Saturday, May 26, 2012

Pentecost: The forgiveness of sins through the Holy Spirit is the "new" thing which overcomes division through love

"If now, while they are one people,
all speaking the same language, they have started to do this, nothing will later stop them from doing whatever they presume to do.
Let us then go down there and confuse their language, so that one will not understand what another says."

We are not free in order to do whatever we want to do, to love our pride or our desires. We are free in order to love the God who gave us our freedom in creating us. The story of Babel is told in order to explain the truth about our need for God and for His love. Only God has the power to bring unity, for God is authentic love and only His love brings authentic oneness.

"This state of division into many nations is at once cosmic, social and religious. It is intended to limit the pride of fallen humanity united only in its perverse ambition to forge its own unity as at Babel. But, because of sin, both polytheism and the idolatry of the nation and of its rulers constantly threaten this provisional economy with the perversion of paganism." (CCC 57)

Pride is a lie, convincing us we can have love, that we can "make" unity, without God. Sin, whether of pride or another source, divides mankind and paves the way for false worship.

"Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth." God's Spirit is the "new" reality upon the face of the earth. Each day we awake we find nearly everything is almost exactly like it was the day before. But there is one thing that can grow and become "different" each day: our love for God and our ability to receive His love, His gifts which come to us in their fullness through the Holy Spirit.

I will soon celebrate my twenty year anniversary as a priest. It would be very easy for me to approach my duties as a priest, whether to celebrate holy Mass and the other sacraments, to teach and preach and otherwise sanctify God's holy people, as the same each time and to lose my fervor and joy. So that this misfortune will not befall me I must always keep in mind Who it is that I serve, Who has called me and the purpose of my vocation: the salvation of every one of you here present and, by extension together with Our Holy Father, our bishops and all priests, that of the world.

Here is a reminder of the charge I was given on the day of my ordination:

"The spiritual gift conferred by presbyteral ordination is expressed by this prayer of the Byzantine Rite. The bishop, while laying on his hand, says among other things:

"Lord, fill with the gift of the Holy Spirit
him whom you have deigned to raise to the rank of the priesthood,
that he may be worthy to stand without reproach before your altar
to proclaim the Gospel of your kingdom,
to fulfill the ministry of your word of truth,
to offer you spiritual gifts and sacrifices,
to renew your people by the bath of rebirth;
so that he may go out to meet
our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, your only Son,
on the day of his second coming,
and may receive from your vast goodness
the recompense for a faithful administration of his order." (CCC 1587)

What our Byzantine brothers proclaim is true also for us: the Holy Spirit "renews", makes new again, each day of life through the growth and grace He brings as the third Person of the Trinity. The "bath of rebirth" which is baptism and by which sins are forgiven for the human person for the very first time is meant to be renewed after subsequent sins over and over again through the Spirit's gift of forgiveness which comes to us through our ordained priests in the sacrament of Confession. In particular we need the Sacrament after grave sins before we can again approach the altar for Communion.

"Receive the Holy Spirit.
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,
and whose sins you retain are retained."

A most wonderful gift was given to me on the day of my ordination that I have shared with countless members of the faithful through the years: the ability to absolve from sin through the sacrament of Confession.

Forgiveness from the grave danger and mortal peril of sin which can separate us forever from God and His love is given to the Church through the Holy Spirit, beginning at the first Pentecost. This is the one new thing in the world, new every day, the Person of Jesus in His priests forgiving the sins of the whole world and thus bringing the renewal of the Spirit over the face of the Earth!


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