Tag Archives: Acts of the Apostles

23 May: Pentecost

Homily by Fr Stefan Acatrinei

I posted this homily in the dark days of January; it was a relief to read of a great gathering of the faithful when that had been impossible for almost a year. Whatever restrictions we are under when Pentecost day comes, enjoy reading Stefan’s homily! Will

Dear brothers and sisters,

We celebrate today the feast of Pentecost which is also the birthday of our mother, the Church. Mothers enjoy giving gifts than rather just receiving them. Actually, the only gift which they really enjoy, according to my own experience (and I guess this is universally valid), is the presence of their children. So, here we are: to please Her with our presence and let Her make us happy with Her teaching.

I don’t know how you find today’s readings, but the atmosphere described by the Acts of the Apostles (2: 1–11) is very familiar to me. This familiarity is not due to the fact that I’ve studied the New Testament, nor it is because I know Jerusalem, for I’ve never been there, but simply because I’m living in Canterbury. The author of the reading says that there were “devout Jews from every nation under heaven”, and he mentions 16 different nationalities. To be honest, I don’t think that we have in Canterbury people from “every nation under the earth”, but I’m quite sure that we have representatives from more than 16 countries. Right now in our chapel, I know people from at least 11 different nationalities; and then if we take into account those who will attend the next Mass, this total number of people is increased. This parallel makes me see a certain similarity between what was going on in Jerusalem, nearly 2000 years ago, and what is happening here right now in our own city, but, of course, that’s not the point. So, we should explore a little more.

By the way, why were those people in Jerusalem? The author tries to give us a clue, by telling us they were “devout Jews”, but he refuses to give an exhaustive answer to our question. Anyway, being told that they were devout, it is not difficult to presume that some were there to fulfil a religious obligation, because Pentecost was the second of the three great Jewish Feasts; others were there to celebrate the completion of the harvest and to thank God for it, or just to pray, to ask for help from God; some, perhaps, were there for business reasons or out of curiosity, or ambition. Anyway, whatever their motives might have been, one thing is certain: they all were driven by the powerful, though invisible, engine which can generate both positive and rewarding feelings, or negative and unsatisfactory feelings, named by us as “desire”. Saint Paul though, in today’s second reading, says that every person can be led either by a spirit of slavery or by the Spirit of God (Romans 8: 8–17). This is wonderful.  It means that everybody is free to follow one of two guides.

A good example would be to look at our seraphic Father, St. Francis. We know that his life was abundantly animated by this energy, which we call desire. Since childhood he sought to develop the desire for human glory, which was seen by him as the only way to happiness. His ambition and the economic possibilities he received from his father nourished his humanity and directed him towards that end, but instead of finding happiness, he experienced a terrible disappointment, which led him to rethink. Once he identified and experienced the right desire, which led him to taste real happiness, he never ceased to recommend it to his friars; he writes: “that above all, they should wish to have the Spirit of the Lord working within them” (Later Rule X, 8)

You may ask, what does all of this have to do with us today?  We are baptized and confirmed and have the Holy Spirit of God dwelling within us. We are totally immersed in the life giving Spirit of the Resurrected Jesus.  What does this entail?  St. Paul gives us a comprehensive explanation.  In his first letter to the Corinthians, he speaks about the variety of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. In chapter twelve, he says that the Holy Spirit gives us wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, fear of the Lord.  Indeed that makes us powerful people. However St Paul also insists that all these gifts are for the benefit of helping others, for building the community of the church.

I hope that you don’t mind if I refer to St. Francis of Assisi again. We all know that he was asked by Christ to rebuild His church, a mission which he, actually, carried out by making use of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Towards the end of his life, he wanted to share the secret of his success with the generations which would follow him, so he wrote it down in his Testament: “no one showed me what I should do, but the Most High Himself revealed to me that I should live according to the form of the Holy Gospel” (Testament 14).

