Happy Birthday to you all! Why? Because this is Pentecost Sunday. It is the official birthday of the Church. To explain all that happened on that Pentecost day and how that transformed the lives of the early church, I would like to share with you a story which many of you may know already. The 1980 Winter Olympics were held in Lake Placid, New York. That year the U.S. hockey team wasn’t much – just a collection of inexperienced college kids. In an exhibition game before the Olympics, the Russians blew them off the ice.
Then came the Olympics. The first surprise came when the U.S. team tied a strong Swedish team. The second surprise came when the U.S. team upset a favored Czechoslovakian team. The kids who were supposed to be too young and too inexperienced had just advanced to the medal round. Then came the big game with the Russians. The Soviets jumped off to an early lead. Then things settled down until the third period. That’s when the unthinkable happened. The Americans closed the gap to tie the Russians. Suddenly the fans in the Lake Placid arena began chanting, “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” Then came the miracle. The U.S. team scored in the final seconds to win the game. Pandemonium broke loose.
Crowds watching the game on TV outside the arena couldn’t believe it. Suddenly they began dancing in the streets. Crowds dining in fashionable Lake Placid restaurants couldn’t believe it either. Suddenly they began singing and toasting. But the ones who really couldn’t believe it were the Russians – standing in a neat line and waiting the U.S. team to stop hugging and kissing one another so they could give them the Olympic handshake and get off the ice. The spirit that radiated from the U.S. team that night swept across the country like a tidal wave. Even people who weren’t hockey fans got caught up in it. It was an experience no one would ever forget.
That totally unexpected happening in the 1980 Olympics gives us an insight into what happened on Pentecost Sunday 2,000 years ago. The Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples and transformed them in the most remarkable way imaginable. Before Pentecost they were a collection of confused disciples. After Pentecost they were totally changed. They were filled with a Spirit that radiated from them and swept across the world like a tidal wave. On that first Pentecost the Holy Spirit transformed the disciples into the Body of Christ. On that first Pentecost the Church was born.
I would like to tell you what happens to the church without the Holy Spirit. “God is distant, Christ is merely a historical figure, the Gospel is a dead letter, the Church is just an organization, authority is domination, mission is propaganda, liturgy is only nostalgia, and the work of Christ is slave labor. But with the Holy Spirit, God is near and in you, Christ is risen and present, the Gospel is a life giving force, the church is a communion in the life the Holy Trinity, authority is service that sets people free, mission is Pentecost, the liturgy is memory and anticipation and labor of Christ is divinized. The Holy Spirit is the soul of the church.
The feast of Pentecost is an invitation to look into ourselves and discover the soul. The Spirit is present only when charity, joy, peace, patience, endurance, kindness, generosity, faith, mildness, and chastity are deeply in our lives—and permeate the air around us. Let us invite the Holy Spirit into our hearts and ask him to transform us into the Body of Christ. Thus we will radiate the gifts and fruits of Holy Spirit in us and around us.
Today we celebrate Mother’s Day, a day on which we honor our mothers, living and deceased for their care, concern and unconditional Love for us throughout the years of our lives. It is one of those special days we cherish and look forward to each year. I would like to share with you the history of mother’s Day. The Mother’s Day was originally conceived by a mother Julia Ward Howe during the Civil War with a call for Peace, and to unite women against war. She wrote the Mother’s Day Proclamation in 1870, after the War, as a call for peace and disarmament. Howe failed in her attempt to get formal recognition of a Mother’s Day for Peace. Her idea was influenced by Anna Jarvis, a young homemaker from West Virginia, who, starting in 1858, had attempted to improve sanitation through what she called Mothers’ Work Days. She organized women throughout the Civil War to work for better sanitary conditions for both sides, and in 1868 she began work to reconcile Union and Confederate neighbors.
Jarvis’ daughter, also named Anna Jarvis, much later, when her mother died, started her own crusade to found a memorial day for women. The first such Mother’s Day was celebrated in Grafton, West Virginia, on May 10, 1908, in the church where the elder Anna Jarvis had taught Sunday School. Grafton is the home to the International Mother’s Day Shrine. From there, the custom caught on — spreading eventually to 45 states. The holiday was declared officially by some states beginning in 1912. In 1914 President Woodrow Wilson declared the first national Mother’s Day. Nine years after the first official Mother’s Day holiday, commercialization of the U.S. holiday became so rampant that Anna Jarvis herself became a major opponent of what the holiday had become. She was arrested for disturbing the peace at a war mother’s convention where white carnations, the flower that was popularly associated with the holiday, were being sold for profit. Mother’s Day continues to this day to be one of the most commercially successful days of the year, while it’s origins in mothers’ opposition to war, has been lost.
So, in your remembrances of this Mother’s Day, remember these brave women who, as mother’s, called upon the whole nation not to forget the ravages of war. Make a promise to become a proponent of peace in the name of all our mothers, who never lose sight of the needs for protecting their own and all children everywhere. Jesus gave us the command to love. So we are called to: listen to God. Care for the needs of others. Lay down our lives for the good of another. This is, in a unique way, the very vocation of motherhood: listening, caring for the needs of others and laying down one’s life for another. A mother’s love is first seen even before a woman becomes a mother. A husband and wife’s mutual desire to conceive a child in itself demonstrates their fatherly and motherly love. And their love for one another extends to the child they lovingly desire to conceive. Not much is stronger than a mother’s love for her child. Our mothers, together with our fathers, are the ones who first teach us about love and how to respond to those in need.
The Church, in many ways, is also a mother to us. She teaches us how to love and to respond to those in need. From her we receive the grace of the sacraments, are taught to hear the word of God, and receive teaching to guide our steps in the truth and freedom of the children of God. Today, in a special way, let us be grateful: for our mothers who, by birth or adoption, nurtured us and supported us through life; for our Church who takes on the maternal role of guiding us through life; and for our Blessed Mother, who protects both the Church and all her children.
