Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Human Spirit: Helpless but not Hopeless, Isolated but not alone

The adversary is all around us, but unfortunately neither we can catch it nor can we tame it. And that adversary is none other than Corona. As we reached 100 days since the  first Corona lockdown and all the ills that brought to us, the humanity is suffering silently. Many of our dear and near one's not only lost their lives but also left their families in such a void and emptiness. There are also families who are unable to meet their ends: Either because they have no labour or whatever they produce in their farms cannot be marketed. Life has come to a standstill for many but for others life is as usual. Because either there is corona or no corona, they neither toil nor attempt but their barns are always full.

In this context, we are moving ahead with our life: A life full of uncertainties and chaos. Our civilisation has put in our mind  is that we see our  worth when we to do something. When we don't do what we usually do then we feel worthless, useless and meaningless. We cannot make sense of our life. It is like going to work without having our usual morning coffee. Always something is missing, something is empty. 

Human Spirit feels and touches
Even though we live within a web of social relationships, yet we feel far and deserted when things do not turn to our favour or things do not happen the way we want. Humanity is interconnected with a spirit, which we call human spirit. We are intertwined, inter connected and intra connected. That is why we feel so much pain and anguish when a father and his young son no reason of their own are brutally beaten to death by the police in the police station of Tuticorin. When lost and dejected migrants make their way crossing hundreds of miles to their homes in the scorching sun and are killed by the goods train or meet with an accident. The human spirit feels with others, touches the depths of the other being. If that does not happen then it is not a human spirit that moves our lives. There is something, somewhere, somehow drastically has gone wrong. 

Helpless but not hopeless
In this crisis of corona, many feelings and sentiments have made homes in our hearts and minds. Often our empty lives have suddenly filled with feelings and sentiments. This is a grace indeed. The rat race of our lives has stopped or put a break without our control. Things usually are out of control of us and now we tend to be more control of them. When the external force has begun to control us (Corona) we are learning to control our lives. Frequently, we had been pressed into boredom or depression due to excessive work pressure or social pressure, now because of the unseen outside adversary we have been able to control us especially our depression, angst and pressure. Now it seems to me the lack of pressure of work or of society itself is causing us emptiness, anxiety making us to ask the question again and again when will this end? When we will be able to move outside and enjoy a ride without a face mask, gloves and sanitisers? However, we are privileged. Because we are helpless but not hopeless. Nothing is beyond us. We are in communion with each other. Everyone is on the same boat. Life has become uncertain. Predictability seems to have no more any value. The certainty is that somewhere someone is steering the wheel of this universe. 

Isolated but not alone
As the humanity is groaning with pain due to the present pandemic we have reached a stage where we do not like to hear any more  the word "covid-19" or "corona" infection. Enough is enough are our innermost sentiments. Nothing seems to be coming to our rescue except that hope of positivity and sense of being not alone. We are with others. Each one is counted, and counted definitely. It is not in the sense that government keeps the record of covid patients or John Hopkins University that keeps the data of people who have been infected in each and every country of the world. But in the  sense that every other soul that gets infected or waiting to be infected is not alone in this struggle of survival. Strangely, Darwin seems to be right here. The survival of the fittest is still a valid argument.  The crises of today continues to wreck havoc in the feeble, vulnerable, and fragile. But the strength of the human spirit is that you are not alone. There is out there someone that is human soul struggling, isolated and wrestling. The multiplication of the isolated is not a continuation of loneliness but togetherness and confluence of homogeneity of that same human spirit. We struggle in isolated wards, rooms, or homes, containment zones but still there is multitude of the sense of togetherness. We believe that creator has given that spirit to fight our survival, to struggle to achieve that togetherness. 

- Olvin Veigas, SJ
14 July 2020

Sunday, June 28, 2020

St Paul - A Man of Reason and Knowledge

Statue of St Paul in Piazza San Pietro, Vatican
On the 29th of June every year the Catholic Church commemorates the solemnities of two formidable pillars of the nascent early Church Sts Peter and Paul. In our earlier post, I dealt with St Peter, and in this blogpost, I would like to describe St Paul briefly and compare both the Saints whose memories we celebrate together.

Unlike St Peter, St Paul was a man of his own making. We know by his own accounts in the New Testament especially from his accounts of his conversion in Acts (9:1-18; 22:3-16; 26: 4-23). These make 4 observations about his life. First, it is the God who takes the initiative. It was Jesus who knocked Paul from his horse: “I am Jesus” (Acts 9:5; 22:8; 26:15). As Augustine insisted, if we but turn to God, that itself is a gift of God. We do not choose Him; He chooses us.

Second, Paul’s response when he discovers it is Jesus who is speaking: “What shall I do, Lord” (Acts 22:10). Jesus does not tell him immediately; he tells him to go into the city, into Damascus; “There you will be told what you are to do” (Acts 22: 10; 9:6). Like Mary before the angel, Paul does not know all that the Lord’s call will ask of him; he knows only that it is the Lord who is calling.

Third, the basic call, as Ananias told it to him: “The God of our fathers appointed you to know. His will, to see the Just One and to hear a voice from his mouth; for you will be a witness for him to all men and women of what you have seen and heard” (Acts 22: 14-15; cf 26:16). An apostle is a witness, and the essential task of a witness – John, Magdalene, Paul – is to testify to what he or she has seen or heard.

Fourth, a fact of Christian life is inseparable from the apostolate. The Lord said to Ananias: “He is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel: For I will show him how much he will suffer for the sake of my name” (Acts 9:15-16). To turn to Jesus is to turn to a crucified Master who insisted that to follow him is to carry his cross, and in order to save your life you must lose it. 

Conversion to Contemplation
The conversion of Paul? God is calling: “I am Jesus”. A total yes:  “What shall I do Lord?” A mission: “you will be a witness.”  Inevitable crucifixion: “I will show him how much he must suffer.” 

Conversion is very important in our life and readiness to accept such moments. It is Mary’s “Whatever you wish, Lord”; it is Paul’s “What shall I do, Lord?”

Wherever we are witnesses, we are not witnesses to ourselves but for Jesus. Witnesses to “all men and women.” Witnesses of what you have seen and heard.”

Our conversion must be a continuing process on the lines of St. Paul and Peter. Not slavish imitation; only fidelity to the four facets of their experience. After conversion what remains is contemplation of the one who called for such an act.

St Peter and St Paul in comparison
1. Restless for Christ in different ways: As we see already in the lives of both these saints Peter and Paul, conversion and contemplation goes hand in hand in their lives. They falter but rise up with the spirit of Christ. Both of them are restless for Christ; both of them move out from their rigid mentality in order to embrace that which is greater and everlasting.

