Authentic Love

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro

August 19th, 2017; 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel of Matthew 16:21-27 NAB

Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised. Then Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.” He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life? For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay all according to his conduct.”

Meditation Reflection:

Peter loved Jesus.  He left everything to follow Him. Peter put his whole heart into the mission and his courage and zeal expressed themselves in extraordinary ways.  Moved by faith, Peter walked on water.  With his heart open to the Holy Spirit, he boldly answered Jesus’ questions to the disciples “Who do you say that I am?” by proclaiming that Jesus is the Christ and the Son of God.

Love inspires, emboldens, strengthens, and provides unique insights into the beloved.  Like the love between a husband and wife, a mother or father and their children, a beloved brother or sister, or a dearest friend, love wells up inside and can’t help but express itself exclamations of affection, physical closeness, and fierce protectiveness.

Due to our wounded, fallen nature however, our love can also be misdirected.  In this Gospel passage, Peter’s love mixed with his pride and with his worldly understanding to embolden him in a way that undermined, rather than supported, Jesus.

Our love needs conversion to be authentic and to be true to our beloved.  It requires ongoing formation in what is True and Good as God has revealed it, rather than as our emotions direct us or the culture.  It requires practice as well, to break bad habits and form good ones, or to overcome personal weaknesses that hurt the relationship.

Peter loved Jesus and was honored to be given the keys to the kingdom just one chapter prior to this.  However, his pride and ambition, together with his cultural assumptions about what that kingdom would look like, misdirected his love to preserving an earthly kingdom by preserving Jesus’ earthly life.  Just when Jesus needed the support of His disciples the most, as His “Hour” of Redemptive suffering for all mankind approached, Peter pulled Him aside and tried to dissuade Him.

Similar to Peter, our love needs Christ’s grace and truth to be authentic.  Consider the sentiment “I just want you to be happy.”  It can motivate noble sacrifice, but it can also rationalize weakness.  If we define happiness as merely earthly comfort, ease, security, and pleasure, we risk encouraging our beloved to turn from their cross rather than helping them carry it.  Yet, in trying to save their life, we could actually cripple them.

Consider the paradox inherent in parenting.  Kids need protection, nurturing, and comfort.  At the same time, to mature into adulthood, they also need to work through difficulties, setbacks, and pain.  The temptation to remove everything hard undermines the maturation process, whereas supporting them through the struggle without removing it for them can aid their maturation.  To know when to intervene and when to stand back is NOT easy!  It requires the counsel of the Holy Spirit and the grace of fortitude.  When Jesus’ life was threatened by King Herod, Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt to protect Him.  When Jesus was scourged and crucified however, Mary stood by Him, feeling every pain with Him, but knew it was necessary for His mission.

In marriage, family life, and friendship, authentic love needs conversion.  When we say “I just want you to be happy,” we have to be honest about which kind of happiness we desire for them.  Jesus is clear,

Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” 

 

Those we love will struggle with sin.  It’s the battle of this life.  Authentic love won’t condone the sin or escaping it.  Rather, it will strengthen a person to speak the truth in love and support the beloved through the pain of conversion because true life and true freedom is found in the Lord. In the first reading for today (Jeremiah 20:7-9), the prophet Jeremiah expresses authentic love.  His human nature desired comfort and to simply be liked.  Nevertheless, his people had succumbed to habits of sin and needed to be corrected lest they die eternally from their destructive behavior and attitudes.  He didn’t want to speak out anymore because every time he did they met him with anger.  However, when he tried to remain silent, the truth welled up in him and he couldn’t hold it in any longer without suffering even greater pain.

True love can’t stand to see sin hurting it’s beloved.  Our friends and family need us to battle for their souls with the strength of prayer, God’s Truth, and the cross, not sentimentality.  And we need those who love us to battle for our souls in the same way.

To do this, we need to actively cooperate with the Holy Spirit that our love can be fully converted.  St. Paul states it well when he says,

“Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:2

It will take time, effort, and support.  However, we can be encouraged by Peter’s example.  Peter’s conversion took time as well, but by the end of his life his love had become so perfect, that he accepted the cross and crucifixion for himself that he had once tried to dissuade Jesus from.

I’ll end with two quotes that I read often which give me hope:

Pope Francis   January 19, 2016

“there is no saint without a past and no sinner without a future

 

St. Josemaria Escriva

“A saint is a sinner that keeps trying.”

