Michæl McFarland Campbell

Always telling the story

Archive for May, 2020

Let’s obey the quiet voice of the Holy Spirit

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The Holy Spirit works quietly

We all like spectacular fireworks. They are exciting, impressive, exhilarating. The Church’s first Pentecost had some spectacular fireworks. The Apostles and other Christians were gathered “all together in one place”. Where that was precisely, we do not know.  It was probably somewhere inside or near the Temple in Jerusalem as right after the fireworks, crowds started to gather. It may have been the same large room where our Lord and the Apostles had eaten the last Supper. Nothing is certain. 

So, they were all in one place, then a thunderous noise like a strong wind, like a tornado, came from the sky. And then flames appeared. Flames of fire just appeared out of nowhere—spontaneously—hovering in the air. These flames divided up and started floating through the air until they came to rest on each of the people gathered there. 

The fireworks didn’t stop there. All of a sudden, the Christians present started speaking in languages that they did not know. A crowd had gathered by now, an international crowd, with visitors from all over the world who were in Jerusalem for the festival. Each one heard the Christians explaining the Gospel in their own language. 

This was a dramatic, spectacular display. 

We would be wrong to conclude from this spectacular display that this is the Holy Spirit’s normal way of acting in our life. In fact, it is just the opposite. God’s action in our life most often is gentle, hardly perceptible at first. How does our Lord send the Spirit to the Apostles after his Resurrection? He breathes on them—quietly and subtly. How does St Paul describe the action of the Holy Spirit in the Church? Like the soul of a body—powerful, essential, but invisible, subtle. 

The Holy Spirit works quietly. 

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The example of Mary

Consider the example of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Bible tells us that the Blessed Virgin Mary was right there in the Upper Room, waiting with the Apostles for the coming of the Holy Spirit. She was the mother who had given birth to the head of the Church, our Blessed Lord Jesus Christ, in Bethlehem. And now she is the mother who is helping to give birth to the rest of the body of the Church at Pentecost. 

What was she doing? Praying with them certainly. But she was probably also serving them, being a mother tom them in the midst of their confusion and nervousness. They probably asking her about her son, Jesus, and listening—maybe for the very first time—to the story of His birth and childhood. Maybe this was when they first heard about the Annunciation, the day that the Archangel Gabriel came to her and explained that “The Holy Spirit will overshadow you and you will conceive”. She probably told them about the many conversations she had in her heart with the Holy Spirit after that day, the ones St Luke referred to in in his Gospel when he wrote: “And Mary kept all these things, contemplating them in her heart.”

This is the key. To contemplate is to go over an idea in the silence of your mind and converse about it with God. That is what Our Blessed Lady Mary was always doing. Becoming the spouse of the Holy Spirit did not bring fireworks and fancy balls into her life, it brought meaning, mission, wisdom, and courage—and just as seeds take root and grow in the unseen darkness of the soil, these virtues take root and grow in the quiet centre of the soul. 

Quiet, gentle, unseen, yet powerful, transforming, and everlasting—that’s the work of the Holy Spirit. 

St Teresa of Calcutta
St Teresa of Calcutta, Wikipedia

St Teresa of Calcutta put it beautifully when she said: 

“God is the friend of silence. See how nature—trees, flowers, grass—grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.”

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Obeying the quiet voice

There is only one condition attached to the gift of the Holy Spirit. To experience God’s transforming presence in our lives, we have to obey His will out of love. “If anyone loves me, he will carefully keep my word,” as Our Lord Jesus says in the Gospel. 

All of us here today want to obey God’s will in our lives—some want to do so passionately, others with reluctance, but we all want to—otherwise we would not be here. But how do we know what God’s will is? 

The Holy Spirit quietly reveals God’s will to us in two ways. 

First, He inspires and guides the teaching of the Church. 

We have the commandments of the Bible; the instructions of the Catechism; the examples of the saints; the regular updates from the writings of our spiritual leaders. The Holy Spirit wants us to know how a Christian ought to live, He gives us the Church to keep us posted. In this way the Church is like the conductor of a symphony: we have to keep our eyes on its leader if we want to play our part well. 

