Pentecost Sunday 2016

Mass during the Day
Lectionary: 63



...you are not in the flesh;
on the contrary, you are in the spirit,
if only the Spirit of God dwells in you.
Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.
But if Christ is in you,
although the body is dead because of sin,
the spirit is alive because of righteousness.



The word spirituality comes from our Christian tradition; among Catholics it refers to the different ethos of religious communities: Franciscan, Carmelite, Benedictine, Jesuit, etc. 

Many people may prefer another connotation of spirituality, one without a Christian origin, but they will have a very hard time escaping all of the Christian nuances which infuse the word. They can borrow the word but I doubt they can deracinate its origins in the Hebrew/Christian tradition. 

Saint Paul contrasts the life of the spirit with the life of the flesh. We have to approach his teaching with great care because we may bring our dualistic presumptions to his holistic assumptions. In his Jewish mind there is no split between mind and body, spirit and flesh, male and female, etc. In fact even right and wrong, good and evil are not philosophical principles for the Hebrew; those are Greek notions.  

For Saint Paul, to live by the flesh is to live by one's impulses; by one's fears, desires, expectations, needs. It's to react like an animal, short-sightedly, without full awareness of the consequences of one's decisions.
A well-known comedian, suffering with diabetes but afflicted with an overwhelming desire for another donut, asks himself, "Do I really need both feet? Isn't one enough?" His humor demonstrates just how readily we can be overcome by these animal impulses. 

To live by the Spirit of Jesus is to live fully as a human being, recognizing one's carnal desires for food, warmth, shelter, comfort, safety and so forth, without slavish obedience to them. 

The Christian may not be able to see all the consequences of her decisions; no one can predict the future; but she knows that God's Spirit is wiser than anyone. She decides to let the Spirit of Jesus guide her deliberations. 

That Spirit -- especially as the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Churches and mainline Protestant churches understand it -- is neither impulsive nor irrational, as some Christians might suppose. The Holy Spirit inspires us to build universities and conduct research. We have enormous infrastructures of learning to guide our political, economic, military, technological, social and personal decisions. That same Holy Spirit also gives us courage, generosity, eager willingness to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. 

Prepared by formation within the religious structures of family, church and school, then with the best information available, after consultation with fellow Christians, and much personal prayer for guidance we are ready to let the Holy Spirit inform our decisions. 

In some distant future, 2016 Anno Domino will be regarded as the early days of the Church. I suspect they will wonder why we celebrated Christmas with such fanfare and made so little of Pentecost. True, at Christmas a man was born among us who is God; but with Pentecost we were all filled with the Spirit of God and sent from Jerusalem to set the world on fire with Love.  

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.