PASTOR’S CORNER

Homily for Pentecost Sunday

       So what’s all the hubbub about Pentecost Sunday? I mean really? Did you hear of any spectacular sales for Pentecost this week? Twenty-five percent off on all store merchandise for the Pentecost Sunday sale. Ten percent off the manufacturers suggested retail price on all new cars, it’s the Pentecost Sunday Super sale! I think it’s pretty safe to say that there was no hubbub announcing the “celebration” of Pentecost Sunday, and what a shame that is!

       There are those who would say that Pentecost Sunday is the birthday of the contemporary church. While that would be a true statement, Pentecost Sunday is much more than just the birthday of the church. Today on the special occasion of Pentecost Sunday we celebrate the manifestation of the Holy Spirit in our lives, especially found in the Sacraments of the Church. In baptism, the Holy Spirit forgives original sin and gives us the ability to proclaim the Gospel. In confirmation, the Holy Spirit strengthens us to witness even more to the Gospel and our faith. We have communion with the Trinity in the Eucharist. In Reconciliation, the Holy Spirit forgives us and gives us the power to forgive others. Finally, the Holy Spirit gives us wisdom. If all of this is not cause for celebration, tell me what is!

         Recently, Pope Francis was wrongly accused of saying there was no Hell. I can assure you that Pope Francis firmly believes there is a hell. During an interview with a ninety-three year old atheist journalist, who took no notes, nor recorded the first word, Pope Francis was asked by the atheist journalist “when I die, where am I going? The Pope responded; “to a dark place”. From this statement, the atheist wrote an article stating: The Pope says: “there is no hell”. The Pope could have very easily said: “You are going to hell when you die”,
but that statement wouldn’t mean much to someone who doesn’t believe in the existence of God. Nor would it mean much to someone who doesn’t believe in Heaven or Hell. As Christians, we believe that: “God is light, in Him there is found no darkness” (1 John 1-5). So we can surmise that this atheist is going to a place where God isn’t, to a place of darkness. I believe that this is an example of the power of the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, given to Pope Francis then, and to each of us when we call upon the Holy Spirit.

            Through the power of the Holy Spirit, in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the Priest fulfills the Ministry of the Good Shepherd who seeks the lost sheep, of the Good Samaritan who binds wounds, of the Father who awaits the return of the prodigal son and welcomes him on his return, and the impartial judge whose judgment is both just and merciful (CCC1465). Sin creeps into our lives. We get knocked around, dinged up, disfigured and often crushed by the weight of Sin. Often, we feel powerless to fight sin, left on our own. Knowing He was leaving this earth, and not wanting to leave us orphans, Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit to help us to seek God while he still can be found, to heal our self-inflicted sinful wounds , and to return to Him with our whole hearts. We are all like bent cups, and we need the Holy Spirits wisdom and power, to straighten our dings and disfigurements, and to lead us back to God through prayer, and the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Even though we are like these bent cups, that doesn’t make us useless in God’s eyes. There are still many uses for bent cups. For instance, we can still drink water out of a bent cup. We can plant a flower in a bent cup. What else can we do with a bent cup?

        The Holy Spirit gives us the power to pray fruitful prayers. Saint Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit comes to our aid in our weakness, because on our own we don’t know how to pray as we ought (Rom 8:26). We are guided by the Holy Spirit to pray prayers seeking wisdom, for our needs and the needs of others, and to seek God’s will for us.

Sadly, there was no hoopla this week announcing the arrival of Pentecost Sunday. No parades with classic convertibles hauling grand marshals and parade queens. No fireworks or oohs and ahhs. No bargain basement sales to celebrate Pentecost. Pentecost will come and go like a quiet wind. Yet, you and I know that in the quiet of that wind, the power, the wisdom, the mercy, and the love of God comes to rest on us. O Holy Spirit come!

Deacon Ken Stewart

        The Congregation of the Holy Spirit, popular known as the Holy Ghost Fathers or Spiritans, is an International Missionary Society. The Holy Ghost Fathers (Spiritans) was founded in France in 1703, by Claude Poullart De Places. It was given its present worldwide missionary thrust in 1848 by Venerable Francis Libermann who was also French and a convert from Judaism.

         This Congregation was established to work with the disadvantage, needy and the abandoned. We work in difficult places where the Church finds it difficult to get personnel to work. Here in the united states the congregations are seen working in the Urban parishes and rural settings and immigrants.

         The late Pope John Paul II, on his pilgrimage to Africa repeatedly stressed the need for Africans to be missionaries, “not only in their own countries, but outside, and, in particular, to other African countries.” The Missionary Congregation of the Holy Spirit has undertaken this task, more than 2000 Africans are in formation with about 1000 members on active missionary service. Several missionary provinces have emerged, the Spiritan Province of Nigeria, Angola and Kenya, Tanzania, Kogi and to mention a few.

        In 1978, the West African Foundation was formed to accept candidates from Senegal, the Gambia, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Ghana, which became a province in 2000. Her first members were ordained in 1986. They were four members. Since then, we have ordained more than 200 others. In 2009 the West Africa Province was grouped into three circumscriptions, The Province of Ghana, Gambia Foundation and the Foundation of Sierra Leone, because of the growth in numbers. Right now, the Province of Ghana has her members working in mission areas like Guinea in West Africa, attending to the needs of the refugees from Sierra-Leone. In Malawi, members are working with the abandoned and marginalized, like the (AIDS) patients. In the Gambia, members evangelize by bearing witness to the Muslim community, and trying to restore the image of the female population they relegate in a male dominated culture and building unity between Islam and Christianity. Spiritans are presently working in Sierra-Leone, Liberia, Northern Nigeria, Northern Ghana, and Benin and recently in Taiwan (Asia).

