The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Although I am an ordained deacon of the Catholic Church, the opinions expressed in this blog are my personal opinions. In offering these personal opinions I am not acting as a representative of the Church or any Church organization.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Happy Brithday, Mom!

My mother, Martha Catherine (Cavanaugh) McCarthy, was born on June 28, 1909 in Fairfield, Connecticut. She died on March 12, 1977 in Hyannis, Massachusetts at the too young age of 67. Today, then, is the 110th anniversary of her birth. 

When she met my father, Mom was working as an RN at St,. VIncent's Hospital in Bridgeport, Connecticut. They married on the Fourth of July in 1935. And then, for the rest of her life, she was a wonderful, caring wife and mother, who somehow managed to keep the three males in her life on the straight and narrow...more or less. 
Our Family: me, Mom, Dad, Jeff (1950s)
The above family photo from the 1950s shows me, standing next to Mom, and Jeff, next to Dad. I believe it was taken overlooking the Hudson River. Boy! Those were days of innocence. Sadly, I'm the only one left. My dad, John McCarthy, died in 2005 and my only sibling, my brother, Jeff McCarthy, died in 2010. 

Now, as I near my 75th birthday, I expect the family baton to be passed on to the next generation in the not too distant future. As I mentioned to Diane the other day, "When you find yourself celebrating your parents' 110th birthdays, you know you're getting old." Yes, indeed...but it's been an enjoyable process; and should God will it, I might actually stick around for a few more years.  

But today, ignoring both past and future, I'll simply say, "Happy Birthday, Mom."

Homily: Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

I've embedded a video of my homily for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. This homily was preached on the Saturday vigil of the Solemnity, 22 June 2019. The posted text of the homily follows the video.

Readings: Gn 14:18-20; Ps 110; 1 Cor 11:23-26; Lk 9:11-17
Today we celebrate the beautiful Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. We used to call it Corpus Christi -- the Body of Christ -- and many of us will probably continue to call it that, if only out of habit. But the Church, in her wisdom, changed its name to reflect more accurately the reality of what happened at Calvary and the Last Supper, and what will soon happen here on this altar. Though the Blood of Christ was always implied in was never particularly affirmed in this particular feast. Now it is, and this is good. Yes, it's good to celebrate this feast, but really at every Mass we celebrate the Body and Blood of Christ.

Some years ago in my previous parish on Cape Cod, I was enjoying the coffee hour after the 9 o'clock Mass. As I admired a new mural of the Last Supper in the parish hall, a parishioner standing beside me said, "Wouldn't it have been wonderful to have been there?"

Of course I agreed with her. Who wouldn't? But in truth we don't have to imagine. Because every time you and I participate at Mass, we are, in essence, truly present with Jesus, and with Peter, John, James, Matthew, with all the Apostles in that upper room in Jerusalem. But that's not all. We're also truly present at the foot of the cross.

Now how can this be? How can we be in the upper room and on Calvary when we're obviously gathered together here in this little corner of Florida 2,000 years after the events we commemorate? Quite simply, because Jesus promised us that this is true. And then He sealed that promise -- God's New Covenant - with His own Body and Blood and confirmed it with His Resurrection.

As St. Paul reminded us in the second reading, he "received from the Lord what He handed on to" us, and "Every eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until He comes" [1 Cor 11:23,26].

For it was on the Cross that Jesus gave all of humanity its greatest gift. Through His death, and the shedding of that precious Blood, he redeemed us from our sins and opened the gates of eternal life. Now that's quite a gift!

And at the Last Supper, that very first Mass described by Paul and in each of the synoptic gospels, Jesus anticipated His sacrificial death on the cross the following day. And by doing so, He gave us another gift, the Eucharist.

Do you recall the words? They're the same words that Father Cromwell will utter a few moments from now.
"This is my Body which will be given up for you."
"This is the chalice of my Blood, the Blood of the new and eternal covenant, which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins." [Lk 22:19-20].
Notice that Jesus didn't say, "This is bread and wine, symbols of my body and blood." 

