Monday, May 27, 2013

Feast of the Holy Trinity

Trinity Sunday
May 26, 2013
                    John 16:12-15

Jesus said to his disciples: "I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming. He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you. Everything that the Father has is mine;
for this reason I told you that he will take from what is mine and declare it to you."

The Feast of the Holy Trinity which we celebrate today, arose as a response to the 4th Century heresy of Arianism, which denied the divinity of Christ. We proclaim our belief in the Holy Trinity in our Sign of the Cross, our Creeds, and in many parts of the Mass.
We have all entered into salvation having been baptized in the Name of the Father (ie., the Creative Parent God) and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.      Our faith as Christians, as followers of  Jesus, indeed rests on the Foundation of our belief in the Holy Trinity. --the doctrine of which itself  has 3 parts: 
1.    We do not believe in three Gods, but in One God in three persons-- with each of the persons of the Trinity, being God, whole and complete, such that each of them is the Same Reality of divine substance, essence and nature which had no beginning and will have no end.
2. ]We also believe that the three Divine persons of the Trinity are really distinct from one another--thus, the person of the Parent God is distinct from that of the Son, the Son distinct from the Parent, and the Spirit is distinct from the Parent and Son.
3.  Finally, the Three Divine Persons of the Trinity are relative to each other, such that a perfect and complete "Tri-unity" exits amongst Them -- an interrelatedness of perfect harmony and peace--of perfect Love. They possess in common and they act in common -- what a model for us!
 All our readings today contribute to our understanding of this fundamental belief in a Triune God -a God Who is:
Sovereign:  having established the heavens, drawn circles around the deep, made firm the skies, assigned the limits to the seas, laid the earth's foundation, and continually creates and sustains life (1st Reading Proverbs 8:22-31)
Sympathetic: from the word's two parts 'sym' (with) + pathos (feeling, suffering)....For although God is transcendent and powerful, God chose to live and love among us, to feel and suffer all things with us, bearing oh so much more than any of our sufferings, and indeed, bearing the sum of all mortal suffering of all time(2nd Reading Romans 5:1-5 -- " so through our Lord Jesus Christ...we [can]boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God)
Sufficient: "Everything that the Parent God has belongs to me and the Spirit will take what is mine and reveal it to you." (today's Gospel, John 16:15)
 The doctrine of the Trinity, ie., Three Persons in one God, is the CENTRAL MYSTERY of the Christian faith because it is the mystery of God's very self......and while we can never fully understand this Mystery, we are called to live its reality because we are created in the Triune God's Image.
Our Baptism in the name of the Trinity immerses us into this unity of Divine Relational Love and throughout our lives as Christians  we confess God (the Source of all Good) as well as call upon God in time of trouble...
Our troubles and persecution, as Paul reminds us in today's 2nd Reading, give way to glory as we grow in imitation of Christ's sacrificial Love  thru the power of the Spirit, thus becoming part of and co-creators by our gifts,  of the Triune Love of God.
Sister Joan Chittister's Creed, In Search of Belief,  pp. 205 - 209
(with some adaptation)
I believe in one God Who made us all and whose divinity infuses all of life with the sacred.
I believe in the multiple revelations of that God alive in every human heart, expressed in every culture, and found in all the wisdoms of the world.
I believe that Jesus Christ, the unique Son of God, is the face of God on earth in whom we see best, the Divine justice, Divine mercy, and Divine compassion to which we are all called.
I believe in the Christ Who is One in being with the Creator and Who shows us the presence of God in everything that is and calls out the sacred in ourselves.
I believe in Jesus, the Christ, who leads us to the fullness of human stature, to what we were meant to become before all time and for all other things that were made.
Through Christ we become new people, called beyond the consequences of our brokenness and lifted to the fullness of life.
By the power of the Holy Spirit Jesus was born of Mary, a woman pure in soul and single-hearted--a sign to the ages of the exalted place of womankind in the Divine plan of human salvation.
Jesus grew as we grow through all the stages of life.
He lived as we live, prey to the pressures of evil and intent on the good.
He broke no bonds with the world to which he was bound; he sinned not.
He never strayed from the mind of God.
He showed us the Way, lived it for us, suffered from it, and died because of it so that we might live with new heart, new mind, and new strength, despite all the death to which we are daily subjected.
For our sake and for the sake of eternal Truth, he was hounded, harassed and executed  by those who were their own gods and who valued the Sacred in no other.
He suffered so that we might realize that the Spirit in us can never be killed, whatever price we have to pay for staying true to the mind of God.
He died but did not die because He lives in us still.
"On the third day" in the tomb he rose again in those he left behind and in each of usas well to in hearts that will not succumb to the enemies of life.
He changed all of life for all of us thereafter.  He ascended into the life of God and waits there for our own ascension to the life beyond life.
He waits there, judging what has gone before and what is yet to come against unending values, and, in behalf of eternal virtue, for the time when all of life will be gathered into God, full of life and light, steeped in Truth.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the breath of God on earth, who keeps the Christ vision present to souls yet in darkness, who gives life even to hearts now blind, who infuses energy into spirits yet weary, isolated, searching and confused.
The Spirit has spoken to the human heart through the prophets and gives new meaning to the Word throughout time.
I believe in one holy and universal church, bound together by the holiness of creation and the holiness of hearts forever true.
I acknowledge the need to be freed from the compulsions of my disordered life and I acknowledge my need for forgiveness in the face of frailty.
I look for life eternal in ways I cannot dream of and trust that God, the Source of All, goes on creating in this world and in us forever. 

