St. Dorothy Catholic Community Orlando/Winter Park, Florida
Fr. Jim's Corner will consist of pictures, homilies and thoughts from Fr. James F. Profirio-Bond, OFJ, B.S.Ed, M.Ed, C.A.G.S., Associate Pastor in Team Ministry at St. Dorothy's. He was ordained to the transitional deaconate on January 23, 2010, by Most. Rev. Lionel J. White, OSB in Ft. Lauderdale, FL and ordained to the Priesthood on January 15, 2011 in Winter Park. Fr. Jim has been involed in Church life since the age of 7 as an altar boy; in 1969 he started his ministry as Director of Music & Liturgy for several parishes in New England,. He has conducted many choirs, bands and orchestras in the liturgical setting. He has also been Principal of several Catholic and public Schools across the country and was the founding Principal of Ave Maria Catholic School in Parker, Colorado. He was professed as a Third Order Franciscan in 1969 at St. Anthony's Shrine in Boston, MA. He began his journey to Priesthood in 1972 studying at St. John Seminary.
Acts 10:34, 37-43
Psalms 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23
Easter Sunday - Apr 21, 2019
On the first day of the week, the third day of his Passion, Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Today is his day. Many great historical figures have led exemplary lives, taught wise doctrines, and even died for the truth. But only one has risen again. Among the vast array of humanity's greatest heroes, only about Jesus Christ can we say: "He rose again on the third day, in fulfillment of the scriptures." Only in Christ's resurrection do goodness and power finally unite. The good guy wins! Only in Christ's resurrection does love prove that it is stronger than death.
In Christ and in his resurrection, a new - a wildly new - hope dawns for all mankind, the hope that if we stay united to him through faith and grace, we will rise with him, rise from our very tombs, and live with him forever in the never-ending adventure of heaven. No one else offers such a hope, because no one else has risen from the dead to be able to offer it - only the Lord.
The Resurrection is the definitive watershed in the history of religions; it makes Christianity absolutely unique. In the Resurrection, reality becomes more wonderful than myth. Only the reality of the Resurrection can explain the reality of the history of the Church: A few weak, non-influential, and uneducated fishermen from Galilee, frightened out of their wits when Jesus was arrested and executed, suddenly become world travelers, phenomenally successful preachers, and valiant martyrs.
And the Church they spread continues to spread after they die, holding fast to the exact same doctrine they preached, century after century, in nation after nation. Only the abiding presence of the Lord can explain this, and only the resurrection explains the abiding presence of the Lord. This is what makes us, as Christians, different.
St. Ignatius Loyola's famous little book, The Spiritual Exercises, contains several contemplations on the Resurrection. One of these deals with what St Ignatius thought would have been Jesus' very first appearance after rising from the dead - an appearance to his Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary. This appearance isn't mentioned in the Gospels, but St Ignatius considered it to be common sense. In fact, as a caption to this section of his book, he wrote, "Don't be stupid." And indeed, Mary's name doesn't appear on the list of women who went to the tomb on Easter morning.
Why didn't she go with them, as she had done at the burial? Maybe because Jesus had already risen and appeared to her. Mary's great virtue is faith. She believed that "what was spoken to her by the Lord would be fulfilled." She had heard Christ's prophecies: "The Son of Man will be killed and rise on the third day"; "Destroy this temple and I will rebuild it in three days." Mary meditated on this in her heart, and we can imagine how eagerly she was looking forward to seeing the risen Lord.
When Jesus finally appeared, we can imagine how lovingly she embraced him. What might they have talked about? Maybe they spoke about Mary's new mission - now she was the spiritual mother of the whole Church. Maybe they spoke about the Scriptures that Jesus had fulfilled through his passion, death, and resurrection. Maybe tears of joy were enough all on their own. And that joy was of a whole new kind - it was the joy of the resurrection, an everlasting joy that neither death nor suffering could tarnish ever again. And that's the joy that every Christian can look forward to, because of Easter; it's what makes us different.
Today we should relish this joy of Easter, thanking God for letting us share in this victory, for giving us this hope. But let's not stop there. Let's not just enjoy Easter, let's let it change our lives. Christ's resurrection is not just a nice idea; it is the power of eternal life at work in us. Why not do something for the eight weeks of the Easter season to plug into that power? Almost every one of us made an effort to live Lent in a special way. Most likely we gave something up for or did something extra special Lent.
