Pentecost Thursday: a reflection

Pentecost Thursday.

The Roman Station is St. Lawrence outside the walls, which is where it would have been in the Easter Octave on Wednesday. However, given that yesterday was an Ember Day, and Ember Wednesdays are at S. Maria Major… there it is. Things give way. On early lists, the Stations of Pentecost week seem to have followed those of Easter. But Ember Days were reestablished, as mentioned before, by Gregory VII. So, today we have a trace of the more ancient connection with the Easter Thursday Station of the Church of the Twelve Apostles. In the Gospel from Luke 9, Jesus sends the Apostles out with authority to heal and cast out demons. In the Epistle from Acts 8, Deacon Philip is in Samaria doing the same. Perhaps there was some confusion about the Deacon and the Apostle, since the Apostle Philip’s tomb is at Twelve Apostles. Oh well.

For the rest, the remaining Mass propers are like those of Pentecost Sunday.

I note in the Epistle, “And the crowds with one accord gave heed to what was said by Philip… So there was great joy in that city.” I note in the Gospel, “And whatever house you enter, stay there, and do not depart from thence. And whosoever will not receive you – go forth from that town, and shake off even the dust from your feet for a witness against them.”

A common thread here is docility and acceptance of the Good News. Where there is acceptance there is healing. Where there is not, there is no joy in “dustville”.

Note the way that the Lord Himself puts the attitude that the Apostles should have. In Latin, “étiam púlverem pedum vestrórum excútite in testimónium supra illos“. The Greek says, “kai koniortos“. In Greek, kai is a conjunction, a copulative like “and”.   It is also a form of karate associated with a particular kind of snake practiced in the Receda area of L.A. where the vampires pass by on Ventura Boulevard. Sometimes I just want to see if anyone really reads this stuff.  However, kai, the Greek particle, not the karate, can also lend greater force to what follows, which is how we get that Latin etiam that comes into English as ” don’t just leave that town but even shake the dust off your feet”. Leave it and forget it and the dust – whence all of them were made and to which they will return – will be there as a reminder of what they lost: life, joy. When dust is in the picture, something is up. Or rather, down.

This points to consequences for all of us when we reject something from God. What pops into my mind is the rejection of a vocation. For example, say someone has a vocation to marry, but… won’t. That person will be restless. Say someone doesn’t have the vocation to marry, but… does… and then abandons the marriage. Sorry, can’t do that. Say the same about religious life or about priesthood. Sure, there are ways to deal with “being in the wrong place”.

In canon law there is acknowledgement that marriages at time don’t work and that the innocent one of the couple could in, for example, cases of infidelity, adultery, seek a separation from the other (not divorce, mind you) with the aid of the bishop. This can be misunderstood by the poorly informed as asking a bishop to grant something so there can be a civil divorce, which clearly is a misunderstanding of the law: bishops aren’t going to be involved in divorces. Or they shouldn’t be. Similarly, there are paths for clerics to be relieved of the obligations of the clerical state. However, these are exceptions and exceptions are … well… exceptions, not the norm.

In most cases the better path forward is to bear the crosses that flow from the obligations one has chosen, that come from choosing that fork in the road rather than another, and apply oneself with humble perseverance for the sake of saving one’s soul. Life is short and eternity is long.

This pretty much flies in the face of the squishy messaging in certain documents that present the hard aspects of vocations as nearly impossible “ideals” that no one can be expected to be able to reach. Hence, there ought to be even greater and multiple paths “out” of whatever hard situation one finds oneself in.

It is an aspect of fallen human nature to tend toward the easy path and to avoid the crosses life brings. We should be wary of this tendency. I don’t mean that we always have to choose the way of greater suffering. But I think it is good to double-check oneself, even to consult, to determine what God wants.

Going back to Luke 9, when the Lord sent the Apostles out with His authority, He also told them not to take those things along by which they could possible make a living or easily obtain creature comfort: they were to rely only on “the sending” which was from Jesus. That probably entailed some hunger and thirst during their mission. It was a harder path. But it was one which brought them their joy later. It also provided an opportunity for people to be generous to them when they brought instruction, healing and freedom.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. codycarver says:

    I really read this stuff, I really appreciate it, and I really try to digest it throughout the day. Thank you!

  2. Ha! I read the whole thing, and, as it happens, Reseda, California is my hometown. I grew up a little over a mile away from the South Seas apartment house and used to pass by it all the time, though I never saw any karate going on there. Today you’d probably need at least a six-figure income to afford to live there.

    Corrections: Reseda is named for a fragrant flowering plant and is spelled with an “s,” not a “c.” Also, no part of Ventura Boulevard is located in Reseda. But, you probably knew that and were just seeing if anybody else knew it.

  3. MichaelM says:

    I read it all as well lol – and like Anita above , I know the area well. I still live in Southern California not far from Reseda. In fact, my current dentist is on Reseda Blvd right near the apartment building that collapsed during the 1994 earthquake in Northridge. And I believe Fr Z is channeling is inner Tom Petty…

  4. monstrance says:

    The “life is short” phrase is often used as a “get out of jail card” or,
    “cut the ball and chain” excuse.
    They forget the Eternity part.

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