But the Church can only give commandments and guidelines that apply to everyone. That tells God’s will 85% of the time. 15% of the time we are faced with opportunities and challenges unique to the circumstances of our life. That is when the Holy Spirit guides us more personally, through inspirations, through His seven Gifts; the Gifts of Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety, and Fear of the Lord. 

In both ways, He is hard at work, quietly but surely, building up our happiness and the happiness of all around us. 

Today, let us renew our commitment to follow and obey—not to experience spiritual fireworks, but in order to feed the fire of God’s love in our hearts, the fire whose light and heat we all need so much. 

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Written by Michæl McFarland Campbell

May 31st, 2020 at 10:47 am

The Ascension of the Lord – 21 May 2020

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Gospel of the Day

Meanwhile, the eleven disciples were on their way to Galilee, headed for the mountain Jesus had set for their reunion. The moment they saw him they worshiped him. Some, though, held back, not sure about worship, about risking themselves totally.

Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge:

God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.

Matthew 28:16–20, The Message.

From the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham

Get ready for the whoosh

Today we’re celebrating Christ going home to Heaven. His mission on earth is accomplished. The angels are cheering at His return. The souls that were waiting for many years, since the beginning of human history, for Jesus to come and re-open the way to Heaven are celebrating too from their new and eternal home.

We are also thanking Jesus for the first thing that He did, and now continues to do, as soon as He got back to Heaven. Our Lord Jesus Christ is now at His Father’s right hand for ever, asking Him to help us get to Heaven too, and everyone we love. Likes our Lord promised at the Last Supper, He and the Father are sending the Holy Spirit to help us to get home by bringing us grace. The Lord has ascended and now the disciples are waiting for the “whoosh” of the Holy Spirit. 

In today’s First Reading, the disciples are still confused and have doubts, even though they have seen that the Lord has risen from the dead. They were expecting, like all of Israel expected, one big whoosh right away: they thought the Kingdom of Heaven was coming right now. They were waiting for one last bang and for everyone to be in Heaven and evil to be ended. They ask Jesus when it is going to happen. Jesus answers: wait for the Holy Spirit to come, and they still didn’t get it, which is why the angels have to tell them to move on. When Jesus tells them it is not for them to know the times or seasons, he’s teaching them what the whoosh of the Holy Spirit is like: unexpected and big. The disciples thought there would be one big whoosh and everyone would be in Heaven. Jesus is telling them to hold on to and be ready for the whoosh.

In today’s Epistle, St Paul prays that we, too, receive this “whoosh” of the Holy Spirit when Christ arrives home. This “whoosh” will bestow on us wisdom and revelation, not just on the level of knowledge, but in our hearts as well. St Paul describes where Our Lord is headed to day: to His Father’s right hand, where He’ll be put in charge of all things and be above all other powers. It also says He is being given to us, the Church, as head over all things. 

In today’s Gospel, our blessed Lord prepared the disciples, and us, for Pentecost. He may be ascending soon, but the Holy Spirit is coming in force. In the Gospel today, and for the next days, we’re waiting for that first big whoosh of the Holy Spirit that came to the Church on Pentecost, which is what we’ll celebrate on Pentecost Sunday. Our Lord tells the Apostles to go out and baptise the whole world. When our Lord Jesus Christ was baptised, the Holy Spirit whooshed down on him. Whenever we receive the Sacraments, whenever we pray, and whenever we love each other the same thing happens to us. 

The Holy Spirit also fulfils the promise our Lord made in the Gospel today: by the power of the Holy Spirit the bread and wine today in Mass will become the Eucharist—the Body and Blood of Christ—and Jesus will remain with us in the Eucharist “until the end of the age” when he will come with the last big whoosh that will bring us all home to Heaven. 

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The whoosh of a garden hose 

The whoosh of the Holy Spirit is like a garden hose: when you’re watering plants, or washing your car, or planning to play on your lawn, somebody has to turn on the hose, and somebody has to guide it, or the water goes splashing all over the place. 

