Pentecost

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A great ball of fire descends from heaven and crashes towards earth, it is Pentecost. (I made that up.)

What marvels first about this day is that Mary and the Apostles a locked in a room with the wind blowing outside. It sounds as if they are weathering a storm. I first think fear, but then I think again. I think of wind blowing across the sea and of a breath across water, God is with them. It’s the breath of life. God is with them and they learned the nature of God from their LORD. What do they fear? God is with them.

Pentecost is not unique to the New Testament, the feast does follow Jewish tradition. Perhaps the Old celebration might shed some light on the new? Some research might be required. The Jewish feast is Shavuot and is the final celebration of a grain harvest that lasted seven weeks. Last week was the seventh Sunday of Easter. Coincidence? No. Pentecost is a harvest festival, and particularly the harvest of wheat. The gathering in that upper room is the first Apostles, the first harvest. From the Old celebration an image of wheat and bread begins to appear. It’s the first harvest of wheat and suddenly the gospel of the multiplication of loaves and fishes enters the subconscious. These Apostles are the first but they will multiply. Pentecost, wheat, bread; they are all related. Pentecost is known as the birth of the Church. Interesting story; Shavuot celebrates the grain harvest, Sukkot celebrates the fruit harvest. If I recall correctly Sukkot is at the same time as the transfiguration. Bread and wine.

Pentecost, Shavuot, in the older tradition celebrates something other than an agricultural harvest. It also celebrates the receiving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. To one group the receiving of law, the other Spirit. A new creation, a new testament. A wind blows outside, Jesus enters the room through closed doors. The barrier between heaven and earth is shattered. What was closed is now opened. It is more than the barrier between heaven and earth that disappears. The reading of today tells of the Tower of Babel. That tower was destroyed and tongues confused because those people tied to become gods. At Pentecost the tongues are understood. Although many languages are spoken, they can all understand. Sometimes I think of that tower destroyed so that man might shut up and listen, in that upper room they listen and understand. A bridge between heaven and earth, a bridge between nations. Creation restored. I can’t miss the story if creation with that wind blowing outside. I also remember Noah’s storm.

With all of this babble, what was the message that the Lord gives as he enters through those closed doors. The first is simply “Peace be with you.” How often does that message become lost among men pretending to become gods? To allow for peace is to shatter the barriers of hostility and hatred. Peace turns a raging storm into a breath of fresh air. That storm outside can either be a torrent of fear and destruction or the breath of life. Jesus’s second message? “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” It is a message that gives a path to peace. A breath of fresh air that sustains life, not destroys it. Odd to think how dark and frightening the Pentecost story is with all doors shut and windows shuttered. What a refreshing difference once they are opened. I becomes a breath of fresh air. The breath of life revisited.

7 (seven)

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Easter, Ascension, and Pentecost; why three separate feasts, and which is the more important? Easter certainly gets the most attention, it is the first celebration after a long somber penitential season. Not that many are somber or penitential prior to Easter, but that’s social commentary. Smirk. Easter is the realization that Jesus has risen. It’s theological, it is a testament of the Apostles. It is what they observed. Realization might not be the proper word simply because it is slanted towards intellect and reason. Easter is not reasoning but fact. The Lord has risen, the Apostles testify to that. Still, I use that word reason. It’s for discussion. A risen Lord is recognized, move on.

The next event in the trilogy is Ascension. If in part one the Apostles recognize Jesus has risen, part two is the recognition that Jesus is LORD. It is a transition from smoldering ember to roaring fire. It becomes somewhat visible in the Easter vigil. If Easter is the lighting of the Pascal Candle, Ascension is every candle ignited. One a thought, the other a proclamation. It is the journey from realizing Jesus has risen, to realizing Jesus is LORD. It is a leap from body to spirit, human to divine. If Easter is festive, Ascension is majestic. But what about part three? This is a trilogy.

Let’s use a common theme. From smoldering ember to roaring fire, but what then? How about something cosmic, something dramatic. Something supernatural. Let’s remember also the mindset of the Apostles. Hell, Earth, Heaven. Hell is the underworld, the world beneath our feet. Earth is where we stand. Heaven is the stars. To them the world is visual, both this life and the next. Jesus ascends to heaven, but is also present here. Mind boggling. A Möbius strip of astronomical proportions. A folding of time and space. The stuff of Physics. Back to the story. From ember to fire, then what? How about meteor or comet propelled towards earth. A heavenly God collides with earth. The Holy Spirit descends, and earth is forever changed. I don’t understand why parts two and three are not celebrated more, they are enormous events.

This space in time is a preparation for that cosmic collision, it is time to prepare for the Holy Spirit. The first reading Acts 1:12-14 tells that the disciples were to go to that upper room and pray. They are given a commandment. Pray for the Holy Spirit. That makes this week, one that does not contain any major feasts so important. Commentary: the importance of this week gets lost when Ascension Thursday gets shifted to the seventh Sunday. The message this week is to pray. In the trilogy the first to events are observations, for the third to occur requires an action. Assemble together and PRAY.

