Staying Active in the Holy Spirit

493px-peace_dove-svgWe learn in high school English class the significance of the birth metaphor: something important has taken place, our hero has crossed the threshold to a new level, and they will never again be the person that they used to be. The feast of Pentecost is full of birth imagery. It’s no accident that it’s referred to as the birthday of the church, for it represents the moment when Jesus’s disciples were transformed from scared followers asking “now what” to bold preachers willing to spread the good news at all costs. The description of Pentecost in John (“After saying this, Jesus breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy spirit.’” 20:22, The Inclusive Bible) echoes the second creation story, the birth of humanity, where “YHWH fashioned an earth creature out of the clay of the earth, and blew into its nostrils the breath of life” (Genesis 2:7, The Inclusive Bible). Recall, too, the presence of the Holy Spirit at Jesus’s baptism, his spiritual rebirth: “the Holy Spirit descended on the Anointed One in visible form, like a dove” (Luke 3:22, The Inclusive Bible).

The birth metaphor, with its images of life and breath, reveals another fact about the Holy Spirit: she is associated with action and movement. The appearance of the Holy Spirit in the Acts reading for Pentecost is accompanied by “what sounded like a violent, rushing wind” (Acts 2:2, The Inclusive Bible). The disciples present act on the spirit’s urgings by preaching in a multitude of different languages. The breath mentioned in the John passage above is an image of movement, too – we can feel the rush of air! In modern English, I only have to use the phrase “spirited debate” for your brain to be filled with images of animated people gesturing wildly and perhaps moving about the room in order to make their point. The word spirit carries energy.

Unfortunately, the feast of Pentecost shares a fatal flaw with the other major appearance of the Holy Spirit: the Sacrament of Confirmation. With both celebrations, the story too often ends right then and there. For some, the Sacrament of Confirmation marks the end of regular visits to Church for the foreseeable future.  In the case of Pentecost, it can feel like the last stop before our brains kick into summer mode. (This is culturally reinforced: school lets out, vacations begin, and the church choir is on hiatus.) We may still be there physically for the summer months, but our spiritual development stagnates.

How do we face spiritual stagnation head on? At the MCC church, one way we do this is to declare the season after Pentecost to be Pridetide: in this time of gay pride parades and festivals, we take time to reflect on our place in the celebration and show up, claiming our own place among the groups. In this active spirit of Pentecost and Pridetide, my summer goal is to continue my spiritual growth. During Lent, I developed the habit of asking, “What do you want me to hear?” Now I’m asking, “What do you want me to do?” If I am successful, Advent will not only mean beginning again; it will be a new beginning.

About the author: Francis Beaumier is on the leadership team for the Dignity Young Adult Caucus and an active member of the Our Lady of Lourdes Parish Family as well as Angels of Hope Metropolitan Community Church. He currently works for Brown County Library as an IT Specialist and is pursuing a Master’s in Liberal Studies at St. Norbert College.

The continuing incarnation

009In the one hundred and ninety-fourth Olympiad; the seven hundred and fifty-second year from the foundation of the city of Rome. The forty-second year of the reign of Octavian Augustus; the whole world being at peace, Jesus Christ, eternal God and Son of the eternal Father, desiring to sanctify the world by his most merciful coming, being conceived by the Holy Spirit, and nine months having passed since his conception, was born in Bethlehem of Judea of the Virgin Mary. Today is the nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh. –Kalends of Christmas Day, from the Mass at Midnight

It is hard to write about Advent or Christmas. It is hard to come up with something that has not already been said. What I am about to say has been said elsewhere and said better. But I will say it anyhow.

In Jesus, the Word does not only take flesh. The Word takes on a biography, a story with a thousand characters and details. It is the same litany of particulars that make me into Justin, or you into yourself.  Continue reading

Ways of the cross

Phos zoe cross. Via Gallery Byzantium.

Phos zoe cross. Via Gallery Byzantium.

Last Sunday, September 14, was the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. Since then, I have considered the many kinds of crosses there are. I mean literal crosses, those you wear around your neck or affix to your wall.

Crosses can be streamlined and blank. For Protestants, this is generally the default. Originally, all Christian crosses were this way. Writes Thomas Cahill in Desire of the Everlasting Hills: The World Before and After Jesus:

The early Christians, the original friends of Jesus, so sympathized with Jesus’ pain and had been so traumatized by it that they could not bring themselves to depict the stark reality of his suffering, except in words–that is, in the accounts of the four gospels, which are as clipped and precise as the four authors knew how to make them. Only in the fifth century, nearly a century after the Roman state had discontinued the practice of crucifixion and no one living had witnessed such a procedure, did Christians forget the shame and horror of the event sufficiently to begin to make pictures of it.

