Friday, May 25, 2012

This is the day of Baptism in the Holy Spirit.
This is Pentecost.  This is the Holy Spirit.  This is the expression of God's fiery, yet whispy presence in and among His creatures.  He is the dynamic purifying fire that God plants in our hearts to round off the sharp corners of our proud self-assertion.  He is the softening fire that soothes those who need it the most when He is presented to them.  He is the fire of bravery which we need when we have to stand up to the Evil One.  He is the fire of pure, selfless love that enflames the generous abandon needed to introduce His presence in those who are the object of such love.  He is the flame that is recognized as His image by those who see it shining in those truly righteous disciples of His.  He is the Great Inebriator who even at an early morning hour drives His disciples to great levels of zealous action. 
Yes, this is the day of Baptism in the Holy Spirit.
We have all been washed in the waters of the Jordan.  We have all had our highs and our lows.  We have had our moments of repentance, atonement, penance, sacrifice, suffering, puzzlement and even downright disgust about ourselves.  We have had our moments of doubt; our moments of temptation; our moments when we have poked our nose though the fence to check out the grass on the other side.  Then the moment passes and we feel the heat of the Spirit's fire again.  From the ashes of the sinful moments we experience, somehow the flame of love, of contrition, of zeal springs back to life.  The ashes themselves are consumed, the smoke clears and the Spirit of God comforts us and we become comfortable again under the protective pinions of the Great White Dove.
Yes, this is the day of Baptism in the Holy Spirit.
This is the day when we remember that we are remembered.  This is the day when  we reach back and remember our first communion.  We remember that day when we were all disciples of Jesus.  We remember that day when we promised never to commit a mortal sin.  We remember that day because somehow, even through the happiness of the party, we saw God.  We somehow knew that He was the reason for the festivity.  Today we know that the story that we hear about the Tongues of Fire is aimed at us.  Today we know that the moment of our Baptism in the Spirit is a recurring event.  Every single year we get our ears pulled and the Holy Spirit reminds us that He keeps us in memory too.  Every year, this is our time of renewal, repentance and remebering who it is that we really are - Disciples of Christ and the furnace in which the Flame of His Love burns.  It is on this day of the renewal of our Baptism in the Spirit that we remember that of all the gifts of Grace that we receive every day, Love is the biggest and the best.  
Yes, this is the day of Baptism in the Holy Spirit.
It is the day when we are reminded by the Spirit of the great commandment to "Do this in memory of Me."  This is the day when we remember the great commission that was given to us, "to go and baptize all peoples in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit."  this is the day when we remember that like the disciples  of old, we too run scared a lot.  We remember the times when we could have asserted our faith and did not.  We remember the times when we could have brought peace to a human situation and preferred to not get involved.  We remember the times when we could have done a simple favor for a fellow human being and preferred our own comfort instead.  We also remember how we knew deep down that we had just been guilty of letting the Spirit down.  He who keeps the fire burning in us doesn't really ever let us forget it.  He throws dozens of opportunities our way during the course of a day, a week or a month.  We have the reponsibility to help Him out.  
Yes, this is the day of Baptism in the Holy Spirit.
We know that we have been baptized in the Holy Spirit.  We know that in Water and in the Spirit we have been reborn.  We know exactly what God demands of us.  We know that we have His Life and Love burning inside of us.  We know the tone of His nagging insistence that we offer Him what His ancestor, the Great King David tells us that He wants, "A humble and contrite heart" dedicated to His service.  (Psalm 51)  We know that we have been baptized in the Spirit because of the grace of His presence that keeps strong as we walk the "straight and narrow."  We know it because we find ourselves thanking Him for getting us out of "that one."  We know it because we look back on the day, the week, the month, the year and we know that we didn't do it alone.  We know whose been there by our side every step of the way.  
Yes, this the day of remembrance and remembering.  The is the day of our recurring Baptism in the Holy Spirit.  Remember this:  When God remembers somebody, great things happen.  
Today, He is remembering us on our baptism day, and He's the One performing the ceremony.  Let's not forget it.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


