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.

A blessed Pentecost to all of you!

Fifty days ago, we celebrated Jesus’ Resurrection from the dead. Ten days ago, we celebrated the Lord’s Ascension. Today we are gathered into that singular moment where alongside the Apostles, disciples, and the Blessed Mother we enter prayer and receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

But Father, what do you mean? Isn’t the Spirit something we ‘got’ when we were baptized and later confirmed? Well… yes and no.

If we think about the Holy Spirit’s presence and affect in our lives as merely a transactional thing, something that happens once and we are done with it, we would be mistaken. We must remember that the Spirit’s key gift is an ongoing and energizing life together. 

Let’s dissect this a bit. 

Where are we? Indeed, yes, in church. But think about this, the way our parish church is configured we are upstairs, in the upper room. Like the Apostles, disciples, and the Blessed Mother we are engaged in prayer. Like them we have received Jesus’ promise of the Advocate: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.” And… here He is among us and in us.

Let’s take a moment and breathe that in. Let us close our eyes, breathe in deeply, just like when the doctor is checking your heart and lungs, and breathe out doing a self-check on our hearts and lungs.

Our hearts and minds should be perceiving the Holy Spirit flowing through us, planting His unique gifts in us. Our breath should be filled with praise for His wonderful presence and the power He gives us.

Back to the idea of transactional things, was that check-in with the Holy Spirit just a transaction. We paid a few seconds of our time and now we’re done? Not at all!

Life with a transactional god is life with a mere idol, it is idolatry. Life in the Spirit gets us forever strength and power. Doing that close your eyes, breathe in and out exercise focused on the Holy Spirit’s being with us should leave us trembling with energy and enthusiasm for doing as those others gathered in the upper room did this day: “speaking of the mighty acts of God.

“I gave them your word, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world.”

Christ is Risen! He is truly Risen! Alleluia! 

On this last Sunday in the Easter Season, we hear again from the extended Last Supper dialog between Jesus and His Apostles. Jesus is pouring out His heart to them as their servant, teacher, and Lord. He is begging them to take these lessons to heart.

In this dialog Jesus draws the distinction between the world and worldly and those who follow Him. He plainly states that those who follow Him are different.

On this Mother’s Day we might recall those dialogs with our moms: ‘Aww, mom, do I have to be so different. I want to be just like everybody else.’ Maybe it was the clothes or shoes we had. Maybe it was our weird lunch. Yet mom always reinforced the value of being unique. You know how that goes, in one ear, out the other. 

Perhaps I was weirdest and differentest kid of all, my dad having died, my diabetes touching everything I wished I could do. I was the textbook case of a child wanting to be just like everybody else.

I am thankful for the time I had in church. I recognized in God’s word the value of giving my all for His kingdom. In my mind it was no longer a question of wanting to be the same as everybody else but of embracing a different way of living; life different in Jesus.

Let us reinforce this – Jesus made us separate from the world. What we pursue matters. What we want matters. How we live matters.

Jesus asks us to consider those things we are chasing after. Our moms asked a similar question didn’t they: ‘What are you chasing after? What’s important to you?’

If we are not pursuing the kingdom we end up just like Judas. As Acts tells us, Judas went his own way. He pursued what was important to him and that was not God. He was after a worldly prize – power and wealth. That is why he is referred to as the ‘son of destruction.’

In a week we will move from the Easter season into Pentecost and living out the mission given us by Jesus with the power given us by the Holy Spirit. Our Easter joy becomes practical. Let’s then embrace our differentness, not pursuing the world and becoming sons and daughters of destruction, but indeed being sons and daughters of our heavenly King.

This is My commandment: love one another as I love you. 

Christ is Risen! He is truly Risen! Alleluia! 

On this Sunday in the Easter season, we are blessed to welcome a new member of God’s Kingdom through the waters of regeneration – rebirth into a completely new way of life. It is indeed a life of love.

Now, this causes us to raise a question as to Kingdom love, our Christian way of life. What’s all so different about it?

Indeed, people of every background provide love and charity for others. Most people regardless of religious affiliation, or no affiliation whatsoever love in ways aimed at the physical, emotional, psychological, relational, and economic well-being of others.

For Tallulah and us this is the difference. It is not the how, where, or work of love, but rather, its source, sustaining power, and goal.

For those in the Kingdom the source of love is the cross of Christ, the total self-giving of God for a people who neither deserved nor merited His concern. St. John tells us: “We love because He first loved us.” In the Cross our sins are forgiven, we are justified, accepted, and loved by God. By the cross fear and greed, the great barriers to love, are taken away as we trust in what God has done in Christ. So, the first difference between secular love and Christian love is that our love is rooted in the work of Christ and its impact in us.