Homily written by Reverend Mary Wagner

                              St. Valentine Faith Community
                                                              Mass: 10AM Every Sunday
2301 E Sunset Road
Suite 18
Las Vegas, NV 89119
702-523-8963 Rev Sue Provost, Pastor

"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. " (1 John 4:9-10)

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Gift of the Holy Spirit

Pentecost Sunday
May 19, 2013

                    Acts 2:1-11 

When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim. Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem. At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language. They were astounded, and in amazement they asked, “Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans? Then how does each of us hear them in his native language? We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs,
yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.”

The reading from Acts sets the tone for today’s celebration. Luke tells how the Church’s universal mission was inaugurated, in the power of the Holy Spirit, as faithful Jews gathered for their Pentecost festival, fifty days after the Passover celebration. Luke was conscious of his task of telling the world what had really happened – as he makes clear in introducing each of his two works. He faced a great challenge, however, as he set out to describe and interpret the vast complexity of the Church’s early development. He met this difficulty by choosing several events that were turning points in the Church’s history, and presenting them in a dramatic way that made clear their profound significance – a device used by other writers of the day. 

Luke’s story of the Church’s first Pentecost is an example of this approach. The Church’s first courageous witness, and its subsequent announcing of the Good New throughout the known world, was a remarkable fulfillment of the Savior’s promise that he would give his disciples courage and power through the gift of his own Spirit (Mk 13:9-11).

The universality of the Church’s mission is made clear. The Church’s first witness is to ‘devout people from every nation’ - in the first place to ‘Jews’, but with the mention of ‘proselytes’ among the crowd addressed the conversion of the gentiles is also anticipated. In the continuation of our passage, Peter’s sermon gives a summary of the Church’s early witness. It is in the power of the Spirit that the Church takes up its mission.

Today, before all days, the Church invites us to deepen our faith in the Savior’s gift of his own Spirit. Already in the Old Testament, ‘the Spirit of God’ was active as a life-giving force at work in creation. Anointed by the Spirit as God’s ‘Servant’, in fulfillment of the prophecies of the Book of Isaiah, Jesus has led us to know the Spirit as a Person sharing the one divine life with the Father and the Son. Today’s gospel reading is a meditation upon this shared life, and the way in which those who find faith in Christ have the Father and the Son ‘make their home’ in them. Those who have received the gift of Christ’s own Spirit will be led to known how the Savior is the source of hope for the whole world - as the Spirit ‘reminds’ them of all that Jesus said and did.. 