No, He was quite explicit. "This is my body...This is the chalice of my blood." And with these words, Jesus fulfills the promise He made to the disciples almost a year before when He told them:
"Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food and my blood true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him" [Jn 6:54-56].
Many of the disciples left Him and that point. Weak in faith, they were unable to accept such a teaching. Only the Apostles and a few faithful ones remained. Why? Peter answered this when he said:
"Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." [Jn 6:68].
And yet the Apostles really didn't understand these words until much later, until after the events in the upper room and on Calvary and at the tomb. Only then did His promise, and His command "Do this in remembrance of me" [Lk 22:19] reveal His intention, His gift of the Eucharist, the sacrifice of the Mass.

The Mass is not simply a memorial, like a tombstone. Neither is it merely a repetition of the sacrifice on the Cross. As St. Paul told us, Jesus died "once for all" [Rom 6:10]. His sacrifice on the cross is sufficient for our salvation. 

The Mass is a unique kind of memorial in which Jesus is again present just as He was on the Cross - just as present as you and I are here today. It's the sacrifice of Christ offered on the Cross and remaining ever present.

Indeed, the sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Mass are a single sacrifice. The work of our salvation is still being carried out through each Mass, through the power of Christ's death, through the power of the Resurrection.

As the Second Vatican Council instructs us: the Eucharist is a cornerstone of our faith, "the source and summit of Christian life." But how many Catholics today truly believe this? 

Before we moved to The Villages 15 years ago, my wife, Diane, taught fourth grade at our local parish school in Massachusetts. One day, during a lesson on the New Testament, she asked her class to name some of Jesus' miracles. Lots of hands immediately shot up. One by one the children spoke of Jesus curing lepers, the blind, the lame. One mentioned the multiplication of the loaves and fishes; another the miracle of the water and wine at Cana. And one child brought up the miracle of the Resurrection.

But then one boy said, "Every day, all over the world, Jesus performs a miracle when acting through his priests he changes bread and wine into his Body and Blood." How did Jesus put it? 
"Father, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike" [Mt 11:25].
We can, in fact, be more certain of the real presence of the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist than we can of anything in our lives. Not because of the faith of the Church, or the faith of the priest, or even our own faith; but because of our Lord's promise made 2,000 years ago. As man he promised, and from heaven as the Son of God he keeps his promise. The Eucharist is and remains his gift.

How sad for those who deny the Eucharist, and reject his gift, his promise, his love. For out of His love He provides for His continuing presence among us, letting us share in its fruits. 

The Eucharist turns us from sin and intensifies our attachment to the things of God, and God Himself.

It plunges us into the life of Christ, deepening our commitment to his Church and its work.

Through this communion we are one with all who are in Christ, especially the suffering and the poor, who become the object of our special love. 

So, even as we celebrate the bread and wine transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ, we celebrate its transforming power in our lives. We celebrate the desire to serve that was born in our hearts: a desire that has brought us to the present moment, a desire to be a true Christian, another Christ in the world.
"Do this in memory of me" [Lk 22:19].
As Jesus gave up his life for us, so too must we, his disciples, give up our lives in service to him and to our brothers and sisters.

St. Ignatius of Loyola called the Holy Eucharist the greatest proof of God's Love. Remembering that love, we might well ask ourselves:

What should I do for Christ, who gave everything for me?

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Homily: Funeral of Deacon Richard Radford

On Wednesday, June 19, 2019, Bishop John Noonan of the Diocese of Orlando visited our parish to celebrate the Funeral Mass of one of our deacons, Deacon Richard Radford. Dick Radford was a friend, an older, wiser brother, a partner in prayer, and a wonderful man who taught me much during the dozen years we'd known each other. His family and his brother deacons will miss him greatly, but take comfort that we can now call on him to intercede for us at the throne of our loving God.

