Sunday, May 19, 2013

The "Fire Within" - Pentecost, John 20:19-23

Today we celebrate Pentecost, the third most important day in the liturgical year, after Easter and Christmas.  While we celebrate the birth of Jesus and Our Lord’s Resurrection with great glory and majesty, Pentecost appears to be just another Sunday liturgy; remarkable only as the ending to the Easter season.  But Pentecost is really a beginning, a beginning we should celebrate with equal glory and majesty and greet with great joy, festivities and commemorations similar to those used to celebrate Christmas and Easter.

Pentecost is when we received God’s gift of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus’ promise to us that the Father would send his Spirit to his disciples to comfort and guide us, to teach us and remind us of all that Jesus said is fulfilled through His ascension into heaven.  The gift of the Holy Spirit would come upon us, to be with us from that time forward.

The gift of the Holy Spirit is not something we put on a shelf to admire and show to friends – “Look! See what God gave me!”  It is a gift that fills us; it is a gift that dwells within us, a gift that descends upon us – covering us completely without and within.  It is a gift, “like a tongue of fire” that may not appear on our heads as with the first disciples, but a fire that burns within us.  It is holy inspiration, a holy desire that gives us the power to bring the Good News to all creation: to continue the missionary work of Jesus to the world.

The Gift of the Holy Spirit, given to all Disciples of Jesus, is not for our personal use, but for the common good – to be used for all-the-world.  We are called to make Christ known to the world, to bring God’s message of love to every creature, to be the face of Jesus to all we meet and see His face in everyone. 

Jesus commands us to go out – using the power of the Holy Spirit as guide and teacher to baptize all the nations, calling us to spread His Good News and the love of God: to make known the Father’s promise of love for all his children. 

This sounds fine, but in this day, are we really expected to go out into the streets as did the disciples of Jesus on that Pentecost so long ago?  Speaking in tongues, so that everyone we meet will hear the Good News?
The short answer is – YES!

Jesus told us, in our hour of need, “. . .do not worry about how or what you will speak in your defense or what you will say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” Luke 12:12
In practical ways, the Spirit inspires us to share our love of God. In the Spirit we share our gifts given for the good of others. 
  •          The Spirit is present when we teach our children and others of the love of God for all his people and as we show our faith in the life we live.   
  •          It is the Spirit that whispers in our ear the things to say to others who need to hear the Good News.  He moves us to live out our faith: feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and sheltering the homeless. 
  •          We are strengthened by the Spirit as we instruct those who despair and have doubt. 

·         The Spirit rises up in us as we witness to God’s justice; bringing His peace and hope to a troubled world.
We are to trust in the Spirit and the promise of Jesus as we continue his work to all-the-world.  When we doubt and are held back by misgivings, social convention or popular opinion – we remember – all things are possible with God. 

It is through His gift of the Spirit that we can do all things for the common good.  His miracles are worked through each of us, not by some magic or unexplained mystery.  We are just as the first disciples of Jesus enclosed in that upper room: We are chosen; we are gifted, - we are honored - disciples of Jesus; called to continue his mission, fulfilling his promise and glorifying God through his Word.

It is the Holy Spirit - that “Fire Within” in which we are confirmed in Christ. The Spirit that gives us strength and courage to go out – as did those first disciples: – out into the streets – out into the world – bringing the Word of God to all the nations.  Sharing our faith and hope with all creation; witnessing to all people the love of God that dwells in our hearts.  Preaching and teaching, through the power of the Holy Spirit, in the name of Jesus Christ, Our Lord.
~ Amen

Deacon Don Ron

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Peace Be With You - 6th Sunday in Easter, John 14:23-29

John’s Gospel contains the words of Jesus that are echoed in every Mass, “Peace I leave you; my peace I give to you.  Not as the world gives do I give it to you.”

We all desire peace in our lives, peace in our families, peace in our communities, peace in our work and peace among peoples and nations, but is Jesus’ gift of peace to us different from the peace we find in the world?

How do we define peace?  Is it an absence of conflict, an absence of war, an absence of hate, jealousy and fear?

Man’s peace always seems to be a negotiated peace; a d├ętente – which is defined as a relaxation of strained relations.  It is a peace that relies on the promises of good behavior among opposing parties; parties with conflicting interests.  It is an absence of conflict that prevails with a caveat – it is a peace with the Sword of Damocles hanging over it.  It is a peace held together by threat of consequence for not keeping the peace. 

In man’s peace we live in fear – fear of the slightest imbalance of power that can shatter the peace.  We live in fear that ever changing conditions or needs - will throw our world into chaos – destroying man’s peace – plunging us into disharmony and disorder; threatening our safety and well-being.

This is not the peace of Christ, the peace of God’s Kingdom.  Peace is not the absence of conflict, but the presence of love and justice.  The peace of Christ is not the absence of discord, but the presence of a living love: a love that puts the needs of others ahead of our own.  It is a love that opens our hearts to the giving of ourselves for the other.  It is a peace of sacrifice – a peace that brings justice into our lives with one another.

Like Jesus, we live in peace when we surrender ourselves to God’s love; emptying ourselves of all that keeps us from loving the other.  Our peace and our love for the other is the same love we have for ourselves, the love Jesus has for each one of us.

We are measured by our love for the other, by the peace we give to the other, by the justice that reigns in our hearts for the other.  This peace, love and justice are not abstract concepts, hypothetical ideas or fanciful theories, but life giving practices. 
We are called to live in the peace of Christ, live with the love of the Father and bring God’s justice into the world.  This is the measure of us – we who are called Christians – by these things - we are known as followers of the Way.

God knows and understands us completely.  He knows this is a difficult, - but not impossible - task for his children: to live in peace and love and justice with one another.  Jesus promises us that the Father will send His Spirit to help and guide us.  His Spirit is a reminder and a teacher of the words Jesus spoke to us, the words of the Father – the words of love, peace and justice.  These are words we hear - that bring us into love, the love of Christ, the love of the Father: the words that bring us into the peace of God’s kingdom.  These are the words of Life.

Any other words we hear – words that fail to speak of God’s unconditional love - are not the words of Jesus.  Words used to justify any actions that fail to love, - that fail to give peace, - that fail to bring justice - are not words of love – are not words of life.  Words that diminish the other, that bring harm to the other, are words empty of love, peace or justice.  These are the words of the evil one – the one who would rob us of God’s love; separating us from His kingdom. 

Sadly, these are the words we hear too often in the world - words that keep us from loving with the love of Jesus and living in peace with all our brothers and sisters –
-       words of fear,
-       words of suspicion,
-       words of doubt
-       words of jealousy
-       words of hate,
words that lead us away from the love we are called to have for one another.

Jesus gives us his peace and speaks to us only the words we need to hear, - words of peace, love, justice and life. His is the voice of the Good Shepherd – leading his flock into the peace of God’s Kingdom where we will live forever and ever.

Deacon Don Ron