The Spirit is the Spirit of Christ; the Spirit is the very life principle of the Church; the Spirit dwells in each believer as our ‘paraclete’– the companion who stands by us in all our trials, providing whatever is needed to survive every trial. We live ‘in Christ’ because he has given us his own Spirit.

Writing to the Romans St Paul reminds these new converts that, together with the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit will come to ‘live in them’ – renewing their lives, as they set aside their old fears, and find joy and encouragement, as the Father’s beloved ‘children’ who are ‘coheirs with Christ’, sharing the blessings of his resurrection. 

There may be times when we wonder whether these ideals have any place in today's world. If this is so, may the celebration of this Feast renew our confidence in the fact that God does love us; that through the death and resurrection of Christ, we have been offered the opportunity for salvation; and that through the continued presence of the Holy Spirit, such ideals can become facts. 

We have so much more capacity to change the world than we realize, not because of our intelligence, not from our commitment to justice, but from the Spirit that inspires our compassion, stimulates our imaginations, and fills us with the assurance that we are truly the children of God with many rights and responsibilities. Pentecost confronts us with the reality of that Spirit of God dwelling  within us.

The implication of this actuality is too often ignored when in reality the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is central to our Christianity. Our commitment to care for the planet, environmental justice, feeding the hungry, assisting the sick, and speaking truth to the world all flow from the fact that we are the children of God. We have been given the authority to forgive sins or to retain sin because we have received the Holy Spirit (John 20:22-23).  We have been given the power to bind or loose things on earth and in heaven. We have been given the keys to the kingdom because we are the children of God (Matt 16:19). Will we embrace these realities and live into the responsibilities that they imply?  It is truly something for each one of us to think about. 

                              St. Valentine Faith Community
                                                              Mass: 10AM Every Sunday
2301 E Sunset Road
Suite 18
Las Vegas, NV 89119
702-523-8963 Rev Sue Provost, Pastor

"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. " (1 John 4:9-10)

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Feast of the Ascension

Feast of the Ascension
May 12, 2013   
                  Luke 24:46-53
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.  And behold I am sending the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
Then he led them out as far as Bethany, raised his hands, and blessed them. As he blessed them he parted from them and was taken up to heaven. They did him homage and then returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and they were continually in the temple praising God.

The Christian faith is rooted in the revelation of God's intervention in human history. The times when God has intervened in human history have become the central doctrines which form the cornerstone, the bedrock of our faith. They are the incarnation, the resurrection, the ascension and the final one, which we look forward to, the second coming. There is a symphony and interlocking of these truths which constitute the mystery of faith we live and celebrate.

Today we focus on Jesus' penultimate intervention: his ascension into heaven.  There is a very close correlation between Jesus' ascension and his return, his second coming. We believe that Christ will come again. Jesus himself promised this and it has been the hope of Christians from the very beginning. As the Lord ascended into heaven the angels announced: 'This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven' (Acts 1:11). There is a way in which on this holy feast we celebrate and look forward to the future of humanity.

The blessed hope of the Church is that we will be redeemed body and soul. On the last day our bodies will be reunited with our souls and we will enjoy forever the beatific vision - the sight of God, holy, beloved and adored. In this new reality we will enjoy the eternal bliss of being in God's presence for eternity.

The feast of the Ascension that we celebrate today was actually last Thursday – 40 days after Easter.  This belief in the after-life is what the beautiful reading from the Ephesians is about today: With the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance… and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power…” (Eph 1.18-19) What a beautiful prayer that is – and such strange imagery: “With the eyes of your heart enlightened.”

How can our hearts have eyes, and how can our hearts see? The heart is the seat of love, and so, it isn’t our intellect which needs to see the light -  the truth oft he kingdom of heaven- but our enlightenment will come through our hearts in the way we love others and have been loved back. That is what heaven is – a state of love, because as we saw a few weeks ago, God is love. The reading from Ephesians goes on to explain that Christ lives but that we have become his earthly body.  Once he left the earth he has given us his Spirit so that we can carry on his work. As the Gospel of Luke says, he has sent us what God has promised, that we will be “clothed with power from on high”. 