2. Different Roles: But both Peter and Paul came to be seen as having different roles to play within the leadership of the Church: Peter in witnessing to the Lordship of Christ and Paul in developing an understanding of its meaning for Christ's followers.

3. Humility: The greatness of St Paul, great teacher and leader as he is, recognises the primacy of Peter whole heartedly knowing fully well that Peter is the one who has to lead the disciples together.  Paul’s relationship with Peter was not always confrontational. Paul, in his early Letter to the Galatians, talks about gentile converts and whether they have to follow the full rigour of Jewish Law. Peter says different things to different audiences in the hope of avoiding trouble.

4. Open to the Spirit: After his conversion experience Paul returns to Jerusalem from Damascus in order to learn how Jesus was perceived by those who had accompanied him - the apostles. Paul feels his lost opportunity of having first hand encounters of earthly Jesus. Again, Paul seeks the endorsement of Peter and other apostles and elders of the Jerusalem church for his mission and preaching to the gentiles.

5. Confrontation to consensus: Paul attends the first summit or council called by Peter in Jerusalem to fix the problem in the early church about preaching to the pagans and disabandoning many of the Jewish customs and rituals.  Paul himself was a controversial figure – his insistence that his gentile converts should not be bound by the full rigour of Jewish Law. This ignited the anger of those Jewish Christians who believed that Christianity should remain firmly rooted in Judaism. His rapidly changing companions reflect the difficulty of working with Paul. However, from this confrontation a consensus was reached, depicted by Luke in Acts in a lapidary phrase authorised by Peter and the other apostles and elders in Jerusalem which is the foundation charter of the church ‘it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us …’ (Acts 15:28).

6. Authority for the service of the Word: Paul adapts himself to different contexts and circumstances in order that the Good News might be proclaimed. However, he is particular in order that God’s Word take root, nonetheless seeks the endorsement of authoritative members in the nascent Christian Church especially of Peter. Both are necessary. Those who are in the frontiers proclaiming the Gospel have the freedom to take initiatives for the sake of the Gospel, however, they have to be validated by the institution, the guardians of the tradition handed on from the apostles.

How can we turn our attention from conversion to contemplation in the world of today?

First, openness to God’s voice today. You turn ceaselessly to God speaking in new ways: with your ministry, being and giving to people what Lord wants you to do, health, comfort, reconciliation, etc.  We cannot run around in this world like headless chickens, cackling “Here I am, Lord.” You live in a family or community, you are a bond of disciples. The death knell of a community is the stubborn non-argument “We’ve always done it this way.” You serve a God who speaks in unexpected ways – speaks even in the least and youngest of His servants.  

Second, Your response. Is it Paul’s “what shall I do, Lord?” Is it God’s will that turns you on, or your own? At times it’s not simple to say. Parents and Superiors can be wrong, and community discernment can be dreadfully undiscerning. And I – why, I can be self-centered; I too can have glaucoma – defined by Webster as “a diseased condition … marked by hardness and inelasticity…due to excessive internal pressure, causing impairment of vision or blindness.” But the sincere question is “What do you want me to do, Lord?”

Third, what sort of witness do you bear to Jesus? Only what Paul saw and heard? What the world outside these walls asks is that you attest what you have seen and heard. Have you experienced what you are proclaiming? You will move hearts only if you are yourself a sort of sacrament, an outward sign of inward grace. As in Gospel days, so now, there is one thing the Gentiles want before all else-what they asked of Philip: “Sir, we would like to see Jesus” (Jn 12:21). They will see him more easily if you have seen him.

Fourth, suffering. No disciple of Christ can avoid the cross of Christ. Perhaps the fresh cross Catholic lay men and women, religious people and congregations must carry today is confusion and anxiety: confusion about our primary mission, anxiety about our continued existence. Who are we, and how long will we last? You may be asking a hermeneutical question – how to interpret your original vision? We may have to blame ourselves who make religious life unattractive – because we refuse to live the crucified Jesus? Do we deserve to die?

It is not a kind of situation of gloom that I am speaking about. It is reality of our lives today. But we need to focus our attention on our vision, the openness to the spirit and very significant stirring of grace wherever we work, converting to Christ not only others but ourselves first and always.  Thus we may never cease asking of what the Hebrew Paul asked: “What do you want me to do, Lord?”

- Olvin Veigas, SJ

28 June 2020 

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Saint Peter: Pillar of Faith and Action

Statue of St Peter at the Piazza San Pietro, Vatican
The Month of June is liturgically rich one. On the 29th of June, the Catholic Church celebrates the solemnities of two important saints of the Church - St Peter and St Paul. According to St John Henry Newman their shared feast reflects the importance of organic development. Both the saints founded the churches and built the emerging communities of disciples incorporating the creative tension between tradition and creativity, dogma and praxis. In this blog post, I would like to concentrate on St Peter and in the next one on St Paul and do a bit of comparison. As Luke's Acts of the Apostles suggests both Peter and Paul are the central figures in the expansion of the church from Jerusalem into the Mediterranean world in spite of their flawed characters.

Jesus chose Simon Peter specifically to lead his Church, and at first glance this would seem an odd choice. Even though he may not appear to be our first choice but for Jesus he was his beloved, worthy and right choice. Jesus works out a strategy through Peter to continue the mission right up to our times through his successors. Being ever impulsive, ever withdrawing from his initial commitment, Peter could be compared to a candle in the wind. However, inflaming with the Spirit, Jesus, before and after his resurrection, makes Peter fisher of men. 

1. Peter, one of the first disciples of Jesus is a man of faith.  We know his faith because of various incidences the gospel enumerates and his child like faith which is often being tested even to the point of denied! "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven (Mt 18:13). Through his brother Andrew who was a disciple of St. John the Baptist, Peter comes to know about Jesus. Peter is a listening man. Andrew then went to his brother Simon, saying, "We have found the Messiah" (Jn 1:41), and then brought Simon to Jesus.

2. Peter is a man of excitement. Matthew additionally describes Peter walking on water for a moment but beginning to sink when his faith wavers (Matthew 14:28-31). Peter initially refused to let Jesus wash his feet, but when Jesus threatened him with: "If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me", Peter replied: "Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head" (John 13:2-11).

3. Peter is also a seeker.  He always wants to know more and for him, the answers Jesus gives need to be pondered. The very bold words that he utters “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16), shows his intuitive spirit. While his other disciples still must be waiting for right words to come out of their mouths. Peter knows to put the right words to his thoughts. Jesus himself gets excited with Peter's answer in spite of his disciple's fickle character.

