Our Lady of the Cenacle
This past Saturday, I was grateful to celebrate the annual First Saturday Mass with the members of the World Apostolate of Fatima in our diocese. It was wonderful to see several hundred people gathered for the Mass in our Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. After Mass, we enjoyed breakfast together at the parish center of Saint Mary’s Parish a few blocks away.
Since this Mass took place during the novena of preparation for the Solemnity of Pentecost, I celebrated the Mass of Our Lady of the Cenacle. This beautiful votive Mass recalls Mary’s presence at the first gathering of Christ’s apostles in the same upper room (cenacle) where the Last Supper was celebrated. They were gathered after the Ascension of the Lord to wait in prayer for the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. When I reflect on their nine days of prayer (the origin of the Catholic custom of “novenas”), I often think of the significance of the presence of the Blessed Virgin Mary with the disciples. She prayed with the disciples in oneness of mind and heart. She prays with us when we gather as disciples of Jesus in prayer.
During my homily I reflected on prayer, since in the Gospel that day, we heard the words of Jesus: “Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.” Jesus is our high priest in heaven, our mediator, our intercessor; therefore, he promises us that everything we ask for in his name, he will do. To ask in his name is to appeal to the power of the Risen Jesus, with faith that he is all-powerful and ever-merciful because he is true God. It also means asking for what is conducive to our salvation, since he is our Savior. It is important to understand the meaning of this since what we ask needs to be truly beneficial, for the good of the one asking or the one being prayed for.
When we do not receive what we ask for sometimes, we must trust that the reason may be that it would not be of benefit for our salvation. I think, for example, of when we ask for a healing or a cure for ourselves or someone else and our prayer sometimes does not seem to be answered. The Lord knows our greater good. He always answers our prayers, though maybe not the way we want. Sometimes we can be tempted to complain when it seems that God is not answering our prayers. There is a quote in the Catechism that reads as follows: Do not be troubled if you do not immediately receive from God what you ask him, for he desires to do something even greater for you, while you cling to him in prayer.
The Blessed Virgin Mary helps us to pray. She helps us to cling to God in prayer and to persevere in prayer. We can think of her at prayer with the apostles in the cenacle. She helps us when we face difficulties in prayer. She helps us not to get discouraged during periods of dryness in prayer. She helps us to trust in her Son who intercedes for us with the Father. By entrusting ourselves to her, we abandon ourselves to the will of God together with her so that we can say with her from our hearts: Fiat, let it be done to me according to your word.
Pentecost and the Sacrament of Confirmation
As we celebrate Pentecost this weekend, we come to the end of the Easter season. We have celebrated for 50 days the Resurrection of Our Lord. Now we celebrate the fulfillment of the Easter promise: the sending of the gift of the Holy Spirit upon the Church. As we pray in the preface of the Mass on Pentecost Sunday: Today we celebrate the great beginning of your Church when the Holy Spirit made known to all peoples the one true God, and created from the many languages of man one voice to profess one faith.
For the past few months, Bishop D’Arcy and I have celebrated dozens of Confirmation Masses throughout our diocese. I am very grateful to Bishop D’Arcy for his great help in administering this sacrament to our young people. It is truly a joy and a blessing as bishops to be the ministers of this sacrament in which our young people become more firmly united to Christ and his Church. Congratulations to all our young people who have been confirmed these past few months! I pray that, with the special strength of the Holy Spirit received in Confirmation, you will be faithful and courageous witnesses of Christ and continue to grow in your faith.
Pentecost is a good day for all of us to recall the graces of our Confirmation and to open our hearts anew to these graces. We have received the power of the Holy Spirit to live our Catholic faith, to spread and defend it. We have received the Holy Spirit’s gifts. Here is what the great bishop and doctor of the Church, Saint Ambrose, wrote about Confirmation:
Recall then that you have received the spiritual seal, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of right judgment and courage, the spirit of knowledge and reverence, the spirit of holy fear in God’s presence. Guard what you have received. God the Father has marked you with his sign. Christ the Lord has confirmed you and has placed his pledge, the Spirit, in your hearts.
As we celebrate this Sunday the great beginning of the Church on Pentecost, let us renew our commitment to daily living our faith with conviction. We’ve received the gifts of the Holy Spirit and are called to use these gifts, to let the Holy Spirit act and work through us, our words and our actions.
As Saint Paul wrote to the Corinthians, as by one Spirit we were all baptized, … so we were all given to drink of one Spirit. The Holy Spirit dwells in each of us and also unites us to one another in the one Body of Christ, the Church. It is the Holy Spirit who builds and sanctifies the Church. “The Holy Spirit is the protagonist, the principal agent of the whole of the Church’s mission” (CCC 852). It is important to remember this lest we think that we carry this mission on our own shoulders. And so it is good to pray every day the prayer we say on Pentecost: Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love!
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