Love’s Eye

Acts 2: 1-11; I Cor 12: 3-7, 12-13; John 20: 19-23

I was talking to some new pastors this week up at the seminary so of course part of the conversation was on prayer.  It is not only central to us priests but to all of us.  I was surprised when one of them had told me that he didn’t pray.  So, of course, I asked him why, and as surprised as I was to hear that he didn’t pray I wasn’t all surprised by the why because I had heard in many times before.  When I finally sit down to pray, to stop, to quiet down, it seems at that point my mind takes off, a million miles a minute along with all my fears and anxieties, unresolved conflict, and all the rest begin to surface.  That’s the reason why you have to pray in those moments.

I use the example often, now that we are into the summer and it is hurricane season, to imagine a satellite image of a hurricane.  Most have a well-defined eye.  Crazy enough, that’s where you want to be in the hurricane.  It’s the place where the sun shines.  There’s peace and tranquility.  That’s the place of center we take with us into the storm, into the million miles a minute, otherwise the wall collapses and the storm consumes our lives.  This feast we celebrate today at the end of the Easter Season defines our center, that place of peace and tranquility that is hopefully leading us and navigating us through the storms of our own lives, as individuals, community, country, and world.  We certainly know that that’s not always the case.

When the early community begins to form and that we heard of throughout this Easter season from Acts of the Apostles, they too found themselves often trying to find that center and allowing it to be their navigation tool through often tumultuous times.  It was not an easy go for them when community was beginning to form around this new identity in Christ.  Like any community, there is self-interest, there are people that are trying to satisfy their own needs, there are people that are trying to drag us into their own storms, into the chaos of their own lives that will often challenge that center, that navigation tool.

The same was true for Corinth in whom Paul writes today.  It’s a section of that letter that we are all familiar with when he speaks of different gifts but the same spirit being manifested in the life of the community.  He’ll go onto to speak about the different parts yet one body and culminate in the next chapter with his message of love that we are familiar with from weddings.  There was dissension in the ranks of the community because they thought one person’s gift was better than the other, thinking that speaking in tongues was somehow better than the rest.  It created riffs.  Like the world we often find ourselves in today, there was selfish motivation, which of course, at that point, loses its purpose of being a gift in the first place!  One gift is not somehow better than the other, but rather, Paul will go onto say that no matter the gift and no matter the person, at the center of the community, the great navigation tool, will be that of love.  That becomes the eye of the storm and it becomes the navigation tool that the disciples will have to take into the storms that await them on that Easter day.

There seems to be no great Pentecost experience with them when we encounter them in today’s Gospel.  There they are, caught in the midst of a wild storm as the witnessed the death of Jesus, the one who had been their center up to this point.  For John, though, he’s going to want to take us back to the beginning and not to just the beginning of the gospel but back to the beginning of Genesis, when God breathes life into creation.  Here we are now, locked in the upper room, filled with fear and doubt, wondering and questioning, feeling like they’re being consumed by the storm and all that they had known falling down around them, and Jesus appears.  But not to just pick back up where they had left off on Good Friday but to give them a new center that goes deep within them and yet so far beyond them.  Jesus breathes on them, not just into their mouths, but into their very being the gift of the Spirit.  That will become their place of authority, their place of deep love, their own navigation tool as we see them go forward throughout Acts of the Apostles.

As we draw this Easter season to a close today, we pray for that same Spirit to be breathed into us, making us aware of where our center is in life.  Do we find ourselves much more comfortable in the storminess, chaos, fear and anxiety, that at times consumes our lives or are we being led to a place of peace that expands truth and makes space within us for all peoples?  Maybe we’re at a place where we need to quiet down, slow down, even if our minds want to go a million miles an hour.  That’s exactly where that navigation tool is leading us, to expand that place of peace and tranquility within us.  The last thing the world needs is more chaos, fear, and anxiety.  It leads us to reacting to everything that comes our way, sucking us into the storminess of lives and feeling overwhelmed by it all.  Like the disciples, on this day God desires to breathe that life, that Spirit into each of us so rather than being defined by the storminess we become the agents of change by brining that navigation tool, that eye, that deep source of love to an often hurting world to bring about the redemption that is freely given to each of us.