4. Peter lives with the stir of the moment. He is very emotional too. The three Synoptic Gospels all mention that, when Jesus was arrested, one of his companions cut off the ear of a servant of the High Priest of Israel (Matthew 26:51, Mark 14:47, Luke 22:50). The Gospel of John also includes this event and names Peter as the swordsman and Malchus as the victim (John 18:10). Luke adds that Jesus touched the ear and miraculously healed it (Luke 22:49-51).

5. Peter the leader: Acts of the apostles speak about his apostolic journeys. Peter presides over the first council of the apostles in Jerusalem to fix some confusion the early church was facing (Acts 15). The Gospels and Acts portray Peter as the most prominent apostle, though he denied Jesus three times during the events of the crucifixion. According to the Christian tradition, Peter was the first to whom Jesus appeared, balancing Peter's denial and restoring his position. Peter is regarded as the first leader of the early Church.

6. Peter often confesses his faith in Jesus as the Messiah. Peter is often depicted in the gospels as spokesman of all the Apostles. John Vidmar, a Catholic scholar, writes: "Catholic scholars agree that Peter had an authority that superseded that of the other apostles. Peter is their spokesman at several events, he conducts the election of Matthias, his opinion in the debate over converting Gentiles was crucial, etc. In the final chapter of the Gospel of John, Peter, in one of the resurrection appearances of Jesus, three times affirmed his love for Jesus, balancing his threefold denial, and Jesus reconfirmed Peter's position (John 21: 15-17).

7. Peter is the bridge builder: The New Testament scholar, James D. G. Dunn proposes that Peter was a "bridge-man" between the opposing views of Paul and James the Just. In a dialogue between Jesus and his disciples (Matthew 16:13–19), Jesus asks, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" The disciples give various answers. When he asks, "Who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter answers, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." Jesus then declares: “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Cephas (Peter) (Petros), and on this rock (petra) I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Jesus immediately changes the name of Peter – the “rock” – and is told he will be the leader of the Church on earth, with authority and power handed by him down through the ages.

8. Peter is also the exemplar of "little faith". In Matthew Chapter 14, Peter will soon have Jesus say to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?", and he will eventually deny Jesus three times. Thus, in light of the Easter event, Peter became an exemplar of the forgiven sinner. In spite of his little faith, Peter was made greatest among the band of disciples of Jesus. Little things matter a lot. Indeed, small things are beautiful!

Peter being our elder in faith, certainly we might exhibit his qualities and nature to a certain extent. Undoubtedly, the mission given to Peter continues to take definite shape through our lives and personal mission. Only when we reach out to those who need us, we become part of that bedrock on which the Church is built.

- Olvin Veigas, SJ

27th June 2020

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Saint John the Baptist: A Prophet and more than a Prophet

Even though our Church celebrates in the month of June the feasts of St Justin the martyr, St Boniface, St Barnabas, St Anthony of Padua, St Aloysius Gonzaga, Sts Thomas More, John Fisher and other English saints, St Cyril of Alexandria, Sts Peter and Paul, among them St John the Baptist stands out as a man of great boldness and veracity. He is a prophet with difference.  He is one of the major figures of our Church whose feast we celebrate with solemnity not once but twice. First being his birthday on the 24th June another being his beheading on the 29th of August.

However, there are a number of lessons that we can draw from him.

The Virgin and Child with St John the
Baptist by Sandro Botticelli probably
about 1482-98
John the Baptist – the John the Baptizer. John was a figure of transition, precursor of the Lord “the caesura between the Period of Israel and the Period of Jesus.” He belongs to both: to the Period of Israel by circumcision and incorporation into the Israel of God; to the Period of Jesus because he inaugurates the age when salvation was to be accomplished.  John’s whole life, John’s short life, was spent going before Jesus to prepare his ways. 

Gabriel had told Zechariah to give his promised son the name John (Lk 1:13). An appropriate name, for in Hebrew it means “Yahweh is gracious.” This child would “filled with the Holy Sprit, even from his mother’s womb,” would become an ascetic of Israel, would walk “in the power and spirit of Elijah,” would turn many Israelites to their Lord. (1: 15-17)

 In his canticle Zechariah sings of his son as Yahweh’s “prophet” (1: 76), a mouthpiece of God, a man who utters God’s word with authority to human beings. In preparation, John spent his youth in the  wilderness  of Judea, “possibly the Jordan Valley.” It may be that he was adopted by the Essences of Qumran, to be molded in their ways. 

When John appeared in the region of the Jordan, what the Jews saw was not a priest like his father, but a preacher clothed in camel’s hair, the traditional garb of the prophets. What was his message?  He saw Isaiah’s “voice crying in the wilderness” (Isa 40:3). His message was as stern as his garb and his diet: “Repent for the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Mt 3:2). Repent!  The Greek word means “change your mind,” “change your thinking”, “turn about,” “return”, “be converted.” John was telling his fellow Jews to reform their lives, to return to the way of life demanded by the covenant God and Israel, to be faithful to the promise of their fathers.  With him the kingdom of God was beginning to unfold. He preached a moral reform designed to prepare the Jews for the coming of the Messiah. Abraham your father will not save you; unless you bear good fruit, you will be cut down like a barren tree and cast into the fire. Interior conversion indeed, but visibly proclaimed by baptism with water and a confession of sin. 

Stern yes, but humane as well. No profession is denied salvation – not the tax collector, not the soldier. What is demanded is that they act justly, reveal love. And always, everywhere, “He who is mightier than I is coming (Lk 3:16); always  “He must increase, but I must decrease” (Jn 3:30). It is a thesis inscribed in liturgical stone; for “just as the birthday of Jesus was fixed at December 25, the time of the winter solstice after which the days grow longer… so John the Baptist’s birthday was fixed at June 24, the time of the summer solstice after which the days grow shorter. 

And, like so many preachers of justice throughout history, John paid a price: imprisonment and death. This man whom Jesus declared Elias- come to life again, the one about whom Malachi wrote, “I am sending my messenger ahead of you, to prepare the way before you” (Lk 7:27; cf Mal 3:1), had frightened tetrarch Herod Antipas: This persuasive reformer might instigate a popular rebellion. More than that, he had denounced Herod to his face for his sinful marriage with his brother’s wife (Mk 8:18), had reproved him “for all the evil things that Herod had done” (Lk 3:19). And one more courageous head fell victim to injustice for Justice’ sake.

Secondly, this man whom Jesus had lauded as “a prophet and more than a prophet” (Lk 7:26) does not exist in splendid isolation. 

What manner of men were the Old Testament prophets?

How did they address the people?

