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Bible Reflections View Comments

Trusting the Movement of the Spirit
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, May 19, 2013
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In the story of Pentecost in the Acts of the Apostles, we hear about the small group of Jesus’s closest friends hiding in the upper room, trying to make sense of the hatred that had led to his death, the astonishing mystery of his resurrection and his final departure to return to his Father and the heavenly kingdom. It’s no coincidence that they were spending that time in prayer.

As Jesus had promised, the Holy Spirit comes to them in the form of a strong, driving wind and as tongues of fire. The Spirit fills them with courage, sending them forth to preach—and to live—the Gospel. It didn’t mean that their struggles were over. But it was an undeniable assurance that God was with them.

The gift of the Spirit was about overcoming fear and hiding, shame and regret. It was about opening up the community to the power of the Gospel message. When Blessed John XXIII talked about the Second Vatican Council, he referred to it as opening windows long closed and letting in the Spirit to renew the Church. Like spring cleaning, this is something that needs to be done on a regular basis.

As we celebrate Pentecost this year, we’re more aware than ever of the need for the Spirit’s continued presence in our midst—guiding, inspiring, protecting the Gospel and all that is truly holy from the fear and the secrecy and the mistakes of the past.

Wind and fire are frequent images in the Scriptures for the presence and power of God. As we know all too well from the natural world, fire and wind can be both blessing and curse, can lead to life and death.

The prophets speak of fire as burning away the impurities of metal, or burning that chaff that’s been separated from the wheat. Things that obscure the truth need to be burned away. The fire of the Spirit is able to do that without burning or destroying what is still good and beautiful and true in our faith, in our Church, in our own lives.

Even as we watch events unfolding in the universal Church, we ourselves experience upheavals in our smaller communities—parishes, workplaces, families—and in our own lives. Whenever we’re struggling to break through some obstacle, illness, or misunderstanding, we can call on the fire of the Spirit to strengthen and encourage us.

Pentecost is a new beginning, a fresh start. Taking a new approach is rarely easy. The response of the crowd to the preaching of the apostles on the morning of Pentecost was that surely they must have been drinking. Several times they were thrown into prison for going against the authorities. But they were convinced that the Spirit was leading them in the right direction.

We know from our own lives that attempts to overcome mistakes in our past can haunt us long after the reality is something entirely new and different. The Spirit can help us persist in working against these prejudices and give us the courage to continue to speak out for genuine change.

We go forth not because we’re strong, capable, and sure of ourselves, but because we know that God is with us when we truly do his work. Pentecost reminds us that Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, is in fact still in charge of the Church that he established among his first followers.


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Lorenzo Ruiz and Companions: Lawrence (Lorenzo) was born in Manila of a Chinese father and a Filipino mother, both Christians. Thus he learned Chinese and Tagalog from them and Spanish from the Dominicans whom he served as altar boy and sacristan. He became a professional calligrapher, transcribing documents in beautiful penmanship. He was a full member of the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary under Dominican auspices. He married and had two sons and a daughter. 
<p>His life took an abrupt turn when he was accused of murder. Nothing further is known except the statement of two Dominicans that "he was sought by the authorities on account of a homicide to which he was present or which was attributed to him." </p><p>At that time three Dominican priests, Antonio Gonzalez, Guillermo Courtet and Miguel de Aozaraza, were about to sail to Japan in spite of a violent persecution there. With them was a Japanese priest, Vicente Shiwozuka de la Cruz, and a layman named Lazaro, a leper. Lorenzo, having taken asylum with them, was allowed to accompany them. But only when they were at sea did he learn that they were going to Japan. </p><p>They landed at Okinawa. Lorenzo could have gone on to Formosa, but, he reported, "I decided to stay with the Fathers, because the Spaniards would hang me there." In Japan they were soon found out, arrested and taken to Nagasaki. The site of wholesale bloodshed when the atomic bomb was dropped had known tragedy before. The 50,000 Catholics who once lived there were dispersed or killed by persecution. </p><p>They were subjected to an unspeakable kind of torture: After huge quantities of water were forced down their throats, they were made to lie down. Long boards were placed on their stomachs and guards then stepped on the ends of the boards, forcing the water to spurt violently from mouth, nose and ears. </p><p>The superior, Antonio, died after some days. Both the Japanese priest and Lazaro broke under torture, which included the insertion of bamboo needles under their fingernails. But both were brought back to courage by their companions. </p><p>In Lorenzo's moment of crisis, he asked the interpreter, "I would like to know if, by apostatizing, they will spare my life." The interpreter was noncommittal, but Lorenzo, in the ensuing hours, felt his faith grow strong. He became bold, even audacious, with his interrogators. </p><p>The five were put to death by being hanged upside down in pits. Boards fitted with semicircular holes were fitted around their waists and stones put on top to increase the pressure. They were tightly bound, to slow circulation and prevent a speedy death. They were allowed to hang for three days. By that time Lorenzo and Lazaro were dead. The three Dominican priests, still alive, were beheaded. </p><p>In 1987, Blessed John Paul II canonized these six and 10 others, Asians and Europeans, men and women, who spread the faith in the Philippines, Formosa and Japan. Lorenzo Ruiz is the first canonized Filipino martyr.</p> American Catholic Blog We don’t have to scrub off our sin so God can love us. Instead, when we allow God’s healing love to touch us, we want to leave sin behind. Growth starts in love, not in guilt.

 
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