 

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Freedom to Love

Sirach 15: 15-20; I Cor 2: 6-10; Matthew 5: 17-37

Despite being a rather lengthy gospel, containing probably enough for ten homilies, there are some common themes that hold the passage together, in particular, the way it begins where Jesus reminds the disciples on this continuation of the beatitudes, that he has not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it, in the context of somehow surpassing the righteousness of the scribes and pharisees.

So what’s going on? First of all, the law has it’s place. If anyone knows this it’s us. As Americans we have a tendency to obsess about the law more than anything else. We know it brings order to chaos but it also is there to protect us from harm or if we are harmed. The problem with law, despite all it provides, is what Sirach tells us in the very first line of the first reading today where he states, if you choose you can keep my commandments. It’s not a bad thing. However, I can will myself into following the law. I don’t kill. I don’t steal. Yeah, maybe break traffic laws from time to time, but for the most part, I can will myself into following the law. At the same time, it’s not going to bring fulfillment and quite frankly, there’s not a whole lot of joy in my life if I stop at simply willing myself to following the law. It’s tiring. It’s burdensome. It takes a great deal of energy. Honestly, that was the issue with the scribes and pharisees. They were obsessed with the law and it all stopped there.

The law says…but I say, Jesus says. Sure, there’s a place for all of that in our lives but we also know, in all of his statements that follow, he specifically deals with relationships. Relationships are hard and don’t always fall into the bounds of the laws we try to follow. There are elements that rise above, such as forgiveness and love. That’s the rub when it comes to this obsession with the law for the scribes and pharisees and which Jesus warns his disciples, when you become so fixated on it, there’s no room for love or forgiveness. That will be his message that follows next week. The law may be great for keeping order and creating some kind of boundary, protecting us from harm or if we were harmed, but it doesn’t leave much room for the greater law of love and forgiveness.

But we can’t stop there. It’s easy to say that I don’t obsess over the law. I am a person of love and forgiveness. Is it really that easy? There’s another law that has a tendency to creep into our lives and that’s the law we create for ourselves and try to hold others accountable. That’s also the reality of the scribes and pharisees, again, not leaving much space for love and forgiveness, and for that matter, error as human beings. That’s a necessary reality as humans because we’re not always going to choose in a way that brings about life. It starts to creep in when I say things should be this way, or we do things this way, and we try to hold ourselves and others to these self-proclaimed laws that aren’t even realistic and quite frankly, leave no room for God and the Spirit at work.

Paul speaks of that Spirit working in our lives in today’s second reading. The Spirit often meets us in this rub in our lives between the tension and this deeper desire for love and forgiveness. Somehow, as he tells us, the Spirit scrutinizes everything, even the depths of God, trying to lead us to that deeper place in our lives. We are so often so unaware that we even do this to ourselves or others because it becomes our unconscious way and habitual that we don’t see it and can’t even begin to imagine ourselves not having it, because, like the law, it feels like we’re losing control and the law brings order and protects. In reality, it can protect and bring order all it wants, but once, we the people, are involved, there must to room for hurt, pain, suffering, and ultimately, love and forgiveness. No judge or arbitrator can ever bring that about in our lives and our relationships, only by allowing ourselves to enter into that rub, that tension in our lives, where we can be moved forward by the Spirit.
The gospel today challenges us to seek that awareness in our lives when we are obsessing about the law. As I said, it may not be civil law, it may not be Church law, although it can be, but it can also be that law we create for ourselves that acts as a way to control and protect us from being hurt, but it can also cut us off not only from others but from God. The more we are aware of our actions in that way, whether we want to admit it or not, where we make choices that lead to death and joylessness, the more we open ourselves to the grace leading us to let it go and create space for love and forgiveness. Why would we want anything less? Control can never bring it. Walls cannot bring it. Protection cannot bring it. Only the grace of God and the relationships that feed us in that way will bring us to a place where we can acknowledge the need for law but it no longer needs to define me.