I was asked to preach the homily at Dick's Funeral Mass. This was no easy thing and my love for this man often rose to the surface as I preached. Oh, and Dick's little grandson -- whose name is Deacon -- approached me several times during the homily. What a delightful child! Indeed, he reminds me of his grandfather.

A have embedded a video of the homily below. The complete text follows.

Readings: Dan 12:1-3; Rom 5:17-21; Jn 6:37-40
Bishop Noonan, on behalf of Lynne and the Radford family, I thank you for being here today to celebrate this funeral mass for one of our own, for our beloved Deacon Richard.

And Lynne, I know that Bishop Noonan, Fathers Peter and John, and all my brother deacons join me in extending our deepest condolences to you, to Richard and Amy, to Nora and to little Deacon. We know how hard this has been for you all, and we know, too, that words are never enough.

Indeed, my words here today will soon be forgotten, but not God's Word; it remains. It remains to nourish us, and to give us hope. And so let me extend something far better than my mere words. Let me extend God's peace and God's love.

I can only imagine how much you miss Dick, but if you let Him, God will fill this empty spot in the very heart of your family. He will fill it with His grace, bringing with it His peace and His enduring love. I, too, am in need of it today, for I loved Richard like a brother...a big brother.

I remember the first time I met Dick -- 12 or 13 years ago. He approached me after Mass, and said something to the effect: "Hey, can you use another deacon around here?"
Lynne & Dick Radford - Parish Picnic 2012
At the time our deacon population at St. Vincent de Paul was expanding rapidly, but when I caught that Boston accent, I thought, well, we already have three of us from Massachusetts...why not another? So I just said, "Richard, if you can convince the diocese, I'm sure the pastor and the parish will welcome you with open arms."

It didn't take me long to realize we now had a true Renaissance man in our midst.

Yes, Richard seemed to have done it all. He was an Army veteran, he'd earned a doctorate in education, was a poet, a published author, a revered teacher, a man who'd worked as an interpreter and translator of French, German... and presumably Bostonian.

But these were just small pieces of Dick's life, for it was his through his diaconate, his servanthood, that Deacon Richard truly fulfilled God's calling for him. And this was the Deacon Richard, the servant of God, that I came to know a dozen years ago. 

For more than 20 years he had done God's work in the Boston Archdiocese, and what remarkable work it had been. He'd managed a halfway house for men released from prison. He ran shelters for the homeless, for street people and for women and children. He was a Licensed Social Worker, an addictions counselor, and a chaplain at a women's prison.

He knew that the power of God's grace would overwhelm the sinfulness that surrounds us in this world. As St. Paul reminded us in our second reading:

"...where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more" [Rom 5:20].
Yes, the Holy Spirit worked through Deacon Richard, showering His grace on those in need. And through it all - thanks also to St. Lynne here - Dick maintained the balance we all seek, as a loving husband, father, and grandfather. But, remarkably, Dick rarely alluded to all that he had done. I had to learn about it over time from others.

Yes, he was a man of virtue, but virtue grounded in deep humility. How did the prophet put it in today's first reading from Daniel?

"And those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever" [Dan 12:3].
Yes, indeed, Richard's star shone brightly, but in his humility he knew that his starlight was just a reflection of Our Lord who said:
"I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" [Jn 8:12].
What a wonderful promise! And when you talked with Richard, when you prayed with him, that "light of life" just shone from his face.

The Gospel, the Good News, is filled with promises, and because they all come from the eternal Word of God, from our Lord Jesus Christ, we know with absolute certainty they will be fulfilled. Just consider today's passage from John's Gospel:

"This is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have eternal life, and I shall raise Him on the last day" [Jn 6:40].
Here, through Jesus, we receive a promise that reflects the will of our heavenly Father.

But what does it mean to see the Son and believe in Him?

Just think about it. Did Deacon Richard experience the presence of Jesus Christ? Of course he did. 

He heard the Son, the revealed Word of God, whenever Sacred Scripture was proclaimed, and he believed.