That was a practical way to give the special graces that God sends during Lent some room to work in our souls. So, if we gave something up as a way to help us live the penitential season of Lent, why not take something up as a way to help us live the joyful season of Easter?
In the Second Reading, St Paul encouraged us to "think of what is above, not of what is on earth." Why don't we make an Easter resolution that will help us do that, that will help us keep in mind the eternal life in Christ that is waiting for us if we stay faithful to him?
It could be something simple: like inviting a friend or family member who has forgotten about Christ's victory to come to Mass on Sundays and then inviting them over for brunch or lunch like watching a classic movie together as a family each Sunday between now and Pentecost - a joyful, uplifting movie like having a special outing or get-together with friends on Fridays like taking some time each evening to re-read some of your favorite books, the ones that stir up joy in your soul
If we ask the Holy Spirit to give us some ideas, he won't be stingy. He just needs us to decide to let Easter make a difference in our lives, the way it should. Our souls need that as much as they needed the time of penance and contrition that we lived during Lent.
The Church is wise in giving us six weeks of Lent and eight weeks of Easter. Today, as we receive the risen Lord in the Eucharist, let's promise him that we will find a way to benefit from that wisdom.
Acts 5:27-32, 40-41
Psalms 30:2, 4, 5-6, 11-12, 13
Third Sunday of Easter - May 5, 2019
Jesus fills our emptiness. In the gospel we just read the boat was empty; something was missing. They set out; but they set out without Jesus. Isn´t that sometimes the case with all of us? We want to trust in ourselves, we don´t want to have to rely on God. And at the same time, deep down we really do want to rely on God, we want to know that someone is in charge, that all these wayward paths converge upon the goal. But we get confused and turn to what we’re comfortable with.
The apostles do exactly that. They go fishing, but they are fishing without the Lord. And so they don’t catch anything. Sometimes God allows our best-laid plans to come crashing down around us. He doesn’t do this to torment us, but to teach us to trust in him. Their embarrassment and frustration must have been pretty overwhelming. Fishermen tend to be fairly proud of their skill set, and when they’re skunked it’s humiliating. And then, to make matters worse, Jesus shows up on the shore and asks if they’ve caught anything.
This is like rubbing salt in an open wound. And you can imagine the way they growled in response “no, we haven’t caught anything.” And they must have been thinking to themselves, “and mind your own business.” But the apostles needed to recognize their own weakness. They needed to vocalize their own inability to do anything without Jesus. And when they do that, he acts. He fills the boat with 153 types of fish. According to St Jerome, there are 153 types of fish in the ocean. So that number represents above all the fullness of the Church. But it also represents the fullness of our own lives when we give them over to Christ. He fills our emptiness with his friendship. He gives us meaning and purpose. He fills our lives with wonder; he fills our lives with love.
Brother Andrew from the Missionary Brothers of Charity tells the following story. One day Mother Teresa received a letter written by a man on the day of his intended suicide. He wrote that, on the preceding afternoon, he had worked out all the details for what seemed to him a perfectly “rational” suicide. And then, quite by accident, he came across Malcolm Muggeridge’s biography of Mother Teresa. Bored and with nothing else to do, he started to read it. As he read, he found that book, or rather that life, giving him a new interest in life, and, as he finished it, he moved back from the brink of suicide to begin life anew.
The example of Mother Teresa, until then unknown to him, had given him hope. This man had discovered that his boat was empty. But by the example of a living saint, he realized that it could be full.
Give, and you will receive
When we feel empty, the tendency is to close in on ourselves. But that’s a huge mistake. Just like the apostles, we’re tempted to return to our comfort zone. Theirs was fishing. What’s mine? Food or shopping or ESPN or wine… We’re familiar with them all. They’re good things in small doses. But if we turn to them to fill us they leave us empty.
One of the best ways to break out of those doldrums is to give ourselves to others. Break out of that protective shell and give. How? Here are a few suggestions. Let’s pick one of these, or something else that comes to mind during the Mass, and work on it this week.
