Issues Vol. 169‎ > ‎

Vol. 169 No. 20 • MAY 19 - 25, 2018

01 Cover

posted May 17, 2018, 9:02 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated May 17, 2018, 9:03 AM ]

03 Index

posted May 17, 2018, 9:01 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated May 17, 2018, 9:02 AM ]

04 Official

posted May 17, 2018, 9:01 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated May 18, 2018, 12:16 AM ]

05 Engagements

posted May 17, 2018, 9:00 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated May 17, 2018, 9:00 AM ]

07 Editorial - The Immeasurable Presence of God - Fr Anthony Charanghat

posted May 17, 2018, 8:54 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated May 18, 2018, 12:13 AM ]

With the coming of His Spirit, the Easter season comes a full circle, embracing us in the mystery of salvation wrought for us by the risen Christ. Luke, in his description of the Pentecostal experience, fires our hearts with images of the unseen, immeasurable presence of God in our lives and in our Church–impelling us to make this good news a daily reality in our own and others' lives.

In Jesus' breathing upon His disciples the new life of the Spirit, the community of the Resurrection – the Church – is called to launch out into the deep. The narrative of the working of the Spirit: in terms of tongues of fire, ignites us to do the work of the Gospel of the Risen One; the Spirit, as a gale, transforms us to align our will to God's will, and the Spirit of God, as life in us, animates us, so that we might bring His life and love to our broken world. The effects of the Spirit sets in motion our mission of preaching, prophecy, healing and worldwide outreach.

The miracle of Pentecost (Acts 2) is the Spirit's overcoming the barriers of language and perception to open not only the minds of the Apostles' hearers, but their hearts as well, to understanding and embracing the Word of God. The Spirit of God enables the Eleven – and us – to do things they could not do on their own: to understand the 'truth' of God's great love for His people that is embodied in the Risen Christ, and then to boldly and fearlessly proclaim the Gospel of Christ. The Spirit empowers us with the grace to do the difficult work of Gospel justice, forgiveness and compassion.

The Advocate comes to testify and to prompt the testimony of the disciples. It is Jesus' testimony to the truth, of course, that got Him in trouble, and the Holy Spirit comes to prompt the disciples to make the same disturbing, disruptive and world-changing testimony that calls into question the values of the world.

It is the Spirit that enables us to love as selflessly and as totally as God loved us—to become one of us, to die for us and to rise for us. Pentecost is a continuing event that dares us to become a community of fire that will keep alive the flame of passion for God and for the world which God loves, burning brightly even through the darkest days and nights of hostility and persecution.

The Day of Pentecost announces God's mighty and transformative presence in the emerging Christian movement and in our lives. God's Spirit can move quietly; it can also be bold and awesome. However God's Spirit comes, it breaks down barriers, welcomes outsiders, reconciles the separated, and energises our own spirits.

There is a mystic within each of us. God addresses all of us in sighs too deep for words. God's Spirit is always beckoning us towards more than we can ask or imagine. The omnipresence of God ensures a God-ward movement in all of our lives, even when we are unaware of it. Psalm 104: 'Send forth your Spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth' should be the cry of our heart.

God offers inspiration and salvation to all. His message is always understandable and relevant to our own lives and the concrete realities of peoples of different backgrounds. The Spirit is global and universal; it is equally intimate and personal. The Spirit motivates us to action. Pentecost is not only what we often refer to as 'the birth of the Church'; it is the celebration of 'being the Church'. We must continue to live what we are born to in the waters of baptism—the new life of the Risen Christ.

08 Pentecost – the gift of a new Heart

posted May 17, 2018, 8:52 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated May 17, 2018, 8:53 AM ]

The Spirit is, in fact, the Easter Gift par excellence. He is the Creator Spirit, who constantly brings about new things. The Spirit makes of the disciples a new people; in the Gospel, He creates in the disciples a new heart. This is how the Word of God describes the working of the Spirit: first, He rests on each, and then brings all of them together in fellowship.

In the Acts of the Apostles, Pentecost is described as the day when "the Spirit came down from heaven, in the form of divided tongues, as of fire, rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak in other languages." (Acts 2:3-4) To each, He gives a gift, and then gathers them all into unity. In other words, the same Spirit creates diversity and unity, and in this way forms a new, diverse and unified people: the universal Church.

For this to continue, we need to avoid two recurrent temptations. The first temptation seeks diversity without unity. This happens when we want to separate, when we take sides and form parties, when we become locked into our own ideas and ways of doing things. When this happens, we choose the part over the whole, belonging to this or that group before belonging to the Church. We become avid supporters for one side, rather than brothers and sisters in the one Spirit. The result is diversity without unity.