In the first reading from the Acts, Luke also uses the idea of a promise, and he explains this power by saying that John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. So that, even if Jesus was leaving the physical earth, he was not leaving his followers without help. We will be baptized and clothed with the Spirit. 

The feast of the Ascension is a celebration of the day when Jesus stopped appearing to his disciples and was not with them any more in a physical sense. Now, we take on his body. Now, we need to become Christ for others. This feast of the Ascension, then, is a reminder for all of us, not just of what awaits us when we die, but what we need to do while still alive: how we can become the body of Christ, and how we can be helped, protected and loved by the Spirit – God’s gift to us.

As we celebrate the Feast of the Ascension today, let us not mourn the fact that Jesus left us on earth, but instead rejoice like the disciples. “They did him homage and then returned to Jerusalem with great joy…” Because of the promise, the hope and the reminders he leaves us with, we have great reason for joy. Note that the Gospel ends with – “and they were continually in the temple blessing God.” The disciples were Jews – initially they didn’t change their religion or start a new one. What they saw, though, was that Jesus was a special gift from God, God’s own Son, who was equal to God because he was God in some unknown way, and that all praise is of God, who loves us and takes care of us.

Today, then, we celebrate with joy and confidence our future destiny: Christ in us the hope of glory (Col. 1:27). Jesus' ascension gives us, if you like, a glimpse into our future destiny. We don't often admit it but there is within each of us a desire and longing for permanence and a sense of not quite belonging on earth, a sense that our future lies beyond the grave. We resist the darkness that death is the end and cling to the hope of eternal life. The feast of the Ascension is an opportunity for us to deepen this understanding and appreciate in a new way that God is calling us to live with him forever and become partakers in the divine nature.

                              St. Valentine Faith Community
                                                              Mass: 10AM Every Sunday
2301 E Sunset Road
Suite 18
Las Vegas, NV 89119
702-523-8963 Rev Sue Provost, Pastor

"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. " (1 John 4:9-10)

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Remember: Jesus Sent us an Advocate!

6th Sunday of Easter

Gospel John 14:23-29

Jesus said to his disciples: “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; yet the word you hear is not mine but that of the Father who sent me. “I have told you this while I am with you. The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. You heard me tell you, ‘I am going away and I will come back to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father; for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you this before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe.”

Today's selection from John's Gospel, continues the farewell discourse of Jesus. Ideally situated in the Church calendar to anticipate the coming feasts of Ascension and Pentecost, this gospel tells both of Jesus' immanent departure and his promise to send the Holy Spirit,-who will be an Advocate or Paraclete the Latin for 'Helper'. The Holy Spirit will provide for the disciples all those things which Jesus did for them in his years with them (teaching, leadership, assurance, etc.) His upcoming departure then, is not abandonment, but rather a new, and even stronger indwelling Presence, which will yield the gift of peace.

We see just how effective this new presence of the Holy Spirit is in the community as a whole, when we hear in the first reading, about the first crisis that the early Church faced. As we know, Paul preached the Good News to the Gentiles and by baptizing them without requiring them to observe the Law of Moses, especially that of ritual circumcision, he was able to win over many converts. So when some traditional Jewish Christians from Jerusalem visited Antioch and compelled the Gentiles to follow the whole Mosaic Law, Paul opposed it vigorously, arguing that salvation is won by faith in Christ, not by the works of the Law. There was so much dissension that Paul and Barnabas had to go on a peace-mission to Jerusalem to meet with the church there to hash it all out. This gathering was later called the Council of Jerusalem, the first of the Church's Councils. After intense debate, it was decided that the Gentile converts were obligated to observe only those parts of the Law that would facilitate social contact with the Jewish Christians. Luke makes it clear that the decision to accept the Gentiles was not handed down from some 'high authority' or derived from abstract principles, but rather arrived at through a divine-human collaboration involving 'the whole Jerusalem church' along with the Holy Spirit.

