12 May 2016

'Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them.' Sunday Reflections, Pentecost, Year C

Pentecost, El Greco, 1596-1600
Museo del Prado, Madrid [Web Gallery of Art]

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Vigil Mass  (Years A, B and C)

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa) [This page gives the readings for both the Vigil Mass and the Mass during the Day]

Liturgical Note. Pentecost, like Easter and some other solemnities, has a Vigil, properly so-called. This is not an ‘anticipated Mass’ but a Vigil Mass in its own right, with its own set of prayers and readings. It fulfils our Sunday obligation. There may be an extended Liturgy of the Word,er similar to the Easter Vigil, with all the Old Testament readings used. 

The prayers and readings of the Mass During the Day should not be used for the Vigil Mass, nor those of the Vigil Mass for the Mass During the Day. 

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.  Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

Gospel  John 14:15-16,  23b-26 (New Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition, Canada)  

Jesus said to his disciples:
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.
“Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.  Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.
“I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate,  the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.
John 20:19-23 (Good News Bible)

More than 20 years ago I was asked to celebrate Mass for a group of girls aged around 14  from a Catholic school in Cebu City in the central Philippines. They were having a recollection day in a retreat house. I made myself available for confession about 30 minutes before Mass. It soon became clear to me that many wanted to go to confession and after half an hour I went to the teacher and suggested we wait a while before starting Mass.

As the girls continued to come, some also sharing problems, I realized that this was their need. I spoke again to the teacher and suggested that we not have Mass that afternoon but that we arrange for one in school a few days later. She readily agreed.

These youngsters were experiencing God's infinite loving mercy and recognised that. Pope Francis has been highlighting this ever since he was elected. 

In his homily on 17 May 2013 at his Mass in St Martha's, where he lives, Pope Francis spoke again about God's mercy. In his homily he said, Peter was saddened that, for a third time, Jesus asked him, “Do you love me?” This pain, this shame – a great man, this Peter – [and] a sinner, a sinner. The Lord makes him feel that he is a sinner – makes us all feel that we are sinners. The problem is not that we are sinners: the problem is not repenting of sin, not being ashamed of what we have done. That's the problem

Pope Francis added, Peter let himself be shaped by his many encounters with Jesus and this 'is something we all need to do as well, for we are on the same road,' the Holy Father said, stressing that 'Peter is great, not because he is good, but because he has a nobility of heart, which brings him to tears, leads him to this pain, this shame - and also to take up his work of shepherding the flock.' [Emphases added.]

Regular confession is an ongoing encounter with the loving Jesus in which he shapes us. Pope Francis notes that 'Peter let himself be shaped'. We make a decision each time we go to confession, a decision that's not always easy to make. But Jesus never spurns us.

On 28 April 2013 Pope Francis confirmed a group of young people from different countries. The last of three points he made in his homily was this: And here I come to my last point. It is an invitation which I make to you, young confirmandi, and to all present. Remain steadfast in the journey of faith, with firm hope in the Lord. This is the secret of our journey! He gives us the courage to swim against the tide. Pay attention, my young friends: to go against the current; this is good for the heart, but we need courage to swim against the tide. Jesus gives us this courage! There are no difficulties, trials or misunderstandings to fear, provided we remain united to God as branches to the vine, provided we do not lose our friendship with him, provided we make ever more room for him in our lives. This is especially so whenever we feel poor, weak and sinful, because God grants strength to our weakness, riches to our poverty, conversion and forgiveness to our sinfulness. The Lord is so rich in mercy: every time, if we go to him, he forgives us. Let us trust in God’s work! With him we can do great things; he will give us the joy of being his disciples, his witnesses. Commit yourselves to great ideals, to the most important things. We Christians were not chosen by the Lord for little things; push onwards toward the highest principles. Stake your lives on noble ideals, my dear young people! [Emphases added.]


Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven.

Pope Francis hears young persons' confessions, 23 April 2016

Among other things, the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost has given us the sacrament of confession/reconciliation/penance, that beautiful expression of God's mercy.

In his Message for the Jubilee of Mercy for Adolescents, held in Rome 23-25 April this year, Pope Francis writes: I realize that not all of you can come to Rome, but the Jubilee is truly for everyone and it is also being celebrated in your local Churches. You are all invited to this moment of joy. Don’t just prepare your rucksacks and your banners, but your hearts and your minds as well. Think carefully about the hope and desires you will hand over to Jesus in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and in the Eucharist which we will celebrate together. As you walk through the Holy Door, remember that you are committing yourselves to grow in holiness and to draw nourishment from the Gospel and the Eucharist, the Word and the Bread of life, in order to help build a more just and fraternal world. [Emphases added].

One of my greatest joys as a sinner is receiving forgiveness in confession from the priest, who absolves me in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, that is, with God's full authority. One of my greatest joys as a priest is to welcome a fellow sinner, whether young or old, whether someone who comes frequently to confession or is returning after many years, and to assure that sinner of God's mercy and absolving my fellow pilgrim in the name of that merciful God.

Veni Sancte Spiritus
(Sequence for Mass on Pentecost Sunday. This may be sung or said after the Second Reading.)

Veni, Sancte Spiritus,
et emitte caelitus
lucis tuae radium.

Come, Holy Spirit,
send forth the heavenly
radiance of your light.

Veni, pater pauperum,
veni, dator munerum
veni, lumen cordium.

Come, father of the poor,
come giver of gifts,
come, light of the heart

Consolator optime,
dulcis hospes animae,
dulce refrigerium.

Greatest comforter,
sweet guest of the soul,
sweet consolation.

In labore requies,
in aestu temperies
in fletu solatium.

In labor, rest,
in heat, temperance,
in tears, solace.

O lux beatissima,
reple cordis intima
tuorum fidelium.

O most blessed light,
fill the inmost heart
of your faithful.

Sine tuo numine,
nihil est in homine,
nihil est innoxium.

Without your grace,
there is nothing in us,
nothing that is not harmful.

Lava quod est sordidum,
riga quod est aridum,
sana quod est saucium.

Cleanse that which is unclean,
water that which is dry,
heal that which is wounded.

Flecte quod est rigidum,
fove quod est frigidum,
rege quod est devium.

Bend that which is inflexible,
fire that which is chilled,
correct what goes astray.

a tuis fidelibus,
in te confidentibus,
sacrum septenarium.

Give to your faithful,
those who trust in you,
the sevenfold gifts.

Da virtutis meritum,
da salutis exitum,
da perenne gaudium.

Grant the reward of virtue,
grant the deliverance of salvation,
grant eternal joy.

[The English translation is one of many].

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