And Richard saw and encountered the Son in the Eucharist, that wondrous gift through which Jesus Christ makes Himself present to the Church until the end of time. 

But Richard also encountered Our Lord, he saw and believed, in another, most remarkable way. For when Richard was ordained 31 years ago, he and heard these words from his bishop:

"Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you now are. Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach."
And, oh, did Richard practice, as he encountered Jesus again and again in all those he helped throughout his life. Recall Jesus' words in Matthew 25? 
"...whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me" [Mt 25:40].
Yes, you and I and Deacon Richard, we encounter Jesus every day. We see Him in those who come to us in need, in those who come to us for healing. And through his ministry this good deacon brought God's healing power into the world. 

So many in need of healing experienced God's touch during our healing services at which Deacon Richard played such a conspicuous role. I cannot count how many people have approached me in recent months, concerned about Deacon Richard's health, and said to me, "It is through Deacon Richard, through his prayer, that I was healed." I'm sure many of these are in this church today.

Dick, a minister of the Holy Spirit's healing power, a prayerful charismatic, took St. Paul's invitation - "Pray without ceasing" [1 Thes 5:17] - literally. 

He and I often spoke of prayer and he taught me much about opening every aspect of my life to the working of the Holy Spirit. And for this, I will always be grateful.

Of course, this leads me to one aspect of Dick's life that I've neglected; and that is golf - perhaps because I'm one of the few in The Villages who doesn't play. But after 15 years here, and with Dick's help, I've come to appreciate, from a spectator's perspective, the theology of golf

I am convinced that golf added years to Dick's life. He enjoyed it so much, I think God rewarded him by letting him play, despite his illnesses and failing health, until almost the last days of his life.

You see, following St. Paul's advice -- "...whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God" [1 Cor 10:31] -- Dick gave God an awful lot of glory through his amazing golf game.

As one of his golf buddies said to me, "Playing with Dick was a spiritual experience. He was so good I spent most the round praying." And how did John put it in the Book of Revelation?

"He will rule them with an iron rod" [Rev 2:27]. 
Yes, indeed.

But we should realize, too, that this funeral Mass is less a celebration of Dick's life as it is an act of worship, but Eucharistic worship in the form of thanksgiving.

This is truly a time of thanksgiving, when we turn to our loving and merciful God and thank Him for the gift of Deacon Richard's unique, unrepeatable life, a life we were blessed not only to witness, but also to share.

But even more important, as Christians, whenever we gather at Mass, at the Eucharistic table, we thank our God for the gift of His Son, Who gave His life for us. For without that gift, we would have no hope: no hope of forgiveness, no hope of mercy, no hope of salvation, no hope of eternal life.

It's because of this gift that we can gather here today and not be consumed by grief.

Because of this gift we don't despair.

Because of this gift can go on...We can continue with our own lives knowing that Richard, and you, and I - that we've all been redeemed by our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Dick's was a life well lived. He savored that life, that gift, and accepted its challenges and joys, and, yes, he also accepted the pain and suffering that accompanied many years of illness.

And so today we ask our Lord Jesus to take Deacon Richard, his "good and faithful servant," into His loving embrace, to take away the pain, to wipe away the tears, and give him the first taste of that eternal joy we all hope to share.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Homily: Solemnity of the Holy Trinity (Year C)

I have added a video of this homily below. The text follows.

Readings: Prv 8:22-31; Ps 8; Rom 5:1-5; Jn 16:12-15 
22 years ago I was ordained a deacon on the Saturday before Trinity Sunday, and that happens to be today. 

During our little celebration following the ordination, my pastor said, "You know, deacon, since you and I minister at Holy Trinity Parish, I think you should preach at the 9 o'clock Mass tomorrow. After all it's Trinity Sunday."

I was actually hoping for maybe a few days to prepare my first homily, but no, it would be the very next morning. Actually, I think it was a pretty good homily, and I wish I'd saved a copy so I could use it again today. But it's gone and I can't recall a word of it. Sadly, I suspect this homily won't be nearly as good.