Dear brothers and sisters, I guess, we all know what it means to be faced with a challenging situation, I mean to have to make important decisions for our own life or for the lives of our beloved ones. Where do we look for advice? Saint Francis, wanting to help the beginner on their spiritual journey, used to say: “If they ask advice, the ministers may refer them to some God-fearing brothers” (Later Rule II, 8). Counsel and fear of the Lord are gifts of the Holy Spirit and Jesus gave us this guarantee concerning these gifts: “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything” (John 2:26).

Now, unlike the devout Jews from Jerusalem, we have not been gathered here by any strange sounds of wind blowing, but I strongly believe that we have been driven here by the same Spirit. We are in this chapel not just to fulfil a religious obligation, but out of love for Him, the third person of the Blessed Trinity, Who is eager to make a new dwelling within us.

Fr. Stefan Acatrinei OFM

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Filed under corona virus, Daily Reflections, Pentecost, Spring

13 May: Ascension Day

A cloud hid him from their sight

A homily by Austin McCormack OFM

Historically it was an event within the life of Jesus and the early church and is now a feast-day for Christians, one that links Easter to Pentecost. But it is more than an historical event, it is at the same time an insight into life that we need to understand to better sort out the paradoxical interplay between life and death, presence and absence, love and loss.

The Ascension names and highlights a paradox that lies deep at the centre of life, namely, that we all reach a point in life where we can only give our presence more deeply by going away so that others can receive the full blessing of our spirits.

When Jesus was preparing to leave this earth he kept repeating the words: “It is better for you that I go away! You will be sad now, but your sadness will turn to joy. If I don’t go away you will be unable to receive my spirit. Don’t cling to me, I must ascend.”

Why is it better?

Any parent has heard similar words from their children, unspoken perhaps but there nonetheless. When young people leave home to go to college or to begin life on their own, what they are really saying to their parents is: “Mom and dad, it is better that I go away. You will be sad now, but your sadness will turn to joy. If I don’t go, I will always be your little boy or little girl but I will be unable to give you my life as an adult. So please don’t cling to the child you once had or you will never be able to receive my adulthood. I need to go away now so that our love can come to full bloom.”

To remain present to someone we love we have to sometimes be absent, in ways big and small. The pain in this kind of letting go is often excruciating, as parents know, but to refuse to do that is to truncate life.

The same is true for the mystery of death. For example: I was 22 years old when my mother, died. The pain was searing. Initially we were nearly overwhelmed with a sense of being of losing a vital life-connection (that, ironically, we had mostly taken for granted until then). And our feelings were mainly cold, there’s little that’s warm in death.

But time is a great healer. After a while, and for me this took several years, the coldness disappeared and her death was no longer externally painful. I felt again her presence, and now as a warm, nurturing spirit that was with me all time. The coldness of death turned into a warmth. She had gone away but now could give me love and blessing in new way.

The mystery of love and intimacy contains that paradox: To remain present to someone we love we have to sometimes be absent, in ways big and small. In the paradox of love, we can only fully bless each other when we go away. That is why most of us only “get” the blessing our loved ones were for us after they die.

And this is even true, perhaps particularly so, in cases where our loved ones were difficult characters who struggled for peace or to bless anyone in this life. Death washes clean and releases the spirit and, even in the case of people who struggled to love, we can after their deaths receive their blessing in ways we never could while they were alive. Like Jesus, they could only give us their real presence by going away.

“It is better for you that I go away!”  These are painful words most of the time, from a young child leaving her mother for a day to go to school, to the man leaving his family for a week to go on a business trip, to the young man moving out of his family’s house to begin life on his own, to a loved one saying goodbye in death. Separation hurts, goodbyes bring painful tears, and death of every kind wrenches the heart.

But that is part of the mystery of love. Eventually we all reach a point where what is best for everyone is that we go away so that we can give our spirit. The gift that our lives are can only be fully received after we ascend.