Second, Kingdom love is sustained and shaped by the Holy Spirit, where secular love isn’t. St. Paul calls it the “fruit of the Spirit.” It is the Spirit that takes the death of Christ, causes it to be real for us, and gives us new hearts so that the death of Christ has a love-producing effect on us. The work of the Spirit sustains and shapes Christian love, but not the love of the world.

Finally, Christian love has a radically different goal, All the good we do in our loving has a Godward goal. Our love has more than a here and now goal and effect. Our love is not just for the present, rather it is forever because its emphasis is what is truly good for all, bringing all to God in Christ.

All that was about how our loving is different, what our baptismal faith changes about our outward loving. But there is more. Our commitment to Kingdom love must bring about deep change in us. We cannot remain just as we are. Within ourselves we must be fully convicted of our love’s shortcomings and work to grow our love so to meet Christ’s commandment.

I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.

Christ is Risen! He is truly Risen! Alleluia! 

My dear brothers and sisters, we continue in our celebration of the Easter Season. We have not so much journeyed with Jesus as we do in other seasons of the Church year, rather we have sat and listened to His teaching, encountering His Risen presence, and being reassured in what He has won for us. We are having the meaning of all scripture opened to us so we might integrate all we learned as we did journey with Him. In short, Easter is about a deeper learning and integration of that learning into ourselves.

We heard this same gospel of the vine just seven weeks ago on the Solemnity of the Institution. On that occasion we related the meaning of the True Vine and our connection to it corporately as the Church.

Today, we consider our personal union with Jesus. Today is about how we are effectuating Jesus’ life in us in tangible ways, i.e., how we are bearing fruit.

We are given the best of examples of bearing fruit in Acts. Saul has just encountered Jesus on the Damascus Road. This man, who, as Paul, would later write about his life of animosity toward the Body of Christ, and toward Jesus, who lived as an enemy of God in his self-righteousness, now lives washed of all sin. Saul was regenerated and made new in forgiveness and in his desire for unity with Christ’s body. Not only that, but he now lives on fire for evangelization: [He] spoke out boldly in the name of the Lord.

We see fruit in Barnabas who brought Saul into the community. He acted as a true brother in kindness and personal witness.

St. John reminds us of our obligation toward love of God and each other. He tells us: And his commandment is this: we should believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another just as he commanded us. He also reveals to us the mark of our salvation, the source of the confidence we should have from living in the True Vine and bearing His fruit, the Spirit he gave us.

Having the Holy Spirit in us and carrying out the work of Jesus in building the kingdom, evangelizing the unbeliever, acting in witness and welcome, we glorify the Father and bear great fruit living what we have learned.

Grant a loving, wise and courageous spirit to all who pastor, minister and teach in Your name.

Christ is Risen! He is truly Risen! Alleluia! 

The verse above will be re-heard in a few minutes as the Offertory Prayer or, Prayer Over The Gifts, or, Secret. Three terms for the same prayer, but that is not important. What is important is the sense of the prayer, our intention as we are offering our gifts to God Who will transform them from mere bread and wine into the Body and Blood of His Son Jesus.

My brothers and sisters, Jesus speaks to us today of two kinds of Shepherds, Himself Who is the Good Shepherd that gives His all for His sheep and the hired hand who merely works for pay and does not really care for the sheep.

We can draw comparisons between the two types of shepherds, but it is not necessary since it is obvious – it is about the offering.

Jesus’ offering is the perfect giving of Himself, and all of us are called to offer ourselves in His model. We must take care in living rightly in relation to our Chief Shepherd and those among us who shepherd.

The shepherds, as we will hear again in that prayer, are more than the priest. They are all who minister, pastor, teach, lead music – and beyond that – those who take up leadership over projects, events, on committees and teams, and as parents, grandparents, and godparents.

You, brothers and sisters, are those wonderful leaders. You do so much to shepherd this congregation and to help it grow by your varied talents in the roles you have taken up. You lay down your lives for the good of those around you. You sacrifice for Christ and the other. Sometimes you even have to put up with brief tensions or the inevitable well-intended advice that comes your way. Lesser people would let all that get to them. But for us, especially those in leadership, it is about how we shepherd under stress, achieve consensus, and act with loving, wise, and courageous spirits. It is offering.

For those of us who live in relation to the shepherds among us as team members, colleagues, and volunteers, and perhaps just as community members, let us assure those who shepherd of our prayer and act always with charity, kindness, patience, and deference toward them as offering.

In this way shepherds and community members will all be transformed into the beautiful image of the Good Shepherd.

Those who say, “I know him,” but do not keep his commandments are liars, and the truth is not in them. But whoever keeps his word, the love of God is truly perfected in him.

