Sunday Word

Breathe again

Father Campbell
Sunday, June 4
Acts 2:1-11; Ps 104:1, 24, 29-4; 1 Cor 12:3b-7, 12-13; Jn 20:19-23

This Sunday, Pentecost, marks the sacred hour of the Church’s beginning, created from the love of the Father, birthed by the passion of the Son, awakened with life-breath from the gift of the Holy Spirit. Pentecost, a word that means 50th day, or in Hebrew Shavuot, is a historic Jewish festival. It marks seven weeks (50 days) after Passover to celebrate the first fruits of the late spring/early summertime crops, a sign of God’s generous provisions. It also celebrates the sacred moment when God made Israel his Covenant people by writing the law on stone tablets and giving it to Moses on Mount Sinai. The Pentecost directly after the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ will be the day chosen by God to mark the closing of an era and the beginning of a new age — the age of the Church, an era of the Spirit. Let us now consider the powerful wind, fire and harvest of Pentecost.

Wind. The Hebrew word for “spirit” is ruah, which simply means breath or wind. God creates man and woman in his own living image and likeness — they come alive when God breathes his ruah/spirit within them (Gn 2:7). When human beings make the bad decision to squander God’s spiritual gifts through personally chosen sin, it is then that they experience a removal of God’s ruah/spirit. Sin brings a painful reversal into a lifeless void of darkness, the catalyst for both spiritual and physical death (Gn 3:19). For humanity to live and breathe again, we must have the wind-breath of God’s Spirit restored to us. Sent by God the Father, Jesus provides us with the sacrificial offering that will enable sinful humans who have faith in him to pass over from death to life. Seven weeks after Christ’s Passover sacrifice, God seals the deal by sending a mighty wind. This is more than just a summer breeze. The mighty wind is a manifestation of God, a hallmark of the Spirit causing a new creation to bubble with life and breath. This wind causes those dead in sin to breathe again with the fresh air of heavenly delight.

Fire. It can destroy, it can give light and it is hot. In the book of Exodus Chapter 3, God reveals himself to Moses in a most unique manifestation — as a bush on fire, yet not burning. We know two things about the fire of God from the Scriptures: It burns out darkness, error and sin; it preserves, illuminates and dances upon that which is good. The ancient fire that once burned upon a bush now comes to dance upon human beings. At this Shavuot God will give a new law for a new covenant community, a law not written on stone tablets, but upon the hearts of those who undergo the purifying fire of faith. The fire-light of God’s Holy Spirit shall enlighten those baptized in Christ, to be born again by water and the Spirit (Jn 3:5). The Church will illuminate the world with the burning truth of the Gospel, bringing warmth in our often-cold world.

Harvest. Seven weeks after Christ revealed himself to be the Passover Lamb of sacrifice for the sins of the world, Pentecost will bring a springtime harvest — of souls — all over the world. After our Lord’s ascension into heaven, Acts Chapter 2 details that the Blessed Virgin Mary and the holy apostles were gathered together in prayer in the Upper Room; they suddenly became immersed in the Holy Spirit of God. This extraordinary event caused them to speak in foreign tongues. Jewish people from around the Mediterranean world who were celebrating Pentecost at Jerusalem’s Temple each heard the apostles and Blessed Virgin speaking to them in their own native language. On that first Pentecost, Peter baptized some 3,000 people, each of whom heard him speaking in their own native language. Imagine that. Those newly baptized men and women will bring the Gospel of Christ home with them to their native countries. Within 70 years, the Church will spread all over the known world. It will become known as Katholikos in Greek — Catholic in English — because it is universal in nature. All are called to be members of the body of Christ, the wind is fanning the flame and the fire cannot be stopped. Together you and I are the successors of this supernatural movement of Pentecost.

Let us pray: Come, Holy Spirit ,fill us with the mighty wind of life, help us to breathe again. Spirit of Fire and Light, burn out our darkness, illuminate virtue within us. Grant us courage to share with others the greatest gift ever given in God’s Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Father Campbell is a priest of the Diocese of Palm Beach and parochial vicar at Our Lady Queen of the Apostles in Royal Palm Beach.

Evil is not just in the movies

Father Scotchie
Sunday, May 28
Acts 1:1-11; Ps 47:2-3, 6-9; Eph 1:17-23; Mt 28:16-20

In the 2015 movie “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” the young heroine Rey runs into the old hero Han Solo.

Rey: “There are stories about what happened.”

Han Solo: “It’s true. All of it. The Dark Side, the Jedi. They’re real.”

Is the “Dark Side” real? You bet. There is evil in the world. It is real. War is evil. War creates millions of refugees vulnerable to disease, hunger and human predators. War sows the seeds of future wars. It feeds extremists like ISIS.

Pollution, waste and the throwaway culture are evil. Pope Francis wrote an encyclical, “On Care for our Common Home,” reminding us that our planet is like a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us.

Yet, “water poverty especially affects Africa where large sectors of the population have no access to safe drinking water or experience droughts which impede agricultural production,” he wrote. “Each year sees the disappearance of thousands of plant and animal species. … The great majority become extinct for reasons related to human activity. … We have no such right.”

Abortion is evil. Abortion stops one heart and breaks another. It has made children into a commodity that can be cut up and sold like car parts. We treat our pets better than we treat our unborn children.

In the “Star Wars” movie universe, some pooh-poohed the Dark Side. They soon learned their lesson. It cost them their life.