Our Lord Jesus Christ is ascending to Heaven to turn on the hose and let the Holy Spirit bring the flow of grace. That whoosh of the Holy Spirit comes out strong and in all kinds of ways: like water from a hose it cools you when you’re hot and thirsty, it washes away the dirt and sweat, and it wakes you if you’re sleepy. That all depends on you holding on to the hose and pointing it where it needs to go, or else everyone and everything just gets splashed and wet and you waste a lot of water

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Point the hose where it needs to go

If your parents tell you to wash your car, and you just have water fights on the the lawn, and get all wet, the car remains dirty, you are in big trouble, and the job doesn’t get done. 

The Holy Spirit wants to do something with the whoosh, so you need to listen to him and point the right way for the grace He brings to be effective. We keep that “hose” steady so that the grace can do what God wants it to do, and it helps us and others get to Heaven. The Apostles guided the hose, and do do we: Jesus sent the Holy Spirit through the Apostles, to the other disciples, and to all the generations of disciples after them, and to us. The Holy Spirit whooshes in when we least expect it, so we must always be ready, we must live good lives so that we don’t block the hose by putting kinks in it and stopping the flow. 

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Acts 1:1–11; Psalm 47:2–3, 6–9; Ephesians 1:17–23, Matthew 28:16–20

Collect of the Day

Grant, we pray, Almighty God,
that as we believe your only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ
to have ascended into the heavens;
so we in heart and mind may also ascend
and with him continually dwell;
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Written by Michæl McFarland Campbell

May 21st, 2020 at 8:55 am

Posted in Christianity

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Jason Turner MStJ RIP

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When I joined St John Ambulance Ireland as a member of staff, one of my first contacts in the organisation was Jason Turner. Throughout all my time working in the Operations Department, he had been there as an adviser to me in my work, first of all as deputy director of the operations department, then as director, and then subsequently as a district officer of SJAI.

I remember many occasions when he got me to help him with preparation for the Emergency Medical Technician courses for which he was responsible. He even had me having a go at some of the multiple choice questions. I had not done the course, but he did say that on paper I should be able to pass. He even got me in one Saturday to be a patient for the trainee EMTs.

Since December 2018, following the failure of my kidneys, Jason kept in contact with me wishing me well. In recent months, I became aware that he himself was not well. We messaged every so often via WhatsApp or Facebook. Indeed, the day he died, I had been thinking of him when I was on dialysis and had intended to ring him to speak to him that evening. It was not to be.

Today, I watched his funeral mass online via webcam. I was a bit surprised to see pall bearers from St John Ambulance Ireland given the COVID-19 restrictions that we are all living with, but I am sure they were keeping within the restrictions. At least they were showing civic leadership by wearing face masks while still maintaining the black and white uniform of St John Ambulance.

In due course, I hope to get an address for Jason’s widow, so that I can send her a card.

Written by Michæl McFarland Campbell

May 18th, 2020 at 11:53 am

Jesus Christ is faithful, let us pledge our allegiance to him

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Christ is faithful

During these Sundays of Eastertide, the Church takes us back to the Last Supper, giving us a chance to dig deeper into its meaning. We can use our imaginations to picture the scene. Our blessed Lord and the Twelve are in the Upper Room, gathered for the Passover. Our blessed Lord begins to tell them about His coming sufferings. He tells them that He will be leaving them to go back to the Father. We can picture the Apostles frowning in confusion, maybe beginning to feel a creeping sadness. They have staked their lives on Jesus! They have given up everything to follow him. And now, now he says that He must go way from them, and that they cannot follow where He is going.

Our Lord Jesus Christ knows their hearts. He knows their fears. Twice during the discourse He tells them, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” He only repeats it because He knows that their hearts are truly troubled. He then makes them a promise. He says, “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” He promises never to abandon his chosen followers. The crucifixion will come, the darkness, the suffering, the persecution, the apparent failure and defeat. But through all of it, the Apostles can cling with faith to this promise: I will not leave you orphans, I will never abandon you. 