Christ is Risen! He is truly Risen! Alleluia! Chrystus zmartwychwstał! Prawdziwie zmartwychwstał! Cristo è Risorto! È veramente Risorto!

What do you do with what you got? A perfect example of bad English. My mother, who was a proofreader would be pulling her hair out, just as she did when I said ‘aint.’ I think my good friend Larry, retired teacher and Chair of the English Department might be doing the same as I speak. I really do try to speak English well; use it properly.

As you may recall, on Low Sunday we stated that it is not who we were or where we came from, but what we allow Jesus to make of us. What He makes of us is what we receive by faith from those who came before us, from the teaching and example of grandparents, parents, bishops, priests, and teachers.

Oral tradition is the oldest form of information preservation and distribution. It is how generation after generation has learned. It is the core methodology by which we share the knowledge of and the teachings of Jesus. I am doing it now, in this homily and in our praying through the Holy Mass. St. Peter was doing in on Pentecost. Remember, most Christians did not have access to the written word until well into the 16th century.

In our age we have many means for sharing information, yet true knowledge continues to be spread through the most trusted of sources, generational families, the Church, our peers, and our community. We continue in transmitting theory, wisdom, and expertise through these more traditional methods.

The term “received knowledge” is the knowledge we possess that we did not earn through direct observation and iteration. What we as Christians have received is the vast treasure that brings us and others to eternal life.

In our opening prayer, or collect, we prayed: “Grant to all those trying to live the Christian ideal the ability to discard all that is contrary to this aim and to hold fast to all that is in keeping with it.”

What we ‘got’ is the life of Jesus taught to us and in us because of His presence here. What we allow Jesus to make of us comes from our knowing Him and doing with what we ‘got’ as His witnesses.

Whoever is begotten by God conquers the world. And the victory that conquers the world is our faith. Who indeed is the victor over the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

Christ is Risen! He is truly Risen! Alleluia! Chrystus zmartwychwstał! Prawdziwie zmartwychwstał! Cristo è Risorto! È veramente Risorto!

On Easter Sunday, we spoke of the inevitability of change. We opened our eyes to the heavenward change we must be as we live Easter lives unafraid of change Jesus brings and full of surprise for all we encounter.

Today we encounter a kind of weird surprise. Thomas meets up with his friends, co-workers, followers of Jesus who are reporting the resurrection to him. Thomas is incredulous. In modern parlance we might hear him say: You’re taking a horrible situation and are turning it into a bad joke.

The thing about Thomas and Jesus’ other followers is the way they motivate us to place ourselves in their situation and conclude that we would act differently. If I were only there, I would…

For those who went to see Jesus Christ Superstar yesterday, or recently, or perhaps saw the John Legend version of the play on television, or even the original 1973 film adaptation we might connect with Mary Magdala, Judas, Peter, the other Apostles, Pilate, the Sanhedrin, and think along those lines – I wouldn’t betray, deny, question, or persecute. I would stand firm in faith and be clear. I have no incredulity as to Who Jesus is. But then we come to the realization that we would fall short just as they all did.

In the play as in Godspell there is no clear resurrection event. That is left out because it is a matter of faith. It is a matter of surrendering ourselves to the change Jesus wants in us.

St. John speaks of being begotten by God and conquering. John notes that this is completely dependent on faith. If we give ourselves and our shortcomings over to Jesus, we allow Him to change us, to remake us into His very image and to thus become victors over all things and in all things.

St. John is calling us to the confidence of the beloved disciple, the first at the tomb, who stood under the cross with Mary, but who also fell asleep in the garden. John knew that it is not who we were or where we came from, but what we allow Jesus to make of us.   

Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory.

Christ is Risen! He is truly Risen! Alleluia! Chrystus zmartwychwstał! Prawdziwie zmartwychwstał! Cristo è Risorto! È veramente Risorto!

My dear brothers and sisters, do we think change is inevitable?

As a young man, I was most focused on stability, keeping things the way they were. It wasn’t that everything was perfect the way it was – but at least it was comfortable. I liked that. I liked my surroundings, the security I had, and most of the people.

A psychologist would probably tell you that early loss in my life would lead a young person to crave stability because stability is security, or at least the appearance of security.

Here I am, and you with me, generations later. We have the fifth generation of computers, smartphones, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, great strides in heath science, constant change in the way people live and relate to one another – some for good, others for ill. All those comfortable surroundings and people are gone.

People think the Holy Church is so unchanging, that it takes centuries to even move an inch. Yet that is not true – just look at this resurrection morning. Jesus did not create us to stand still.

The women and the two apostles are taken by surprise. The readings and gospels throughout days and weeks ahead will recount surprise after surprise, change after change. Jesus is about that.

