We are unified in the Spirit

Pentecost Sunday (Year B)  May 27 (Acts 2:1-11; Psalm 104; 1 Corinthians 12:3-7, 12-13; John 20:19-23)

The spectacular and amazing nature of an event often distracts us from its deeper and more subtle meaning. Mystical experiences, apparitions and miracles are not given to dazzle or entertain us but to enlighten and empower. Luke portrayed the descent of the Spirit as something visible and palpable. Tongues of fire and the violent sound of a rushing wind alert the reader to the imminent manifestation of the divine presence. We should notice that those habitually gathered in that upper room were more than the 12 — they included a number of women and Mary the mother of Jesus. The tongues of fire settled on each one present, not on one more than another. Finally, the various languages that the assembled crowd heard were treated by Luke as a fulfilment of the prophecy of Joel (2:28-32) in the Old Testament. God had promised that in the latter days the Spirit would be poured out on all flesh — slave and free, young and old, male and female. Spiritual empowerment would be offered to all of humanity.

The power of powerlessness

There are different kinds of power and different kinds of authority. There is military power, muscle power, political power, economic power, moral power, charismatic power and psychological power, among other things. There are different kinds of authority too: We can be bitterly forced into acquiescing to certain demands or we can be gently persuaded into accepting them. Power and authority are not all of a kind.

Christians' civic commitment must respect beliefs of others, Pope says

SANSEPOLCRO, Italy - Celebrating the 1,000th anniversary of a town founded to be a model of Gospel peace and justice, Pope Benedict XVI said Christians today must find ways to infuse their cities and nations with Gospel values while welcoming and respecting people with other beliefs.

In his evening visit May 13 to Sansepolcro, named after the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem, the Pope urged the townspeople to use the anniversary to emulate Sts. Arcanus and Aegidius, who established the town after returning from Jerusalem.

Messengers of hope, peace still face persecution, Pope says

VATICAN CITY - People spreading the Gospel are still subject to persecution even though they are bringing a message of peace and hope to a world marked by crises, anxiety and desperation, Pope Benedict XVI said.

"However, despite the problems and tragic reality of persecution, the church does not get discouraged, it remains faithful to the Lord's mandate," knowing that witnesses and martyrs always have been numerous and indispensible for evangelization, he said.

At audience, Pope says he feels supported by Catholics' prayers

VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI said knowing that Catholics around the world pray for him has given him strength and confidence since his election seven years ago.

"From the first moment of my election as the successor of Peter, I always have felt supported by your prayers, by the prayers of the church, especially in the most difficult moments," he said May 9 at his weekly general audience.

God’s Spirit the power from above

Ascension of the Lord (Year B) May 20 (Acts 1:1-11; Psalm 47; Ephesians 1:17-23; Mark 16:15-20)

We can only imagine the thoughts and emotions of those who watched Jesus ascend to heaven. Joy, to be sure, that He was risen from the dead — but also bewilderment and anxiety. Where was He going? When was He going to return? Was He going to restore the kingdom of Israel or not?

An earthly view of the communion of saints

In his autobiography, Nikos Kazantzakis tells the story behind his famous book, Zorba the Greek. Zorba is partly fiction, partly history.

After trying unsuccessfully to write a book on Nietzsche, Kazantzakis experienced a certain emotional breakdown and returned to his native Crete for some convalescence. While there he met a man of incredible energy and vitality. The Zorba-character in the book is based on this man’s life; never before in his life had Kazantzakis been so taken by the life and energy of another human being.

Christian, Buddhist clergy call for commitment to overcome evil, greed

GARRISON, N.Y. - Combating greed in contemporary society requires a personal commitment to overcome an ancient moral evil, according to speakers at a Buddhist-Christian dialogue May 5 at the Graymoor Spiritual Life Center in Garrison.

"A Buddhist & Christian Understanding of Greed: Personal and Structural" was the topic for the ninth annual dialogue between the two religions sponsored by the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement.

Presenters said both Christian and Buddhist scriptures decry greed, but prescribe different solutions.

US bishops reflect on their role in the new evangelization

ROME - Celebrating Mass in Pope Benedict XVI's cathedral, Rome's Basilica of St. John Lateran, a group of U.S. bishops prayed for the Pope and reflected on what they need to do to respond to his call for a new evangelization.

Bishop Michael J. Sheridan of Colorado Springs was the homilist and principal celebrant of an evening Mass May 3 during the "ad limina" visit of bishops from Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and Wyoming.

On the eve of the bishops' meeting with Pope Benedict, Bishop Sheridan led his fellow bishops in a reflection on the Pope's insistence that strengthening the faith of Catholics, reviving the faith of those who have fallen away and sharing the Gospel with others means they must preach that Jesus is the son of God and continues to live in the church and the Eucharist.

Progress brings problems without guidance from truth, faith, Pope says

VATICAN CITY - Excluding truth and the transcendent from scientific debate and research has impoverished modern thought and weakened the intellect's ability to understand reality, Pope Benedict XVI said.

True intellectual and scientific progress requires an openness to dialogue with opposing views, rather than settling with the "mere repetition" of what one already knows, he added.

Closeness to God gives strength to withstand everything, pope says

VATICAN CITY -- The church's first martyr found the strength to face his accusers because of his close relationship with God, Pope Benedict XVI said.

St. Stephen, who was accused of blasphemy and stoned to death, upheld the faith and gave witness to Christ as the righteous one proclaimed by the prophets, the pope said during the general audience in St. Peter's Square May 2.