Yes, indeed, today is Trinity Sunday, or as it's officially called, "The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity." It's the day we celebrate what must be considered the key tenet of our faith as Christians: the Trinity

Interestingly, though, the word, Trinity, cannot be found anywhere in Sacred Scripture. But the Bible, both the Old and New Testaments, points to the Trinity on many different occasions.

The Trinity is perhaps most evident in the very last words of Matthew's Gospel when the risen Jesus gives His great commission to the disciples:
"Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you" [Mt 28:19-20].
We encounter the Trinity, too, in those opening verses of Genesis:
"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth...and the Spirit of God was moving..." [Gn 1:1-2].
...and the opening words of John's Gospel:
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" [Jn 1:1].
Yes, Father, Son, and Spirit present from eternity.
The Trinity at Creation
We encounter another example in today's Gospel passage from John [Jn 16:12-13], where Jesus speaks of Himself, the Holy Spirit, and the Father as three distinct Persons. And so It's here and elsewhere that we find the Trinity embedded in Scripture: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - Creator, Savior, and Sanctifier.

You and I call on the Trinity whenever we make the Sign of the Cross and lift up our prayer in the name of this Blessed Trinity. And yet how many of us really understand this divine relationship, this dogma that in one God there are three divine persons? 

St. Augustine
Over 1,500 years ago St. Augustine answered this question with one of his own: 
"Who can understand the Trinity? ...Who, when they speak of it, also know of what they speak?"
The answer, of course, is: nobody. For the Trinity is perhaps the mystery of mysteries. And yet, we strive to understand at least something of this divine relationship as it's been revealed to us. But we have to be careful. Our theology can sometimes blind us to the simpler truths that God reveals. Let me give you an example.

I'm sure you all remember the scene in which Jesus asks the disciples [Mt 16:13-16]:

"Who do people say that the Son of Man is?"
They replied, "Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets."
He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"
Now just image Simon Peter, speaking as a modern theologian and responding like this:
"You are the Logos, one of three co-eternal, consubstantial divine persons, the hypostases of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Although the three are distinct, you are one substance, essence, and nature, always distinct and yet working inseparably, and interpenetrating each other and causing no division."
And hearing that, Jesus might well have said, "What?"
Jesus and Peter at Caesarea Philippi
You see, sometimes our theology can get in the way of our faith. In truth Simon Peter replied with these glorious words:
"Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God."
And like Peter, you and I hear those words, and in faith, we understand. Like Peter we know that Jesus is a distinct person and we believe, too, what Jesus reveals about His relationship with Father and the Holy Spirit. It's a relationship in which neither Father, nor Son, nor Holy Spirit exists in separation or acts in isolation. The Three are always as One.

This, brothers and sisters, is enough for me.

You see, if we really want to define the Trinity, we can define it with one four-letter word. The Trinity is Love. In the Trinity we see the same kind of love that God demands of us; for we are called to love God and love each other.

Our personal experiences of love, the deep love between husband and wife, the love of strong, long-held friendships, the sacrificial love of a mother for her child - all of these give us a glimpse, if only a glimpse, into the love that is the Trinity.

That's right, echoing St. John we proclaim that "God is Love" [1 Jn 4:8], the Trinity is Love. In loving one another we can experience the delight and beauty of close human relationships, of being there for each other. This is something enriching and satisfying - indeed, mutually life-giving!

If the very essence of the Trinity is constant, enduring love, then the mother of a newborn infant must grasp something of the doctrine of the Trinity as she lies awake in a darkened room and listens to the sound of her baby's breathing. Yes, the love of the Trinity is a vigilant love.

If the essence of the Trinity is ever-giving love, then the care-giving spouse of an Alzheimer's patient or the parent of a special needs child experiences the fury with which God protects, nurtures, and holds the most vulnerable close to His heart.  