Visit someone who’s alone. Or at least call. Invite a friend to come to Mass sometime. Say a prayer for someone who’s suffering. Resolve to do 3 kind acts for your spouse or kids or siblings or coworkers each day.
We’re in the middle of the Easter season. Jesus wants to fill our boat with the joy of his presence. As we serve him in others, we begin to experience that joy more and more. When we receive Christ today, really present in the Eucharist, we ask him to help us to give ourselves to others. And we trust that through Him, with Him, and in Him, what seems empty can become truly full.
Acts 13:14, 43-52
Psalms 100:1-2, 3, 5
Revelation 7:9, 14-17
4th Sunday of Easter – May 12, 2019
The Roman and Independent Churches have chosen this Sunday, in which we read the parable of the Good Shepherd, to pray for vocations to the priesthood. What is the relationship between shepherds and vocations? The Good Shepherd represents Christ who takes care of us personally, and is willing to give his life for us. And the priest is "another Christ" or as they say “in persona Christi” entrusted with the care of a group of Christians. None of us can say: "I am not interested in this," since we are all directly affected by the fact that we can have many good and dedicated priests.
As you may know, I am the vocation director for our little Diocese. I was given that duty by our former presiding Bishop, Lionel White and was again refirmed in the duty by our present Bishop, Tom Sterner. So this is an area and topic close to my heart. Let me tell you a little story.
One afternoon many years ago, a child knocked on the door of St John Bosco, the founder of priests and sisters called the Salesians, in the city of Turin, Italy, Don Bosco asked him, "What do you want?" The little boy answered: "I want to be a priest!" His name was Dominic Savio. Behind every vocation is a mystery of love. The idea of becoming a priest doesn't come spontaneously or by accident. God is the one who calls, but God needs to find a soul willing to listen, and to follow his vocation. "My sheep hear my voice," Jesus says, "I know them and they follow me."
Today is the day of the seminary. We hear the complaints that our seminaries are empty. There is talk about a vocational crisis. Is it possible that God has grown tired of calling? No, God keeps calling, but there must be a fervent Christian environment among families, parishes need to promote formative and apostolic activities which we do here at St. Dorothy’s, young people need to be taught generosity so as not to deny God anything that God asks for. We need to pray for vocations a lot. And it is in your hands: give support a seminarian as if he were your own son. In our case it is Matthew and Jane.
Today Fr. Tom will celebrate the first Mass for St. Luke National Catholic Church in Jacksonville. It was a long road for Tom as he was originally denied as a seminarian by the previous vocation director for whatever reason. He did not let that denial bring him down as he heard the call of God. He applied again, was interviewed by Bishop Tom and I and the rest as they say, is history.
Rev. Colleen Fay, our first transgendered priest for our Diocese had a very tough and humiliating road. She had originally applied for the Roman Catholic Women Priests and went through all the hoops and background checks and mental tests, etc. At the very end they denied her as they said well we are for women and you were not born a woman. She did not let them silence the vocation call of God in her. Again, the rest is history as she begins her ministry to the Transgendered community in Washington DC.
My own vocation stated when I was in elementary school. I wanted to be a priest. I had excellent role models in the Scallibrini priests from Italy that were in my parish. They took me under their wing and started teaching me about Liturgy, Theology, etc. from a very early age. I entered St. John’s Seminary in September of 1972. I got so disillusioned when I saw what really goes on behing the scenes if you will. I left St. John’s and entered the Franciscan’s Contact Program, a new and innovative program they were having. I lived at home went to Boston State College to get my education degree and met with an advisor weekly from the order. There too I saw the hypocracy of the order and said I don’t want anything to do with it so I left. When I did I was told by my father that I need to find a girl and get married. I dare not come out of the closet because of being disowned by my family which mentally I could not take so I got married to a girl from the parish where I did everything but say Mass and hear confessions. I was married to her for 16 years, fathered two boys, yet the flame of the vocation was still burning within me. It was good being musical director and educator of the lectors and extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist and teach Sunday School but it still wasn’t full priesthood. After everyone except cousins were dead in my family I came out of the closet. We received a divorce and an annulment from the Church.
