Pentecost Sunday 2020: Be Amazing!


Today’s reflection is for Pentecost Sunday, May 31, 2020, and the readings can be found by clicking here.

Years ago, I remember watching a commercial for Red Stripe Lager, from Jamaica. With Reggae music playing in the background, a very happy Jamaican man said, “Red Stripe, helping our white friends dance for over seventy years!” Now, I don’t know how true that is (Deacon Valgos has some pretty good moves without Red Stripe), but what I do know is this, the Holy Spirit has been helping our Christian friends be amazing for over 2,000 years! That’s what the Spirit does—It makes me, It makes us, It makes the world amazing.

Today we celebrate Pentecost, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus’ disciples and the gifts of the Holy Spirit that are given to us to make us and the world amazing again! Out of love, God gave us his Spirit to change us into Christ’s body, and then gave us the gifts we need to transform everyone and everything we encounter.

After Jesus’ resurrection he promised his disciples that he would send the Advocate, the Spirit of God, and then fifty days later Jesus made good on that promise! The Holy Spirit came rushing in and Jews from every nation under God gathered together to be confused, astounded, and utterly amazed! The Spirit gave ordinary men from Galilee the gifts they needed to share the truth of Salvation in Jesus Christ. And about three thousand people were baptized and saved that very day.

My friends, the Holy Spirit has not gone anywhere! The Spirit is still alive in God’s Church. As Christians we still receive the Spirit at Baptism, It is still strengthened at Confirmation, and It’s gifts can still, through us, make the Glory of God visible to the world. By caring about and working for environmental justice, with schools and hospitals, with food shelters, and ministry to the poorest, with concern and support for immigrants in every land, the Church continues, to make the world a more amazing place! We need to be on board with the ministry and mission of the Church and Jesus, and the Spirit gives us gifts to do just that!

You know that the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. Pope St. Gregory the Great said, “The Holy Spirit gives wisdom against foolishness, understanding against dullness, counsel against rashness, fortitude against fear, knowledge against ignorance, piety against hardness of heart, and fear of the Lord against pride.” That’s amazing.

Friends, we cannot do anything without the Holy Spirit! In fact, that’s what St. Paul told the Corinthians in today’s second reading. He said, “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit is incredible! He is the Lord the giver of life, is adored and glorified, and has spoken through the prophets! (Sound familiar?) The Spirit made Christ present in Mary’s womb, makes Christ present in the Eucharist, in the Scriptures proclaimed, and in the Priest through whom God grants forgiveness of sins, making us amazing again and again, and fit for salvation.

The Spirit makes water holy, oil holy, and moly holy! I’m not even sure what moly is, but I hear people talk about Holy moly all the time! Holy Moly, holy cows, holy smoke, and holy mackerel are just a hint about how God is transforming the world. Okay, that’s a bit of a joke, but the truth is that Pentecost is a reminder that each of us too has received God’s Spirit and It’s gifts and have been made holy to make the world holy; consecrated to God. We are called to join God each day in His work of renewing the earth, making all things holy. Red Stripe may or may not help men dance, but the Spirit of God does indeed make his Church amazing.

Each day we wake, we pray the words of the Psalmist, “Lord, send out your Spirit and renew the face of the earth,” with us, in me. Holy Spirit, make the world amazing through us…through me today.

For YouTube video presentations of other reflections, please click here.

Virtual Retreat – The City On A Hill

The City On A HillGood Morning Everyone! I held a virtual retreat yesterday at Our Lady of the Assumption Parish, in Turlock, where our family attends Mass (under normal conditions). I want to give a big thank you to Fr. Manuel, the pastor at OLA for celebrating Mass with us, and for letting us use their beautiful parish for the virtual retreat. I want to also thank Helder DeSousa of Luso Media for handling all the technology and being with us from the beginning to the end!

The retreat focuses on the Precepts of the Church, as taught in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, what it means to be a Christian, and a member of the community of faith. It starts at 8:30am with Mass, has three talks, and ends at 12:00pm. It contains questions for reflection or discussion and would be great to share with family, friends, and/or other parishes. I have included the slideshow pdf below as well, as you might find it helpful.

The retreat is entirely without cost, but if you would like to make a small donation you may Venmo Stephen Valgos, or follow the instructions during the retreat itself. May God bless you abundantly and keep you safe.

Click here for the pdf of the presentation.

Click here for the Vimeo Livestream from Our Lady of the Assumption.

Click here for the YouTube feed from LUSOMedia Live.


