Let’s Get Drunk…on the Holy Spirit!

The Solemnity of Pentecost (A); 6-4-17

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

Deacon Jim McFadden; St. John the Baptist C.C.

 

            Pentecost is not, one could safely say, the most beloved of Christian feasts, though it is of utmost importance since it marks the birthday of the Church! Nonetheless, marketers haven’t found a way to make money off of this Solemnity. It has no Halloween drama. There’s no cute little baby in the manger. There is no empty tomb, let alone a bunny which goes around hiding Easter eggs. Except for the liturgical calendar, there is no build-up to Pentecost. When was the last time you saw an ad that said, 50 days to Pentecost—shop early! Also, there’s not even a secular holiday in which we get a long weekend.

Moreover, the event as described in Scripture is, well, a bit strange, if not weird. Tongues of flames are on everybody’s heads. Think of Michael Jackson times 12. People are speaking in languages they don’t even know, yet they understand each other! To quote the immortal words of Bill Murray in Ghostbusters, “Dogs and cats, living together! Mass hysteria!” Indeed, the first Pentecost was so bizarre that folks accused the disciples of being drunk. And, Peter’s defense is not all that convincing: in verse 15, he says that they’re not drunk because it’s only 9:00 in the morning, the implication being that they’ll get drunk at a later hour!

No, these are drunk on the Holy Spirit, not wine. It’s the best kind of intoxication that there is because we are receiving the “Lord and giver of life.” The Holy Spirit reminds us that God is triune—that the Holy Spirit, the 3rd person of the Holy Trinity, is divine no less than the Father and the Son.

The gift of the Holy Spirit is the capstone of the awesome mystery that encompasses Jesus’ passion, death, resurrection, ascension, and glorification. It’s the capstone because Jesus announced that the whole purpose of his mission on earth is brought about at Pentecost. On the way to Jerusalem he declared to his disciples, “I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled!” (Lk 12:49).

These words came true 50 days after the Resurrection on Pentecost when “There appeared to them tongues as of fire….and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:3-4).

The real fire, the Holy Spirit, was brought to earth by Christ so that we could stay in communion with him since he is no longer physically with us. And, the Holy Spirit empowers us to continue his mission: to bring salvation to the world and to proclaim the Good News. So, that Jesus’ mission may be extended throughout history until the Last Judgment, he says to the Apostles on the evening of his Resurrection: “Receive the Holy Spirit.” These words were expressed as “he breathed on them” (Jn 20:22). Brothers and sisters, it’s not that the Church has a mission but the mission of Christ has a Church, which is the Way that God brings about his plan of salvation in the Risen and Ascended Christ.

By virtue of our baptism, we are not merely called to imitate Jesus. We are challenged to become the Risen Christ—to be the second Coming of Christ. Sounds farfetched? No, it’s not; indeed, it’s downright simple. Jesus Christ has constituted his Church as his Mystical Body. And, who is the Church? We are, the People of God, who were initiated into the Church at baptism. That means that Jesus permeates every member of his Body. That’s what Communion means: to be in Christ…to participate in Trinitarian love!

            Do you see what Jesus is doing? He was communicating to us his Spirit—the same Spirit that is the loving energy shared between Him and his Father. God completely gives himself away to us: We are so blessed!

People of God at SJB, the Solemnity of Pentecost reveals that the energy that is capable of transforming the world is not an impersonal, mindless, anonymous, blind force, but the loving action of the “Spirit of God…moving over the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:2). Jesus Christ “brought to the earth” not the vital force that was already there, but the Holy Spirit that is the personal, intentional, loving energy of the Triune God, Who “renews the face of the earth,” purifying from evil and selfishness and setting it free from the dominion of death” (Ps 104). Let the Holy Spirit speak to you so that God can work through you to change the face of the earth and bring God alive to all who touch you.

Amen.

 

 

 

Do Not Be Afraid

Baccalaureate Mass; May 23, 2017

Deacon Jim McFadden; SFHS

 

Class of 2017, you first gathered at SFHS four years ago for the Frosh Overnight Retreat. It just seems like it was yesterday, but underneath the excitement of that charmed weekend was the reality that you just didn’t arrive here by chance. You were chosen to be at SF. For what purpose? To nurture your baptismal promises of being priest, prophet, and king as you share in the Mission of the Church, which is to give witness that Jesus is Risen and to proclaim the Good News!

