July 28, 2008
Monday of the seventeenth week in Ordinary Time
Jesus proposed another parable to the crowds. "The Kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants. It becomes a large bush, and the ‘birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.’" He spoke to them another parable. "The Kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch was leavened." All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables. He spoke to them only in parables, to fulfill what had been said through the prophet: “I will open my mouth in parables, I will announce what has lain hidden from the foundation (of the world).”
Introductory Prayer: Lord, I come to this time of prayer alone with you, filled with anticipation, just like the crowds who gathered around you in the Gospel. Enlighten me with your word, and strengthen me with your presence.
Petition: Mary, help me to be an instrument of the new Pentecost Pope Benedict has called for in the Church in America.
1. Christ’s Kingdom: a New Pentecost The crowds are gathered around Jesus, filled with anticipation. They are in the presence of someone who speaks like no one has ever spoken before. Christ pauses in the hushed silence. He is well aware of the crowds’ longing, of their desire for a transcendent reality that can change their lives forever. He begins to speak to them about what lies closest to his heart and for which each one of their hearts has been made: the Kingdom of heaven. A similar scene of hushed expectation was evident in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York on April 19, when Pope Benedict XVI began his homily to the priests and religious gathered for Mass. Christ’s vicar called for nothing less than a new Pentecost: “Let us implore from God the grace of a new Pentecost for the Church in America. May tongues of fire, combining burning love of God and neighbor with zeal for the spread of Christ’s Kingdom, descend on all present!”
2. At the Heart of a New Pentecost: Experiencing God’s Love How can we respond to this appeal from Pope Benedict and open ourselves to the tongues of fire from the Holy Spirit? Perhaps the new Pentecost is still just a tiny mustard seed, but we are called to take part in its growing to become the largest of plants. Like the sunshine for the plant’s growth and the leaven which makes the dough rise, the inner impetus for the new Pentecost comes from our own personal experience of God’s love. As we transmit the joy of our experience of faith to those around us, false ideas about the Church will be dispelled, and people will be opened to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit at work in and through the Church. Pope Benedict XVI exhorts: “In a society where the Church seems legalistic and ‘institutional’ to many people, our most urgent challenge is to communicate the joy born of faith and the experience of God’s love…‘O Lord, my God,’ the Psalmist sings, ‘when you send forth your spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth’ (Ps 104:30). These words evoke the first creation, when the Spirit of God hovered over the deep (cf. Gen 1:2). And they look forward to the new creation, at Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles and established the Church as the first fruits of a redeemed humanity (cf. Jn 20:22-23). These words summon us to ever deeper faith in God’s infinite power to transform every human situation, to create life from death, and to light up even the darkest night” (Homily, St Patrick’s Cathedral, New York City, April 19, 2008). And they make us think of another magnificent phrase of Saint Irenaeus: “Where the Church is, there is the Spirit of God; where the Spirit of God is, there is the Church and all grace” (Adv. Haer. III, 24, 1).
3. The Holy Spirit: Leaven That Transforms How could we describe the action of leaven in dough? From one perspective it appears hidden and silent, but from another it could almost be described as violent — transforming a small inert mass into a bubbling, growing reality. The same can be said of the action of the Holy Spirit, the leaven that transforms and brings about a new Pentecost. It is precisely within the Church that the Holy Spirit achieves this remarkable transformation. Pope Benedict assures us, “It is only from the inside, from the experience of faith and ecclesial life, that we see the Church as she truly is: flooded with grace, resplendent in beauty, adorned by the manifold gifts of the Spirit. It follows that we, who live the life of grace within the Church’s communion, are called to draw all people into this mystery of light” (Homily, St Patrick’s Cathedral, New York City, April 19, 2008). What will be the fruit if we cooperate generously and selflessly with the Holy Spirit? Our Holy Father does not hesitate to affirm: “In this way, the Church in America will know a new springtime in the Spirit, and point the way to that other, greater city, the new Jerusalem, whose light is the Lamb (Rev 21:23)” (Ibid.).
Conversation with Christ: Lord, I long to be an instrument to help bring about a new springtime for the Church. Help me to be courageous in responding to the lights and impulses of the Holy Spirit.
Resolution: I will be open to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit in helping to bring someone closer to Christ today, doing my part to help the new springtime in the Holy Spirit become a reality.
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