First, the Hebrew prophet is extraordinarily sensitive to evil, to injustice – so much so that at times he seems to pay excessive attention to trivialities, to what we might deplore but have learned to live with.  “To us a single act of injustice… is slight; to the prophet, a disaster. To us injustice is injurious to the welfare of the people; to the prophets it is a deathblow to existence; to us, an episode; to them, a catastrophe, a threat to the world.” (Abraham J. Heschel’s The Prophets). 

Second, and in consequence, this “man who feels fiercely”, who is stunned by human greed, whose prophecy is the voice God has lent to the silent agony of the plundered poor, this man in whose voice God rages, this man rarely sings; he shocks. Listen to Isaiah:
Tremble, you women who are at ease,
Shudder, you complacent ones;
Strip, and make yourselves bare,
And gird sackcloth upon your loins.” Isa 32: 11

Third: the Hebrew prophet is an iconoclast. He challenges sacred institutions, sacred beliefs, sacred persons. Those those who keep mouthing “This is the temple of the Lord” Jeremiah insists that the temple will not save; they must amend their ways, execute justice (7:4-5). As long as faithfulness is far from the people, frankinsense from Sheba makes no sense, sacrifice is unacceptable (Jer 6:20). The kings anointed to shepherd Israel Ezekiel cries: “The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the crippled you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them.” (34: 4-5)

Fourth, the prophet is a man embarrassed, lonely, frustrated. Embarrassed because, while others are predicting peace and prosperity, he threatens disaster and destruction. Lonely because he alienates simply everyone: not only the wicked but the pious, not only cynics but believers, not only princes but priests, not only false prophets but judges. Frustrated like Jeremiah: “For 23 years… I have spoken persistently to you, but you have not listened” (25:3).  “To the patriots they seemed pernicious; to the pious multitude, blasphemous; to the men in authority, seditious.”

Fifth, the prophet’s words are charged with divine power because he has experienced God’s own pathos. He is not interested in God’s essence; his God is not the Wholly Other.  He has encountered the God of the covenant, involved in history, with a  stake in the human situation, intimately affected by events. He has experienced God “as living care”. He has seen not only as human failure but as divine frustration – a God not only loving and compassionate but disappointed, indignant, angry. He not only hears God’s voice; he feels God’s heart. How, then, can he ever speak dispassionately, serene and unruffled? How can his words be ever other than aflame, afire with a God whose living is caring?

The Hebrew prophets, like the Baptist, compel my third point: today’s prophet. Not one who predicts the future; rather, the primary sense of scriptural prophecy: the word of one inspired by God to speak in God’s name; How do John and his predecessors help us to uncover the qualities demanded of the prophetic priest in our time? 

A final word. Like John, we too are called to “go before the Lord to prepare his ways.” Two thoughts are pertinent for that privilege: the incredible intimacy of prophets like Isaiah, and John with their Lord, and their passionate concern for their people. To hear the word we must love the Lord who speaks it – love with al our strength and spirit. And to speak that word ourselves, to inflame the hearts of the faithful, we must love the Lord’s paradoxical people with a crucifying passion. Only if we love dare we address to them the word that sears as it heals. Only if we love dare we proclaim “hear, O new Israel! The word of the Lord has come unto me.”

(Originally, part of it was presented as a recollection talk to a teaching and student fraternity in Bangalore 2019)

- Olvin Veigas, SJ
24th June 2020, The Solemnity of St John the Baptist

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Sacred Heart of Jesus: Make Our Hearts unto Yours

                     Original painting on Sacred Heart of Jesus with Saint Ignatius of Loyola and Saint Louis Gonzaga, circa 1770, José de Páez, Mexico, 1727-1790
Devotion from our Christian Tradition
Heart is the seat of emotions. The devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus which was encouraged by the mediaeval mystics and promoted by St Gertrude, St Margaret Mary Alacoque, St John Eudes, St Claude de la Colombiere and others, represents a devotion to Jesus in his human nature. In recent times,  Jesuit theologian Father Karl Rahner and the Servant of God Father Pedro Arrupe had keen devotions to the Heart of Jesus. Moreover, they promoted the devotion to the Heart of Jesus post World War II  and post Vatican II through their roles as theologian and Superior General of the Jesuits.  All these people call out for us to reconcile our life with that of the Lord’s promises.  It is a symbol of God's perfect love for all humanity, which is part of the mystical tradition of the spiritual theology in our Christian Tradition. Even though the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus suffered cardiac arrest in recent decades still it is relevant and important to pump fresh life into our spiritual and mystical life. 

The Sacred Heart was a powerful devotion that combated against the French Revolution, Communism and threats to family life. Pope Pius IX made it a feast of the universal church in 1856, and Pope Leo XIII consecrated the entire world to the Sacred Heart in 1899. The devotion reached its peak in Pius XII’s 1956 encyclical Haurietis Aquas (You Shall Draw Waters), which placed God’s passionate love for humanity at its center.

Jesus spoke always from his heart. In his encounter with people what touched them most was the way he touched them with consoling words and actions. He not only touched them physically but also touched their heart and conscious inwardly. Human heart is considered as the seat of deep and intimate feelings of love, affection, compassion, passion for the beloved. All these poured out from him ceaselessly.
Teaching us to love ever more
What does our devotion to the Sacred Heart teach us? This devotion is about the intimacy between Jesus and us as an intimate union of the heart. Prayer to Jesus the Christ has many biblical attributes attached to him: He is the Son of God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Good Shepherd, teacher, friend, saviour, life and resurrection, and others. In other words, the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is about the person of Jesus Himself.

The portrait that comes to our mind when we look at the Sacred Heart of Jesus is that of LOVE. In art we see this image of the heart pierced with a crown of thorns yet love pouring out with full of grace like fire.  In faith we believe that the divine-man went on doing good by healing, teaching, and conquering evil. Jesus does all these things because of His love, a love that is in abundance. Through prophet Ezekiel  for instance, God promises to change Israel's heart of stone into a heart of flesh (Ezek 36:26) where as John’s Gospel would put it so amiably that Jesus’ heart is the source of living water.
Devotion in my daily life
How can I live the devotion to the Heart of Jesus in my daily life?
I can make the presence of the Lord in a number of ways: daily prayer, as a family reciting the Litany of the Sacred Heart, spending a few moments before the Eucharistic Lord (in the Sacrament), creating the Enthronement of the Sacred Heart in the house, trying one's best to attend the Friday Masses, making a personal or family Consecration to the Sacred Heart.