This is a vivid reminder – one we need badly – that the Church, the Body of Christ – is not a stagnant place. Rather, this is the place we encounter the very change Jesus came to bring within and beyond us.

St. Paul reminds the Colossians to think and live differently and to be different. Old definitions are no more. We have died with Christ and we are in Him where everything is different. Jesus changes who we are.

There are no limits on what we can or cannot do. There are no boundaries we cannot cross with Christ within us. His universe spanning life is in us.

Jesus’ resurrected life is intended to open our eyes to the heavenward change we must be. Let us rejoice heartily then and be those gospel living Easter people of unafraid change and full of surprise.

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Welcome on this Palm Sunday. 

The Passion narratives are replete with studies in struggle and lessons for us as we complete our Lenten study of struggle today.

A woman – praised through the ages for her love and goodness, anoints Jesus. Her heart breaks with the struggle of knowing what Jesus was about to face. On top of it all she suffers abuse for her goodness. Her resolution to her struggles – to respond in love and allow God to take care of the rest. Let us always respond to struggle with love and faith in God.

Judas – he struggles with his disappointment. Jesus isn’t the Messiah he wanted. He was going to fix that by forcing Jesus to act. His resolution to his struggle – failure in achieving his ends, a failure of his faith, and a horrific death. Let us avoid the despair of Judas by seeing Christ before all selfish desire.

The apostles and disciples – they nearly all, except John, struggle with failure in their promises and pledges to Jesus. They fall asleep. They abandon Him. They run away. They deny Him. Peter weeps bitterly realizing what he had done. They all hide and struggle to understand. The resolution to their struggle came in the person of the resurrected Jesus Who they accepted with joy. Let us reflect on our sinfulness, the breaking of our promises and pledges to God, with confession and renewed resurrection faith.

The women – Mary and the other Marys stood by Jesus’ side the whole way. They did not allow their anguish to overcome their faith in and love for Jesus. Let us imitate them.

The others – the Council, the false witnesses, soldiers, guards, Pilate, Simon of Cyrenia – each of them struggles with their actions or lack thereof. Each of them struggles between the way of God and the way of their human masters. Let us always listen to what God calls us to do. Jesus is God and He is the way, truth, and life.

The pinnacle is Jesus because in taking on our humanity He took on all our struggles, pain, and suffering. In that He, though innocent, took on all our sin and through His struggle paid the price for our sin. His heavenly Father took it all out on Him so that our debt would be fully paid. Jesus suffered every trial – His struggle with His Father’s will, with every injury inflicted, with abuse and mockery, a feeling of utter abandonment, the loneliness of death – All so we have life and hope greater than any struggle we face.

Now is the time of judgment on this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” He said this indicating the kind of death he would die.

Welcome on this Passion Sunday. We continue in our Lenten study of struggle. 

Today we consider Jesus’s struggle as He faces His impending death. We also consider the very struggles we ourselves face in our faith journey. Through struggle, we realize that the Holy Spirit is alive and working in us. The Holy Spirit moves to guide and gift us. Jesus walks with us as we journey toward the eternal life Jesus won for us.

In today’s gospel message some Greeks arrive, find Philip, and make a request, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 

It is interesting that this meeting with Jesus is not outwardly described. Rather, Jesus’ discourse is the very response to the request. If you wish to see Me, then this is what you will and must see – My suffering and death, the requirement to walk in My footsteps, a call to our willingness to sacrifice, our complete focus on God’s kingdom work, and allowing ourselves to go to Jesus crucified.

The call to all who want to see Jesus is to accept His very real presence in each aspect of our existence, in each experience of any or all of our human senses.

Sometimes the struggles we face are right there in our face, they are a very present experience that challenges us and gives us great examples of strong faith.

As you know, yesterday we went to our Seniorate Lenten Retreat. There was a lot of good accomplished in prayer and reflection. Of course we shared in a fantastic meal. Then this happened…

We got into our ‘brief’ Seniorate meeting. Everyone reported out on the activities in their parish. Then the meeting took on a negative tone. It was an awful struggle. Negativity is. The casting of blame on others or down-talking the way others find their way to Christ is no answer or help. It hurt.

That struggle may have made lesser people bitter or angry, yet brave people from those among us and others stood up and blew away the negativity. They remembered that the negativity of the ruler of the world has been driven out by Christ.

They reminded us of what is most important for believers. Problems – go to the cross with faith that God is God, that His promises are true, that we must act in all things with faith and hope – no struggle can overcome the Holy Spirit. Our call is to be there for all who struggle with exactly the hope, faith, and welcome Jesus calls us to offer. As Jesus faced His struggle so must we!