The opposite temptation is that of seeking unity without diversity. Here, unity becomes uniformity, where everyone has to do everything together and in the same way, always thinking alike. Unity ends up being homogeneity, and no longer freedom. But, as Saint Paul says, "where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom." (2 Cor 3:17)

So the prayer we make to the Holy Spirit is for the grace to receive His unity, to leave personal preferences aside, embrace and love His Church, our Church. It is to accept responsibility for unity among all, and to wipe out all discord and division and to be men and women of communion. It is also to ask for a heart that feels that the Church is our Mother and our home, an open and welcoming home where the manifold joy of the Holy Spirit is shared.


09 The First Fruits of God's Harvest - Dr Jeanette Pinto

posted May 17, 2018, 8:51 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated May 17, 2018, 8:52 AM ]

The season of spring brings in the first yearly fruits of the harvest. 'First fruits' are commonly referred to as the agricultural products which mature and ripen. Have you observed that throughout the Bible God uses the analogy of the harvest? Pentecost comes from a Jewish harvest festival called Shavuot. At Pentecost, we see the first fruits to illustrate aspects of God's plan of salvation. Pentecost serves as a reminder that God grants His Holy Spirit to the first fruits of His spiritual harvest. He is harvesting people for Eternal life in His Kingdom.

The Feast of Pentecost is an annual reminder that God poured out His Holy Spirit to establish His Church on earth. The motley group of frightened believers was fired with the Spirit to open their mouths and boldly speak in various languages. The Apostle Peter was an ardent impulsive, unbalanced and cowardly person at this point in his life. All of a sudden, like magic, he is transformed into a fiery orator. He is consumed with heroic eloquence stirring people's hearts, profoundly exposing the truth. The unlettered fisherman now begins speaking like a learned professor of Theology. He talks of the mysteries of God, the Divine purpose in Creation and shows how prophecy is fulfilled. His preaching bore fruit, and added 3,000 people to his Church in one day.

Humankind the world over has a grave heart problem. Becoming godly in our thoughts, attitudes or actions is beyond the comprehension and ability of men and women, without this special ingredient, namely 'God's Spirit.' The essence of God's law is LOVE. God's gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost made it possible for the Church to fully express God's commandments of love.

The coming of the Holy Spirit dramatically changed the lives of the early Christians. The book of Acts is replete with accounts of the early Church's remarkable impact on the surrounding society. Such was the transformation that non-believers accused the Christians of 'turning the world upside down'. It all seemed bizarre—such was the dynamic miraculous power of the Holy Spirit.


10 The Holy Spirit works through natural channels - Fr Hilario Fernandes, sfx

posted May 17, 2018, 8:50 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated May 17, 2018, 8:50 AM ]

The Church celebrates the feast of Pentecost – the outpouring of the Spirit on the Apostles and a group of believers. The Spirit manifested Himself through some spectacular signs—tongues of fire, strong wind, the gift of tongues, etc. That was the charismatic experience of those present at that moment, and all were blessed with special charisms of the Spirit, especially for the mission and growth of the Church. But in our day to day life, the same Spirit, which we have received at the time of our Baptism, is at work in the daily trivialities of our life. At times, we are tempted to think that only when a person shouts during a charismatic prayer meeting or falls down and rolls on the floor or manifests some unusual signs, that he or she has 'received the Spirit'. The Spirit may manifest at times in unusual ways, but most of the time, He works through ordinary ways or through natural channels. As L. Bermejo says, "...the Spirit's promptings come to us enfleshed, incarnated in concrete historical circumstances that consequently become the channels of grace."

What are some of these natural channels or concrete historical circumstances by which the Spirit works in our day to day life? He may work through the Word of God coming from a reader or a preacher. The Spirit was experienced by the people through Peter's preaching and they were transformed. (cfr. Acts 2,14-42) As we read the Word of God prayerfully, the Spirit may enlighten and inspire us to change and transform our lives or to help someone. During our celebration of the Sacraments by a priest, especially the Eucharist or the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the Spirit may prompt us to reach out to someone in need or invite us to purify ourselves of our sinful ways, or to patch up a broken relationship and forgive someone whom we have not forgiven since long.

The Holy Spirit works through the leaders of the Church. Pope Francis could be called a man of the Spirit. His lifestyle and his messages inspire many, and at times, the Spirit surprises us through his creative actions and behaviour. His timely Apostolic Exhortations – Evangelii Gaudium, Amoris Laetitia, and the recent Gaudete et Exsultate, and other letters, are the signs that the Holy Spirit is speaking to the Church in today's world through the Pope. The Spirit is guiding the Pope in the governance of the Church, especially at the top level – the Roman Curia. While commending the good work the Curia does, he had the courage to say, "Like anybody, it (Roman Curia) is exposed to sickness, malfunction and infirmity... there are illnesses like 'spiritual Alzheimer's', the temptation to overwork and not pray: 'Martha-ism'; double lives: 'Existential schizophrenia', 'terrorism of gossip', 'funeral face' ...". To make such bold statements with regard to the Curia's functioning is possible only when the Spirit is at work in a person. Under the influence of the Spirit, the Pope instituted a core college of eight (now nine)Cardinal consultors from different continents, cultures and countries.