The Soulby ~zarka   The truth in these eyes cannot be denied

I was tempted to see if I could get a G-rated picture for this article, but then I decided that it would be futile.
[As you can see, I found one]  It is about a lesson that I learned when I was about 16 years old.  At the time I was a pretty fair "country" handball player.  I was not able to afford the fees for indoor play, so I got to ruin a lot of shoes on the tar courts that were available. There was one fairly good clay court at the West Street public school in Holyoke.  So I spent some time there.  It just so happened that my Uncle Edward was also quite adept at the game.  So if we both played, we could split the fees and have some least that's what he called it.  I had confidence that it would be fun.  after all he was 15 years or more my senior.  I thought that "fun" was the appropriate word...but not for him.  Now you know that I would not be writing this if it had been fun for me.  Right?
The truth is, that in the time we played, he took the skin right off me.  He was cool, calculated, intellectual, methodical, insightful, in short, relaxed and in control. In four months I learned a lot, but I lost all but three games (3 of 5).
I learned many things from my uncle for the three or four months that we played handball.  We stopped because our lives took forked paths.  Actually, I was left with a large hole in my life when that happened.  But the "parting" stories I have are for another time.  This one is about several things, all of them important, all of them have to be learned.  But learning them is not the end of the story.  Remember my reflections about "winning" and "surviving?"  Learning life lessons falls in the same category.  My uncle taught me this.  "Killing" the person you defeat is not necessary.  Making your victory a pleasant lesson for the opponent is the ideal way to win.  Losing without learning something is the real loss.  He told me to read Jean Paul Sartre, the existentialist so that I could understand what he was saying.  His biggest point was that winning and losing are defining processes of whom you become, not what you become, and especially, not what you are now.  I don't know how many times he paraphrased Sartre by saying, "It's in dying that you define your life."  I don't know how many times he said, before repeating the dying bit, "It's in winning that you prepare your dying."
I learned that my uncle trusted that a 16 year old could accept and understand these concepts.  I learned that EFR Dion's brother was made of the same material that shaped my father.  Not only did Ed trust ME, he trusted people as a default position in life.  One of the first times we had played indoors, we had showered and and were toweling ourselves dry when Ed, short for Edward, you know.  I always called him Uncle, notice the Upper Case "U".  Anyway, at a given moment he softly said to me, "You know who that guy is?  The one over there in the corner to your left."  I had to admit that I didn't know him, not at all.  Not by facial recognition nor by any other of the clues that I could have used at the moment.  So I said so.  Uncle Ed said, "That's the mayor of Holyoke.  Not too much different that the rest of us, is he?"  I didn't have to read Jean Paul Sartre to understand that lesson.  You can tell that I never forgot it.  When you get right down to it, we're all the same.  Skin is water proof for everybody; everybody sweats and smells when that happens; just about everybody is bi-laterally symmetrical, but not to the point of perfection.  Remember my thoughts about the difference between the human concept of beauty and nature's expression of beauty.  Nature doesn't present perfect symmetry as beauty.  Anyway, we're all about the same on the outside.  It's on the inside that we differ.  It's from the inside out that we define ourselves. Check out Mark's Gospel. It's in "winning and losing", it's in how we suffer and how we survive from what we have suffered that we define ourselves.  Yes, our crowning glory or our crushing opprobrium is clearly unveiled during the last moments of our life.  Don't believe me?  Look around you.  If you fill the church while you're in your coffin, it's usually not because those who knew you want to see for themselves that you're really out of their lives.  If your survivors have to hire six strong street people to carry the box, chances are pretty good that it's God's call without a jury.  Summary judgement is what that's called.
I leave you with these thoughts and with the directive that there is not to be any crying at my funeral.  No matter that you beat me or lost to me, all that is important is that you've learned something for having known me.   Even if it's only how not to do something.