In our devotion to the Heart of Jesus we embrace the real, physical heart of Jesus, which is sacramentally present, in the Holy Eucharist. Therefore the feast of the Corpus Christi is a reminder that Christ’s body and blood are given to us which contain his heart. In the Heart of Jesus we see Lord’s Presence real and true. When we pray to the Heart of Jesus we see his presence in my life, in my joys and sufferings, my work and leisure, in my heart and mind, in my being, with my friends, family, enemies, everywhere he permeates in my life.
Why the Heart?
Karl Rahner sees in the devotion to the Sacred Heart a very profound link with incarnation and having deep biblical foundations. God the Father letting his Son to take the place of man thus bring salvation to them is itself an act of unconditional love.  In the Gospel of John when we hear that God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, not that the world could be condemned but that the world could be saved. On the cross we see Jesus' body is pierced with a lance blood and water flows out of it. It is a Christian theological imagination the outpouring of triune love into a broken and tragic world.

Looking at the misery and brokenness of this world even the heart of God is pierced.  In the face of the vulnerability and frailty of his humanity only God can save us with His heart. The Church of Today is a community of vulnerable faithful which needs urgently that pierced heart of our Lord to bring salvation, so that very heart of the world knows that it is loved. In other words, we need to allow God to love us better.
Heart of Jesus: Mystery of Man, Mystery of God
Why only the heart of Jesus? A great theological assertion is that we cannot understand God unless we understand ourselves. In fact, Rahner would say that the mystery of man is intimately related to the mystery of God; and both are indissolubly united in the mystery of Christ. Even though human person is not God yet, he is a creature of time and space who yearns for God in an historical continuum of change and multiplicity. Hence, our history is also the history of our salvation. In spite of uniqueness and multiplicity that man encounters man remains fundamentally one and united. In humanity's journey to God it is his only Son Jesus Christ is the real mediator who draws all men and women of all times and places into a loving relationship where salvific destiny is promised.
Heart as a symbol
Rahner is of the opinion that because this unchanging relationship of every human person with Christ is so fundamental to salvation, Christian men and women need some human word which is capable of expressing it and of communicating it to others (SG, 535-36). In our day today life we use certain words in our langauge which touch our life more than other words. Because such words are central to our being as human person. One such word is heart. Down the centuries this one word has been profoundly meaningful to all men and women of all times. This word "Heart" speaks to us of man in his freedom, his historical contingency, his unavoidable destiny. This also man’s inner mystery, of his anguish, of his loves, of his passion, of his very openness to God (SG, 238-39). Moreover only the human heart has transcendent sense and only human body is enfleshed with a spirit.

Heart, an organ of the body is the center of the human person thus able to become a real symbolic expression of the whole human person. The heart, therefore, symbolises much more than just simple human love because sometimes it can be absent in a person. Rather, the heart symbolises the whole of man in the deepest existential center of his composite being (SzT 111, 384-86, 392-93). All the more, heart in its transcendent meaning is a real symbol, a meaningful part, symbolising the totality of the person, a primordial being, a wellspring of life. Therefore this symbol of the heart of Jesus is a perfect and real symbol to put into our faith and practice into a transformational phase radically, sacrificially, fully, lavishly, abundantly, totally and completely.
Experience: I grew up in a family which had an enormous devotion the Heart of Jesus. On Friday's as part of the Rosary we had Litany to the Heart of Jesus and each decade was recited with Jezu bolya ani kalthya kalzacha, kar kaliz moze tujya kalza sarke "meek and humble heart of Jesus make my heart like yours." According to my grand father Kaitan Veigas (1904-1994) our family was consecrated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and a beautiful statue of the Heart of Jesus with its heart popping out was enthroned in 1915. This event put an end to all the evil that was happening like illness and deaths both humans and animals in the Veigas family. The same statue adorns our family altar even today even after 100 years.

What kept us alive in the rural set up of our upbringing living between the boothas/spirits and wild animals which was often cruel and harsh was our devotion to the Christ the King.  When the darkness surrounded evenings, and kerosene lamps were lit, the immensity of the devotion to the heart of Jesus was the only a tangible thing that gave us courage and strength to brace the isolation of surroundings. The resonance of those hymns to the heart of Jesus could eliminate all sorts of geographical isolation but also fill us with vigour to brace winds and rains, thunder and lightening when we walked to our long distant schools of our place.
Prayer to the Heart of Jesus
O most holy heart of Jesus, fountain of every blessing, I adore you, I love you, and with lively sorrow for my sins I offer you this poor heart of mine. Make me humble, patient, pure and wholly obedient to your will. Grant, Good Jesus, that I may live in you and for you. Protect me in the midst of danger. Comfort me in my afflictions. Give me health of body, assistance in my temporal needs, your blessing on all that I do, and the grace of a holy death. Amen.

Sacred Heart of Jesus I trust in thee.

- Olvin Veigas, SJ

Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, 19th June 2020.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Corpus Christi: Cosmic Christ is All in All - Living and Sharing

The Solemnity of Corpus Christi: Readings - Deuteronomy 8:2–3, 14–16; Psalm 147:12–15, 19–20; 1 Corinthians 10:16–17; John 6:51–58
The Disputation of the Blessed Sacrament, by Raphael (1583-1620)
Human body as vulnerable, communicable and sacramental
The feast of the Corpus Christi enshrines our devotion to the Holy Eucharist. The feast of the Body and Blood of Christ manifests our personal experience of that God-Man who gave himself to us wholly and totally. Moreover, it is the same Lord who gave us a reason to remember and celebrate that holy mystery of his life, passion, death and resurrection. Without the Eucharist, we have no Jesus; without the body and blood of Christ there is no Holy Eucharist. Therefore the feast of the Corpus Christi brings us one with him as a global Catholic Community. Our human bodies struggle with life and death. Nonetheless, God embraced the human body to bring salvation, thus became flesh and lived among us. Interestingly, God chose human vulnerability of the body as way of communing with us, communicating with us and finally that same body He gave us sacramentally that we integrate with him completely. By consuming Jesus who spoke words of Spirit and life, the words of eternal life, we too might inhale them. (John 6:63, 67).
Cosmic Christ sustains us. 
During this Covid pandemic lockdown, when we could not attend the Holy Eucharist in person, certainly we must have felt the absence of the mystical body and blood of Christ. All our live streaming of the Holy Eucharist services must have helped in someway to fill that gap. But without receiving that body and blood of Christ must certainly have left us empty and dry in many ways. However, the energy of Christ must have been driving us to brace the challenges to our health and wellbeing throughout this uninvited lockdown. 