Once here, you embarked on a journey, not only to prepare you for college, but to be formed as a young Christian woman who will make a radical difference in the world. So, you pursued Excellence, Leadership, Service, and, most of all, Faith to an awesome degree, which we witnessed and celebrated at our Awards Ceremony.

Now, your parents, grandparents, and other family members who have been your constant support and best cheerleaders, your administrators, faculty, and staff gather for our last liturgy to celebrate the sacred mysteries and to send you forth.

I not only have a lump in my throat, but I must concede that I have fear that you are being sent into a world that is rife with political, social, and economic conflicts. Pope Francis has said that we are engaged in a Third World War that is being conducted piecemeal. We see an environment that is increasingly being degraded. As God reveals to us through the Psalmist, “I made the earth to be lived in, not to be a wasteland.” We hang our heads in shame. We witness a political landscape in which Americans are divided and in which we’ve lost sight of our inherent dignity and of the Common Good.

Not to be a Debbie Downer, I do have fear, but then I hear the words of today’s Gospel: “Can any of you by worrying add a moment to your life span?” (Lk 12: 25) Jesus reassures us that our Father knows what we need. So, “instead, seek his kingdom, and these other things will be given to you besides” (v.31). Therefore, Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the Kingdom” (v. 32).

That’s the key, isn’t it? “DO NOT BE AFRAID!”   How can we be the best versions of ourselves, how can we bear joyful witness that the Lord is risen and is in our midst, how can we continue his mission if we are afraid? We can look to the very early Church to see what was the source of their joy and of their courage to preach the Good News despite the obstacles and violence that they encountered. And, keep in mind, that the apostles were ordinary folks just as we are.

What’s true for them is true for us: it’s only the presence of the Risen Lord and the action of the Holy Spirit can energize us. The Lord Jesus was with them and He is with us, and the Holy Spirit impels us to give witness to the extraordinary fact that Jesus is alive: that Jesus is our destiny and he is the Way home. To say that Jesus is alive means to show our enthusiasm in following him and to keep alive our passionate desire to be his disciples.          There’s no better way than to nurture our friendship with Jesus than to continue to build our friendships among ourselves. For four years, you have experienced an incredible sisterhood. Keep nurturing genuine friendships, and as you do, you will at the same time experience the contagious joy of the Gospel, which will strengthen you to bring the Good News to all kinds of painful and difficult situations. Troubies, your faith based on a strong personal experience of the Risen Christ will give you courage to follow in Jesus’ footsteps in all aspects of your life. As you come closer to Jesus, you will be conformed to his Mind and his Heart: you will be like him—you will be Christ to others, witnessing with your very life.

Though I am beyond retirement years, I keep coming back to SFHS because there is nothing more remarkable than seeing the enthusiasm dedication, zeal, and energy of SF Troubadours! WE GOT SPIRIT, HOW ABOUT YOU! And, I ask myself: from where does that spirit come? When Jesus touches a young person’s heart, it’s like dynamite going off! Infused with Jesus’ love, you are capable of truly great things.

Troubies, the Church looks to you to be positive instruments of change. You are the future of the Church and your time is coming. I give thanks that many of you want to make a difference in the world. Yes, you’re restless because there is so much to be done. We need your enthusiasm; we need your faith-inspired optimism; we need to learn from you as you become conduits of God’s grace to a troubled world.

Your parents, teachers, staff, and administrators appreciate how you step up to meet life’s challenges. We appreciate how you live your life with gratitude. You only have one life. And, we have great confidence that you will not waste your life by looking for temporary thrills or taking dark paths to acquire hedonistic pleasure and then having to pay the consequences. You won’t give into the seductions of the world because you’ve experienced what is really Real. You’ve experienced that genuine Life is based on communion and community; it’s based on generous self-giving.

Beloved Class of ’17, in your pursuit of Excellence, deeper Faith, Leadership, and Service, you are experiencing at your young age what a full life is like. You know that there is a way of immersing yourself in a life that is rich, full, and meaningful. And, you know that this way cannot be purchased; it cannot be obtained via an app. You know that this way to happiness is not an idea, it’s not a thing. The way to a life that is fully human comes by way of a person. And, what is his name? Yes, JESUS!