The flame was still burning. I knew I could never go back to the Roman side due to now my openly gayness and having a husband. I was fired from 4 Catholic School principalships once it was discovered that I was gay and had a husband. I began researching “alternatives” to the Roman Catholic side and learned about the old Catholic/Independent Catholic Church. I studied what they believed in, their history and where they were. I applied to one Diocese and was turned away. I did not let it get to me. After moving here in 2006, I researched where there were Independent Catholic Parishes in Tampa and Orlando. I went to the Franciscan Sister’s retreat house in Tampa for Mass as they were very progressive. Upon moving to Orlando I came across St. Dorothy and started to come to Mass each week when it was located behind ORMC and Mass was 5pm on Sundays. I spoke with Fr. Anthony about my past and he suggested that I speak with Bishop Lionel. I had a meeting with the Bishop and told him of my past. He said that if I wanted to be ordained a priest it would be very easy as I already had the training and experience. I just needed to brush up in some areas of Theology. On January 23, 2010 I was ordained a Deacon and on January 15, 2011 I was ordained a priest for St. Dorothy Catholic Community. I did not let the denials and disappointments and road blocks stop me from my vocation.
I saw that Jane has that fire in her but really could not do anything about it. After Jim passed, I brought it up to her about persuing her vocation. She was very hesitant. After a series of emails and conversations I suggested that she investigate the Roman Catholic Women Priest route. She did and she will be ordained a Deacon this September. She will be serving us starting in January as Deacon and in April of 2020 she will be ordained a priest.
Our parish is fostering vocations but we need more. We need to be the ambassadors who help those who have the fire of a vocation to first recognize that they have it, secondly to discern about it and lastly to enact on it. You have done it with Matt. In late 2020 he will be ordained a Deacon and in April of 2021 he will be ordained a priest. We as parish must support him in the good and rough times of his preparation.
The application process is very very rigorous and challenging. I often get requests from folks that I want to be a priest in your Diocese. I usually send them the application and process to be considered for entrance into the seminary 99.9% of the time I never hear back as many think in the independent Catholic Church it is like getting ordained on the internet, an automatic process. Part of my job is to insure that the candidates I propose for entrance to the seminary are well grounded, in it for the right reason, and are free from any legal or moral issues. So it is not easy.
Benedict XVI is convinced that vocations to consecrated life come from Christian families. On Sunday February 4, after praying the Angelus, the Benedict stated: "A peaceful family environment, enlightened by Faith, favors the growth and flourishing of vocations to serve the Gospel." One could say that the crisis of vocations is a crisis of the family.
Has any of your children or relatives shown interest in a vocation? Do you know people in your environment in need of prayer, assistance or encouragement to mature in their decision to follow Christ? You can be a vocational promoter, fostering the practice of Christian life in those who live around you. A priestly vocation could be depending on you!
Psalm 145:8-9, 10-11, 12-13
John 13:31-33a, 34-35
5th Sunday of Easter – May 19, 2019
Imagine if God came to earth and told us: “Listen carefully. I’m going to tell you exactly what will fulfill you as a human person. I’m going to tell you exactly what I’m hoping for from you.” Would we listen? I think so.
In today’s gospel Jesus just did exactly that. First He tells us that His suffering, death, and resurrection will be His glory. Why is that? Suffering, after all, doesn’t seem that glorious. It all comes back to love. As St Therese of Lisieux put it, God thirsts for our love. And the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus brought us back to God. It made it possible for us to receive God’s love and to love him in return in a new way.
So after laying this foundation, Jesus tells his friends that he’ll only be with them a little longer. He is saying that when they’ve received the power of the Holy Spirit they will be able to go out and practice what they’ve seen him do. Their basic training is almost over (although they’ll need refresher courses throughout their lives).
What is Jesus asking them to do? To love one another as He loves them. He gives them a series of intensifiers here. First he tells them: “I give you a new commandment – Love one another.” As Bishop Emeritus Benedict XVI said in his encyclical God is Love, love can be commanded because it has first been given. We are infinitely loved by God, therefore we can be commanded to love others. Then Jesus says: “As I have loved you, so you should also love one another.” How does Jesus love us? To the end. He loves us to the point of laying down his life for us. And because of his power in us, we can love others in the same way. Finally, Jesus tells us that love is the Christian’s name tag. He says “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Love is meant to be our name tag as Christians. In the 3rd century, Tertullian said that when the Romans referred to the early Christians they often remarked “See how they love each other.” This was how they recognized them as Christians.
