Blog & Pastor Letters

5th Sunday of Easter

05-07-2023Weekly ReflectionRev. John P. Cush, STD

Let’s look at the recent history of our Church: On a chilly winter day, January 25, 1959, Angelo Roncalli, guiding the Barque of Peter known as John XXIII, stood at the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls, and gathered members of the Roman Curia, and called for a Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. The church historians Giuseppe Alberigo and Joseph Komonchak describe the reactions of most as “stunned silence.” And, on October 11, 1962, the first session of Vatican II began, a work which John XXIII did not live to see completed, but a work that has profoundly influenced not only the Catholic Church, both Western and Eastern, but the Orthodox Church, most of the Protestant ecclesial communions, and indeed, the course of history. This is an act of the Holy Spirit.

On July 25, 1968, John’s successor, Giovanni Battista Montini, steering the Barque of Peter known as Paul VI, released an encyclical that proved to be prescient, Humanae vitae. Paul consulted and consulted, asked and took advice, and then decided that the condoning as an acceptable act the use of artificial birth control would be an act that would cheapen human life and that a contraceptive mentality would lead to an abortive mentality. He was right. New York State legalized abortion in 1970 and in 1973, the scourge of abortion was released in the whole United States of America. Thankfully, as of 2022, the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision is beginning to help turn the tide of a culture of death in the United States. Pope Saint Paul’s decision to follow the consistent magisterium of the Church, the fonts of Divine Revelation — Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition — as well as natural law, was a brave act, and it was an act of the Holy Spirit.

On October 16, 1978, the Cardinals elected Karol Wojtyla, the first non-Italian pope in centuries. This vigorous younger man, only 58 years old at the time, stood in the central balcony of Saint Peter’s Basilica and uttered the words, “Do not be afraid.” It was his influence, his steadfastness, his insight that guided the Church and the world away from the horrors of Communism and began the New Evangelization. His pontificate as John Paul II was an act of the Holy Spirit.

On February 11, 2013, Joseph Ratzinger, navigating the ship that is the Church as Benedict XVI, at a private consistory of Cardinals gathered to approve canonizations and beatifications of some saints, at the very end of the meeting, announced, for the first time in centuries, that a pope would resign and that he would retire and spend his remaining years in study and prayer. His catechesis, his writings, his gentle presence, and yes, even his resignation, was an act of the Holy Spirit.

Now we have Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio as our Holy Father, Pope Francis. Elected on March 13, 2013, Francis has brought the Church and the faith into the public eye in a new, exciting, and yes, challenging way. He has, in his ten years to date, reintroduced to the forefront of our minds concepts that have Mother Church had never really forgotten: mercy, accompaniment, option for the poor, and Gospel joy to a world that often has forgotten. His election and his papacy are an ongoing act of the Spirit.

It is the Holy Spirit of God, that bond of love and knowledge that exists from all eternity between God the Father and God the Son, that is active and present in the Church and the world. This Spirit is so much more than just the natural progress and decline that exists in the course of history, as is thought of in the work of some modern philosophers. No, the Holy Spirit is a Divine Person. The Holy Spirit is love and knowledge and it is the same Holy Spirit that guides the Church throughout all the ages.

Do we believe this? Do we trust in this saving truth? Yes, there are problems and difficulties, fears and anxieties that perplex the Church today. To list them would extend this already long article. We know the threat of a secularized culture against our faith; we are aware of the many challenges to the reality that is natural law that come from attacks against a traditional understanding of marriage, family, and gender. Sadly, we know the stories of the modern martyrs, our brothers and sisters whose blood is shed out of hatred of the faith. We know that to the world the Church can appear divide at times on issues like divorce and remarriage without benefit of declaration of the invalidity of marriage and other issues of pastoral practice. And yet, in all of this, the Spirit is the principal operating agent.

On May 8, 2017, in a homily given at his daily Mass in the chapel of the Domus Santa Marta, His Holiness, Pope Francis said: “The Spirit is the gift of God, of this God, our Father who always surprises us. The God of surprises . . . Why? Because He is a living God, who dwells in us, a God who moves our hearts, a God who is in the Church and walks with us and in this journey He surprises us. It is He who has the creativity to create the world, the creativity to create new thing every day. He is the God who surprises us.”

This is a call to trust. “Do not let your hearts be troubled,” Our Blessed Lord tells us today. The Holy Spirit, God, is in charge of the Church and the world, not us. It is our task to discern with the Church the movement of the Holy Spirit so that we can see his action in the world. Pray about this concept on this Sunday in Easter, that the Holy Spirit of God, so that Third Person of the Most Blessed Trinity, will flood our minds and lead them to insight that we can bask in the sure and certain knowledge that He is in charge of steering this ship, not us, and He alone will guide us into our true port, Heaven.