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6 May: Please join the Day of Prayer for Eastern Christians – 9th May 2021

prayer

Please remember in your prayers this Sunday our sisters and brothers in the Eastern Churches. Many of them face hardship and persecution, as they did in the earliest days of Christianity, which unfolded in the Middle East. This post from FACE tells us about the day of prayer and is followed by a letter from Cardinal Michael Fitzgerald, former Papal Ambassador or Nuncio to Egypt.

Day of Prayer for Eastern Christians – 9th May 2021

What is the Day of Prayer for Eastern Christians?

The Day of Prayer for Eastern Christians is an annual day of prayer which enables Eastern and Western Christians to come together in communion through prayer.  The event unites Latin rite dioceses of the Roman Catholic Church in Europe with dioceses of the Eastern Catholic Churches in union with the Bishop of Rome.

When is the Day of Prayer for Eastern Christians?

The Day of Prayer for Eastern Christians will take place on the Sixth Sunday of Easter, 9th May 2021, with the participation of Christians from all over Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, the Horn of Africa and India.

Why is the Day of Prayer for Eastern Christians on the Sixth Sunday of Easter?

Sunday after Sunday, during the Easter celebrations, Eastern and Western Christians hear the Acts of the Apostles which witness to the first preaching of the Gospel. These readings remind us of the origin of the Eastern Churches and the history of the first Eastern Christians, who brought the Gospel to us. Nowadays, many of these Eastern Christians are oppressed and persecuted, and struggle to survive and to pass on our faith to their children, in their own lands where Christianity was born and first spread.

A day of communion through prayer.

On the Sixth Sunday of Easter, we invite Western Christians to recite the following bidding prayer for Eastern Christians:

Let us pray for peace in the world, especially in the Middle East. May the Christians in these lands be strengthened in their faith so that they may continue courageously to give witness to Jesus Christ.  

How to celebrate this day?

  • We ask you to say the prayer as part of the International Day of Prayer for Eastern Christians
  • We ask you to share this intention and the prayer with your family and friends
  • We suggest that parishes include the intention of Eastern Christians in the Prayers of the Faithful during Mass on the Sixth Sunday of Easter.

Who are the Eastern Christians?

The Eastern Christians in the Middle East and the Horn of Africa are direct descendants of the Early Christians and trace their roots back to apostolic times. There are more than 26 million Eastern Christians living in the Middle East and surrounding regions.  For Western Christians, they provide a direct link to the Apostolic Church, leading us to the roots of Christianity and showing us, through their tradition and witness, a living faith in Christ. 

How can you help Eastern Christians?

  • Pray for Eastern Christians. You can use our prayer for Eastern Christians (above) or join our prayer group to receive a monthly prayer, a reflection and information on an Eastern saint. Please do sign up to our prayer group:  https://facecharity.org/prayergroup/
  • Engage with Eastern Catholic Churches. There are several Eastern Churches in the United Kingdom. You are welcome to participate in their liturgies and share your common origins. You will receive a warm welcome.
  • Support Eastern Christians through our projects in education, healthcare, pastoral support and inter-religious dialogue, which are organised under the patronage of the bishops and religious communities of the Eastern Catholic Churches. You may support these projects here: https://facecharity.org/give/
Cardinal Michael Fitzgerald M.Afr.

Letter from Cardinal Fitzgerald

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The Day of Prayer for Eastern Christians is fast approaching. It will take place on the Sixth Sunday of Easter (Sunday, 9th May 2021), with the participation of Christians from all over Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, the Horn of Africa and India.

This Day of Prayer – promoted in the UK by Fellowship and Aid to the Christians of the East (FACE) in partnership with the Congregation for Oriental Churches – will offer Eastern and Western Christians an opportunity to be united in prayer during the time of Easter.

It will offer us in the West an opportunity to think of the Eastern Churches and to give thanks to God for all that we owe them: the first preaching of the Gospel, the origins of the monastic tradition, the early Church Fathers, and above all the witness of the Eastern Christians down the centuries, which has been, and still is, an inspiration to our faith.  This Day could also be an occasion to give thanks for the recent pilgrimage of Pope Francis to Iraq and to draw inspiration from its message of solidarity, fraternity and hope.