        The Province of Ghana has its headquarters in Ghana. The Novitiate is in Sierra Leone and Philosophy house is in Ghana that now has about 80 students. The Theology house is in
Nigeria, West Africa. Each year we received a lot of application for the entry level of our formation but we have to turn most of them down because of finances. Our cost for maintaining and caring for a student which includes food, medical, clothing and tuition is approximately $6,000.00 per annum.

          The Congregation of the Holy Spirit has about three thousand members working in all five continents in sixty-five countries of the world.

           Here in the United States, hen religious freedom became the law of the land with American independence, some Spiritan priests could settle in the States. They came as refugees from 1794 on and went to work in the Baltimore Diocese, which then covered all the new States. Corporate involvement began in 1872 when Bismarck expelled the Congregation from Germany and its personnel migrated to the USA. They worked among immigrants from among Europe and in 1878 opened a College at Pittsburgh, which developed into what is now Duquesne University. Work among African-Americans began in 1889 in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, in 1895 in Virginia then in Michigan and New York, and from 1911 on, all over the Deep South, in some twenty states. Overseas, American Spiritans went to work mainly in Africa, especially in Tanzania, and, closer to the states, in Puerto Rico and Mexico. Here in the U.S., Spiritans of the Eastern Province minister in 15 parishes, as well as a High School and University Catholic education.

         In the Archdiocese of Cincinnati/Covington Since 1921, the Holy Ghost Fathers (Spiritans) had dedicated their ministry in working in the urban and rural areas among German immigrants and minorities like African American Catholics, which they are called and trained to work. The Spiritans continue to work in the Urban ministries and now we minister to parishes of St. Benedict Dayton, St. Mary’s Our Lady of Mercy, Corpus Christi, Queen of Martyrs, all of Dayton, St. Mary’s in Camden and St. Augustine in Germantown and will like to continue with his urban ministry program. It is our hope that as we continue to serve in these places in the Archdiocese, we will be a light that will shine to brighten the life of the people we serve and the entire Archdiocese.

          We are privileged to be invited by other Arch/Diocese around the United States to preach about our works and mission as Spiritans this Sometimes makes you miss us at mass but it is all for good cause. As we go out we are helped Financially to support our Seminary to train more people and to help those working in most difficult missions. Thank you for your understanding and your cooperation. What you can do for us as we celebrate the out pouring of the Spirit on the church, is to pray for all the Spiritans worldwide.

 

       This Sunday we celebrate the Ascension of the Lord. This is one of the great solemnities of the Church because it is one of the great events in the resurrected life of our Lord Jesus. The first reading is very clear about what happened! Jesus appeared alive to His disciples after He had died on the cross and had been buried. In these appearances, He spoke intimately with His followers about the kingdom of God and its demands on them. And Jesus tells His followers finally to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit that would be sent to them.

        The Gospel is even clearer about the demands on the followers of Jesus: they must preach the Gospel to others and certain signs will accompany those who believe: in the name of Jesus they will drive out demons; they will speak new languages; they will pick up serpents with their hands; if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.

        Probably a hundred years ago, most Catholics, even most Christians, would have read this list of signs and simply passed over it—perhaps with a passing thought that these things belonged to the early Church. Today, with the strong presence of the charismatic element in most Christian Churches, most of us are more comfortable with several items in the list. Probably we are not comfortable with picking up serpents in our hands or drinking deadly things!!

        The real point of such a list is that with faith in Christ we can do what is impossible to a person without faith.

          The Ascension changes the focus of the faith of the early Church away from the presence of Christ in His own body or in His resurrected body. The focus of the Church after the Ascension is on the presence of Christ in those who believe. Yes, of course, we still have the stunning presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist! However, we who believe now become His mouth for preaching, His hands for healing, His eyes for seeing and His feet for walking. In another closely related image, Jesus becomes the heart of His mystical body and we the members. In yet another image, Jesus becomes the inner life of His Church and we become the incarnation of Jesus in the world.

          Thus, we can see clearly in the Ascension an enormous change in how God will work in the world in Jesus Christ and His followers. Thus, the second reading, from the Letter to the Ephesians, picks up this same change and echoes it when it says: “And he gave some as apostles, others as prophets, others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers, to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature to manhood, to the extent of the full stature of Christ.”

          The Ascension is about the building up of the body of Christian, about attaining the unity of faith and knowledge in Jesus, about maturing in Christ and about becoming completely alive in Jesus Christ. It is not simply a story of the past and yet it points us clearly to the coming of the Spirit so that we, the Church, can become what we are supposed to be in Christ: His divine presence for all those who do not yet believe and His pardoning presence for those of us who do believe and yet fail.

             We can ask today for a deepening of unity within the Church; for reconciliation among the many Christian Churches; for a profound understanding of the role of the Bishop of Rome, the Pope, the Holy Father; and especially for the courage to live our faith in the power of the Holy Spirit and in the joy of being saved in Christ.

From the Abbot of the Monastery of Christ in the Desert