And it’s not just a love of good feelings. It’s a love that brings us to lay down our lives for others, just as Jesus laid down his life for us. This is our great power; this is our great privilege.
God has come to earth and told us what will fulfill us. He has come to earth and told us what he’s hoping for from us. “Love one another as I have loved you.” Love is a Christian’s name tag.
Rick Hoyt was born with severe brain damage that impeded him from speaking or using his arms and legs The doctors told his father Dick Hoyt: “Forget Rick, put him away, put him in an institution, he’s going to be a vegetable for the rest of his life.”
But his father was determined to love him. He and Rick’s mother took their son camping, cross country skiing, and swimming. They encouraged him to attend Boston University.
Then Rick decided he wanted to compete in triathlons. So they fashioned a special boat and bicycle so they could swim and ride together in triathlons. Dick tows Rick in the boat as he swims, then carries his son to the bike — which has a combined weight of 400 pounds when both Hoyts are locked and loaded. After they complete their bike ride, Dick carries Rick to the running chair and they tackle the run together. They’ve done 31 marathons and 252 triathlons together.
Love is creative, love doesn’t give up. No matter what the sacrifices, love keeps going.
Love is our name tag as Christians. How does our love become practical? Our love becomes practical by doing the little things with extraordinary love. St Teresa of Avila said that the devil wants to get us to focus on the past and on the future, and forget about the present. But the present is the only time we can really love. It’s vital to form the habit of asking the Holy Spirit to show us where he’s asking us to love right now.
I’d like to propose one specific way that can help us to do one ordinary thing with extraordinary love. Prayer has a unique power. It may seem ordinary, but when we pray with love, its effectiveness is extraordinary. So this week, set aside 15 minutes to pray for someone else.You could pray a rosary for that person. You could go to daily Mass and offer it for that person. You could make a visit to the Blessed Sacrament for that person. But whatever it is, stick to it. And then let that person know you’ve been praying for him.
In the Eucharist we see how practical Christ’s love for us it. He laid down his life for us in an outpouring of love, and he gives us the strength to follow his example.
“Love one another as I have loved you.” Let’s beg Jesus, really present in the sacrament of the Eucharist, to set our hearts on fire with love, and to give us the strength to love others as he has loved us: to the end.
Acts 15:1-2, 22-29
Psalms 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8
Revelation 21:10-14, 22-23
Sixth Sunday of Easter - May 26, 2019
There’s an important dynamic in the different readings at Mass in the Easter season. Jesus is risen. He is present in our lives. He appeared to his friends multiple times after his resurrection. His is real. He ate and drank with them. They touched his wounds. No one doubted that he was risen. But he seems to pop in and out of the picture.
He appears to his friends in the upper room – and then he vanishes from their sight. He appears to the men who are on the road to Emmaus, and are walking sadly away from Jerusalem. He opens their hearts to recognize him – and then he vanishes from their sight.
Isn’t it true that the same dynamic often applies to our own lives? We have our mountaintop moments, when the sun is shining and we sense the presence of Christ. And then he seems to vanish. Jesus speaks about this in the gospel we just read. He says: “You heard me tell you, ‘I am going away and I will come back to you… I have told you before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe.” He’s referring to his death and resurrection. But he’s also referring to our daily life.
There are moments when Christ seems absent. Do I believe that he is coming back? Even more, do I believe that He’s present even in those moments? There’s a great lesson from all this. Easter is God’s invitation to see with the eyes of faith. Christ is asking us to believe what he told us: “I will seem to go away sometimes, but I will come back.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that faith, hope and love are virtues infused by God into our souls to make us capable of living as his children and meriting eternal life… By faith, we freely commit our entire selves to God. So faith changes the way we see the world. God is present in every moment, and at every moment we can freely commit ourselves to him. He’s trying to help us see something of his presence in all the individual events of our lives. Easter is a call to see with renewed eyes of faith.
Gianna Simone who was born December 22, 1989 is an American actress, model, and producer. She has appeared in roles in the feature films Star Trek Into Darkness (2013), Mother's Day (2016), I Can Only Imagine (2018), Unbroken: Path to Redemption (2018), and several television series. is someone who’s learned to see with the eyes of faith.