Jesus is a gift from the Father and is the most perfect gift of Love. All the Father asks is for you to deepen always your relationship with Jesus and to share Him with others. AMEN.

 

 

 

How to Deal with Conflict

Fifth Sunday of Easter (A); May 14, 20107

Acts 6:1-7   Ps 33   1 Pt 2:4-9   Jn 14:1-12

Deacon Jim McFadden; (New) Folsom Prison & SJB

 

            When I started my teaching career some 30 years ago, the first year was promising, gave me the reassurance that this is where God wanted me to be, but was fraught with a few conflicts between myself and some students, parents, and administrators. I weathered these few problems and resolved over the summer that the next school year would be without conflict. Well, guess what: that year had its problems and so on to this day. While suffering from periodic bouts of vincible ignorance, I do learn from my experience and I came to appreciate that conflict is inevitable when people interact with one another. So, there are conflicts in life; the question is how do we confront them.

The Reading from the Acts of the Apostles offer us a good model to follow as we see that tension occurs within the Church—then and now.   What’s instructive for us is how the early Church faced its problems.

In the immediate aftermath of Pentecost, which is the birthday of the Church, Christian communities were largely Jewish. Our ancestors would go to the synagogue and afterwards celebrate Eucharist in a home church. They saw themselves as faithful Jews in whom Jesus was the fulfillment of the Messianic hope. So, they belonged to one single ethnicity and one single culture. But, that began to change when Paul was anointed by Jesus to be the Apostle to the Gentiles. Paul knew that Jesus was the universal Savior of the whole world—that salvation was meant for all peoples, not just Jewish Christians. His missionary work opened the fledging Church to the Greek cultural atmosphere. Soon, Gentiles came flooding into the Church, which lost its homogeneity; consequently, the first difficulties arose. At that time, discontent was spreading, there was grumbling, rumors of favoritism, and feelings of unequal treatment abounded. Does this sound familiar?   The community’s help to those in need—widows, orphans, and the poor in general—seemed to have favored Jewish Christians over the Hellenists.

And, so faced with this conflict, the Twelve apostles called together the disciples to discuss the matter together. Notice that the Twelve did not bury the conflict, hoping that it would go away. Problems, in fact, are not resolved by pretending that they don’t exist. Instead, what transpired must have been a very frank and open discussion between the Apostles and the other faithful disciples. What emerged from this discussion was a subdivision of responsibilities and tasks.

The Apostles make a proposal that is welcomed by all: they will dedicate themselves to prayer and to the ministry of the Word, while seven men, who would come to be known as deacons, would provide service to the tables of the poor. These seven men were not chosen because they were experts in a certain field, but because they were honest men who had a good reputation within the community. They were full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom. Their ministry of service was established through the imposition of hands by the Apostles.

This account has traditionally been seen as the origin of the order of deacons; though the origin of the diaconate is certainly more historically complex, we have in this passage a genuine view as to how the Church resolved a conflict and how it expanded its structure and its diversity to meet the needs of the growing family of faith. This outcome was essential to dealing with the problem while serving the needs of the burgeoning Church.

So, from that conflict which generated grumbling, rumors of favoritism and unequal treatment, they arrived at a solution. Conflicts within the Church, whether it be at Rome or at St. John the Baptist C.C. , Folsom Prison are resolved by facing each other, by discussing and listening, and, above all, by praying. This is the only way that the center of our Church can hold together. What tears apart a community is gossip, envy, jealousy which can never bring about concord, harmony, or peace.

By engaging in prayer, the community of disciples opened themselves to the movement of the Holy Spirit, who guided them to understanding and prudential judgment. As a parish faith community, when we let ourselves be guided by the Holy Spirit, we will resolve our problems which will bring us to harmony, unity, and respect for the various gifts and talents that we have.

Do we understand the dynamic of what happened in the Acts of the Apostles?  If we do, we won’t succumb to gossiping, envy, or jealousy. May we be docile to the movement of the Holy Spirit, so that we be able to cherish one another and come together more deeply in faith and love, keeping our hearts open to the needs of our brothers and sisters. Amen.