Jesus said to his disciples, " Anyone who loves Me will be true to my word, and the One who sent Me will love them; and We will come to them and there We will make our home with them." This most certainly indicates that the gift of the Spirit is given to each of us individually, but a little later on when Jesus says:"the One who sent me will send the Holy Spirit, who will instruct you in everything", the "you" is plural, meaning, also, that the Holy Spirit is given to the community of believers, the whole church. The Spirit is God's gift of wisdom and grace, then, to each of us and to all of us together (what we would call today, the sensus fidelium. The early church's willingness to surrender in community, to prayer and to the Holy Spirit challenges us (or shall I say, indicts us ?) in that 2,000 years later, so many Christian faiths are still divided and so parochial. We still have such a long way to go to in "real"-izing-the vision in Revelation of a holy city wherein all people from the four corners of the earth universally adore the One and Only God.

While we may wonder if we will destroy ourselves while trying, if we call ourselves Christian we must embrace the principle of and live the words of the song which say "Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me"....There are 5 strategies, each beginning with a letter in the word "P.E.A.C.E.", if diligently practiced daily and in every 'un-peaceful' situation by every Christian would de facto lead to a more peace-filled world: PRAYER: Mother Teresa, a contemporary model of the very way to live as Christ did and recognized even by the secular world as a most peace-filled person, the winner of the international Noble Peace prize, taught about the necessity of prayer as the first step toward peace within ourselves and for the world. "When you pray, you will have faith. When you have faith, you will love. When you love, you will hear the call to serve. And when you serve, you will have peace."

And what should we pray for ? the situations that frighten us for sure, but mostly for the people who have hurt us and betrayed us, that Good will be the end result.

 ENLIGHTENMENT: Thomas Merton, in his Seeds of Destruction, wrote in 1961 about the necessity of freeing ourselves from the exorbitant and tyrannical demands of a society that is violent, because it is essentially greedy, lustful and cruel and he urged us before it became too late, to recognize the impossibility of being a peaceful people if we submit passively to the influences of a society maddened by over-stimulation, over-consumption, voyeurism and speed. Nineteen hundred years before that, St Paul urged the Philippians in a similar vane--"Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things....and the God of peace will be with you.[Phil. 4:8-9]. Our news is a constant repetitious bombardment of crisis, cruelty, outrageousness, banality and mayhem, but if we concentrate on filling our minds with what is inspirational (which we can find without looking too hard), we will be subconsciously motivated to emulate the noble. E.g., this week's story about Carmen Tarleton has inspired thousands to forgive the hurt in their lives (6 yrs ago she suffered chemical burns over 80% of her body when her estranged husband doused her with lye...despite years of excruciating pain, multiples surgeries, permanent disfigurement and blindness, she said, "There is a lot to learn and take from horrific events that happen.. I want others to know that they need not give up when tragedy strikes, but instead that they can make a choice to find the good and allow that to help them heal." There are endless ways to 'light-en' our hearts and fill our spirits with the good and the healing--nature, music, art, literature (two books recently recommended to me -- "Proof of Heaven" and "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.")

APPRECIATION: "Let Christ's peace reign in your hearts...Dedicate yourselves to thankfulness."[Col.3:15]. "If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is 'Thank You', that would suffice." [Meister Eckhart] Most importantly, we will need to be grateful for the crosses and contradictions, the disillusionments and disagreements, the setbacks and the struggles, the sufferings and our dying, all of which enable us to grow back into God.

CHARITY: Goldie Hawn, in an interview for Mothers' Day, said that "we are only as happy as our least happy child." I immediately realized that God is only as happy as the least happy person on what a task we have !! The prayer attributed to St Francis of Assisi gives us some helpful suggestions..."Lord make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy."

ENDURANCE: "I have said this, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” [John 16:33] It has been said that "It is easier to fight for one's principles than to live up to them " [Alfred Adler] and that certainly goes for Christianity--it's a lot easier to fight for it than to live it. But what the world desperately needs is less people fighting for Christianity and more people living it. Then and only then, might we actually have a chance at "world peace".

Written by Rev. Mary Wagner

St. Valentine Faith Community
Mass: 10AM Every Sunday
2301 E Sunset Road
Suite 18
Las Vegas, NV 89119
702-523-8963 Rev Sue Provost, Pastor

"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. " (1 John 4:9-10)