Observation, and Action. Active and contemplative. Prayer contains both. It is call and response. Prayer is asking and listening. Important too that the LORD commanded that they assemble, that their prayers might gain strength. That they might not be extinguished by a hostile world. Interesting to think that at the resurrection each person’s encounter was personal. At the ascension all those that were privileged to that encounter gathered to witness the LORDS ascension. At the third event, they gather to pray in unison with a common desire. From scattered to unified. It continues. Oh, that number seven? It means divine perfection or completion. This is the seventh Sunday of Easter.

P.S. Throughout here I use terms of cosmic, images of astronomical. One set of readings that is part of the season is the book of Revelation. I can’t write that well, but that book describes these events in cosmic and astronomical terms. It is apocalyptic. Today it is common thinking, dogma, catechism. Sometimes simply thought of a Catholic. Catholic, that word comes from universal and sometimes that gets mistaken as one size fits all. Pedestrian, common, universal. Wrong. Think instead of universal as of the universe. Enormous and infinite and wondrous and all encompassing. It is of the stars and of the heavens and galaxies. Much bigger than us. Majestic and wondrous. Just a thought.

rough draft #1

The ups and downs of eternity

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Ok, I get it. An angel falls and a serpent slithers up a tree. Cain versus Abel, and Joseph into slavery, an exile and an exodus. Free will and good versus evil. Challenges and pitfalls. Pitfalls and a very (very) deep pit. Pushed into a cistern, and pushed to hell. A struggle to rise. It is the grand battle, and a grand chaos of a fallen order. I understand a messiah in the simplest of terms. I understand leaders like Moses, like Caesar, like Herod, like a pharaoh; and ultimately like the Son of God. I can understand the messiah of the nativity. I understand the messiah of Easter, and the need for the Apostles to record the resurrection of Christ. I understand they did so to the best of their abilities. I can also understand the Messiahs need to ascend, and the amount of time Jesus spent explaining His return to the Father. Finally I get the Holy Spirit, and how it proceeds from the Father and Son. With that ascent and decent, the serpent is crushed. That is the end game, the conclusion.

Jesus said to his disciples:
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
And I will ask the Father,
and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always,
the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept,
because it neither sees nor knows him.
But you know him, because he remains with you,
and will be in you.
I will not leave you orphans

The feast of the Ascension and Pentecost defuse the other Messiahs. It steals their thunder, it silences their voice. It allows, in the quietness of contemplation, one to hear the truth. It explains why at the resurrection only a few select followers were permitted entry to the vision. To see they first had to seek. They had to die themselves, so that they might rise anew. They had to answer that first call to “follow me.” Follow me was through cavalry, and into the grave. It was to walk with Christ, and to die to the world. It also was to rise again, and to see anew. There was the vision of a risen LORD. It was the journey of their baptism, their death and life.

This is a transition, from Easter to Ascension. It is a transition of a God that needs to rise on earth and be present here. That speaks of an eternal presence, and eternity is nothing easy to understand. It is a presence that is alpha and omega, first and last. Eternal. The transition is also one where the physical transitions to the eternal. That ascension leaves no room for false prophet, it does make that path for spirit. Eternal is not something easy to understand.

Sixth Sunday of Easter
Lectionary: 55

Acts 8:5-8, 14-17

1 Pt 3:15-18

Jn 14:15-21

A few weeks after Easter (about a shepherd)

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“I am the good shepherd.” Shepherd, old title. Ancient title.

King David, good shepherd, many not. Look around today, North Korea. (And how is that shepherd?)

Shepherd idyllic. Good king. Imagery. Old Testament and New.

Descriptive. Pencil and paper; what does a shepherd do?

Tending sheep, and lead to pasture. Protector, from the predator. They bind wounds. Bring to market. Heaven.. .

“Blessed are those who do not see, and believe.” Write that ten times. Write that one hundred times, write it a thousand. It is that important.

Jesus the Christ is the Good Shepherd. Most times when the LORD assumes this title people think of an image of Jesus walking with a lamb about His shoulders. The lamb rescued by the shepherd. There are other images. The lamb rescued from the thickets and the thorns, where is the image of the shepherd struggling to free the sheep? That shepherd hangs on a cross bloodied by the thorns and consumed by the task. The shepherd feeds those sheep, and where is the image. It is the host above a chalice, the paschal lamb. A shepherd that enters the herd to walk with that herd. A shepherd that becomes a lamb. The Lamb of God. A lamb of Sacrifice.

The Shepherd of “Good Shepherd Sunday” was present in the previous Sunday too. Hint, the Bread of Life.