Of course, crosses also include those body-bearing crucifixes that are so familiar to us Catholics. But they need not be dead bodies. On some crosses, Jesus is not hanging in execution, but risen in glory.  Continue reading

The Word in Peace, Divine Mercy Sunday: It is in community that we see to believe

Acts 2:42-47; Psalm 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24; 1 Peter 1:3-9; John 20:19-31

“Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” (John 20:21)

As I mentioned in a recent post on the CTA 20/30 blog, Good Pope John XXIII is a special saint to me. As I was a lapsed Catholic adrift in a spiritual Nowhere Land, the Italian pope with a big belly and an even bigger heart taught me the much of the good that is to be found in our faith tradition. So it was something of a no-brainer for me to decide to visit the newly rededicated St. John XXIII (until today Blessed Pope John XXIII) parish in South Fort Myers to join the celebratory mass.

Both this parish and its patron saint embody that crucial component of Christian conduct: a sense of community. St. John welcomed the world with open arms, reaching out to Jews, Orthodox Christians, Protestants, even those “godless” communists. He was not posturing; the pope’s actions showed that he really saw the people of the world as his brothers and sisters.

St. John XXIII parish does much to live up to this commission. There is a dynamic pastor, numerous ministries and, most importantly, an enthusiastic congregation.

It is in fellowship with others that we as Christians have the chance to live out our faith. The First Reading, from the Acts of the Apostles, tells us that the Church first establishes itself and performs its “many wonders and signs” (2:43) through communal living, sharing possessions, caring for the sick and needy of the community, and joining each other at the table (vv. 44-46).

Thomas the apostle provides us with an example of belief emerging from community in the Gospel reading. When he was away from the other disciples, Thomas is, as most of us would be, skeptical when he learned of the resurrection (John 20:25). But notice that Jesus does not go out to find Thomas to validate himself. He waits until Thomas returns, giving the apostle the opportunity to see and believe among other believes. It is at that moment that he makes that great confession of Christ’s divinity, “My Lord and my God!” (v. 28)

As the Second Reading tells us, we believe even though we have not seen Jesus (1 Peter 1:8). But that does not happen on its own. We must see the image of God in every person that we encounter if we are to truly live in union with God. And we can’t do that by staying home every day. Even hermits communicate the Good News with others from time to time.

The Word in Peace, Easter Sunday: The Resurrection Continues

Vigil: Genesis 1:1 – 2:2; Psalm 104:1-2, 5-6, 10, 12-14, 24, 25; Psalm 33:4-7, 12-13, 20, 22; Genesis 22:1-18; Psalm 16:5, 8-11; Exodus 14:15 – 15:1; Exodus 15:1-6, 17-18; Isaiah 54:5-14; Psalm 30:2, 4-6, 11-13; Isaiah 55:1-11; Isaiah 12:2-6; Baruch 3:9-15, 32 – 4:4; Psalm 19:8-11; Ezekiel 36:16-28; Psalm 42:3, 5, 43:3-4; Psalm 51:12-15, 18-19; Romans 6:3-11; Psalm 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23; Matthew 28:1-10
Sunday: Acts 10:34, 37-43; Psalm 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23; Colossians 3:1-4; 1 Corinthians 5:6-8; John 20:1-9

“All you who are thirsty,
come to the water!” – Isaiah 55:1

He is risen! And I am late.

Truth be told, I had a packed weekend that included three egg hunts, a birthday party and a day trip across the state to see the family, so I think I can get a dispensation for writing my Easter reflection on the following Wednesday.

Besides, Easter is supposed to be a 50-day long celebration, and that has taken on a particular meaning for me. It was around Easter of last year that my wife told me that she wanted to part ways. As I wrote in the aftermath of that, it was the joy of the resurrection that was sustaining me.

A year later, I believe that I am through the worst of it. I still have my house, my kids (albeit for less time) and my faith. My pastor even asked me to be part of the leadership team for a new divorce support group.

So I am happy to say that the Resurrection remains a focal point for me. I feel the Spirit when the lights turn on at the vigil mass as we sing “Alleluia!” for the first time in a month and a half. I move forward without knowing what lies ahead, but with the knowledge that the Jesus who defeated death itself will carry me through whatever comes my way.