The actress had a difficult childhood. She suffered from emotional and physical Abuse She said, "I had attempted to take my own life and was sent to a place for troubled girls. I felt I didn't belong there — but I did. I did belong there," Simone said. "I wanted my own room. They said, ‘No, sorry.’ So they put me in a room with another girl." This other girl, “Anne,” had her own serious struggles. "She told me she had tried to commit suicide multiple times," Simone explained. "I didn't know what to say to her. The only thing I could tell her was about Jesus and about God and about Jesus' love for us that transcends and overwhelms everything else in our life. 'He loves you even more than your parents love you,'" Simone said she told her.
"The next morning we had a sharing circle and the doctor said, 'Anne, why don't you start off with the sharing?' She said, 'To be honest, I don't feel anxious or miserable anymore because last night I gave my life to Jesus.'" Simone described this as one of the first moments of her own personal conversion. "I knew it was the truth. It was my first step in sharing that with somebody, seeing how it could transform another human being when that person didn't have hope."
Meanwhile, the young girl, Anne, was very sure it was Christ who had sent Simone to share her room. Anne told her, "They put you in my room for me to help you, but in the end you ended up helping me." "If someone said you can go back and change all the abuse, I would say no, because it's made me empathetic toward people," said Simone. "My hope in sharing my story is to inspire people who are going through the same thing or even something similar. If I came out of it sane, so can you, and it's by God's help that I did. And the credit goes completely to God and to Him working through human beings as well." Gianna Simone is seeing with the eyes of faith.
Our faith isn’t ever in the abstract, because God isn’t in the abstract. God will ask us to grow in faith in very specific ways. Through His word in Sacred Scripture and through the guidance of the Church.
Sometimes it will be through struggles. Sometimes it will be through inspirations that we receive, either in our hearts or through other people. Whatever situation we find ourselves in, God will ask us to entrust ourselves to him in faith.
And so today, in this Mass, let’s ask God to show us where he’s asking us to grow in faith. A good way to do this is to ask: “Where is it hardest for me to trust in God?”
And then when we receive Christ in the Eucharist let’s bring that to him. Let’s ask Jesus to give us the strength to take the leap of faith that will help us to see that He is always present in our lives.
Let’s pause for 5 minutes and you have a moment with your higher power in discussion, then we can share.
Psalms 47:2-3, 6-7, 8-9
Ascension of the Lord – June 2, 2019
We don't think enough about the Ascension. In fact, only those who pray the Rosary seem to think about it at all as it is one of the Glorious Mysteries. Yet, it is a crucial part of Christ's mission and message.
It is the culminating moment, the finale, the final whistle, the moment in which his victory will be enshrined in heaven for ever. Jesus ascends into heaven as the living sacrifice that will continue to be the bridge between God and humanity until the end of time. The Principal of this class called Earth/The Human Condition that we are all a part of. His words at this moment, therefore, are critical. And what does he say? Two things.
First, he sums up the message of salvation. He reminds his Apostles that he had come to earth in order to preach salvation, and then to make it into a reality by his suffering, death, and resurrection. Only because of Christ's preaching and passion is it possible for the human condition to experience the salvation from sin and ignorance that they desire, the peace of soul that they yearn for.
Second, he gives his followers a job. He calls upon them to be witness of these things. They will not be able to carry out their witness all by themselves, they will need the Holy Spirit, and so he promises that at Pentecost they will be "clothed with power from on high." But then they are to go to "all the nations" as Christ's witnesses and ambassadors. So, in the Ascension, we come face to face with the core of the entire Gospel: Christ's saving message being transmitted to all people through the witness of the Church.
But what exactly are we to be witnesses of?
Jesus tells us right before he ascends into heaven: "that repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached in his name." If Christ had not ascended, we would not be able to preach that. His Ascension finishes the job of reconciling fallen humanity to God, because it brings our human nature back into a right relationship with God It guarantees that Christ's sacrifice on the cross was completely accepted by the Creator.
