Holiness: A Path Travelled Together
Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God.
Who are the peacemakers of which Jesus speaks? Each of us can imagine who might be modern peacemakers. We all know well those soldiers who are well-armed, wearing bullet-proof vests and blue helmets. In fact, soldiers who have the mission to restore peace are to be found in many countries of the world where the fire of armed conflict breaks out.
The mystery of saying goodbye is really the mystery of the Ascension. The Ascension is about going away so that our loved ones can receive something of our spirit. It’s about the mystery of saying goodbye, when goodbye isn’t really goodbye at all, but only love’s way of taking on a different modality so that it can be present in a way that’s deeper, purer, more permanent, less-clinging, and less-limited by the tensions, disappointments, inadequacies, wounds, and betrayals that, this side of eternity, forever make our spirituality a work in progress.
Today’s feast, Ascension Thursday, is celebrated on Sunday in many dioceses of the world.
Acts 17:15, 22–18:1; John 16:12-15
One of man’s great quests is the pursuit of truth. All of us seek the truth. We seek the assurance that what we know is really true. We are opposed to falsehood and deceit. We have no confidence in those who would deceive us by hiding or withholding the truth. We seek the truth in many ways. Students seek the truth in their studies. They want to learn and they seek the truth by the questions that they ask. Lawyers seek the truth in questions pertaining to the law. They want to know the true facts so that they can apply the law properly to the case. Theologians seek the truth about God and his relationship to his creation. They want to learn more about God so that all of us can know God better and follow him more closely.
On April 28th, after a great meeting in Warsaw, the members of the General Council with all the Provincial, Regional and Delegature Superiors travelled to Gdańsk for the second part of the Central Assembly. It was here, in 1945, that young Pallottine Sisters arrived after the war and started a community. They came from Rajca, today belonging to Belarus. The Convent served as the Headquarters for the Polish Pallottine Missionary Sisters until 1983 when the Provincial House was moved to Warsaw.
In Gdańsk we were warmly welcomed by Sr. Kazimiera Kaczykowska, the Superior and all the Sisters. They expressed their joy in meeting the Major Superiors of the different countries. Though we could not communicate in the Polish language, the signs of love broke the barriers and made it possible to relate and converse with each other.
Acts 16:22-34; John 16:5-11
I tell you the sober truth: It is much better for you that I go. If I fail to go, the Paraclete will never come to you, whereas if I go, I will send him to you.
Lots of ink has been used to try to translate the Greek word, "Paraclete," which Jesus used to refer to the Spirit whom he would send to us. I like to reflect on his promise, by going to the root meaning of the word: para- + kalein. The verb kaleo is "to call." The prefix para adds the sense of "around, near, close by." The most basic meaning of the action described by putting para together with the verb "to call" is something like this: call together. And, so, the simplest sense of the translation of the word, as a proper name, might be, "the Gatherer."
Acts 16:11-15; John 15:26—16:4a
When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning. -- Acts 15:26-27.
A great portion of that Last Supper discourse of Jesus is devoted to talk of the Holy Spirit, and how that Spirit is going to pick up where Jesus left off, as the aspect of the divine presence that Jesus’ followers are going to experience most directly. And he uses a special name for the Holy Spirit—paraclete, which can be translated a numbers of ways: Helper, Comforter, Defender. The basic idea is that of a person called to your side to assist you in some way.
Acts 15:1-2, 22-29; Revelation 21:10-14, 22-23; John 14:23-29
The Living Word
“It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities” (Acts 15: 28).
The followers were divided. Jesus was no longer among them as before. He had taught them and the Spirit was sent to strengthen them, but conflicts arose as they always do. This new time will not unfold like flowers in spring. To seek unity, they gathered to pray, listen, and discern. Should Gentiles follow the same laws as Jews in the Christian movement? Who are we? Identity questions send us back to our roots and into our future to ask: what really matters? What is at the center? What is at the periphery? How is the Spirit leading us? The Council of Jerusalem was the first of many. A council’s task is not primarily one of molding a compromise that all can accept. The deeper issue is identity. Where is the center? Does it hold us together?
Acts 16:1-10; John 15:18-21
John’s gospel for today seems rather depressing, certainly not very inviting. We are being told that the world will hate us and that we will be persecuted because God has chosen us. It reminds me of our kids chiding each other with, “Doesn’t that make you feel special?” when one was asked to do something that no one really wanted to do. I am sitting here sort of like the kids and wondering, do I really want to be the special one to be chosen by God especially if hatred and persecution are the result?
"Love one another as I love you"
The true measure of humanity is essentially determined in relationship to suffering and to the sufferer. This holds true both for the individual and for society. A society unable to accept its suffering members and incapable of helping to share their suffering and to bear it inwardly through “com-passion” is a cruel and inhuman society... The Latin word con-solatio, “consolation”, expresses this beautifully. It suggests being with the other in his solitude, so that it ceases to be solitude. Furthermore, the capacity to accept suffering for the sake of goodness, truth and justice is an essential criterion of humanity, because if my own well-being and safety are ultimately more important than truth and justice, then the power of the stronger prevails, then violence and untruth reign supreme...
"I have told you this so that my joy may be in you"
Joy is prayer. Joy is strength. Joy is love. It’s like a thread of love that captures souls. “God loves a joyful giver” (2Cor 9,7). People who give with joy go one step further. There is no better way of expressing our gratitude to God or others than to receive everything with joy. Hearts burning with love are necessarily joyful hearts. Never allow sadness to overcome you to such an extent as to make you forget the joy of the risen Christ.