Freedom

Acts 2: 1-11; I Cor 12: 3-7, 12-13; John 20:19-23

This feast we celebrate today, Pentecost, whether known or not, ranks in the same category as Easter Sunday and yet it never quite has the same flare and excitement that Easter brings. It’s the bookend of the season, it seems that we’re winding down, and then it’s Pentecost. As hard as it is for us to begin to grasp what we celebrate on Easter and the mystery of life and death, Pentecost is probably at least a hundred times more difficult and misunderstood. We can’t see this Spirit. We can’t control the Spirit. Heck, most times we’re probably not even aware of this Spirit. The Spirit is something we just can’t seem to get our minds or hearts around. Maybe that’s why it doesn’t carry the same weight.

As human beings, possibly our greatest obstacle to the Spirit is our need or desire to control. We love to control our own destiny and our lives. We even at times love to control other people’s lives. We know the Institution of the Church is no different. We like to keep order and control. Yet, this Spirit we speak of seems like chaos and disorder. The Spirit makes we speak of seems out of control. And so we find ourselves so often in between. We have the desire to control and at the same time the desire for the Spirit to set us free, the freedom that we know deep-down is what we’re called to in life.

It’s where God invites, leads, and meets us in our lives and always has. The chances of always living in the Spirit is probably nil. There’s always that ego of ours that wants to control. It’s what Paul confronts with the people of Corinth in the second reading today. This, for some, would be the beginning of the culmination of this letter. He’ll go onto to write about the metaphor of the body and then the section we’re all familiar with on love. But here he is today speaking about the one Spirit that comes in many forms. Yet, as I said, it’s coupled with people in power who want to control and dictate. He criticizes them for thinking and identifying gifts by ranking them, as if some were better than the others. That’s not the case for Paul. Paul works on leveling the playing field, especially when he speaks of the metaphor of the body, that all are necessary for the life of the community. One is not more important than the other. When they work together rather than against one another, the community will flourish and grow.

But it doesn’t come easy and we’ve heard the challenges that the early communities faced in Acts of the Apostles all season. They seemed to be in this constant tension of control and the freedom offered by the Spirit. There is some need for the structure that they were creating until it begins to stifle. We’ve heard the conflict and confrontations that they faced, even between Peter and Paul, seeming to pull in different directions, and yet, in the middle of it all lies this tension. It’s where God continuously led them to struggle with their differences. In the end, they are set free even with the structure to create something new by learning to let go and trust in the ever-gentle call of the Spirit leading them to something new. The community grows and flourishes rather than getting stuck and dead to sin.

And so we end where we began, then, with the Easter Gospel from John. There they are, the disciples locked in the upper room as we had heard on Easter. Desiring to be free and yet controlled by their fear. What seemed like an enormous task ahead of them only became daunting because they thought they had to control it. Then there is the moment of freedom. Jesus breathes life into them, entrusting them with the Spirit and freeing them from sin. In this moment of intimate encounter, their hearts will begin to open and crack and life will begin to change.

As we celebrate this great feast, the feast of the birthday of the Church, we gather now looking back at this season and the moments of growth and change that have called us forth. In the tension of life and death, individually and as community, the Spirit is forever at work leading us to the eternal. Yeah, we will always want to control. But that gets old after awhile. We begin to get cranky with life. We become cynical and begin to feel as if the weight of the world is on our shoulders. So often, in a moment of weakness, our desire for control begins to break down and we are led to something new, a different place that we may not even know. The box we had put ourselves in, others in, and for that matter, put God in, begin to break down, and like a strong driving wind, life begins to change, the way we see begins to change. That’s the Spirit at work in our lives. We pray for that Spirit to not only come upon us but to break into our hearts and to free us from our need to control and be set free to live life more fully, a life filled with the Spirit.

Stay

Acts 1: 1-11; Luke 24: 46-53

If you listen to these gospel stories each week, you know that they all have their own spin on it, Luke included whom we hear from on Ascension this year. They’re writing to specific communities with it’s own issues and concerns and Luke, often though Jesus, has a message he wants to convey. You add in his own history and story, then you also get a gist of his own journey and understanding of who the Christ was and is.

