Today we celebrate the "birthday of the Church!" Pentecost is described in the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles. But before the great driving wind and tongues of fire empowering the Disciples, the Holy Spirit had already arrived. The Gospel for today's Mass during the day is from John 20. Jesus appears to the fearful disciples after his resurrection. He first speaks a message of calm. "Peace be with you." The apostles "rejoiced when they saw the Lord." When the enthusiastic response settles down, Jesus "breathed on them and said to them 'Receive the Holy Spirit.'"
This action is Trinitarian, and it has happened before. If you turn your Bible back to the beginning, you'll read: "The Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so many became a living being" (Genesis 2:7). In the Garden of Eden, we see God's first, original covenant with man. The breath of life signifies that original indwelling of grace, the special state of likeness and friendship with God before the Fall. Here now, in this locked room, the Apostles receive the long-awaited promise: the very breath of God, new life, a new covenant.
In the pairing of these two readings-the Pentecost experience in Acts and the breath of Jesus in John's Gospel -we see that the coming of the Holy Spirit is not only an empowering, it is an indwelling. We have each received the breath of grace in our baptism. It is confirmed, strengthened, and deepened in each reception of the sacraments. If we persevere in virtue, the Spirit of God is alive in us, inspiring our actions of love. This Pentecost Sunday, how is the breath of God alive in you?
Congratulations to the graduating seniors! We are fast approaching the end of the school year. This weekend our cluster is celebrating graduation weekend for seniors. I take this opportunity to congratulate you and wish you the best. We will hold you in our prayer. Senior year is culmination of more than a decade of hard work, dedication and perseverance. Now, it is a turning point in your life. I am sure seniors, you are with full of dreams and plans for the future. Teachers, parents, and family will look at you with a question: what is next? What are going study? What you want to become? Some of you are already decided, some are not sure yet. Whether you are going to college, entering the work force, joining the military, joining the priesthood or religious life, or unsure of the next step, we are here to offer a prayer, encouragement, and support for you. We want to thank you for what you have done for our cluster, school, and community. When you come home, please don’t forget to come to your spiritual home. There is community of faith waiting to see you.
Happy Mother’s Day! There is a beautiful Spanish proverb: "An ounce of mother is better than a pound of clergy." The word “mom” is synonymous with sacrificial love in its purest form as given by Jesus in his farewell speech: "love one another as I have loved you.” Mothers leave their legacy with us. They live in and through us. The month of May is traditionally the month of Mary. Through Mary, the work of Motherhood is glorified and sanctified. On this Mother’s Day, presenting all mothers on the altar, let us sing the beautiful song we sing on the Feast of the Presentation, “Gentle woman, peaceful dove, teach us wisdom, teach us love.”
Happy Feast of the Ascension of the Lord! This weekend we are celebrating the Ascension of the Lord. There is a beautiful old story that tells how Jesus, after his ascension into Heaven, was surrounded by the Holy Angels who began to inquire about his work on earth. Jesus told them about His birth, life, preaching, death, and resurrection, and how he had accomplished the salvation of the world. The angel Gabriel asked, “Well, now that you are back in Heaven, who will continue your work on earth?" Jesus said, "While I was on earth, I gathered a group of people around me who believed in me and loved me. They will continue to spread the Gospel and carry on the work of the Church.” Gabriel was perplexed. "You mean Peter, who denied you thrice and all the rest who ran away when you were crucified? You mean to tell us that you left them to carry on your work? And what will you do if this plan doesn't work?" Jesus said, "I have no other plan – it must work." Truly, Jesus has no other plan than to depend on the efforts of his followers!
In the Gospel for this weekend we read, Jesus said to his disciples: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” St. Augustine says, “We believe in Him, whom we have not seen. Those who have seen him, have announced him ... He who has promised is faithful and never fails: boost your confidence and await his promise ... keep your faith strong!”
Jesus counts on you and me. Are we ready?
Trip to India! I will be leaving for India to visit my family on May 14 and will be back June 11th. Please keep me in your prayers. You are always in my prayers. Thank you.