Yes, our intellectual, theological descriptions of the Holy Trinity so often fail to convey the true nature of the love that flows from the very inner life of God.

About 25 or 30 years ago I was waiting to board a plane at Dulles International Airport outside Washington. This was back in the day when family and friends could actually meet you at the gate. Remember those days?

Anyway, as I waited, an El Al flight from Tel Aviv landed and the passengers began to file into the terminal. One young man, in his thirties and wearing a yarmulke, stepped from the jet-way and looked anxiously around the waiting room.

Just then a small boy broke away from his mother, ran to the man and jumped into his arms, all the while shouting, "Abba! Abba!" The love on the man's face was something very special indeed.

If our souls call out to the Father, "Abba! Abba!" --"Daddy! Daddy!" -- can you imagine the look of delight on the face of God? Would that we could see it! But this demonstration of love and all other expressions of human love are mere shadows of God's enduring love. 

Yes, the Trinity exists in a communion of love. And as the Trinity reaches outside itself into our world, a world that it created and sustains, there's a divine collaboration among the Three.

The Father loved us so much as to give us his Only Begotten Son. Through this love, the Son gave up his life for our sake. And through the Holy Spirit we can accept within us and extend to others the same love with which God loves us.  It's through the Spirit that we are enabled to mirror God's love on earth, to love each other as we are loved.

And so we pray in the liturgy to our Heavenly Father, "through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever."

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Homily: Pentecost Sunday (Video and Text)

Readings: Acts 2:1-11; 1Cor 12:3b-7,12-13; Ps 104; John 20:19-23

I've posted the video of my homily for Pentecost Sunday below. The complete text follows.

Homily Text:

Back in the year 2000, with the advent of the new millennium, I heard an historian, who claimed to be an agnostic, say something remarkable in a television interview:
"As an historian, I think the most influential person in human history was Jesus Christ. The problem is, I can't understand how he came to be so influential. 
"He was really a nobody, tucked away in a little corner of the world. He didn't write anything, or go anywhere, or do anything very important. He was executed for treason. And his followers were just a handful of simple peasants, riffraff really. 
"He should have been forgotten in a matter of days or weeks. It's truly inexplicable. But, that's history."
Yes, Mr. Historian, that is history - but a history, when viewed from the perspective of the Church's teachings, that becomes very explainable. 

For you and me - indeed, for all Christians - the most influential events in human history centered on the person of Jesus Christ. If we exclude the Incarnation itself, we can focus on three events that took place within eight weeks of each other. And all three were actions, taken not by men, but by God Himself.

These events are true history -- His Story -- the story of the Creator of all things acting in a most remarkable way, and from a strictly human perspective, in an unbelievable, inexplicable way. It's the story of a loving Father sending His Son to suffer and die at the hands of those He created, as a perfect offering for their sins.

You see, our agnostic historian is at least partially right: Jesus Christ is inexplicable, until we plumb the depths of God's Love for us. And His Story didn't end on the Cross at Calvary. If it had, the historian's instincts would have been correct and Jesus would have been a mere footnote. Fortunately the Father wasn't content to let it end there. He wanted us to know. He wanted us to accept the truth of His love for us. 

And so, after three days, Jesus rose from the dead, not only to prove His Divinity, but also to give a foretaste of the glories that await those who love Him and keep His commandments. 

But even the Resurrection was insufficient. For the Father wanted His Truth, the knowledge of His infinite Love, to spread to the ends of the earth. Because God created every person in an individual act of love, the sacrifice of His Son, this act of redemption, was for all of humanity.

Today's first reading from the Acts of the Apostles describes this 3rd event in the history of salvation: an event that permanently and profoundly altered world history, the event we celebrate today. For what took place in Jerusalem on that Sunday morning almost 2,000 years ago is God's lasting gift to His children. 