One thing that sets Luke’s version apart, in the end, is that he’s the only one that puts the words in Jesus’ mouth to have the disciples stay in Jerusalem until they are somehow clothed in glory, whatever the heck that means. Matthew and Mark send the disciples back to Galilee and now they will see things differently, through the lens of what it is they have just experienced. But Luke will have none of that. He simply commands that they stay in the city.

Why the heck would they want to do that? Certainly they wouldn’t choose that on their own. Jerusalem, at this point of the story, is a source of much conflict, not much different than it is today. They’re told to stay in the place that has been the place of such grief and loss, having to watch their friend suffer and die upon the cross. They’re told to stay in the place of great fear from the political and religious authorities who now really want the disciples out of the picture. It was one thing when this movement was contained to one person, in Jesus, it’s another when it begins to spread like wildfire through the disciples. Why on earth would he tell them to stay there, a place where life is so fragile and death knocks so closely at their door?

One thing is different about Luke, believing that he was a doctor of sorts, and maybe he understood pain a little different than the other writers. That if all of this was going to make sense, they were going to have to be patient with their struggles and continue to persevere through them. Jerusalem became symbolic in that way for the disciples and what they had witnessed and what they would witness to in their own lives. In our own culture and world, we do everything in our power to medicate ourselves from our pain, whether it’s through prescription drugs or other means, we find ways to avoid the pain and skirt around it. Luke presents a different way to the disciples and to us. He tells us by staying in Jerusalem until we are clothed from on high, we will learn to push through and be pushed through our pain and suffering. It’s the only way that the scandal of the Cross is the glory of the Cross, all at the same time. The city that sits on a hill has been the place of great loss and also the eternal city.

We always run the risk on these feasts to make them into something historical or something that will come later in life, but they are about today. In confronting and staying in Jerusalem today, we begin to see that all the conflict around us, the fear and anxiety, is really within us. It’s why we want to run so fast from it and do everything in our power to avoid it. Ironically, though, it’s the place that we find true power and our greatest gift. Staying in Jerusalem is important for the disciples and for us. They only way we can go out as they do in Acts of the Apostles is because they’ve allowed their Jerusalem and the scandal of the Cross there to be transformed into Glory by staying with it and remaining patient with themselves and this God that continues to reveal in different ways.

This feast isn’t just about the past nor about the future, but first and foremost, about today. It’s about the life that God desires for us today and to, as the opening prayer tells us today, to be led to where the Head had called us to go. Life would be quite dismal if we never moved beyond the cross. It would be depressing and we’d live a life of victimhood. But if we stay long enough, something begins to happen. Our pain is transformed and this space is created. It’s not an abandonment of God or even a withdrawal, but rather a widening of our hearts for something new, a life in the Spirit, that we will celebrate next week on Pentecost.

As we gather on this feast, we gather at many different places in life. So of us remain stuck in the darkness of Jerusalem, living in hope that we will be seen through to the freedom we desire. We know what that’s like. Some of us may find ourselves living in that Spirit and yet still question in my own frail humanity. We know that as well. Wherever we find ourselves, though, we are simply invited as the disciples are today, to stay. To stay with it. Stay with our Jerusalem. When we stay long enough, the message first delivered in Luke’s Gospel will come to fruition in our own, the impossible will begin to happen. Like Mary and Jesus, we will turn our lives and hearts over to this God, who meets us in Jerusalem, with the great desire to cloth us from on high and to lead us into the new creation we call our lives.

The Need for Perspective

Acts 15: 1-2, 22-29; Rev 21: 10-14, 22-23; John 14 23-29

If you ask me, it’s pretty safe to say that we all see life through our own particular lens. We see what we want to see and it takes a lot to break down that vision and find new perspective. For the most part, that lens usually comes from the past. We see through our hurts, where love failed, our rejections, and fears, and so forth that we have a hard time seeing anything new being possible. In our churchy language, it’s as if we see life through the lens of original sin and not the grace of God working in our lives. Jesus tries to give that perspective to the disciples today as we too take a step back to the pre-resurrection section of John’s Gospel, the farewell of Jesus.

