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Come Holy Spirit…

Come Holy Spirit…

Pentecost 2024

It started as an ordinary day at school for me. It was 1965 and I was in kindergarten at Holy Cross School back in Georgetown, Ontario. It was a cold winter day, January, I think and I had walked to school with my older sister and brother. 

Shortly after we got to school, the big storm hit. A huge snowstorm. By lunch time, the wind was howling and the snow was falling fast and furious and piling up. The powers that be decided to close the school early and send everyone home. That is where my troubles began. Because of the ferocity of the storm, the school had called upon extra busses to take home the children, like myself, who normally walked. In the classroom, we all bundled up. Remember how long it takes kids to put on winter gear? Then our teacher herded us towards the waiting school bus, however, I refused to get on. Why? - because my parents had told me to never take a ride with a stranger! Yes, one thing I learned and learned well from my parents was never take a ride with a stranger! I stood in the snow, the wind howling around and in-spite of all the promptings of my teacher, I refused to get aboard that vehicle. I did not know the bus driver, to me he was a stranger. I had never been in a bus before, I was afraid, and also I think my little 5-year old mind was worried about all my classmates already on board - mass kidnapping by a stranger. Would I ever see them again?

My frustrated teacher gave up trying to force me onto the bus. She took me in hand to the Principal’s office and they made a phone call home to my Mom. They gave me the phone and only when my mom reassured me that the bus driver was not really a stranger and that it was ok, in fact a good idea to accept this ride, only then, with the assurance of my mom, was I ready to get on the bus. My fear was gone.

We all have our fears and we need the reassurance that all will be well from time to time from those we love and trust.

On Pentecost two thousand years ago, a small group of fearful people huddled in an upper room of Jerusalem. They had been through a great deal. Their friend and teacher Jesus had been arrested, tried unjustly in a farce trial, tortured and executed. Their world was shattered, their hopes and dreams gone. 

The disciples then experienced a remarkable revelation that Jesus was not dead, that he had conquered death and has risen! 

These followers of Jesus were reborn with hope and they believed but they WERE STILL FEARFUL. They probably had the desire to share the Good News, but they were fearful, afraid of the Jewish authorities. Would they too be arrested as heretics or blasphemers as happened to Jesus? They were afraid of the Roman soldiers in the streets. They were afraid of the implications for their lives. It was one thing to be a passive follower of the carpenter from Galilee but it was an entirely different matter to become a leader and a spokesperson for the movement that Jesus had begun. I think perhaps what they were most afraid of was that they  did not know what to say, they didn’t have the words, they felt their words would be inadequate.

The disciples needed the reassurance of Jesus, the one they had trusted and loved but he was not physically present. Then the extraordinary happened, the reassurance came to them in the form of the Holy Spirit. Yes, that same Spirit of God that had animated Jesus was present in them. Jesus had kept his promise and he had sent them the Advocate, the Holy Spirit  and they began to understand more and more what Jesus meant when he left them on the mountain saying; “Know this, I will be with you until the end of time.” Yes, the one they loved and trusted was with them again in the upper room but it was different from before. He was with them in their hearts, He was dwelling within them. 

Now they could go out boldly into the street and proclaim Jesus is Lord! Their fear was gone, and the Holy Spirit was within them. As  St. Paul said to the Corinthians, “Brothers and sisters: No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit!”

The previously daunting task of facing the crowds now seemed to be manageable. Pentecost was the second most important Jewish feast after Passover. It was 50 days after Passover, hence the name Pentecost. Every Jewish male within a certain distance of Jerusalem was obliged to come to the feast; that explains the crowd assembled in the city at the time. The “foreigners” who were there were all Jewish, and a few Gentile converts to Judaism, but it was an international feast nonetheless. All those people of different cultures and languages gathered there. Further on in the Acts of the Apostles, we hear of what happened next. Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd. This is the same Peter, who a few weeks prior, could not even face one person to defend Jesus. He had denied His Lord three times and now this same Peter is speaking boldly to the multitudes and proclaiming Jesus. “And that day, about three thousand people were added to their number to their number.” Not bad for Peter’s first homily!

In the Jewish faith, Pentecost had a twofold meaning. It commemorated the giving of the Law to Moses on Mt. Saini. It was also a harvest thanksgiving. When the first crop of barley came in, two loaves would be offered to God in thanksgiving. Interestingly, if we look at that original meaning of Pentecost, the giving of the law to Moses, and the first fruits of the harvest, we have a New Testament parallel, the Apostles proclaim the new law, the law of Christ to be written on people’s hearts, through the Spirit, and that day also we have the first harvest of the Church (Acts 2:41).

In the crowd assembled to listen to the apostles, many converted.  They were amazed, they heard in their own language. I suspect that what was more amazing to them was that they heard a new message, a new and extraordinary message, spoken with authority, conviction and clarity. But remember, that it was the authority, conviction and clarity of the Spirit of God speaking through the apostles.

