Posted by: Fr Chris | May 20, 2018

Pentecost Monday

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St John the Baptist Catholic Church, Kenmore, NY, under the sign of God’s covenant with Noah

Readings: Ephesians 5:8b-19, Matthew 18: 10-20

There are lots of stories about how awful Catholic schools were supposed to be, usually told by someone who says they are a recovering Catholic. I had 8 years at St. John the Baptist school in Kenmore, NY, with the Sisters of St. Mary of Namur. They started in Belgium, and our American Sisters were well educated, well rounded, dedicated women who taught us to understand the Latin Mass and Gregorian chant, to write spiritual journals, to recognize God’s love, and guided us through the rapid changes after Vatican II.

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Saint John’s School, Kenmore, NY

They taught us very well, and especially taught us to love God and to realize that we are deeply loved by God. People tend to put their children in Catholic school so as to get a good education to prepare for high school and college, but the schools exist so as to preserve and pass on the Faith – what we do here in Eastern Christian Formation on Sundays.

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Gospel Book cover: Christ the Teacher and Four Evangelists 

The Sisters taught us to bow our heads when we hear or say the name of Jesus, and to have respect for the name of our Savior. They also taught us to bless ourselves, slowly, whenever there was a reference to the Holy Trinity in a prayer or at Mass. This is especially so in the Byzantine Rite, when the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are spoken, we make the sign of the cross. Blessing oneself is so powerful that in the ancient Church it was treated as an eighth sacrament and was never to be done in the presence of pagans.

Saint Ioannicus the Great wrote:  The +Father is my hope, the+ Son is my refuge, the+ Holy Spirit is my protection: + Most Holy Trinity, glory be to You! and we bow and bless ourselves at the mention of each Person and of the United Trinity.

It is an interesting reading for Pentecost Monday: Jesus speaks of the value of the little ones: no harm can come to them, and if even one is lost, He will seek that one out and find that lost one to bring that person back to His flock. He is speaking both of children, and of the anawim, the little ones of Israel – people like St Joseph, St Simeon and St Anna at the temple, SS Zachariah and Elizabeth – the people who lived lives of prayer, penance, simplicity and above all, dependence upon God like the passage in Ephesians, as people of the light, not darkness. This is how we all are supposed to be living, from the most powerful person on earth to a homeless soul in poverty.

The message in the Gospel today is one of mutual love, caring for the other, seeking out the lost, protecting the vulnerable. A shepherd in Jesus’ day would not go after the lost sheep – it was expected you would lose a few animals to predators. But Jesus is the perfect Good Shepherd – He wants no one to be lost and searches them out, like the famous poem Hound of Heaven* – He is there constantly at our side, reaching for us. The Gospel ends with the recognition that some people will resist grace, but every effort is to be made to keep them in the Body of Christ as a member of the People of God.

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The wholeness of the Holy Trinity abides in us: God loves us profoundly, deeply, with feeling that we can only begin to image.  God is our hope, our refuge, our protection – with Him, we have nothing to fear: not illness, not war, not disaster, not death itself. The Holy Spirit wants to live within us and God’s grace remains in us from baptism on. Four Gospels are sung at the four corners of the church, to proclaim the Good News of the Holy Spirit to the four corners of the universe. May we proclaim His message by how we live, how we pray, how we love, so that we may have the great privilege of seeing Him face to face at the end of our lives. Christ is among us.

*Read The Hound of Heaven here:

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Dove nesting before icon of the Holy Spirit 

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