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For the readings, please see this link: Pentecost Sunday Readings PDF
It is Pentecost, a harvest celebration for the Israelites and the birthday of the Church for Christians. This is the day that the Apostles spoke in multiple languages after the Holy Spirit descended upon them and “appeared to them tongues as of fire.” On the feast celebrated by the Jews as memorializing the day when God gave Moses the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai, Christians celebrate God giving himself in the third person of the Trinity so that people of every nation and language “hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.”
The Greek word for Church is ecclesia, which was in ancient Greece a term to describe the people who would be called out to serve their civic duties. We are “called out” as the people of God, and we celebrate the beginning of that ministry when the fathers of the church received the courage to speak of our mighty God to everyone. The transformation of the Apostles over the past 50 days is remarkable: Good Friday saw them disperse from Calvary for safer places, Easter Sunday they learned of the empty tomb but still did not comprehend what had happened for them. A week later we celebrate the doubting Thomas who refuses to believe another’s testimony and will only believe when he has touched his master’s side and felt the wounds in his hands. Jesus is recognized a few more times, in the walk to Emmaus and when the Apostles endure a fruitless night of fishing. But they recognize him generally after the fact, and there seems to be little follow-through by them.
Well, all of that ends Pentecost Sunday. The fearful Simon bar Jonah becomes the Rock, St. Peter. He preaches up such a storm that visitors from as far away as Egypt and Pontus hear the Good News and are touched in their hearts by it.
We are the disciples of Jesus today, the ones following in the footsteps of St. Peter and the other Apostles. We are the church he founded upon his rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. This is a great comfort and a great challenge. It is a great comfort to know we are on the winning team. It is a great challenge to make the effort worthy of such a gift. We cannot coast our way to Heaven, for the way to Heaven is the way of Jesus which is the way of the Cross.
We are called out by Christ to be his church. What do we do, and how do we do it? St. Paul tells the new Christians of Corinth that the body of Christ is one body with many parts. He tells them “there are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord.” Thus the Church is a holy blend of preachers and teachers and do-ers and be-ers. It is St. Peter and St. Paul and Martha and Mary. Nothing that we do in response to the call of Christ is done in vain or lacks merit. If we give of ourselves to His glory, he is glorified even if the gift is something as mundane as cleaning the bathrooms when we would much rather enjoy the sunshine outside by the pool. God does not keep score; he reads our hearts. He called us out to walk with him and serve his children. Service comes from the heart, and service comes in many forms.
We receive the breath of life in the Holy Spirit. With the breath of Life comes Peace, which Jesus gives us. From Peace comes the Strength to serve Him wherever we are and however we are. Peace and Strength give us Joy, the bliss Jesus offered his disciples in the Upper Room when he told them “Remain in me that your joy may be full.” Joy is not a contingent emotion. It does not depend on circumstances or conditions. Jesus was filled with Joy as he walked to Calvary. Stephen was filled with Joy as he was killed by stoning. We can be filled with Joy as our plane is delayed or we are cut off by somebody in traffic. We can be filled with Joy if we discover cancer inside ourselves or somebody we love.
We are called out to live a joyful life remaining in the Love of God and serving his people. We are called out to live a joyful life sharing the Good News of God with his people. We are called out to live a joyful life unpacking the treasure we received by the Cross. This is Jesus’ new commandment: love one another as I have loved you. We could put it another way: go be joyful, Church!
Justice and Joy is a mainstream crime fiction novel in which an elderly secretary serves as the critical link between a murderer seeking revenge for her infant daughter’s death and the female FBI agent pursuing her.
The book is set in D.C. It deals with the aftermath of a premature baby’s death in the delivery room because she was born two days before the cut-off for neo-natal care under new national health care standards. The unwed mother, Teresa Maguire, decides after two years of emotional numbness to take her revenge on the system she believes killed her baby. The novel tracks the paths of Teresa and Jamie Cobb, a female agent of the FBI called to the scene of the murder of a Congressman. As Teresa works out her need for justice, and as Jamie pursues justice for Teresa’s victims, both women are challenged to consider how justice and joy are to be fully realized.
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From a book by the same title written in 1911 by Henry Osborn Taylor:
Nevertheless, the Latin Christianity of the Fathers and the antique fund of sentiment and knowledge, through their self-conserving strength, affected men in constant ways. Under their action the peoples of western Europe, from the eighth to the thirteenth century, passed through a homogeneous growth, and evolved a spirit different from that of any other period of history – a spirit which stood in awe before its monitors divine and human, and deemed that knowledge was to be drawn from the storehouse of the past; which seemed to rely on everything except its sin-crushed self, and trusted everything except its senses; which in the actual looked for the ideal, in the concrete saw the symbol, in the earthly Church beheld the heavenly, and in the fleshly joys discerned the devil’s lures; which lived in the unreconciled opposition between the lust and vain-glory of earth and the attainment of salvation; which felt life’s terror and its pitifulness, and its eternal hope; around which waved concrete infinitudes, and over which flamed the terror of darkness and the Judgment Day.
