Unity is a Gift from God through the Holy Spirit
By: Fr. Ray Reyes, Liaison
Archdiocese of San Francisco
Catholic Charismatic Renewal
I am writing this a few days after the Lord's Ascension and a few days before Pentecost Sunday. The farewell discourse or the parting words of Jesus to his disciples as told by Saint John dominate the readings this week. The central theme of Jesus' message, in fact, the prayer that he said in the Garden of Gethsemane, was on unity that he desired for his disciples and would be followers. Jesus must have felt the great anguish and anxiety knowing that his closest friends would inevitably experience division among themselves after leaving them.
Our world is full of division and all of human history seems to tell the same story. As we witness such disharmony that spills over in our beloved Church, within our church leaders and among the laity. Bishops are divided on whether abortion is the preeminent issue over other social concerns such as immigration, euthanasia, gender identity, same sex marriage and so on. There are those who support our Holy Father and there also others who are not fond of him and his teachings. It is so ironic to see the ongoing war and battle between the Palestinians and the people of Israel, the holy place where our blessed Lord himself lived.
Such disharmony is also something we struggle deep within. We sometimes hate ourselves when we can't let go of past hurts or personal habits or addictions.
I remember a certain ritual practiced at every wedding. This ritual is called the Ritual of Disconnecting. In this ritual, the groom steps away from his friends and goes to the altar to wait for his bride. The bride walks down the aisle, often accompanied by her father, who on behalf of the family, kisses her good-bye and gives her away to the groom. The rite of disconnecting is a sign of the major turning point in the couple's life. The bride and groom literally leave family, friend, and the single life behind in order to dedicate themselves to the special mission of living a life in common with another human being. Psychologists and counselors warn that unless spouses disengage themselves from their respective families or origin, they cannot grow in their relationship with each other. Many young couples found it difficult to build their own life together because they had not fully disconnected either from their families or from their habits of their single life.
In a similar way, Ascension, the Lord's disconnecting himself from us, offers us the opportunity to anticipate something new about ourselves with the coming of the Holy Spirit. Disconnecting becomes a prerequisite for truly being able to welcome a new relationship, a new beginning and yes a whole new world.
Division, concord and disunity will always be upon us but for a purpose. As we reflect on the many areas of disharmony we encounter in our world, our church, our ministry, our family and ourselves, let us further ask on what else we need to ascend from. "What do we need to let go and disconnect ourselves from... so that we can accept the coming of the Holy Spirit whom God is sending us?"
As we are about to celebrate Pentecost Sunday, let us pray for the gift of the Holy Spirit's presence of healing & unity that is not first of all the result of any human effort. Jesus himself prayed for it on our behalf. Unity is a divine gift, for it is a reflection of the union between our Lord and His Father and which is made present through the Holy Spirit. This UNITY is truly deep and strong because it comes from God. This UNITY, God's gift through the Holy Spirit, is what the church, the world, our nation and all of us need at this time.
REFLECTION FOR TODAY
June 24, 2021
By Fr. 5ndrew Ibegbulem, OSA
SANCTIFIED FOR A UNIQUE ROLE
All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, "What, then, will this child be?" For surely the hand of the Lord was with him. The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel. Lk. 1:65-66
We commemorate the birthday of John the Baptist today, the last emissary sent by God to prepare a people for the coming of the Messiah. From the time his conception was announced by the Angel, John was consecrated to the work of God. He was to be a Nazirite, one dedicated to God. He would ready the people by preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
Our gospel reference today presence us with the few details of the early life John. Apart from this, we know nothing other than he "grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel." After leading a life hidden from the public for nearly thirty years, John emerged to fulfil his vocation.
Today we honor one aspect of John's life-his birth. We know that he was blessed to not only be born into the blessed family of Elizabeth and Zechariah but that the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of God, was also his relative and was present at his birth. Zechariah, his father, gave him the name "John" even though it would have been the custom to call him Zechariah after his father. Zechariah did this in obedience to the Archangel Gabriel, who appeared to him prior to John's birth and instructed him to do so.
Great mystery and excitement surrounded the birth of John, and there is little doubt that those who were present at his birth would have been caught up in the intrigue and hope of who he would become. And John didn't disappoint. It was of him that Jesus one day would say, "I tell you, among those born of women, no one is greater than John…".
Though you may not have had the privilege of being sanctified in the womb of your mother, or to have had your father receive a revelation from the Archangel Gabriel prior to your birth, you are, nonetheless, called to be guided by the hand of the Lord each day. God wants you to become "strong in spirit" so that you can fulfill the unique will He has given to you.
We honor the great saints, in part, because they give us an example of how to live. For that reason, we must see in each of their lives the model to which we must conform. The primary witness set by Saint John the Baptist is that he was unwaveringly obedient to God and to being formed by His hand. The result was the glorious fulfillment of his unique mission in life, all the way to giving his life as a martyr.
Reflect, today, upon the very real fact that, though you were not sanctified in the womb, you were sanctified by Baptism. From there, you were strengthened by the Spirit through Confirmation and are regularly fed by the Most Holy Eucharist. In many ways, you are just as blessed as John. Reflect upon the simple yet profound fact that God wants to use you for His holy mission. He gives to you some mission He has not entrusted to another. Say "Yes" to that mission today so that you, too, will be seen as "great" in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Lord, You sanctified Saint John the Baptist in the womb, and You continued to pour forth Your grace upon him throughout his life. He responded to You and fulfilled his glorious mission. I thank You for the sanctification given to me by my Baptism and strengthened through Confirmation and the Holy Eucharist. Help me to be open to all the graces You wish to bestow so that I may fulfill the unique mission given to me. Jesus, I trust in You.
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Saint of the Day
As a lay organization, the mission of the Charismatic Renewal is:
- To help all people come to know the love of God in their lives as demonstrated through our Lord, Jesus Christ.
- To help our brothers and sisters respond to God's love by loving God in return through a commitment to serve Christ and His Church.
- To assist them to listen and follow the movement of the Holy Spirit at work in their lives.
- To help our brothers and sisters recognize the ministry that God has called them to, and accept the gifts that God desires to bestow upon them for His work in our Church and in our world.
- To lead them to a New Life offered to us by the Holy Spirit.