Click here for the Intro Talk, here for Talk 1, here for Talk 2, and here for Talk 3.

Ascension 2020: Stay In Your Lane

stay in your laneToday’s reflection is for The Ascension Of The Lord, May 24, 2020, and the readings can be found by clicking here. It was offered as a reflection after the 6pm vigil Mass at O.L.A., in Turlock.

Last week I spoke of the Great Commandment to love, which we heard from John’s Gospel, and then we were told to take that love out into the world, and that’s what we heard from Jesus today, the Great Commission. Jesus tells his disciples that all power in heaven and on earth has been given to him, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,” he says, “baptize them in the name of the father, and the son, and the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Simple, right? Love, teach, baptize, obey. Obedience isn’t always easy, but Jesus needs us to stay in our lane.

“Stay in your lane,” is a popular saying circulating in the world today. For example, as a Marine, I was a Field Radio Operator. It was my job to maintain positive communication with command. When someone tried to tell me how to do my job, I may or may not have said, “Thank you for the advice, but my job is to communicate, and yours is to fire that machine gun…so maybe you should just stay in your lane.” “You do your job, I’ll do mine.” The example is harsh, I know, but the truth is that for us to complete our mission, each person had a job to do, from snipers, to radios, to logistics, and weapons. Things really do run more smoothly, and we are more able to accomplish our goal when each person “stays in their lane.”

Funny that Jesus, too, has to tell his disciples to stay in their lane! What’s the job of the disciple? We heard both last week and then this week, love God and neighbor (the Great Commandment), and then, get out there and do it! (the Great Commission).

It seems like we aren’t ever quite satisfied with just doing what we’re told, however. We want to know a little more than the next guy, and the next thing you know, we start thinking maybe we should be the one in charge! When it comes to the Kingdom of God that is what we call Original Sin. That’s how it started for Adam and Eve. “Don’t eat the fruit!” They wanted to know more and they believed the lie that God was somehow trying to rob them of their true happiness—rob them of their glory.

My Old Testament professor, Father Michael Guinan, told us that the problem with the human condition is very easy to understand—we simply don’t like being 2nd in command. Instead of humbling submitting to the will of God in our life, we seek to supplant God. We know he’s got rules, but we’ve got better ideas in mind! We believe that our happiness is bound up in rejecting God’s will and following our own will instead. And the wise man knows, that really never works out.

St. John of the Cross said, “What does it profit you to give God one thing if He asks of you another? Consider what it is God wants, and then do it.” The saints became saints when they surrendered their will to God’s will. What is God asking you to do? Do it.

Jesus tells his disciples all authority has been given to him, that they are going to be baptized in the Holy Spirit! “Whoa! That’s awesome, Jesus, we can’t wait! Woo-hoo!” would have been an appropriate response, but it’s almost like everything Jesus said went in one ear and out the other. Have you ever said something, only to have someone else TOTALLY change the subject on you? Almost like they weren’t listening to you at all? Jesus says you will receive the Spirit! And they ask, “When are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” “Wait, what? Were you listening to anything I just said?”

We know what God wants. We know his commands, and that we are to be his witnesses of love, and truth, and sacrifice, to the ends of the earth. That’s it. I know we have big plans and think we’ve got things all figured out, but I promise you this, there is no lasting joy outside of God’s will. Discipleship is not hard to understand, but it can be very hard to live, if we are not willing to surrender to the will of God for our life.

When we lived in Salinas, Mark was only about four years old. I was mowing the lawn and Mark wanted to help. I said great, I need you to pick up these sticks off the grass. He stood there upset and said he wanted to mow the lawn. He wasn’t even able to reach the handle! I said, “Son, if you really want to help, you can pick up these sticks. That’s what I need you to do.” Obstinate and angry, he refused, and, to my sadness and his, he never did share in my work.

God has work that he needs us to do. With our particular gifts, talents, and treasure, God calls us to do something beautiful with Him. He doesn’t force us though. He invites us to participate in His work of advancing his kingdom of love, justice, and peace. We just need to be willing to let go of the wheel. Trust in God and where God wants to take you. The Spirit will guide you there, if you’re willing to let God be God, and just stay in your lane.

As we journey toward Pentecost, let our prayer always be, “Not my will but yours be done.” May our heart’s desire be always to humbly do the father’s will. May we find the strength of the Holy Spirit to give God our “yes,” to stay in our lane, and do his will to the ends of the earth, if that’s where he calls us. Amen.

For YouTube video presentations of this and other reflections, please click here.