Cau Xin Duc Me

LIVING WITH MODERNITY or WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT?

As the congregation filed into church, the ushers handed each person a bright red carnation to symbolize the festive spirit of the day.

The people listened attentively to the reading of the Pentecost story from the Book of Acts about how the disciples had heard “what sounded like a powerful wind from heaven”; about how the Holy Spirit had appeared” like tongues of fire.”

Then ca me the sermon: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon us,” the preacher began.
“Like the powerful wind from heaven!” shouted a woman sitting in the first pew.
Then she threw one of the red carnations toward the altar.
The preacher began again: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon us.”
The same woman’s voice rang out again, “Like the tongues of fire, the tongues of fire!”
Again, she threw a red carnation toward the altar.
The preacher looked straight at her and said, “Now throw your pocketbook.”
To which the woman replied, “Preacher, you have just calmed the wind and put out the fire.”

We laugh at stories like these, but the truth is, we need to let the Holy Spirit set fire in every aspect of our lives. What has calmed the wind and put out the fire of the Holy Spirt in our lives? When we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we will accept the whole package of faith.

The poet William Blake wrote a poem about Pentecost.

Part of the poem says:

Unless the eye catches fire, God will not be seen.
Unless the ears catch fire, God will not be heard.
Unless the tongue catches fire, God will not be named.
Unless the heart catches fire, God will not be loved.
Unless the mind catches fire, God will not be known.

Consistency or Inconsistency

After the death of Pope John Paul II, The New York Time had a headline, “Practicing Catholicism ‘a la carte.’"

According to the article, “American Catholics, be they Hispanics here or African Americans in Atlanta or those of Irish, Italian or Polish ancestry in Boston and Baltimore, have come to accept  that being Catholic means living with inconsistency. The 65 million U. S. Catholics no longer have as distinctive an identity as they did a generation ago, and as they assimilated more thoroughly into society, their views on social and moral issues came to mirror those of other Americans.”

As a result, the Church’s teachings on a number of subjects, including contraception, the ordination of women and homosexuality, are out of step with the beliefs and lifestyles of most American Catholics. But the Americans mostly find a way to stay in their faith by adhering to values most important to them and quietly ignoring those they disagree with.”

The New York Times gave one example to demonstrate its point:

“Lily Velazquez, 18, is the sixth of 12 children of Mexican immigrants in a poor suburb of Los Angeles . She considers herself both a devoted Catholic and a hopeless sinner. She attends Mass every Sunday but has had two children out of wedlock. She thinks abortion is murder but chafes at the Vatican ’s ban on birth control. She mourns the death of Pope John Paul II but hopes his successor will be “new and different.” The New York Time concludes that this is a vivid example of the contradiction felt by American Catholics as they wait with uncertainty and so me anxiety for the selection of a new leader in Rome .”

It claims that many Catholics express that they hope for a Church that more readily embraces modernity.

The Church’s Mission

Should the Church listen to voice of the world and embrace modernity? or
Should the Church listen to the Holy Spirit and embrace the teachings of Christ?
People have incorrect understanding of the role of the Church in the world. The Church is not here to embrace the values of the world but to challenge the world to embrace the values of the Gospel of Christ. The Church is not here to please people of the world, but to challenge people to please their God.

The Gospel’s reading today states clearly the mission of the Church:

“As the Father has sent me , so I send you. Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

Thus, it is wrong to dissent the teachings of the Church.

It is wrong for Roman Catholics to say that they can be out of step with the Church and still unequivocally call themselves Catholics. Because when we cannot keep up with the teachings of the Church does not mean that the Church’s teaching is wrong. It means that we are weak and imperfect. It means that we have failed the Church and not the Church has failed us.

Not Hopeless Sinners

At the same time , if we have failed the Church, we are not hopeless sinners. There is room for redemption in the Church through the sacrament of penance. When we fail, we go to confession, ask for forgiveness; we are forgiven. So do not listen to the voice of the secular world who does not understand Catholic spirituality and too quick to dismiss the teachings of the Church.

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

Rev. John J. Tran Kha