The Eastern Christians were the first evangelisers without whom Christianity would never have spread to the UK. Today, the Eastern Christians, many of whom are suffering from the effects of war and from discrimination, now face the added crisis of the Covid epidemic, with its threat to their livelihood, health and well-being.  This is a crisis within an already existing crisis!  They deserve our prayerful support.

In commending this Day of Prayer to you, may I suggest that you bring it to the attention of your family and friends, perhaps sharing with them the following prayer:

Heavenly Father, we pray today for peace in the world, especially in the Middle East. By your heavenly grace, strengthen the faith and hope of Eastern Christians. May they be blessed with peace and prosperity in their countries.  May we be inspired by their devotion and witness to the Gospel, by their love and compassion for all in their communities, and by their courage, their endurance and self-sacrifice. Through their charity, tolerance and friendship, bring peace and reconciliation to those troubled lands, where Christianity was born and first spread. This we ask of you through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

I trust that this Day of Prayer, despite the restrictions caused by the current pandemic, will bring comfort and assurance to Eastern Christians. In our solidarity and communion, may we all be renewed by the hope we place in the Risen Christ.

With the assurance of my prayers and with my warmest wishes for a joyful Eastertide,

Yours in Christ

Michael Cardinal Fitzgerald M.Afr.

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21 March, Desert XXIV, Travelling with Pope Francis 5: giving makes us more human.

Pope Francis continues his thoughts on relationships as the vital centre of Christian and human life.

The dialogue that God wishes to establish with each of us through the paschal mystery of his Son has nothing to do with empty chatter, like that attributed to the ancient inhabitants of Athens, who “spent their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new” (Acts 17:21). Such chatter, determined by an empty and superficial curiosity, characterizes worldliness in every age; in our own day, it can also result in improper use of the media.

Putting the paschal mystery at the centre of our lives means feeling compassion towards the wounds of the crucified Christ present in the many innocent victims of wars, in attacks on life, from that of the unborn to that of the elderly, and various forms of violence. They are likewise present in environmental disasters, the unequal distribution of the earth’s goods, human trafficking in all its forms, and the unbridled thirst for profit, which is a form of idolatry.

Today too, there is a need to appeal to men and women of good will to share, by almsgiving, their goods with those most in need, as a means of personally participating in the building of a better world. Charitable giving makes us more human, whereas hoarding risks making us less human, imprisoned by our own selfishness. We can and must go even further, and consider the structural aspects of our economic life. As the Church’s magisterium has often repeated, political life represents an eminent form of charity (cf. Pius XI, Address to the Italian Federation of Catholic University Students, 18 December 1927). The same holds true for economic life, which can be approached in the same evangelical spirit, the spirit of the Beatitudes.

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24 January, Church Unity Week: Unusual Kindness VII.

paul.viper.png

This year’s reflections for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity were prepared by the Churches in Malta and Gozo. We are sharing elements of their prayers, but follow the link for the full resources for personal or community prayer.

Naturally, the Maltese Christians draw our attention to the story in Acts 27-28 of how Paul, a prisoner in chains, was among a group who survived being shipwrecked on Malta.

Changing our hearts and minds

And when Paul had gathered together a bundle of sticks, and had laid them on the fire, a viper coming out of the heat, fastened on his hand. And when the barbarians saw the beast hanging on his hand, they said one to another: Undoubtedly this man is a murderer, who though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance doth not suffer him to live. And he indeed shaking off the beast into the fire, suffered no harm. But they supposed that he would begin to swell up, and that he would suddenly fall down and die. But expecting long, and seeing that there came no harm to him, changing their minds, they said that he was a god. (28:3-6)

Reflection

Monster! The headlines tear like shards of glass through ripped reputations and tainted talents, to be heard no more.

Hordes! Names, stories, lives, compacted into an anonymised mass.  Contempt for care, rejection made righteous.

When will we turn and dare to see the sister in the surge of displaced existence, and the brother in the monster’s shame?