The same Shepherd is that bread of life, that same bread where the disciples recognized the risen Lord. The Good Shepherd also is present as the Easter Christ, the Christ of our lives. Pope Francis wears a pectoral cross engraved with the image of Christ and the lamb atop His shoulders, the classic image of the Good Shepherd. Francis is in the person of Christ, Christs Shepherd on earth. Through apostolic succession the priests accept the role of shepherd. Priest, Pastor, Pastoral, Shephard. They are connected. But where else is this Shepherd, where can He be seen?

At Mass, common during this season a pastor fed his lambs the first food for a journey. The priest presented the sacrament of first communion. The Shepherd in bread (and wine). Feed the sheep! (Manna from heaven)

A body is consumed at communion, it becomes part of us. A Shepherd walks with us and us with Him. A tabernacle to make Him visible. Trample back a few Sundays ago, just after the resurrection. The risen Lord described by an angel. A risen Lord discovered through conversation. Discovered through the breaking of bread. Companion, travelers with bread. Shepherd not seen with eyes. Until they were opened. Blessed are they who do not see and believe. Write that ten times. Write that one hundred times, write it a thousand. It is that important.

Witness.

A shepherd feeding the lambs. Shepherd present in so many ways. Priest. Blessed Sacrament. Church. Shepherd today, visible as the body of Christ. Mystical.

Some simple examples. They guide a flock through their schools.

The mystical body of Christ, is a mystical body of the Good Shepherd. “A young flock beginning a journey, go back to that first communion. “To educate is to Shepherd.”

From teachers, to scholars, to writers, to artist.

They shepherd in their unique way, as Christ’s shepherds. Visible today.

The Good Shepherd to guide them as they shepherd others.

Angus Dei.A mystical Shepherd and a mystical Body of Christ. A Good Shepherd of the Resurrection.

The Good Shepherd reaches for the lost sheep. That is the reason for the Nativity. But where is that shepherd today?

The Mystical Body of Christ. Charities is love, the love of the Shepherd. They bring food and shelter to the injured and the marginalized and the lost and the starving and those in despair. Hospitality to hospital. FYI a Franciscan tradition. They are the original purveyors of Hospitals. Remember Francis encounter with a Leper? Did he simply leave that lost sheep, or tend his wounds. Shepherd. Not just the parish (though that counts for certain) but the Church. Big organization and many branches; from schools to relief services to charities. Mystical: of or relating to mystics or religious mysticism:
spiritually allegorical or symbolic; transcending human understanding: Mystical !

This is the Easter season, a time to seek a risen Lord. A Good Shepherd, present in the desert battling the devil, is the same one with a Lamb about His shoulders. That He might seek us out, but can’t we do the same?

Is it possible to look for signs of HIM at every corner of life, to seek his presence here and now? Situational awareness, calling out for salvation and keeping an eye out for danger. Easter is about witnessing a risen LORD and the gospel tells it is not only about eyes. Vision an also a function of the mind, the intellect. Mystical body and mystical shepherd, today. Bonaventure, journey into the mind of God. I must read it.

A Popes request (a couple days after Easter)

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A day or so ago the pontifical tweet was that the faithful should spend the week pondering the resurrection gospels. Today’s readings do just that. In Luke’s account Lk 24:13-35, the disciples are walking along and encounter the risen Christ. The reading emphasizes that “their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him.”

The Lord was cautious in how He was revealed go the disciples. It was not by sight. Is there not a bible quote that says blessed are those that do not see and believe? In that walk amongst themselves they are discussing the events of His resurrection, and Jesus asks what they are discussing. Subtly the Lord tells them to proclaim His passion and resurrection.

They do, they tell the story of Holy Week. They tell of the woman’s encounter with angels at the tomb. They tell that angels had announced to the women that Jesus was alive. The pope had asked that we read the gospel accounts of the resurrection. The risen Christ asked that the disciples tell their story. The gospel accounts were an oral tradition long before they were written. Small point but worth mentioning. The other point is that the Lord was not revealed through the eyes. Go the woman it was through angels, and my mind drifts towards the Annunciation at Christmas. It is repeated at the tomb.

The Lord revealed himself to the women through an angel, how did He reveal himself to the men? What does the story say? It says first he walked with them. It says Jesus asked them to give account of what happened. Jesus then challenged them, they had said they did not see the Lord at the tomb. Jesus revealed himself through the scriptures, just as He did prior to Holy Week. How important that they came to a fork in the road, and they ask Jesus to stay with them. It is by choice. Finally those men’s eyes are opened with the breaking of bread. Now they see the Lord with their eyes.

What’s the point? The women trust the Lord through an angel. The men take a different journey, they reach the Lord through scripture and scholarship, and dialogue, testament, and finally in the breaking of bread. They are two separate journeys. I cannot help but notice that the women’s journey follows the Nativity gospel so closely and that the men’s follows the journey of the Mass. The Mass of the Lords Supper.

Finally, to go to the first reading. A crippled beggar asks the disciples for Alms outside the Temple and Peter said, “I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise and walk.”