thanksgiving to God for our salvation! Thus the response:

“Cry out with joy to God all the earth.” or “Alleluia!”

And thus the third stanza of the responsorial psalm:

“He turned the sea into dry land, they passed through the river dry-shod.” (Ps 65:6a; SM)

The third stanza summarizes the whole history of salvation of Israel by referring to the Exodus from Egypt through the Red Sea and the crossing of the river Jordan into the Promised Land! For us it summarizes our salvation by referring to our baptism and our entry into heaven!

God has done everything for us! What do we do? How shall we respond? The psalm tells us to respond by giving praise and thanks to Him, the first reading tells us to respond by proclaiming the good news, the gospel tells us to respond by loving Jesus and by keeping his commandments, especially the greatest commandment of loving God and neighbor, and the second reading tells us to respond by suffering for doing what is right and not by suffering for doing what is wrong. In this way we will proclaim the good news not only with our words, but also with our deeds and our lives! Again, a happy and blessed Easter to all of you! Amen!