Our Lord Jesus Christ knows that our hearts too are troubled. He knows that we are filled with fear and confusion, with regret and sorrow in the midst of our own Good Fridays. He makes the same promise to us: I will not leave you orphans. I will come to you. I will be with you. His Resurrection is the first and definitive step in his fulfilment of this promise. 

Our Lord Jesus Christ is faithful. We can count on that. 

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St Zita perseveres

The life of St Zita illustrates the faithfulness of our Lord Jesus Christ. St Zita grew up near a beautiful town called Lucca, in north-central Italy, during the Middle Ages. Her family was poor but devout. When only twelve-years-old, she had to go to work as a live-in servant to one of the local noble families. She spent the rest of her sixty years serving that same family, living in that same house. 

She always got up early enough to pray and go to Mass before beginning her day’s work. For this piety, her fellow servants continually made fun of her. And her efforts to be Christ-like through hard work and gentle manners made them laugh at her and ridicule her even more. And when she simply continued her humble and hard-working ways, they accused her of arrogance and stupidity. 

But it got worse. For some mysterious reason, the master of the house despised her. He would fly into violent rages merely upon seeing her. The lady of the house felt the same. She would run St Zita ragged without even a touch of kindness. 

For years, St Zita lived a prayerful and virtuous life. Yet God seemed to reward her with misery and maltreatment. But instead of becoming discouraged or angry with God, she remembered that our blessed Lord had also been mistreated, so she simply kept praying, working, and suffering with faith. Eventually, her quiet display of virtue won over the hearts of her persecutors, as did her tireless generosity to the poor—which more than once left the pantry bare at night, only to be miraculously replenished by the morning. 

Hundreds more miracles were worked through her intercession after she died. Three hundred years later her body was exhumed and moved to a chapel in the little church where she used to go to Mass. The body was completely incorrupt. You can still visit it today in her chapel at Lucca. It’s as if our blessed Lord preserved it just to prove once again to all the world that He is faithful, even when no one else seems to be. 

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Pledging allegiance to Christ

In today’s Mass, our Lord Jesus Christ is renewing His promise never to abandon us. We ought to thank him for that. Our Lord Jesus Christ is always with us. He is with us in our hearts, through the gift of the Holy Spirit that he poured into us at our confirmation. He is with us in the Eucharist, 24/7, whenever we need Him. He is with us in the Bible, the revealed Word of God that will always nourish our souls if we read it with faith. He is with us in the Church, the bark of Peter guaranteed to reach the heavenly shores.  

Yes, our Lord Jesus Christ is truly with us. He has not left us as orphans. There is, however, a chance that we have made ourselves into orphans. Maybe we look like Christians on the outside, but still haven’t really become Christians on the inside. Maybe that is why we feel gnawing frustration or loneliness deep in our souls. 

Today, our blessed Lord is giving us another chance, a new invitation to let him take up residence on the throne of our hearts, as St Peter puts it in the Second Reading, to “sanctify Christ as the Lord of our hearts.” There can only be one King in our hearts. Either ourselves, with our ignorance, our weakness, and our limitations, or Christ, with His infinite wisdom, His power, and His goodness. 

Today, let us pledge our allegiance once again to Christ, the everlasting Lord. 

Today, let us put our trust in His promise by promising to accept His will, even when it hurts; to follow His teaching, even when it is inconvenient and unpopular; and to take up our crosses with Christ, following Him all the way through the Crucifixion to the Resurrection. That is what the Apostles did: they had no regrets. 

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Grant, almighty God, that we may celebrate with heartfelt devotion these days of joy, which we keep in honour of the risen Lord, and that what we relive in remembrance we may always hold to in what we do. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Readings at Mass

Acts 8:5–8, 14–17; Psalm 66:1-7, 16, 20; 1 Peter 3:15–18; John 14:15–21

Written by Michæl McFarland Campbell

May 17th, 2020 at 10:58 am