Prayer

Almighty God, we turn to You with repentant hearts. In our sincere quest for Your truth, purify us from our unjust opinions of others and lead the churches to grow in communion.

Help us let go of our fears, and so better understand each other and the stranger in our midst, and dare to love the rejected.

We ask this in the name of the Just One, Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

The ancient painting of Saint Paul shaking off the viper can be found, though not by the casual viewer, in Saint Anselm’s Chapel, Canterbury Cathedral. MMB.

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22 January: Church Unity Week: Unusual kindness V.

sjc. big wave

This year’s reflections for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity were prepared by the Churches in Malta and Gozo. We are sharing elements of their prayers, but follow the link for the full resources for personal or community prayer.

Naturally, the Maltese Christians draw our attention to the story in Acts 27-28 of how Paul, a prisoner in chains, was among a group who survived being shipwrecked on Malta.

Keep Your Strength Up

“Just before daybreak, Paul urged all of them to take some food, saying, ‘Today is the fourteenth day that you have been in suspense and remaining without food, having eaten nothing. Therefore I urge you to take some food, for it will help you survive; for none of you will lose a hair from your heads.’ After he had said this, he took bread; and giving thanks to God in the presence of all, he broke it and began to eat. Then all of them were encouraged and took food for themselves.” (27:33-36)

I love coffee but lost my appetite for it.

I love a good read of the bulky weekend paper but my brain had no space for it, too busy processing and preparing, harnessing the little energy reserves I had to face cannulas and PICC lines and nauseating chemo.

Every hair from my head would be lost but I’d be rescued from the storm, hopefully.

And when you can’t eat to keep your strength up because the chemo makes you sick on a Wednesday, you chew on the words that those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength, they’ll rise up on wings like eagles, run and not grow weary, trusting that one day this broken body might rise again strong and supple scarred and scared.

Every hair of my head was lost but I’d be rescued from the storm, hopefully.

And as I look back these ten years hence, there wasn’t one set of footprints; there were hundreds of the friends and loved ones who visited, listened, cried, prayed and carried the body of Christ strengthening me. Every hair of my head was lost but I was rescued from the storm, thankfully.

Prayer

Loving God, Your Son Jesus Christ broke bread and shared the cup with His friends. May we grow in closer communion when we share our pain and suffering. Encouraged by St Paul and the early Christians, give us strength to build bridges of compassion, solidarity and harmony.

In the power of the Holy Spirit, we ask this in the name of Your Son, who gives His life that we might live. Amen.

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21 January: Church UnityWeek, Unusual Kindness IV

misericord.boat.st.davids

This year’s reflections for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity were prepared by the Churches in Malta and Gozo. We are sharing elements of their prayers, but follow the link for the full resources for personal or community prayer.

Naturally, the Maltese Christians draw our attention to the story in Acts 27-28 of how Paul, a prisoner in chains, was among a group who survived being shipwrecked on Malta.

An angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, stood by me this night, saying: Fear not, Paul, thou must be brought before Caesar; and behold, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee. Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer; for I believe God that it shall so be, as it hath been told me.And we must come unto a certain island. (27:23-26)

Adrift

I am floating and at sea

Without direction and fearful of what lies ahead

I come to You, known and yet unknowing

Unfathomable God

Rising and falling

Without bearings

bring me to a safe haven

a place where I can begin

to hope again

to trust again

in You and others.

Prayer

Almighty God, our personal suffering leads us to cry out in pain and we shrink in fear when we experience sickness, anxiety or the death of loved ones.

Teach us to trust You. May the churches we belong to be signs of Your providential care. Make us true disciples of Your Son who taught us to listen to Your word and to serve one  another.

In confidence we ask this in the name of Your Son, and in the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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20 January, Church Unity Week: Unusual Kindness III.

cross.st.nick.cathedral

This year’s reflections for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity were prepared by the Churches in Malta and Gozo. We are sharing elements of their prayers, but follow the link for the full resources for personal or community prayer.