Happy Mother’s Day and God’s special blessing for all mothers.
God Bless You,
Jesus said, in today’s Gospel, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” In his farewell discourse Jesus grants peace as his gift to his disciples. What kind of peace does he offer? What do we understand when we speak about peace? In international terms peace is the absence of war. Peace can be achieved by rules and regulation and with proper borders. The peace of Christ is more than the absence of trouble. It includes everything which makes for our highest good. The world’s approach to peace is avoidance of trouble and a refusal to face unpleasant things. Jesus offers the peace which conquers our fears and anxieties. Nothing can take us from the peace and joy of Jesus Christ. No sorrow or grief, no danger, no suffering can make it less. Through the gift and work of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, the Lord Jesus shows us how to yield our passions of anger, fear, and pride to him so we can receive his gift of peace.
I would like to share with you a part of a homily on peace of Caesarius of Arles (470-542 AD), an early church bishop. “Peace, indeed, is serenity of mind, tranquility of soul, simplicity of heart, the bond of love, the fellowship of charity. It removes hatred, settles wars, restrains wrath, tramples on pride, loves the humble, pacifies the discordant and makes enemies agree. For it is pleasing to everyone. It does not seek what belongs to another or consider anything as its own. It teaches people to love because it does not know how to get angry, or to extol itself or become inflated with pride. It is meek and humble to everyone, possessing rest and tranquility within itself. When the peace of Christ is exercised by a Christian, it is brought to perfection by Christ. If anyone loves it, he will be an heir of God, while anyone who despises it rebels against Christ. When our Lord Jesus Christ was returning to the Father, he left his peace to his followers as their inherited good, teaching them and saying, ‘My peace I give to you, my peace I leave with you.’
Anyone who has received this peace should keep it, and one who has destroyed it should look for it, while anyone who has lost it should seek it. For if anyone is not found with it, he will be disinherited by the Father and deprived of his inheritance.” Jesus called Satan the “ruler of this world” (John 14:30) who seeks to rob people of peace and friendship with God. Jesus defeated the evil one through his death and resurrection and won pardon and peace for all who believe in him. The victory of the cross brought glory to Jesus and to the Father and it is our way to glory with the Father in heaven as well. In the Cross of Christ we find true peace and reconciliation with God our Father. Do you live in the peace of Jesus Christ? Let us pray: Lord Jesus, may your peace be always with me. May no troubling thought, trial or affliction rob me of the peace which passes all understanding. You, alone, O Lord, are my Peace.
May I always reside in that peace by believing in your word and by doing your will. Amen.
God Bless You,
We have heard in the Gospel Jesus gives us a new commandment – commandment of love. I would like to share with you a beautiful story. In 1976 a car accident tore open the head of a 21-year old Chicago boy named Peter. His brain was damaged and he was thrown into a deep coma. Doctors told Peter’s family and friends that he probably wouldn’t survive. Even if he did, he’d always be in a comatose state. One of the people who heard that frightening news was Linda, the girl Peter planned to marry. In the sad days ahead, Linda spent all her spare time in the hospital. Night after night, she’d sit at Peter’s bedside, pat his cheek, rub his brow, and talk to him. “It was like we were on a normal date,” she said. All the while Peter remained in a coma, unresponsive to Linda’s loving presence. Night after night, for three and a half months, Linda sat at Peter’s bedside, speaking words of encouragement to him, even though he gave no sign that he heard her.
Then one night Linda saw Peter’s toes move. A few nights later she saw his eyelash flutter. This was all she needed. Against the advice of the doctors, she quit her job and became his constant companion. She spent hours massaging his arms and legs. Eventually she arranged to take him home. She spent all her savings on a swimming pool, hoping that the sun and the water would restore life to Peter’s motionless limbs. Then came the day when Peter spoke his first word since the accident. It was only a grunt, but Linda understood it. Gradually, with Linda’s help, those grunts turned into words – clear words. Finally the day came when Peter was able to ask Linda’s father if he could marry her. Linda’s father said, “When you can walk down the aisle, Peter, she’ll be yours.” Two years later Peter walked down the aisle of Our lady of Pompeii Church in Chicago. He had to use a walker, but he was walking. Every television station in Chicago covered that wedding. Newspapers across the country carried pictures of Linda and Peter. Celebrities phoned to congratulate them. People from as far away as Australia sent them letters and presents. Families with loved ones in comas called to ask their advice. Today, Peter is living a normal life. He talks slowly, but clearly. He walks slowly, but without a walker. He and Linda even have a lovely child.
The story of Linda and Peter is a beautiful commentary on the words of Jesus in today’s gospel: “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” If there’s one thing we need to do today, it’s to rediscover the power of love, the kind of love that Jesus preached. The story of Linda and Peter illustrates that this kind of love has tremendous power, a miraculous power. It has the power to bring people back from the brink of death to life. It has the power to bring people back from the hopeless sickness to perfect health. It has the power to inspire people the world over and give them new hope, as Linda’s love for Peter did.
The world is in the brink of danger; danger of not having fire, fire of love. This time the danger comes not from something basic like the lack of fire but from something even more basic – the lack of human love, the kind of love Jesus preached, the kind of love Linda had for Peter. Today’s gospel is an invitation for us to look into our hearts and to see how we ourselves are answering that question by our own lives of love – especially within our families. For we must begin to change the world there or we won’t change it at all.
Let’s close with these words by the famous priest-scientist Teilhard de Chardin: “Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides, and gravity, we shall come to God for the energies of love, and then, for the second time in the history of the world, man will discover fire, the fire of love.”
God Bless You,