Breaking Open the Word

May 23, 2021


Solemnity of Pentecost



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"Jesus breathed on them and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit.'" Jesus breathed, sending His life energy, the love of the Father and the Son, to His disciples and to us. The Holy Spirit can come to us in dramatic ways, as Acts 2 portrays, but it can also come in the simplest, most overlooked manner, in the very act of breathing. Could it be that the Holy Spirit is as near as your next breath? Could it be that insight and wisdom, courage and vitality, are a breath away?

Every breath can be a prayer and an opening to God's Spirit. In locked doors where fear abounds, breath abides. Jesus greets the disciples with the words, "Peace be with you," and then He breathes on and in them. Jesus is breathing peace and forgiveness, freedom from fear, and He invites us to receive His Spirit and do the same.


Gospel Explained

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Today we see that the risen humanity of Jesus has become a sacrament of the Divine Spirit.  Before the Christ-event (Jesus’ passion, death, resurrection, ascension, and gift of the Spirit), the disciples were not clear as to Jesus’ identity or His purpose. Their expectations were confined to Israel and the chosen people. Their ideas of holiness were bound up with faithful observance of the Law, dietary regulations, and the prescriptions regarding moral and ritual purity.


But after they experienced Jesus’ risen and continued presence in the gift of the Spirit, the disciples were transformed. They believed in Jesus and understood that He had been sent for the salvation of all peoples. They understood that holiness meant conforming themselves in love to Jesus and living each day in fullest union with Him. Through their anointing with the Spirit, the disciples were graced and commissioned for the task of reconciling sinners to God. The peace and forgiveness which Jesus’ death and resurrection had made accessible to the world, would continue to be made available through the diverse gifts and ministries of the body of Christ, the church.


Today’s Theme:

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In today’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, Luke places the coming of the Holy Spirit 50 days after Easter on Pentecost.  This date coincides with one of three Jewish pilgrim feasts. By associating the gift of the Spirit with the Jewish feast of Shevuoth (Hebrew for Weeks), Luke was able to illustrate more clearly the significance of Pentecost for believers. Initially an agricultural feast celebrating the grain harvest, Shevuoth was later associated with a significant event in Israel’s history, the gift of the Law at Mt. Sinai. Just as God appeared to Moses and the people in the thunder, lightning, loud trumpet blasts, smoke, and fire (Exodus 19:16, 18) so did Luke indicate that the new Guide, sent by Jesus to His own, was received in a similarly dramatic way (Acts 2:2-3).


There is significance in the seven week time period between Easter and Pentecost. Moses and those he led from Egypt traveled seven weeks from Egypt to Mt. Sinai. The people spent those seven weeks being formed by God through the mediation of Moses; the gift of the law at Mt. Sinai was received as divine approval of their efforts. Today, Jews observe the seven weeks between Pesach (Passover) and Shevuoth as a period of intense religious formation for their youth.  On Shevuoth the young people affirm their willingness to accept and live the principles of the Torah (the law.)  New Catholics, have the same need for continual formation through the power of the Spirit, and the period after Jesus’ resurrection on Easter until Pentecost is a time of ongoing mystagogia, “to lead through the mysteries.”


Scripture Scholars see in Luke’s writings, three periods of salvation history that are led by the presence of the Spirit. The Spirit was present:

Ø As the creative and prophetic presence of God in the Period of Israel, prior to and at Jesus’ birth (Luke 1:15, 35, 41, 67; 2:25-26)

Ø In the Period of Jesus, guiding His ministry (Luke 3:22, 4:1, 18)

Ø In the Period of the Church, poured out on the Jewish Christian community in Jerusalem (Acts 2:4) and later on Gentile converts (Acts 10:44-48) 


(More can be read on this topic in Jesuit Priest and professor, Joseph Fitzmyer’s Bible Commentary, The Gospel According to Luke.)  


The Spirit of God has always been leading His people.  Now however, the Spirit of God is given directly to His people on Pentecost.


Theme in Our Life

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 St. John Paul II said, the Holy Spirit is “the Person-Love, the Uncreated Gift, Who is the Eternal Source of every gift that comes from God in the order of Creation, the direct Principle and, in a certain sense, the Subject of God’s self-communication in the order of Grace.”  It is the work of the Holy Spirit to form the Christian to be a Christian. 


The Holy Spirit is the LOVE of God personified. That Love has all the gentleness and understanding of maternal affection. It comes naturally, to the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, to cherish, to encourage, and to give consolation to God’s children who are falling by the wayside under the burdens of living on earth.


We should turn to the Holy Spirit in all issues of our life, not occasionally but constantly. The powerful presence of the Holy spirit is a gift that few Christian fully unwrap. Have you invited the Holy Spirit to illuminate your path with His light and to inflame your heart with His love?  God’s gift to us is the love shared between Father and Son made present in the Spirit.  The Holy Spirit lives in us.  He makes us holy by filling us with sanctifying grace, God’s own life in us, and by giving us the supernatural virtues of faith, hope and love.  They Holy Spirit also gives us actual grace, light to our mind and strength to our will, to lead good lives. 


This gift of the Holy Spirit brings many other gifts, fruits, and various charisma.  To be a follower and friend of Jesus, we need a supernatural, Divine guide. The sanctifying grace of the Holy Spirit transforms, revives and sanctifies our soul.  Three of the Gifts (Fear, Piety and Fortitude) perfect our will.  The other four (Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel and Knowledge) perfect our intellect. The Gifts of the Spirit help us be conformed to Christ, more docile to His suggestions, more submissive to His inspirations and more pliable to His directions. If we remain open to these Gifts and cooperate with them, we will become the persons God wants us to be – other Christs. 


Preparing for Sunday

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To Prepare for this Sunday’s Liturgy of the Word, consider the following:

*Begin a Novena to the Holy Spirit (if not already underway).  This Novena, 9 days of prayer, was first made at the directions of Our Lord Himself when He sent His Apostles back to Jerusalem to await the coming of the Holy Spirit on the first Pentecost. 


*Begin everyday with prayer inviting the Holy Spirit to be fully present; leading and guiding you with grace and His many gifts. You will know when you are cooperating with the Holy Spirit for the fruits of the Spirit will pour forth from your life (love, JOY, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.)


*Remember at every moment, Jesus is breathing in my life and I am receiving the Holy Spirit.  Every breath I take opens me to inspiration. Every breath is a prayer.