However, there may be no more beautiful image of finding that perspective this weekend than the reading from Revelation. The angel takes the writer in spirit to the high mountain to see the eternal Jerusalem. Even goes onto say that there isn’t even need for sun or moon to offer light, simply the glory of God, the grace of God present in his life. It’s an absolutely beautiful image he provides. He receives the bigger picture that will stand as a reminder in the darkness of his own life of something greater and more eternal.

It’s not an easy place to be, though. We’ve all been trapped in darkness, pain, and fear, unable to see beyond it. It taints everything we see and do. It taints our relationships and how we see others. It taints our politics and how we address the many issues in the city, the country, and the world. For good or for ill, and more often than not, ill, it makes us stuck, lacking the perspective we need to move forward. As Revelation points out, it’s only the grace of God that somehow break through, but it often takes something that shakes us at our very core before we move to that place, before we can see with new eyes. It’s not even that the world around us changes, but we do and we see from a different place.

As I said, Jesus tries to provide that perspective with the disciples as we take a step back in the Gospel today. The weight of the world is falling in on them by this point of the story. It’s the Last Supper in John’s Gospel. He tells them not to worry or be afraid. Yeah, easy for him to say and certainly easier said than done. We know what darkness, pain, and loss does to us. It clouds our vision for weeks and months. The same will be true for the disciples. They will see the sin of the Cross and only it’s sin. No matter how much Jesus tries to prepare them for what is to come, when it finally happens, it will make no difference in the immediate moments. All they will see is death and despair. All they will see is fear and hurt, loss. We know that because it’s us as well. It’s not until the grace of God lifts us up and allows the clouded vision to crack before we can begin to gain new perspective into our lives and see the Cross as something more, the darkness of our lives as something more.

As I’ve said throughout this season it isn’t until we get to Acts of the Apostles until we see the fruit of the Spirit in their lives and the grace of God moving them forward. But today, they too find themselves in a sticky situation as they gather for the first council, The Council of Jerusalem. Now for us living in 2016 it seems rather nonsensical to be having conflict over circumcision. I’m mean, who cares. But if we replace that with Baptism, we can see the significance of the gathering. But they too needed a new perspective on how to handle the matter. Does circumcision have any bearing on the grace of God working in your life? Well, not really. God somehow isn’t going to love them more or offer them more because of circumcision. However, that was a significant part of who they were as people. It meant something. So the community gathers and learns to trust this inner voice that we now encounter, the voice of the Spirit that is going to give them that perspective. Their decision carries with it the past but no longer has to be clouded by their past as people. They can see it for what it is and see that there is something bigger driving their lives, the grace of God at work.

More often than not we need perspective. That’s not others opinions. Quite frankly, that just looking at our own sin, darkness, fears, whatever the case may be, through someone else’s tainted lens. We find ourselves stuck as a people and even as communities as well, unable to move forward because the past so often haunts us and choices are made through the past hurts. As this Easter season begins to wind down, we too are invited to take a step back in our own lives, seeking that clearer perspective, to our lives, the struggles we may be facing as people, community, and certainly world. The spirit is willing to take us on that journey to catch a glimpse of the eternal Jerusalem, the Kingdom unfolding in our midsts but it does take a great deal of humility on our part, that, you know what, maybe the way i view things isn’t the best and maybe is tainted by my own darkness, which loves to disguise itself as the light. We already have what we need and what we desire. If we allow the eyes of our hearts to open wide, not through the lens of original sin, but the grace of God working through and within, we will find a whole new world, an eternal world that will always be.

Setting Free Starved Souls

Numbers 11: 25-29; James 5: 1-6; Mark 9: 38-48

So how about that Pope Francis? He has really captured the imagination and hearts of many of us here these days. I’ve had many people say a similar sentiment that they just can’t get enough of him. It’s nearly impossible to take in every word he has to say because there is so much! Maybe first it’s a recognition in our own lives how much we starve for something more and how empty we can sometimes be on this journey of faith. James has reminded us over these past weeks just how empty the riches of this world can bring about, especially when they become an end in and of themselves rather than a means to an end. For that matter, that starvation has even been in our Church, where we too have made the Institution the same thing rather than a vehicle to salvation; we’ve tried to make it into God. This pope wants to invite us and take us on another journey, one that rises 50000 feet above the ground and at the same time 50000 feet below the sea, from the depths of his own soul, into this larger vision of the Kingdom that is already present.