Evil is not just in the movies. It seeks to destroy all that is good in the world. It wants us spiritually and physically dead. Scoff at your own peril.

Our hope is in the Lord. You know the stories. A long time ago in a Galilee far, far away, God sent his only Son not to condemn the world but to save it. He was born in a stable surrounded by sheep and donkeys and too soon part of a refugee family fleeing for its life from the evil King Herod.

He preached the reign of God where the blind see, the deaf hear and the oppressed are set free. His greatest work was not his teaching or healing, but to make the kingdom come. He gave himself over to the powers-that-be to be tortured and crucified and executed. But that was not the end of the story. It was a new beginning.

Three days later, the stone rolled away. The tomb was empty. The risen Lord Jesus appeared to disciples, walked on the road to Emmaus, and ate fish in the Upper Room.

Today commemorates his ascension to heaven where he is seated at the right hand of the Father. On a mountain in Galilee, he told his followers, “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Mt 28:16-20).

As Han Solo said, it’s true. All of it.

Next Sunday is the great feast of Pentecost. We commemorate the Holy Spirit giving birth to the Church. The Spirit has given us the power to speak the truth in love, the power to turn the other cheek to violence, and the power to give witness to his mighty deeds.

The movie poster for the very first “Star Wars” movie, made in 1977, featured the hero Luke pointing up to heaven with a light saber. It was a sign of victory.

Our destiny in the risen Lord is nothing less than the defeat of darkness and the victory of light.
To take to prayer: To him be all power and glory.

Father Scotchie is the pastor of Most Precious Blood Parish in Oviedo and his latest book is “Can I Say a Prayer With You: A Beginner’s Guide to Praying With Someone.” He can be reached at frdavidscotchie@gmail.com.

Christ seals us with the sign of the cross

Father Scotchie
Sunday, May 21
Acts 8:5-8, 14-17; Ps 66:1-7, 16, 20; 1 Pt 3:15-18; Jn 14:15-21

Bert Ghezzi wrote a book, “The Sign of the Cross,” which tells the legend of a certain saint and the cross. Young Reprobus was a magnificent giant. He left home in search of riches, purpose and a king worthy of his allegiance. On his travels he met a mighty king and pledged to follow him.

One day a jester entertained the royal court with a song about the devil. Every time the mighty king heard the word “devil” he made the sign of the cross. Reprobus asked the king, “What does the sign mean?”

“Whenever I hear the devil mentioned,” the king said, “I defend myself with this sign.”

“If you are afraid of the devil,” said Reprobus, “he must be the most powerful king on earth. I will enter his service. Goodbye!”

Reprobus traveled not far at all before he found the devil. Promising to serve him, he joined the devil’s army. When their march passed a roadside cross, the devil hid behind a boulder. Reprobus was taken aback. “Master, if you are the most powerful king on earth, why are you terrified?”

The trembling devil reluctantly gave answer. “A man named Jesus the Christ was nailed to a cross. When I see his sign, it fills me with terror and I run from it.”

“If you are afraid of this Jesus,” said Reprobus, “he must be the most powerful king on earth. I will enter his service. Goodbye!”

The good news is that the devil is terrified of the cross. The father of lies had had power over sinful humanity. He had expected he would have power over God by taking the life of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Instead, the crucifixion of Jesus became Satan’s downfall. Christ won victory over sin through his own death on the cross.

Jesus Christ hands us the victory of his cross through our baptism. In the waters of baptism we died with him and rose with him to abundant life. Christ seals us with the sign of the cross. He claims us as his own. We are under his protection.

If Christ won the victory, how does the devil still roam the earth seeking victims to devour? Why does he give us so much trouble?

On June 6, 1944, the tide of the war turned. The invasion of Normandy on D-Day began the end of the Axis powers. While World War II did not end until the summer of 1945, victory was certain.

Our D-Day is Easter Sunday. Christ rose from the grave. Our victory in Christ over sin and death is certain.

As his people, the body of Christ, we conquer overwhelmingly. The sign of the cross equips us for victory in our battles against the powers-that-be such as injustice, fear, disbelief and their master, the devil.

What happened to Reprobus? He met a hermit who helped people ford a dangerous river. The hermit baptized Reprobus and taught him to serve as Christ served. Reprobus pledged his life to Christ. He made his home on the banks of the dangerous river where he helped travelers safely cross the river.

One day his passenger was a small child. He lifted the boy on his shoulders and, with his staff, stepped into the river. As the river deepened, the child grew heavier. In danger of drowning, the giant did not give up his burden but persisted to carry the child to the far bank.

Reprobus said, “Child, thou hast put me in great peril; thou weighest almost as if I had all the world upon me: I might bear no greater burden.”

“Christopher,” the little boy responded, “thou hast not only borne all the world upon thee, but thou hast borne him that created and made all the world upon thy shoulders.”

Christopher, a name meaning Christ-bearer, had borne on his shoulders the King of Kings. Like St. Christopher, we serve the King of Kings. We trust him even when in danger of drowning. Our loyalty and our lives belong to him.

The sign of his cross sends the devil running. It renews the grace of our baptism. Marking us as his disciples, it gives us strength to carry our cross as we follow Jesus Christ to victory.

To take to prayer: Make the sign of the cross when you pray today.


Father Scotchie is the pastor of Most Precious Blood Parish in Oviedo and his latest book is “Can I Say a Prayer With You: A Beginner’s Guide to Praying With Someone.” He can be reached at frdavidscotchie@gmail.com.

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United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

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