Reconciling fallen humanity with God has always been the main problem that religion tries to solve. In the Old Testament, the Israelites achieved this right relationship through what was called the sacrifice of atonement: the sacrifice that made sinners, once again, one with God. This sacrifice took place in the Holy of Holies, the innermost chamber of Moses' tent of worship and, later, of the Temple in Jerusalem. The Holy of Holies was separated from the inner altar of incense by a huge, thick, ancient curtain. Only the High Priest was allowed to pass through the curtain, and even he could only enter once a year, on the Day of Atonement.
That ancient ritual foreshadowed Christ's Ascension. In his Ascension, Christ was taken up into the real, eternal Holy of Holies, the inner chamber of the universe, heaven itself. But instead of coming back out, he stays there, in his human condition, as our representative, as the everlasting bridge of reconciliation between mankind and God.
Through faith in Christ, we have no more doubts that our sins can be forgiven; we don't have to wait for the Day of Atonement; we can live constantly in a right relationship with God.
This is what we are witnesses of. This is the message we have received: every human heart's deepest longing can finally be fulfilled, because Christ's sacrifice has been accepted by the Father.
This is our mission in life: to bear witness to Christ. This will give us a share in the joy that the disciples experienced after Christ ascended: "They... returned to Jerusalem with great joy." But we cannot be effective witnesses to Christ unless we stay close to Christ. We need his own divine strength in order to fulfill this divine mission.
This is why Jesus tells us, in the First Reading, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you..." Christ is true man and true God. To be his witnesses we must share not only his human nature, but also his divine nature. That was one of the main reasons he ascended into heaven. Today, as the Church reminds us of our mission and encourages us to take it up with renewed enthusiasm, let's renew our commitment to stay close to Christ: Let's renew our commitment to daily, heartfelt prayer. Let's renew our commitment to never stop studying the treasure of our Catholic faith. On Ascension Day, Christ is sending us out into today's world to be his witnesses, just as he sent out his Apostles over two thousand years ago. Success in that mission is the only thing that will satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts. And all we have to do in order to be as successful as his first Apostles is to stay as close as possible to our Lord.
Psalms 104:1, 24, 29-30, 31, 34
First Corinthians 12:3-7, 12-13
Pentecost - June 9, 2019
Imagine if our lives were somehow different. Imagine if we had a new life, if we didn’t have to always rely on ourselves. Imagine if we had an alternative power source that we could tap into, a power source that slowly transforms us into the person we truly want to be.
In the readings today, we’re reminded that to be a baptized Christian living in friendship with God means that we do have this power source. Her name is the Holy Spirit, and she is the third person of the Blessed Trinity. She is the bond of love between God the Creator and God the Redeemer.
In the first Pentecost we heard about how the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different languages of the mighty acts of God. Then the psalm asked God: “God, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.” We can add to that, “God, send out your spirit, and renew my life, and the lives of those I love.”
And then in the gospel the Risen Christ breaths on the apostles and gives them the Holy Spirit. This gesture goes back to the very beginning of the book of Genesis, when it says that at the moment of creation the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. In Hebrew, the word for Spirit is Ruah, which also means breath. So here John is saying that Jesus, by giving us the Holy Spirit, is recreating us. The Holy Spirit gives us new life. She is present in us as the source of our new life in Christ.
Perhaps an analogy will help. Rome, Italy, has more fountains than any other city in the world. There are 50 monumental fountains and nearly 2000 smaller fountains scattered throughout the city. The effect of cascading water is delightful, and adds great charm to the Roman experience.
But sometimes there’s a problem.
The companies that manage the water supply have occasionally gone on strike. When that happens, these magnificent fountains are dried up and lifeless. When the water supply comes back on, the difference is stunning. You think to yourself: This is what a fountain is supposed to be. We are like the fountain, and the Holy Spirit is like the water. Without her presence, we are missing something vital. But with her, we are what we should be.
Sometimes our water supply dwindles; sometimes it’s completely shut off. The cause of this is sin, which wounds or even, if the sin is serious enough, cuts off our relationship with God. But the good news is that we have a valve to turn that water supply back on. It’s called asking God for forgiveness.
We believe that when we ask God for forgiveness, and receive absolution from God directly our sins are really forgiven. And that means that our relationship with God is restored. The Holy Spirit also breaths on us, and gives us new life.
That’s why we can experience so much joy when we ask for forgiveness. We feel the life-giving water of the Holy Spirit in a new and wonderful way.