So why is this starvation and poverty within us so attracted to this guy? I think this gospel today gives us a glimpse into why he feeds us in that way. Jesus encounters the disciples at a moment that follows them arguing among themselves about who’s the greatest and now they haven’t been very successful in driving out demons as they’ve watched outsiders be able to pull it off. They find themselves jealous and resentful, considering they are the insiders. So what’s the trick? I think the gift of Pope Francis is, in many ways, an embodiment of that gift of the Spirit, but in order to get there he needed to face his own dark night. Much has been written about his time when he was exiled from his own community when he was forced to look within, into his own darkness that often hindered him as a leader. The disciples will need to be led to that place in their own lives; one will have to face denial and the weakness under the pressure of the powers that be. They will have to not only confront the Cross of Jesus they will have to confront the cross in their own lives in order to embody that same gift of the Spirit. Otherwise they are like many of us, unable to drive out the demons, sputtering along in life, starved for the something more that Pope Francis models for us.

When we lack the courage to confront that dark night within our own lives, we seek power and the spirit from outside ourselves. We abuse the power that we are all too familiar with and what Jesus warns us of. In those moments we try to squash the Spirit in others, steal it from them because we fear it’s power. We want to control it and take it for ourselves. We try, often without much success, to box God in rather than embodying the gift and allowing ourselves to embody it and live it fully. It’s nothing new. Moses finds that in the confrontation with Joshua in the first reading today as well. Like the disciples, some want the Spirit but they want it copyrighted for themselves. Somehow they get to decide and choose who receives this Spirit and who doesn’t. As Catholics we have been taught since we’re kids that we mustn’t trust this power within ourselves. The authority comes from the priest and the authority comes from the bishop and the authority comes from the pope, and although there may be truth in that, Francis tells us, as well as Jesus, that we all have this gift within ourselves, but all too often we doubt it and do mistrust it. Yet, to embody this gift of the Spirit, all of us, we must learn to trust and we must be willing to pay the price of the Cross in our own lives in order to live our lives as he has modeled, 50000 feet above, but maybe even more importantly, 50000 feet in the depths of our very hearts and souls.

The gift is readily available for all of us, and as Francis mentioned yesterday, we have a responsibility to grow the mission by embodying that Spirit and then living it. Quite honestly, when we embody it we are pushed to share it because it can no longer be contained, as we so often try in our lives. There is no place for fear in living this embodiment, rather, simply a deep trust of something we can’t explain in words but only share, a gif that breaks forth leading so often to a life of unpredictability and just as important, no longer controlled by the trappings of the outside world. Some may hate it because they haven’t found it and fear going there, but it’s there, albeit it dormant at times, ready to break forth when we enter this journey into the starvation and poverty of our very souls.

Liberated for Life

Acts 2: 1-11; Gal 5: 16-25; John 20: 19-23

One of the first images that crossed my mind as I read this gospel this week was the words that are etched on the Statue of Liberty of “the huddled masses yearning to be free”. It’s the image that strikes me as we, now have traveled through fifty days of Easter only to find ourselves once again in John’s Gospel, back on Easter Sunday even as we celebrate Pentecost, locked in the upper room. There they are, a huddled mass, beat up, broken down, group of disciples, yearning to be free and not yet knowing even what it is that they desire to be freed from in their lives, still running from the outer authorities when an internal freedom is most desired. It’s Easter. The Spirit is breathed into them. And yet, appears no freedom. No liberation from death. Merely a huddled mass, yearning to be free.

We speak a lot of freedom in this country and for many over the centuries, it was and has been the place of refuge, but as you delve more deeply into the spiritual life and learning the promptings of the Spirit, you learn more and more that we are far from being a free nation and a free people, in the sense of freedom that the disciples yearned for on that Easter day, now Pentecost, and that we yearn for in our own lives. If you could imagine them in that room, there they are, fearful, probably smells with them all huddled in, in lock-down, there is nothing that speaks of Spirit and life, rather, quite the opposite. The upper room has become their tomb. Merely a huddled mass, yearning to be free.