The commandments written by God and given to Moses were commemorated on Pentecost, commandments written on stone for the Israelites. The new commandment of “Love one another as I have loved you” is written on our hearts, and is not confined to one group of people but is for all people of the world, Parthians, Medes, Elamites, Romans, Arabs, and of course, you and me.

This is the Good News. This Holy Spirit of God is not just reserved for  the apostles but it is for all people. All of  us share in that same Spirit that emboldened the apostles on the first Pentecost. We too are invited to proclaim the kingdom of God, each in whatever way God directs us. 

As St. Paul reminded the early Church at Corinth; “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit.” To each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

We come together as the people of God, as Church, for the common good. Our relationship with God is not just about me being saved but the common good.

This Pentecost, perhaps we are holding back a bit in the use of our gifts. Perhaps we are feeling a bit timid about what we can do for the Church, for justice in society, for proclaiming the kingdom of God. If we are fearful and hesitant, let us call upon the Spirit of God to renew the fire in our hearts. Let us not be afraid to go out to proclaim the Good News. Let us not be afraid to get on the bus!


Fr. Paul McAuley, CSSp



Holy Week 2024

As we enter into Holy Week, we are going to hear many Scripture readings centered on the suffering and death of our Lord Jesus Christ and the meaning for us and for the world. As we go through the stories of Jesus, I suggest that we read them with two eyes, an eye to the past so as to appreciate what happened in Jerusalem two thousand years ago, and an eye to the present to see how we fit into these stories. Suppose I was there in Jerusalem during the first Holy Week, what role would I have played? If the arrest, trial, sentencing and execution of Jesus were going on today in my own city or neighbourhood what role would I play? On Palm Sunday which begins this sacred week, we hear the story of Jesus asking his disciples to go a neighboring village and bring him a donkey’s colt. If the owner of the animal asks them why they are hijacking a colt that did not belong to them, they were to answer that the Lord needs it. Now put yourself in the place of the owner and imagine how you would react? Remember that for the ordinary people in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus, donkeys & colts were a privileged means of transport, comparable to a car today. How would we react if one evening we found some young guys trying to drive away in our car and when confronted, all they say is;, "The Lord needs it?" We would immediately call the police.

Just one example as we remember and retrace the last week of Jesus. Where are we as individuals, as a faith community, as a society?

Are we with some of the Scribes and the Pharisees, afraid of loss of power?Are we the Roman soldiers – just obeying orders? Are we like Pilate, disinterested and washing our hands of the mess? Are we like Peter, wanting to stay with Jesus but ultimately too afraid? Are we like John, Mary, Mary Magdalene, and the faithful women at the foot of the cross, witnessing, being broken-hearted, perhaps wanting to intervene but knowing not what to do? There are many characters in this Passion Week neither necessarily good nor bad, but human, - people like you and me. Where are we during Holy Week? Where am I during Holy Week?

For excellent resources on Holy Week, see the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB). 

 

 

Libermann Day - Feb. 2, 2024

The Spiritans around the world celebrate with thanksgiving the life of the venerable Fr. Francis Libermann, CSSp, (1802-1852) who is considered to be “The Second Founder of the Spiritans.” By merging his missionary Society of the Holy Heart of Mary with the Congregation of the Holy Ghost, he gave new life to the Spiritans and opened the way for a new wave of missionary evangelization.

Novena for Libermann Day (From Jan. 24 - Feb. 1, 2024)

Manresa Retreat Centre, Pickering, ON

Manresa Retreat Centre, Pickering, ON

TransCanada 2023 Advent Retreat & Dinner 

For the first time since COVID, the TransCanada Spiritan confreres & Lay Spiritans were able to be together for our Advent retreat held at the Jesuit Manresa Retreat Centre in Pickering, ON. Later in the evening, the confreres and Lay Spiritans gathered with some of our staff, friends, and supporters at our annual Advent appreciation dinner held at St. Joseph’s church in Highland Creek, ON.

Archbishop Francis Leo

On Friday July 28th, 2023, the Spiritans were blessed with a visit by Archbishop Francis Leo, fairly recently appointed as Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Toronto. The visit was warm and informal as we gathered for a social followed by dinner. During his time at the Laval House community where we gathered, he got to meet each of us personally and he spoke of the wonderful contributions the Spiritans have made to the Archdiocese over the years. He highlighted the importance of having both missionary and Religious life represented in the Archdiocese and the witness we give drawn from our mission experience. He expressed gratitude and hope for a growth of the Spiritans here and in Canada. We are very grateful to Archbishop Francis for taking time from what must be a hectic schedule to spend the evening with us. We look forward to ongoing collaboration with the Archdiocese to bear witness to the Gospel. Our door is open and welcoming and we hope Archbishop Francis will visit us again and always feel at home. 

Spiritan confreres & Archbishop Francis at LAVAL HOUSE

Spiritan confreres & Archbishop Francis at LAVAL HOUSE

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