When the celebrated French Jesuit priest and scientist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin wrote his first essay on La Vie Cosmique (Cosmic life) in 1916, he was hinting at that Jesus Christ who becomes all in all in this cosmos. What guides this universe in its sustenance and maintenance of this vast creation is the cosmic energy that flows from Christ. The energy that we receive when we come together as Christians because the name of Jesus has power. Jesus units our differences of language, culture, food habits, colour, race or geographical location. In Christ we become interconnected and interdependent. Only in this Cosmic Christ it's possible. Mother Teresa of Calcutta beautifully said "The Eucharist is connected with the Passion. …To make sure that we do not forget, Jesus gave us the Eucharist as a memorial of his love … When you look at the Crucifix, you understand how much Jesus loved you then, when you look at the Sacred Host you understand how much Jesus loves you now." 
Christ is the centre of our life when we accept him
Teilhard de Chardin through his understanding of science and theology blended the immense significance of the body and blood of Christ. When he could not celebrate the Holy Eucharist during his scientific expeditions in China, Teilhard drew the energy from Christ in a unique way. By bringing into account of the evolutionary stages which scientific data provides, he immersed himself into the blissful energy God provides through his creation which becomes a reason, a hope and meets its destiny in Jesus himself. Teilhard found the history of salvation based on a natural landscape. 

Teilhard drew Christocentrism from the two Pauline passages, which in fact laid the foundation for a progressive cosmic theology. "The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.  He is before all things, and in him all things hold together" (Colossians 1:15-17). Teilhard also recognised the absolute primacy of Christ in another passage: "And when all things have been subjected to Him, then the Son Himself will be made subject to Him who put all things under Him, so that God may be all in all" (1 Corinthians 15:28). In other words, the creation is complete only when we are united with God through Christ and when God becomes all in all. 
The Body and Blood of Christ fill us with Christ Consciousness. 
Fascinatingly, the feast of Corpus Christi is a celebration of Christ Consciousness or God Consciousness amidst us. Eucharist is the meeting point of spiritual and material matter. Only a baptised person could receive the body and blood of Christ. In Eucharist we encounter not only a mystical dimension but also physical dimension. Both bread and wine are the products of human labour but of divine collaboration. We need to grow wheat and vine to get these two material/physical things that we bring to the altar of the Lord. However, it is the Lord himself who comes down during the epiclesis/epiklesis ἐπίκλησις (invoking of the Holy Spirit) on that bread and wine to be turned into body and blood of our Lord. Christ becomes the primary source in turning himself into our divine and mystical food.  

Perhaps our langauge is not sufficient to describe effectively how Christ holds together not only this universe but also his mystical presence during the Eucharist.  Christ is the unifying center of the universe and its goal because he is  the Alfa and the Omega, the beginning and the end. The Eucharist which is also Anamnesis/ἀνάμνησις  reminiscence or memorial sacrifice, we are made one flesh with Christ. Our earthly Christian life is possible because we have His life in us and have our life because of Him. Consequently, Paul in today’s Epistle calls the Eucharist a “participation” in Christ’s body and blood. And for Peter we become in this sacrament partakers of the divine nature or theosis/ divinized (1 Peter 2:4). This is the mystery of our faith. 
Corpus Christi is the centre and pinnacle of Christian faith dimension. 
The Holy Eucharist, Vatican II tells us, is "the source and summit of the Christian life" (Lumen Gentium, no. 11). When we receive the tiny white particle of the consecrated bread, we should remember that it is the mighty power of the love of God that we are receiving it (Fulton J Sheen). Only because Christ loved us so much even to the end we have this possibility of dining at the Lord's table. When the consecrated bread and wine enters our body it is Christ himself entering into our mortal bodies which will turn us to eternity. Therefore, we call the Eucharistic bread and wine as eternal food and drink. Hence we attach such a highly respectful and significant holy and adorable meaning to it.

Experience: On a personal note I should tell you why we should always long for the Holy Eucharist or at least for the Holy Communion when the Holy Mass is not available or possible.
During my illness, I had reached a stage where I could not celebrate Mass leave alone able to sit independently on my bed. When there is so much suffering in your body, the mind does not keep quiet. Mind also goes into hunting, i.e, depression. During that time, only thing that keeps you awake in the Lord is Holy Communion.  Nevertheless, that is the only thing that keeps you alive from pain that your body is causing in every segment of your being: physical, spiritual, emotional and psychological. When someone places that tiny consecrated particle of the bread on your tongue, it does the miracle at least for sometime that accompaniment, consolation, and a feeling that there is someone who is also suffering with you.

Questions for reflections:
1. How has been my experience with receiving the body and blood of Christ?
2. Do I feel the necessity of looking for Jesus in the Eucharist and finding solace in him when I am bored, distressed and overwhelmed by work pressure? 
3. What are those creative ways that I can develop in order to grow in the loving relationship with Jesus of the Eucharist?

By the most precious body and blood of Jesus heal me,
By the most precious body and blood of Jesus enthuse me,
By the most precious body and blood of Jesus strengthen me in my faith, hope and love,
By the most precious body and blood of Jesus touch me,
By the most precious body and blood of Jesus save me,
By the most precious body and blood of Jesus liberate me,
By the most precious body and blood of Jesus empower me.  AMEN.

- Olvin Veigas, SJ

14th June 2020

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Blessed Trinity Labouring in Us with Love

The Most Holy Trinity Sunday - Readings: Exodus 34:4–6, 8–9; Daniel 3:52–56; 2 Corinthians 13:11–13;  John 3:16–18
(The vision of St Ignatius of Loyola of the Blessed Trinity at La Storta, Rome, painting by Arul Anthony, SJ, 2018)
Holy Trinity is our God
The God whom we Christians worship is Holy Trinity. When I say that I pray to God means I am praying to the Blessed Trinity. When I say that I am praying to Jesus means I am praying to the Blessed Trinity. When I tell others that I am praying to the Holy Spirit, that means I am praying to the Blessed Trinity. The question of the Most Holy Trinity intrigues all of us because of the composition of this word "Trinity" itself: Three in One and One in Three. By virtue of its very difficult and complex composition often we find hard to grapple with this mystery. Fortunately, God is a mystery and not a puzzle or myth. Our scriptures give us ample evidences to tell us who that Triune God is. Jesus in the Gospel of St John speaks at length on God the Father and Holy Spirit. Jesus also speaks about his relationship with the Father and the Holy Spirit (John, Ch 14 -16). The very moment of his Baptism at river Jordan we see the Holy Spirit resting on Jesus in a form of dove and the voice of the Father from heaven speaking, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased” (Mt 3:17).  Even  though intricacies are involved in understanding the concept of the Holy Trinity, however down the ages Christian faithful have grappled with this holy mystery. Moreover, it is the Holy Spirit who has helped in understanding the Triune God (Rom 8:26; 2 Cor 2:14). 