None of us knows how long it would have taken before the internal reality of having the Spirit breathed into them would take to come to fruition in their lives, other than what we have heard and listened to in Acts of the Apostles this season. We know, following John’s Gospel, they leave that upper room still wondering and still living with fear of their own lives, or at least the lives that they had made for themselves. They left it all behind to follow him but now once again, they will be called forth to leave it all behind but with a greater understanding of what it is they are to leave behind. This huddled mass, truly yearning to be free and liberated from death will be asked to make the ultimate sacrifice of giving of themselves. Yes, will pay the ultimate price of their physical death but before that comes to be, they will be asked to give up themselves, even the way they have related to who they thought god was, who they thought they were, and it is only through the action of the Spirit being breathed upon them can that begin to break forth in their lives, a Spirit that has been from the beginning, leading them to this point of conversion and liberation. They will have to let go of their own ego, their false self, the illusion of who they thought they were and fall into Love, gently led by this Spirit breathed into them on this Easter and Pentecost. A huddled mass, yearning to be free will eventually set the world on fire of the mighty acts of God!

This is what Paul speaks of in his letter to the Galatians. He says that they have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires. Now he doesn’t mean flesh in the sense that we think of it, being the body, but rather the illusion and the world that we create for ourselves, to protect us from pain and suffering, or living under the law, in his words. We become so attached to this illusion that we don’t even know we need to be freed, that we are the huddled masses. We begin to think as the wold thinks that freedom comes from violence, that freedom comes from getting the bigger and better, that freedom comes when we finally have succeeded. But for Paul and from a biblical perspective, freedom comes when the huddles masses that we are allow ourselves to die before we die through the promptings of this Spirit, falling freely into Love and becoming the manifestation of that love, our greatest gift we can offer the world.

We do finally see the effects of the Spirit when we move to Acts of the Apostles; who is already within is seen by the peoples. The Spirit comes upon them as she does each of us. The people are then called to mirror to the world God’s abundance that was celebrated 50 days following Passover on Pentecost. This is not the abundance that we would think of, in the sense of all that we have, that’s a pretty good indicator that we still believe the illusion that the disciples held onto, but rather the abundance of God’s love in and to and for the world. When we finally begin to trust this Spirit that is so close and yet so beyond us, our lives change for good and we manifest that love in the world and in the way we live our lives. The huddled masses become free and become witnesses of this freedom to the world and the mighty acts of God; finally, they become liberated from themselves which frees them from the external authorities as well, freeing them to face death and to live.

The problem for us, as the huddled masses, we aren’t always aware of this deeper desire within. We remain unhappy with life, unfulfilled, settled with something less than a life in the Spirit. We do it as individuals and as community. We become content being locked in our own upper rooms, filled with stench, complaining, living our lives in fear, stuck in the past, well, quite frankly, we become crusty and lifeless. Who the heck wants to live their live like that!?! Yet, we do because the demand of the Spirit breathed into us is so often too much to bear and we convince ourselves that somehow we are unworthy of such a life led by the Spirit with such freedom and liberation. The Spirit asks us to give up something that we hold tightly, our self, and that’s a tough shell to crack for all of us.

So as we celebrate this great feast of the Church, we come mindful that God remains patient with us and knows it takes time. None of us give up our lives very easily, but it doesn’t mean that the Spirit won’t and doesn’t continue to work within and through us. Even at this moment she’s being breathed into us, trying to set us free for life. A good sign, when we have vitality, excitement, energy, and an openness to change in our hearts and minds, that the Spirit is moving us to a new way of life where we manifest that love and become the mighty act of God. People have traveled to this country as the huddled masses yearning to be free, and many are freed from the external oppressors of this world by coming here, but God invites us and the Spirit leads us today to a deeper freedom, from the oppression of our self so that we may be witnesses of God’s love in the world and to be people of Spirit and life!