He'd sent His Son to suffer and die as a redemptive sacrifice, to free us from the slavery of sin and death, and to give us the hope of eternal life. To spread this message of His love, He gave us the gift of His Holy Spirit, "the Lord and giver of life," the very personification of the Divine Love between Father and Son. 

And what power the Spirit has! Suddenly, those 120 men and women, that fearful little band of followers, were transformed into something very different. As they gathered in prayer around our Blessed Mother in the upper room, the mighty breath of God and the fire of the Spirit's presence engulfed them. They were forever changed.

The Jews had long celebrated their feast of Pentecost, a commemoration of the Mosaic Covenant as God's Law descended on Mount Sinai wreathed in holy fire. But now, in that upper room, the Holy Spirit descended once again, and ushered in the new and eternal covenant with God, the covenant instituted by Jesus at the Last Supper. In doing so the Spirit formed them into the Church through which they would bring God's saving message to the world. How had Jesus put it just ten days earlier?
"Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age" [Mt 28:19-20].
But now, for the first time, they understood what this mission is really all about. And just as suddenly, Jesus' teachings, His promises, the words of the Word of God that had seemed so cryptic, became perfectly clear. Inspired by the Spirit with this new understanding, and overflowing with enthusiasm for the mission He had given them, they poured into the crowded streets of Jerusalem to share the Good News.

But the Holy Spirit had only just begun to act. Out of those 120 disciples, He called one in particular to lead the way. For later, in this same second chapter of Acts, Peter stepped forward in faith and began to preach.

Peter, the fisherman, a man full of bluster and full of human weakness, a man who had betrayed his Lord in those final hours, now led the way. In doing so, Peter, the Rock upon whom Jesus promised to build His Church, was confirmed by the Spirit as the first Vicar of Christ on earth. For on that first Pentecost Sunday, the Church was born. And with that, miracle followed miracle. For the work of the Spirit cannot be stopped.

Because it was the Jewish feast of Pentecost, and the city was filled with Jewish pilgrims from throughout the Roman Empire. On that day the Apostles baptized 3,000 new Christians who would return to their cities taking their new faith and the Good News with them. Yes, indeed, the Church was catholic - it was universal - from its very beginnings. 

The One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, brought into being on that day so long ago, remains with us - still guided by the Holy Spirit, still led by Christ's Vicar, still committed to the Apostolic mission of preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ to the world.

In our Gospel passage, the risen Jesus breathes on the apostles saying, "Receive the Holy Spirit" [Jn 20:22], giving them a first taste of the Spirit's gifts. But this mission to evangelize isn't reserved solely for the Apostles and their successors, to the Holy Father and the Bishops. 

We are all called, clergy and laity alike. When Father Cromwell chanted the Collect at the beginning of Mass, he prayed that God would "pour out...the gifts of the Holy Spirit...and fill...the hearts of believers." And that's you and me. You see, Pentecost is God's reminder that we have work to do.

Just look at the sadness and hopelessness and sinfulness that plague so many in the world today. Brothers and sisters, these are God's children. They don't need our condemnation; they need our evangelization. The Father wants to take them to Himself, and calls you and me to join in His work.
An impossible task? For us, yes. For we can do nothing without the Holy Spirit. How did St. Paul put it in today's second reading?
"There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in every one. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good" [1 Cor 12:4-7].
Do you see what He's telling us? We all have the same mission, "the common good," but we carry it out in different ways and at different levels, using the particular gifts God has given us.

Today is a good day for you and me to invite the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Love, to fill us with His grace, to pour out those gifts, so He can dwell within us. Indeed, we should issue that invitation to Him every day of our lives. 

When we let the Holy Spirit enter our hearts, when we let Him guide us, and fill us with His gifts, He will teach us, just as He taught those first disciples, to listen humbly to others and to speak to others filled with God's Love.

Welcome the Holy Spirit. Enter into communion with Him. And then through Him, with your spouse, your family, with the others in your life, you can build a home that will manifest the Spirit's presence in your little corner of God's world. 

Can there be a better way to celebrate Pentecost?