Holy Trinity labours in the world.
When Moses went up to Mount Sinai to speak to God with two tablets of stone that he had made in the same form as he had broken them earlier which had been given by the Lord, now God passes through them with his words being uttered into those tablets. God says about Himself, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in loving kindness and faithfulness..."(Ex 34:6). Later on we know the story about these tablets. These stone tablets would symbolize, God's presence among the Israelites and wherever the Ark of the Covenant was carried these two tablets made their home in it. This was a reminder that God is always with them both in good times and bad times. 

Before God we stand nowhere because of our finiteness, fragility, mortality, temporality, limitedness and shallowness. However, God has fashioned us in his own image and likeness from the beginning of His creation (Psalm 89:47). However, God dwells amidst us and continues to labour in His creation and the creative acts of the human person. How human civilizations and human intelligence have progressed down the centuries in making one's life comfortable and interesting is a proof of that divine presence. In the same vain we could say with all certainty that we are tossed to an utter helplessness when the sickness engulfs us, natural calamities destroy man made structures, civilizations and creative works of art and architecture. 

The present context in which we live describes poignantly what we are speaking about. Today, the world is sick, humanity is ill. Corona infection has pushed us to the corner to weep and sleep without rest. It has made us aware of our fragilities and the deep inequalities that wound us all; it has shown us our vulnerability and our poverty. Where as rest of God's creation like plants and animals are living and thriving without any disease or sickness. 

Triune God dwells in relationships, in fact, in good relationships
The revelation of God as Triune, therefore, is not a mathematical formula or a logical puzzle, but it is a mystery of relationship. Our relationships are built on love; love for each other. How a relationship grows in bringing forth life between two human beings who are of opposite sex, different cultures, languages, communities, nations, religions is itself a mystery or puzzle to sort out. Consequently, while speaking of God, we are attempting to speak of the depth of infinite love and the eternity that exceeds our limited human capacities. This infinite love and eternity surrounds the Trinity in every way of understanding. Precisely because there is such an abounding and unfathomable richness and splendour that elicits in us wonder, glory, praise, holy desire and prayer. 

On the other side, we can break the cycle of the monotony of hatred and suspicion into utter selflessness and be beacons of hope, ready to go out of our self-centredness. All this is possible because of that spark called love, compassion, mercy towards my fellow neighbour. Human relationships do not close us to an enclosure but opens us to others because of the divine image that we carry within us. In this context we need the gift of the Holy Spirit to re-create and renew this life of abundance; to bind us into a deeper universal community of love and hope. 

Holy Trinity dwells amongst us when we follow the Lord
When we engage deeper into the realities of life and lives of people, when we worship the Triune God in spirit and in truth (Jn 4: 23-24), Lord lives in our midst. The Pentecost was, in effect, a “jump start” for the reign of the Holy Spirit amongst us. With the old covenant specifically a relationship was built up between God and the Jews. However, through Jesus Christ a new covenant was formed, that could be shared by anyone who believed in Him. Earlier God spoke only in Hebrew or Aramaic, and not any other langauge. Now, God speaks in the languages of all the nations. In other words, we need to see God in everything, to see the struggles of people in all people. Because God speaks in those people and labours in them.

On a more personal level, if we have accepted Christ into our hearts and follow His commandments, the Holy Spirit will live within us. Thus we can know God in a way different from how we “know” anything else. He will speak to us in a language that we can understand. In fact Gospel opens up to the world those who are lost, abandoned, and forgotten. Those, too, who may not acknowledge any faith but long for a better world, a more compassionate and just community, a new way of sharing life with the whole of God’s good creation, still becoming and evolving. Through our works of mercy both corporal and spiritual, through our solidarity and communion in action, the Spirit is leading us to encounter the face of Christ in each other. Thus our relationships broken and wounded by sin are healed, restored and redeemed.

Jesus reveals the Trinity and Holy Spirit Empowers Us.
Jesus declares in the Gospel of John that “God sent his Son into the world… so that through him the world might be saved” (Jn 3:17).  Jesus thus reveals the Holy Trinity to us Christians in a most profound and admirable way. God does not remain in distant past or far away. He becomes really real in a more personal way. The intimacy between God and humanity is established. All the more our spiritual life is made possible because of this personal encounter with the Triune God in more intimate and personal way as the titles show the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And faith of our forefathers tells us that Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son.  As the Angelic doctor St Thomas Aquinas put it so succinctly: “In the divine nature three Persons subsist: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one God, distinguished from one another by relations only.” If Jesus reveals the Trinity to us then through the Son and the Holy Spirit, we know and love God as our true Father. By this grace of God we know that it is He who created this cosmos and cosmic elite called humanity and who loves us unfailingly. As the Trinity is bound together in perfect unity through love, the Holy Spirit challenges and changes us. He makes me to look at Jesus and my neighbour as brother and sister and in one word Children of One God. 

Questions for reflections:
1. What has been the experience of the Holy Trinity in my life?
2. In what ways have I been a blessing for others during this Pandemic?
3. Have I completely let the Holy Trinity take control of me? If not, what hinders me from doing so?
4. What are those traits that exhibit in my life: Narcistic, pessimistic or self-centredness?

Prayer to the Holy Trinity by St Augustine (in De Trinitate XV.28.51):
Directing my course according to this rule of faith, (God as a Trinity) insofar as I could, and insofar as You made it possible for me, I sought You and desired to see with my understanding that which I believed; and I have argued and labored much. O Lord, my God, my only hope, hear me, lest through weariness I should not wish to seek you, but may ardently seek Your face evermore. Give me the strength to seek You, You who have caused me to find You, and have given me the hope of finding You more and more. Before You are my strength and my weakness; preserve the one, heal the other. Before You are my knowledge and my ignorance: where You have opened to me, receive me when I enter; where You have closed, open to me when I knock. May I remember You, understand You and Love you. Increase these gifts in me, until You have reformed me completely. 

- Olvin Veigas, SJ

07 June 2020
(Today marks the 5th death anniversary of Fr Severin Leitner, SJ, General Assistant to Central and Eastern European Assistancy. He died in a tragic accident on that Sunday 07 June 2015. He is the one who brought me from Moscow to Rome, Italy in 2015 for better medical treatment. With his death my whole life turned upside down and later my subsequent return to my home land. May the soul of Fr Leitner enjoy the perfect peace in the Holy Trinity.)

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Come, Holy Spirit and Renew the Face of the Earth!

