Where fear gives way to faith

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By Sister Catherine Cleary, OSB

For many Christians, Christmas and Easter are fairly simple to  understand.

We know the Bethlehem story. We love gift giving at Christmas. We work at understanding the crucifixion, burial and raising up of Jesus on Easter Sunday. We “get it.”

But a bird with wings settling on the heads of the Apostles while they hide from the Jews?


Yet, that’s what we are taught on Pentecost. How can we assimilate this unlikely scenario into our faith?

First, let’s recognize we ALL struggle with understanding and faith. (“Lord help my unbelief.” Mark 9:24)

This bird is symbolic of the Holy Spirit, pure gift of God.

The Spirit called the Apostles to a new beginning, where fear gives way to faith, and timidity to bold proclamation.

The bird was a visible sign, as the wind, fire and earthquake were visible signs on Mt. Sinai when God shared the 10 Commandments.

God’s visible signs indicated Presence, Gift and Expectations throughout both the Old and New Testaments. Now, they invited the Apostles to become new people; new creation.

Other signs included the fact that they had gathered on the “first day of the week,” the day of a new creation and that the Risen Lord breathed on them as God first breathed life into creation.

Jesus said, “Peace be with you.” Twice. In Hebrew, peace means more than the absence of conflict.  It suggest the fullness of life and  blessings.  This was God’s intended plan for creation.

Jesus again commanded forgiveness, the cornerstone of peace.

It seems God intended the dawning of a new age, one predicated on peace, and one for which we would be amply prepared, by virtue of the Holy Spirit.

As we celebrate Pentecost, how are you using the gifts of the Spirit: wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, fortitude, piety and fear of the Lord?

What are you doing to practice – and promote – peace?

Who have you forgiven?

How are you bringing about your own new beginning, where fear gives way to faith, and timidity to bold proclamation?

Suddenly there came from the sky a noise…

pentecost2By Sister Catherine Cleary, OSB

Imagine hiding in a room with your friends, fearing for your lives. In grief. In desolation. Lost without the man you followed. “Suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house. Then appeared tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. A strong, violent wind and tongues of fire resting on each one’s head.” Continue Reading

Pentecost’s Gifts and Fruits

pentecostBy Sister Catherine Cleary, OSB

Pentecost, in the time of the Apostles, was a Jewish day of celebrating the wheat harvest (Shavuot), and commemorating God giving the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai fifty days after the Exodus.

And so the frightened little band of “Followers of the Way” as they would become known, were gathered, or maybe hiding, in the Room where they had eaten the Last Supper with Jesus. Continue Reading

Listening with renewed vigor on Pentecost

By Sister Stefanie MacDonald, OSB

Today is the feast of Pentecost. What does that mean? As Father Karl Rahner wrote, “God is ours…he has given us His whole being without reserve; He has given us the clarity of His knowledge, the freedom of His love and the bliss of His Trinitarian life. He has given us Himself. And His name is Holy Spirit. He is ours … God is our God: that is the glad tidings of Pentecost.”

If God is ours and has given God’s whole being to us, what does it mean? What should we do?

We hear that God expects nothing in return, which is comforting but not an answer.

Think how much we expect from God. Should we not give back? Should we not live our lives as we are called? Continue Reading

The God with Feathers

By Sr. Catherine Cleary, OSB

A small child was asked in catechism class to say who the Holy Spirit was. She answered, “You mean the God with feathers?” Well … yes!

This God with feathers was hard to comprehend as children. Images of flame and wind complicated the picture.

As adults, we have a better understanding of the pulsing, radiant nature of the Spirit, present everywhere. Continue Reading

Nothing Ordinary Here!

Now that Pentecost is over, we have returned to Ordinary Time in the cycle of the Church.  Nothing is ordinary about it, however.  We travel with Jesus as he begins his public ministry of healing, forgiving and preaching the Kingdom of God.  On Pentecost he blesses his disciples with the Spirit that will continue to guide them in their carrying on the ministry of Jesus.  Like Jesus, his disciples are in for a rough time of it. Continue Reading