Naturally, the Maltese Christians draw our attention to the story in Acts 27-28 of how Paul, a prisoner in chains, was among a group who survived being shipwrecked on Malta.

Paul standing forth in the midst of them, said: be of good cheer. For there shall be no loss of any man’s life among you, but only of the ship … there shall not an hair of the head of any of you perish.’ (27:22, 34).

Reflection

Keep up your courage when the storms of life wash you up on an unexpected shore.14, 

Keep up your courage, take barricades down, welcome the stranger, become the guest.

Keep up your courage, listen to the other, seek to understand; disagree agreeably.

Keep up your courage when the ship runs aground, prepare a new vessel, chart another course.

Keep up your courage, stowaways, castaways: whatever our crew, it’s all hands on deck, creation made new.

Prayer

God of mercy, lost and disheartened, we turn to You.

Instil in us Your hope and courage.

May our churches strive for the unity for which Your Son prayed on the eve of His passion.

We ask this through Him who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever.

Amen.

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19 January: Church Unity Week, Unusual Kindness II.

murillo migrants

Image: Migrants waiting by Oscar Murillo, Turner Prize exhibition, Margate November 2019.

This year’s reflections for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity were prepared by the Churches in Malta and Gozo. We are sharing elements of their prayers, but please follow the link for the full resources for personal or community prayer.

Naturally, the Maltese Christians draw our attention to the story in Acts 27-28 of how Paul, a prisoner in chains, was among a group who survived being shipwrecked on Malta.

And when neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small storm lay on us, all hope of our being saved was now taken away. (27:20)

Reflection – Transfusion 

I believe another not Him.

A cup of bitterness taints my being.

My eyes fail me,

I lose the light and my life disengages and halts.

Movement, spied in my darkness frightens then brings relief. I am not dying alone but dying we are.

The battering storm of hope denied, will abandon us to fate.

A flicker flecks my blindness I fall prostrate as flecks materialise into Him, my true and tender Father.

Held in His unbreakable arms I still…

The storm may do its worst.

Slathered in His salve of love, Hope’s transfusion gently renews my being: Do not fear the pain; it sings the song of life.

Prayer

Father, Your precious word illumines our steps and without You we remain lost and disorientated.

Holy Spirit, teach us through Your word and each other to travel our Father’s path together, walking gently on Creation.

May each gathering of Your people in churches everywhere crave Your guiding, consoling and transforming presence.

Give us the honesty we need to recognise when we lose or obscure Your light for others. Give us grace to hold onto You, ready and able to share Your light.hrist’s light

We ask this in the name of Your Son Jesus, who calls us His followers, to be light to the world. Amen.

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18 January. Church Unity Week: Unusual Kindness I.

sjc. big waveImage provided by SJC.

This year’s reflections for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity were prepared by the Churches in Malta and Gozo. We are sharing elements of their prayers, but follow the link for the full resources for personal or community prayer.

Naturally, the Maltese Christians draw our attention to the story in Acts 27-28 of how Paul, a prisoner in chains, was among a group who survived being shipwrecked on Malta.

And we being mightily tossed with the tempest, the next day they lightened the ship. And the third day they cast out with their own hands the tackling of the ship. And when neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small storm lay on us, all hope of our being saved was now taken away. And after they had fasted a long time, Paul standing forth in the midst of them, said: You should indeed, O ye men, have hearkened unto me, and not have loosed from Crete, and have gained this harm and loss. (27:18-21)

Reflection

To live an untethered life means that we may well find ourselves at the mercy of wind and wave. Besieged by storm and circumstance, carried by the tide, thrown off course, we can find ourselves run aground, clinging to the hope – that we might loosen our grip of individual claim and right, and hold to a shared ownership of this rock of truth.

Prayer

Reconciling God, as we feel the pain of past mistakes, shy away and retreat to individual strongholds; help us surrender a false sense of who we are, all that tethers us, and all that we hold precious. Bind us to humility and compassion, as we learn together, to receive from You, abide in You and Your love. Amen.

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