|by Angela Lambert|
June 4th, 2017 Pentecost
(First Reading) Acts of the Apostles 2:1-11
When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim. Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem. At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language. They were astounded, and in amazement they asked, “Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans? Then how does each of us hear them in his native language? We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.”
Not only is God’s kingdom surprising in nature, He empowers us to do surprising things. Just when we think we have God figured out, that we have the rituals down and expectations met and relax into comfortable religion, He surprises us again. Jesus’ requests can seem boring at times – Jesus had told the apostles not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4-5). They waited 10 days, from the time Jesus ascended into heaven, before the Holy Spirit came. Imagine if they had given up, gotten antsy, decided to re-interpret what Jesus said, or do things their own way. Instead, they faithfully waited together, spending their time in prayer.
Their trust in Christ’s word produced great fruit. They received the gift of the Holy Spirit and unexpected abilities. They could speak in different languages despite never having learned them. Peter, a fisherman, could understand Scripture at new depths and articulate the connection between the events of Christ’s life with the Old Testament prophecies. In the Name of Jesus, the apostles healed many people, and by the authority given to them by Christ, began baptizing and forgiving sins. On Pentecost day alone, about 3,000 people were baptized. Christ’s kingdom had finally come and all who believed received freedom in the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit continues to be operative in the Church and in the souls of every baptized individual. It’s easy to theorize about the Holy Spirit without realizing just how immanent and active He is. If we open ourselves up to Him, we may be surprised at just how much He empowers us. To make a modern analogy, consider our cultural love for super-heroes. Most of them are humans with an added power which enables them to do super-natural things. While super hero stories make for great entertainment (and t-shirts), the super powers of the Holy Spirit are real. Real people have been given the power to turn away from addictions and sins to live in the freedom of Christian virtue. Real people have forgiven hated enemies and found reconciliation. People paralyzed by anxiety and fear have found peace. People in sorrow or depression have found comfort and joy.
The lives of the saints evidence the super-heroic power of the Holy Spirit in generous souls. Some have endured torture and martyrdom with boldness, singing hymns of praise as they were killed. Others have plumbed great depths of Scripture and Theology. Still others have been given the mystical gift of the stigmata, suffering with the wounds of Christ.
Recent saints such as Pope St. John Paul II, St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, St. Gianna Molla, and St. Padre Pio show the myriad of ways the Holy Spirit works in persons of faith in every vocation and state in life. Each of them needed super-natural fortitude to persevere through the trials they encountered. Each needed infused faith to stay close to God when all seemed lost. Each brought healing, mercy, and super-natural love to those God had placed in their lives. And each was enabled by the Spirit to sacrifice their lives in a heroic way out of Christian love. Every saint testifies that the heroic things they do come from the Holy Spirit. They too marvel at the miracles wrought through them, because they know more than anyone their own limitations.
Although these examples seem extraordinary, the Church teaches that the Holy Spirit makes sainthood possible for each of us if we allow Him. The Gifts and Fruits of the Holy Spirit transform us and allow us to live as sons and daughters of God. The only thing holding us back, is resistance by our own self-will. The more we surrender to the Holy Spirit the more operative He can be within us. When I neglect prayer, even for industrious reasons, I see my natural self and how easily I become frustrated, impatient, selfish, anxious, unfocused, or short-tempered. On the other hand, when I make time for prayer a priority, my whole day I experience fruits of the Spirit that make me the best version of myself, or you could say the “super-natural” version of myself. When tempted to skip prayer “to get more done”, I ask myself, “What do my kids, students, family, and friends need more from me – peacefulness or a longer checklist”? Paradoxically, when I make time for prayer, more actually gets done as well, or at least the most important things.
We are saved by the merits of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, but we are sanctified (which means to be made holy) through the Holy Spirit. Christ sent the Spirit on Pentecost to continue His work of Redemption. We are forgiven in Baptism, and we are transformed over the course of our lives more and more through the working of the Spirit within us. Jesus proclaimed that His kingdom was not of this world, meaning it exceeds the natural. With the gift of the Holy Spirit, He has enabled us to live in the freedom and truth of His kingdom – to live super-naturally. Maybe we all love super-hero stories, because we sense in our hearts that we are all called to be super-heroes too.
- Our culture tries to compartmentalize faith to something reserved for Sundays, or reduce it to a natural level like a social club or charitable works. Consider to what extent you are affected by this tendency. Do you compartmentalize your faith or reduce it to a natural level?
- Consider the living, real, Person of the Holy Spirit. Reflect on the incredible gift of baptism that He dwells within your very soul.
- When have you experienced the Gifts of the Holy Spirit in your soul?
- Gifts of the Holy Spirit enable us to fight for our faith and follow Christ’s command to love as He did (which goes above and beyond natural love – thus requires super-natural help).
- The 7 gifts of the Holy Spirit are: Wisdom, Understanding, Knowledge, Counsel, Fortitude, Piety, Fear of the Lord.
- When have you seen the Fruits of the Holy Spirit in your life?
- Jesus said that you can tell a tree by its fruits. Similarly, when we are docile to the Holy Spirit and unite ourselves to Him through prayer, He bears fruits in us.
- The Fruits of the Spirit can be found in Galatians 5:22-23: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
- Simply by adding a few minutes of prayer each day, you could grow in each of these fruits. Imagine if you added 10 minutes of prayer or more! Imagine if you sprinkled a couple of minutes of prayer throughout your day, inviting the Spirit to bear fruit in you.
Make a Resolution (Practical Application):
- Reflect on one Gift or Fruit of the Holy Spirit a day. Pray for an increase in it and greater awareness of the Holy Spirit working in your soul.
- Pray the Prayer to the Holy Spirit each day:
|Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful. And kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And you will renew the face of the earth. Lord, by the light of the Holy Spirit you have taught the hearts of your faithful. In the same Spirit help us to relish what is right and always rejoice in your consolation. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.|
~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2017
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