The forthcoming Synod in October 2018 on the theme 'Young people, Faith and Vocational Discernment' and the Pre-Synodal meeting in Rome with over 15,000 young people from all over the world (some of them from other faiths) in March 2018 to discuss about their problems and listening to one another – is it not the work of the Spirit? Can we not say that perhaps the Spirit also works through young people who have great desires and dreams and want to contribute towards the wellbeing of people in need? At times, we elders, priests and religious, tend to see mainly the negative in our youth, and forget that the Spirit can speak to the elders and to the Church through the young people.


12 Pentecostal Gift - Tongues - Marcellus D'Souza

posted May 17, 2018, 8:48 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated May 17, 2018, 8:48 AM ]

The Gift of Tongues is precious. It is an out-of-this-world experience. It is a spiritual gift or a miraculous charism that manifests itself, either as a human language or a heavenly supernatural language.

Those who have the gift of tongues say, "it is a trusting God experience." The use of tongues is one positive way that many Christians find experience to back up their faith, given that Christianity is often based more on the Word, than on experience.

The Bible reveals five main things that happen when believers pray in tongues:

1. The communication is direct with God. 1 Corinthians 14:2 - "For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men, but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit."
2. God's wonders, mysteries and majesty are declared. Acts 2:11 - "We hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!"
3. They are praising God. Acts 10:46 - "For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God."
4. They are edifying themselves. 1 Cor. 14:4 - "He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the Church." Praying in tongues is like a spiritual workout; it builds you up and makes you stronger spiritually.
5. The Holy Spirit is praying through them, declaring God's will. Romans 8:26-27 - "We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express... because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will."

Speaking in tongues is the praise of God in a language given by the Holy Spirit. It goes beyond the earthly "Hallelujahs" and "Hosannas". It is spiritual utterance. It is used to glorify God. Tongues have unlimited value as a supernatural avenue of transcendent praise, if the worship, the praise, the adoration of Almighty God is the chief concern of one's life.

But isn't the gift of tongues only experienced by a few? Does it not create a separate class of people? To praise God, we have our own mother tongue. We have our hymns and prayers which are sung and recited liturgically or spontaneously. Speaking in tongues is going beyond natural speech and entering upon the extraordinary praise of God in the language of the Spirit.


13 God-Breathed, Birthing, Life-Changing, Power - Leon Bent

posted May 17, 2018, 8:47 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated May 17, 2018, 8:47 AM ]

Ezekiel wrote: "A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you, and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone, and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances." (Ezek. 36:24-28)

The Lord would not simply give to Israel His Law, but, in the New Exodus, His Spirit, which would enable them to keep the Law. (cf. Jer. 31:33; Ezek. 36:26-28, 37:14)

As we shall see, the opening passage from Ezekiel is crucial to understand what is happening in Acts 2.

A Divine Phenomenon: Pentecost

On the day of Pentecost, according to Acts 2:1-13, God poured out the Holy Spirit on the assembled believers, accompanied by several supernatural signs, including the sound of a violent wind, tongues of fire, and speaking in tongues. Scripture Scholar, Scott Hahn, declares, "These three experiences seemed like natural phenomena (wind, fire and speech); yet, they were supernatural, both in origin and character. The noise was not wind, but sounded like it; the sight was not fire, but resembled it; and the speech was in languages which were not ordinary, but in some mysterious way, 'other'."

Charles W. Carter and Ralph Earle's The Wesleyan Bible Commentary suggests that the tongues of fire symbolise purity, because fire is a purifying agent. The in-filling of the Spirit symbolises possession, because those filled with the Spirit had given themselves over to God. And the speaking in unknown languages symbolises proclamation, because the disciples would use the languages to proclaim the Good News about Jesus.

The fiftieth day after Passover, also known as the 'Feast of Weeks' (or Shavuot) was one of the Jewish Harvest Pilgrimage Festivals, for which all Jews travelled to Jerusalem from far and wide; fifty days after the Passover, Jesus' disciples too probably travelled from Galilee, where they had returned to their fishing nets. The author of Acts uses this feast as the occasion for the renewal of the people of Israel and their Covenant.

The Renewal of the Covenant

The episode that followed, as described by the author, is very reminiscent of the Sinai experience. Noise is almost unbearable, and tongues of fire symbolised something divine was happening; in this case, the outpouring of the Spirit upon them, the gift promised by their dear Lord before His death.


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