The story of Leslie Lemke begins in Milwaukee in 1952. His mother gave him up for adoption at birth. As a complication of his premature birth, Leslie developed retinal problems, then glaucoma, and his eyes had to be surgically removed in the first months of life. There was also brain damage, and Leslie was extremely ill. The county asked May Lemke, a nurse-governess who they knew and trusted, if she would take Leslie into her receiving home, ill as he was and carrying such a dire prognosis. That didn’t deter May. At age 52, and having raised five children of her own, May Lemke said she would. And she did.
Every day May massaged the baby’s entire body. She prayed over him, cried over him, she placed his hands on her tears. As Leslie grew, so did May’s problems.
They years passed. When Leslie was six he learned to stand alone. All this time he didn’t respond to her. But all this time May continued to love him and pray over him. Then one day May noticed Leslie’s finger plucking a taut string on a package. She wondered whether Leslie was sensitive to music. May began to surround Leslie with music. She played every type of music imaginable.
Leslie played and sang often, but mostly the simple tunes May sang or popular songs from the radio. May wasn’t into classical music. In the early morning hours May heard music. She thought Joe had left the television on. She went to turn it off and there was Leslie, playing flawlessly from beginning to end, having heard it but once, Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1, which was the theme song for that movie. God’s miracle, May said, came into full bloom that night. May dropped to her knees and said, “Thank you, dear God. You didn’t forget Leslie.”
In June 1980 Leslie gave a concert in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. People were amazed by what they had seen — a young man who is blind, mentally challenged, with cerebral palsy, and never having had a music lesson in his life playing what seemed like a limitless repertoire and repeating flawlessly whatever was played to him after a single hearing.
This Sunday’s second reading and the Gospel reading speak about the command to Love. 1 John reminds us that God has first loved us. He has showered His Mercy on us. In the Gospel reading we hear that we are to love one another as Jesus loves us, with a selfless love, a love willing to give His Life for us. We are called to sacrificial love.
Look at the story of May and Leslie, it tells us what love does in our life. LOVE does miracles. Love does bit have any reservation. It is for everyone. It makes us equal before God. Jesus tells us “this is my commandment: love one another as I love you.”
“I am the vine, you are the branches!”
In the late 1980s, a fire destroyed a building on the lower east side of Manhattan. An alarm was sounded and the trucks and personnel arrived in plenty of time to fight the fire. The exit doors worked properly. The steps were clear. The people got out of the building quickly and in order. However, the fire burned out of control and the building had to be demolished. When the firemen arrived, the hoses on the wall were installed properly. There were hoses hundreds of feet in length--clearly sufficient to put the fire out. It was discovered too late, however, that the city water line had never been connected to this part of the system. It was a deadly oversight. To live a human life disconnected from the living God is tragic as well. Jesus did more than come to live among us. He is the life-giving vine and we are the branches.
"I am the vine…you the branches." But a vine is all branches! For a vine there is not much of trunk. The vine is just branches. He has identified himself with us. It is about our relationship with Jesus. Suppose a branch come off from a tree during storm, it dies. It is because that branch no longer part of the vine. It lost its life. This weekend the first reading, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, testifies to the abundance of spiritual fruits yielded by the apostles because of their close bond with the risen Lord. John, in his first letter to the Church, explains that only if we remain united to Christ by putting our faith in him and drawing our spiritual strength from him, will we be able to obey God’s commandments, especially the commandment of love.
What really matters in our lives? What matters is the Love of Christ that we have been empowered to make real in the world. During Easter time we celebrate the gift of the Lord’s life we received at Baptism. We are continually fed and nourished at the Altar. We need to be determined to strengthen this life within us. We need to be more faithful, more prayerful. We need to try harder in our prayer life. That is how we stay closer to him and bring God’s love to others. We need to be connected to Christ like a vine and branches to receive life abundantly, so we can share with many.
God is with us, yes. But to have a relationship with God; we need to be with Him too. When we do this, when we are united to the vine, then we can do the work of the Christian. We can draw others to Him. We can bear fruit.