The most difficult times can produce the greatest spiritual blessings. God truly knows just what we need at every moment!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Pentecost Year “C”

As Catholics we begin every Holy Sacrifice of the Mass with the sign of the Cross “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”.

The central mystery of the Catholic faith is that God is a Trinity, three divine persons but one God. 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that, "God's plan for mankind is the common work of the three divine persons. 

For as the Trinity has only one and the same natures so too does it have only one and the same operation." 

The Catechism also tells us that "Everyone who glorifies the Father does so through the Son in the Holy Spirit; everyone who follows Christ does so because the Father draws him and the Spirit moves him" (see John 6: 44; Rom 8: 14). 

Today we celebrate the day when the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles and the Catholic Church was born.

Pentecost literally means "fifty days," and for Jews it was a harvest festival. For Catholics it comes fifty days after Christ's resurrection and is celebrated in thanksgiving for a new harvest of souls for God through Christ and His Church.

We believe in the Trinity—three Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but one God. The Son became man by the power of the Holy Spirit and was born of the Virgin Mary.

He was given the name Jesus. Because we have the Gospels, we know a great deal about Jesus and hence about the Second Person of the Trinity. Anyone of us can recognize the image of Jesus. We have more difficulty in recognizing the Father and the Holy Spirit, however.

They have not appeared to us as they are and so we cannot picture them. They are known only through their work, and so we use symbols to represent them. Perhaps the two most familiar symbols of the Holy Spirit are fire and a dove.

Fire represents warmth, light, enthusiasm and zeal, all associated with the work of the Holy Spirit. A dove represents purity, gentleness, peace and freedom, which are also associated with the Holy Spirit.

The ancient and beautiful hymn, Veni Creator, calls the Holy Spirit "the finger of God's right hand."

Yes, God keeps touch with us all through our lives through the Holy Spirit. Through the Holy Spirit, God's power, wisdom and love envelop us.

When we profess our faith using the Nicene Creed we say: "We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son He is worshipped and glorified."

This article of faith rests on Scripture and the constant teaching of the Church. It deserves our close attention.

The Holy Spirit, being the Third Person of the Holy Trinity, has always been active in the world, though knowledge of Him and His work was revealed only gradually. "A mighty wind swept over the waters" (Gen. 1:2) when God created the heavens and the earth.

The "wind" is understood to be "a spirit of God," or the Holy Spirit. In fact, the Holy Spirit was at work in the world long before Christ's incarnation, as He inspired the prophets to prepare for the coming of our Divine Saviour.

Jesus was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and at His bap­tism the Holy Spirit appeared in the form of a dove. Our Lord was led to the desert by the Holy Spirit to confront Satan.

The Risen Lord tells the apostles, "Receive the Holy Spirit," and then the Lord gives them the power to forgive sins (John 20:23), and later He commands them to teach and baptize "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19).

We know the Holy Spirit accompanied our Lord as He taught and healed, but the Holy Spirit’s work became much more evident after our Lord's Ascension and the coming of the Spirit upon the apostles at Pentecost.

St. Peter appeals to the Holy Spirit at the election of St. Matthias (Acts 1:16) and St. Paul describes the Holy Spirit’s role in the Infant Church in his letters. He refers to His gifts, ministries and works in his letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 12:4f).

The Holy Spirit has worked with and through the Catholic Church throughout her history. His grace is conferred through the sacraments, and through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit we have the books of the New Testament.

We know the Holy Spirit as our sanctifier. His work in our lives begins with baptism, when sanctifying grace is infused into our souls, and con­tinues throughout life as we grow in faith, hope and charity and are blessed with His gifts—wisdom, knowledge, understanding, counsel, fortitude, piety and fear of the Lord.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that nothing in this world escapes God. Nothing happens without His fore­knowledge and permission.

 "Divine providence consists of the disposi­tions by which God guides all His creatures with wisdom and love to this ultimate end" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 321).

Yet people are special and God has chosen to deal with us through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit comes to us and for us. He works in, through and with us. This is under­standable.

We are the only creatures God made in His own image because we possess intelligence and free will.

With the Holy Spirit we get to know and understand God's will, set priorities and develop values in accord with his inspirations.

All of us have received the gifts of the Holy Spirit. However, like all gifts these gifts can be rejected.

In the Acts of the Apostles we read about St. Stephen, thought to be a deacon and the first Christian martyr.

St. Stephen was brought before the Sanhe­drin and falsely accused. In his defense he turned to his enemies and said boldly, "You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you are always opposing the Holy Spirit just as your fathers did before you" (Acts 7:51).

Whereupon he was stoned to death.

Let's remember St. Paul's injunction that if Christians who live in the spirit find another in sin, they should "gently set him right, each of you trying to avoid falling into temptation himself" (Gal 6:1).

St. Paul tells us that we have not only to carry our own responsibility but help carry the burdens of others.

Then he adds, "Make no mistake about it, no one makes a fool of God!  A man will reap only what he sows in the field of the flesh, he will reap a harvest of corruption; but if his seed ground is the spirit, he will reap everlasting life" (Gal 6: 7-8).

In the  sixth chapter of his letter to the Galatians, St. Paul said, "Let us not grow weary of doing good; if we do not relax our efforts in due time we shall reap our harvest." 

In his letter to the Ephesians he urges us, "At every opportunity pray in the Spirit, using prayers and petitions of every sort.  Pray constantly and attentively for all in the holy company" (Eph 6: 18).

We are Christians because we follow Christ. We are Catholics because we believe all that Christ taught.

We believe in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. When we say "believe," we acknowledge this to be a matter of faith and faith can­not be forced on anyone.

To believe requires goodwill and the grace of God. At the same time we know that without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:60.)

And so when the "rubber hits the road" in our lives, it is through the gifts of the Holy Spirit that we have the courage to overcome temptations, to carry our crosses and remain loyal to Christ the King, to His Church and to the Holy Father, His Vicar on earth.

Deacon Bernie Ouellette

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