Pentecost Sunday: Readings - Acts 2:1–11; Psalm 104:1, 24, 29–31, 34; 1 Corinthians 12:3–7, 12–13; John 20:19–23
(Pentecost, Juan Bautista Maíno created between 1615-1620)
The Meaning of "Spirit"
One of the names referring to God is the "Holy Spirit." God is three in one - Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God is not a myth but a mystery. St Paul would say to us that the Holy Spirit makes us to call God as  Abba. "And because you are sons/daughters, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” (Gal 4:6). Therefore, there is an external divine support in us which makes us children of God. Both in Hebrew ruach and Greek pneuma the words for "spirit" are the same as the words for "breath" and "wind." In fact in English word "spirit" comes from Latin meaning "breath". For example, "the spirit left him" or "he breathed his last".  "Inspiration" and "respiration" have the same root. There is interconnectedness between breath and active life. When a person’s body stops breathing, it also becomes inactive and dies. Breath is the outward manifestation of activity and life. There is intimate connection between breath and active life.

Extraordinary Event: Holy Spirit Accompanies Us
The feast of Pentecost that we celebrate today is also the birth of the Church. The Acts of the Apostles rightly tells us in today's reading that on this day 3000 men joined the Apostles as followers (Acts 2:41). They understood clearly in their own language even though they came "from every nation under heaven" and spoke different languages yet the preaching by the Galilean fishermen in Jerusalem was heard and understood by all.  Surprisingly the birth of the Church takes place on the day of Jewish Pentecost. The Jewish feast of Pentecost called all devout Jews to Jerusalem to celebrate their birth as God’s chosen people, in the covenant Law given to Moses at Mount Sinai (Leviticus 23:15–21; Deuteronomy 16:9–11). With this unique event, we need not go to Mount Sinai or send Moses to Sinai but God himself out of his benevolence sends on us the Holy Spirit which teaches to walk, act, behave and preach according to His ways. 

Holy Spirit Makes Known
The way the Holy Spirit came down upon the Apostles is not just a simple or calm event. But, it was a boisterous event. "They heard what sounded like a powerful wind from heaven, the noise of which filled the entire house in which they were sitting; and something appeared to them that seemed like tongues of fire; these separated and came to rest on the head of each of them. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak foreign languages" says St Luke (Acts 2:2-4). When God wants to bring forth something strong, great and everlasting experience, He does it with a bang and not with something unnoticeable way. The power of this experience was such that the disciples rush out from their closed enclosures both physical and spiritual and begin to speak in public. Mary the mother of Jesus, our Lord who was entrusted to the care of John, the beloved disciple certainly must have been with the disciples accompanying them.   

Holy Spirit enables us to live a life of holiness
Since the death of Jesus on the cross his dispirited apostles locked down in an upper room. There is more perspiration than inspiration in their self imposed lockdown! They are not ready to venture out and suffer and end with the same fate as their master. They do not want anyone to hear about them leave alone discover their hiding place. Their goal is to be safe from getting into the messiness of life. Only way out for them is isolation which would give them safety and security.  

However the disciples cannot lock their hearts or doors of their living room from the Holy Spirit entering them. Holy Spirit comes not like a gentle breeze experienced by Prophet Elijah (1 Kings 19:11-13) but here more like a hurricane, flattening all the protective barriers or gears against its force. And the Spirit takes this group of dispirited disciples of Jesus and transforms them. In other words, when the Holy Spirit comes down upon us, it does not allow us find comfort in our insecurity instead Holy Spirit makes us to find security in our discomfort, in our fears, anxieties and distractions. The call here is to be ready to undergo this transformation. 

Holy Spirit empowers us to be Prophets of our time.
The Holy Spirit empowers the disciples to leave their self imposed isolation. Once, the disciples receive the Holy Spirit they go out to the public squares of Jerusalem and proclaim to all how they have been challenged and changed by the power of the Spirit. The crowd’s reaction is one of surprise and joy. The apostles communicate the message of their friend and teacher Jesus by speaking in their own languages. The multilingual crowd which was misunderstood and divided now through the Holy Spirit could sing, praise and act in peace and harmony. 

Fascinatingly, the disciples speak the langauge of the Spirit once Jesus breaths on them the Holy Spirit and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”(John 20:22-23). Forgiveness, love and understanding is the language of the Spirit, a language that everyone understands and needs to hear more and more. We are also called to speak that language in our homes, parishes, neighbourhood, country and world. This universal language of brother/sisterhood should be also the langauge of the Church

Holy Spirit Connects, Organizes and Carries forward the Mission of Jesus.
Pentecost is a sign that God is working in this world in the physical absence of our Lord Jesus. God continues his saving mission of this entire cosmos through the Person of the Holy Spirit. This salvation in other words could be called as holiness in our contemporary world. With the bestowing of the Holy Spirit, God continues to address us boldly that He is not abandoning us. We would continue to the mission of His Son through the Spirit of saving and making us holy. Whenever we experience joy, peace, gratitude, increase in faith, hope and love, a deep sense of God’s presence amidst us means Holy Spirit is working in us.  Holy Spirit does not work opposite to us. 

Pentecost provides solution to many puzzles.  One of these is forgiveness. It's so difficult to forgive and forget in the face of betrayals and crimes. However, this Christian experience healing can be real through the power of the Spirit which capacitates to make it real. The Spirit of the Lord connects with each other, organizes our lives in a righteous way and through us carries forward the mission of Jesus. Therefore Pentecost is both an end and a beginning. It is an end because it is the completion of Christ’s saving work. Pentecost brings the risen Christ into our hearts breathing his forgiveness in our whole being just like what Christ did for us on the cross. This happens now within us. Hence Pentecost is also a beginning. It brings to completion the work of Christ for us precisely by making it a new beginning in us. With the Pentecost a new life begins in the world and in the Church. And carrying forward this mission of Jesus is upon each on us by a Christian life of forgiveness, of the sacraments, of our turning to God, and finally bringing the mission of peace and reconciliation to the entire creation of God. 

Questions for reflections:
1. The Spirit that filled the apostles is the same Spirit which fills and enthuses us. Am I aware of the Holy Spirit’s presence in me?
2. What prevents the Holy Spirit from bearing fruit in my life in spite of me being a Christian?
3. Can I open myself to see, hear and touch the Spirit’s blessings in everyday of my life?  Can I be open to the call to notice and respond?

Let my prayer be for today:  Come Holy Spirit and fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And you shall renew the face of the earth. Dear Holy Spirit of our Lord, especially these days as we endure the uncertainties of our health and life  send us your Spirit.  Grace us with wisdom and discernment, comfort us with courage to be men and women of strong of faith, and strengthen us with your care and consolation.  AMEN.

- Olvin Veigas, SJ

31st May 2020