After the High Middle Ages, there is another flowering watered by the rediscovery of additional antiquities: that period we call the Renaissance. Whether as consequence of or as cooperator with the Renaissance, the Church fractures and a new age is born. As Latin Christianity loses its hold on the minds of the elites, a new spirit rises. The new spirit, the Modern Spirit, is in many ways the antithesis of the Mediaeval Mind: it no longer stands in awe of any external power, either divine or human, but deconstructs both; it sees no sin in itself; it revels in its senses, trusting feelings much more than logic despite adoption of appellations like Empiricism and Objectivism; it strips from the Church whatever is not earthly, worships the flesh and promotes lust and vain-glory and finally denies the reality of a Judgment Day.
Here in the first part of the 21st century, we see what a few hundred years without the Mediaeval mind can do. Civilizations die because of corruption. Loss of the knowledge from the storehouse of the past has led Western Civilization to the brink of death, as we no longer believe the Church is authoritative on Reality, nor do we believe we can learn from the Past. Like a drunken old man, we wheeze our way toward death mumbling incoherently the lies about our greatness only we believe.
There is no salvation outside the Church. Nobody dares say that these days, yet we see it is so not only for individuals seeking eternal bliss but also for civilizations seeking strength and renewal. If we love our country and we suppress the church, we prove ourselves to be either fools or liars.
Slightly restated, the Paul positions reflect the traditional small-government tenor of the GOP before it fell in love with big government.
- We cannot have liberty without respect for property rights, which depend on a steady measure of the value of property, which depends on sound money, which the Fed has destroyed over the past 90 years. Something significant must be done to recover our money and our liberty.
- We cannot have taxation (and the taking of private property on which taxation is based) without representation and call ourselves heirs to the Founding Fathers of this country. An administrative state in which unelected technocrats make rules with the force of laws and carry guns to enforce those rules is closer to Germany of the 1930s than anything consistent with the U.S. Constitution. Something significant must be done to recover our representative republic and our liberty.
- We cannot respect the lives of our military men and women if we are sending them into harm’s way without the deliberation prescribed by the Constitution. American blood is too precious to be wasted in non-critical conflagrations in remote parts of the world. The defense forces are primarily for defense, not a police force for the world, and something significant must be done to recover our Constitutional mandate for the military.
These are the views of Tea Party people. While it might be that his father Ron is no longer taken seriously, Senator Rand Paul seems to be able to articulate these themes with an even tone. Liberty rests on limited government, as our country’s founders knew. We need no more of good government types that know how to “do” things; it is time for future government leaders to listen to the Carrie Underwood song and “Undo It.”
As a libertarian evangelical Catholic grandson of a social gospel-ing Episcopalian priest candidate for NYC Assemblyman in the 1920s on the Socialst ticket, I have spent a great deal of time trying to understand how and why smart men like my grandfather could believe all they do believe.
In the case of the second generation, those that came to maturity around the Great War, it is somewhat explained in that the new ideas had hardly been tried. Bold and broad prescriptions for the ills of industrial society found an audience, much as Hope and Change appealed broadly in 2008 to U.S. voters. In the case of the current generation, it is clear that a century’s evidence indicates the prescriptions are not only insufficient to the problem but are in fact injurious to humanity.
Rather than scour the ruling classes of wickedness, leftist programs tried around the globe have institutionalized wicked ruling classes. Those societies most removed from active Christian practice revealed most clearly the depravity potential of a Progressive regime: the atheistic Communist governments of the USSR, China, the National Socialists, and the Khmer Rouge piled up bodies at a horrific rate. De-Christianized Europe and radicalized Muslim governments lagged well behind in total body counts, but in both cases the declaration of noble ends justified overt and subtle means of repression. The leftists of America announced a revolutionary program at the dawn of the 20th century, and it was implemented step by step over the course of 100 years, with only a five year hiatus during the Coolidge Administration. Even under Ronald Reagan the Leviathan grew. Now, already a decade into the 21st century, there is no cover left for the utter ineffectiveness of Progressivism to reach its stated goals of a Kallipolis.
The United States was founded by men who wittingly or not subscribed to the Thomistic/Aristotlean realism of man rather than the soaring Platonist idealism of their French contemporaries. Woodrow Wilson’s and Herbert Croly’s efforts to import a European solution failed because this country is not and never will be Europe. Rather than noble ideals, it is now apparent Progressivism trades in class envy and resentment. These sell in the short term but destroy in the long term. It is a sign of American health that Progressivism is losing its credibility, as Americans reclaim liberty as the founding principle of the country.
Walter Russell Mead’s blog has a post on this subject, from the perspective of the perplexed Progressive