Consider:

  • Reflect on Mary’s love for Jesus.  Consider her fierce protection when He was young.  Consider her fierce loyalty to His mission on the Cross, despite both of their suffering.
  • Consider the words “I just want you to be happy.”  Pray about what true happiness is, where it can be found, and how it can be attained.
  • When has Christian love required you to carry a cross?  Who supported you?  Who tried to dissuade you?
  • When have you had to stand by someone while they carried a cross?  In what ways were you tempted to encourage them to leave the cross?  How were you able to support them in their pain or struggle and make the burden easier?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Do one thing each day for “the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.”
    • Spend 5 minutes with Scripture
    • Read a good Christian book
    • Listen to Christian podcasts
    • Visit with a Christian friend
  • Support a friend on their spiritual journey who is struggling with a sin or with a cross.
    • Pray and sacrifice for them; Speak truth in love; Visit them; encourage them with Scriptures of hope and resurrection after the Cross.

 

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2017

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Putting your sweat and blood into it…

by Angela Lambert

June 18th,2017;  Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ

 Gospel of John 6:51-58

Jesus said to the Jewish crowds: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.”

Meditation Reflection:

Today we celebrate Christ’s gift of His Body and Blood.  Consider the meaning of giving our body to another.  Husband and wife express the intimacy and totality of their love in physical unity.  Every new life enters the world through the sacrificial gift of a mother, who offers her body and blood to her child.  Fathers invest their sweat and blood in their children as well in the myriad of ways they meet their children’s needs. How many dads have went to bed after a day of working to provide for their family, playing with their kids, building out part of the house to make room for more kids, or helping to finish their adult child’s basement saying, “my whole body hurts.”  Even friendship is demonstrated in physical sacrifice.  If you’ve ever called on friends to help you move, or been the friend who said yes to that call, you know what I mean!

The Son of God became man, in every way.  He invested His mind and heart, and His body and blood.  He desires nearness to us in the most intimate of ways.  Jesus spent thirty-three years living humbly, and bringing tangible, immanent love to those He encountered.  His sacrificial suffering and death of the Cross atoned for our sins, giving us new life as children of God for eternity.

Jesus instituted the Sacrament of the Eucharist for two reasons.  He established it as memorial so that His sacrifice on the Cross would be made present again every time the Mass is celebrated so that we might be nourished by its graces.  Secondly, because He wants to be as near to us as possible.  When we receive the Eucharist at Communion, Jesus offers Himself in the most intimate and loving way, like that of a husband and wife.  Through His Eucharistic presence, He continues to be with us in a tangible way.  Human beings need physical closeness, especially when we need comfort in sorrow or in expressions of love.  Jesus Christ is, and will forever continue to be, both God and man.  It’s easy to take His presence in the Eucharist for granted, especially when it requires the eyes and heart of faith.  Today we take time to reflect as a Church on the beautiful, and mysterious gift, to cherish our Lord, and to deepen our appreciation for the sweat and blood He puts into His love.

Consider:

  • Consider the many ways we express love physically.  Why is physical love so important?  How does it create intimacy in relationships?
  • Reflect on Christ’s physical expressions of love – during His hidden life, His public ministry, His sacrifice on the Cross, and His Eucharistic presence today.
  • This year the Solemnity of Christ’s Body and Blood falls on the same Sunday as Father’s day.  Consider the ways in which dad’s offer their bodies and blood for their families.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Visit Christ at Church this week.  Spend time in prayer near the tabernacle, or at Eucharistic Adoration.
  • Make a physical sacrifice of love for someone this week, in appreciation of Christ’s physical sacrifice.

 

~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2017

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Finding True Love

by Angela Lambert

May 21st, 2017; 6th Sunday Easter

Gospel of John 14:15-21

Jesus said to his disciples: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows him. But you know him, because he remains with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”

Meditation Reflection:

Every human person yearns for love, intimacy, and understanding.  We may not need to be loved or understood by everyone, but we desire that connection with at least one person and preferably a whole community.  Without it, we suffer an oppressive loneliness leading to depression, anxiety, and confusion.

Given the rapid advances in communication, it would seem we should feel more connected than ever and therefore happier than ever.  Yet, consider the high rate of depression and suicide in our culture, despite the unprecedented wealth and physical well-being compared to any other time in history.  So, if we are relatively wealthy, healthy, and connected, why aren’t we happy?

Jesus reveals the answer in today’s Gospel passage.  The world offers superficial connection, defining love as self-gratification rather than self-gift. Self-centered love uses others to make oneself feel good or to advance one toward a personal goal.  It might demonstrate a modicum of virtue, but only insofar as it provides personal reward.  Intimate married love has been replaced with casual sex and pornography.  Intimate family love through the gift of children has been replaced with pets (not that pets are bad, just that they are not kids).  Intimacy of friendship or shared work carry some comradery, but disillusionment ensues when they are quickly exchanged for a personal advancement.  All of these experiences leave people feeling used and alone, rather than loved.

Pope Francis sheds light on our pain by identifying the source of our wounds.  He connects our pain with our disconnect from Truth and the experience of mercy.  In his book, The Name of God is Mercy, he writes,

“…humanity is wounded, deeply wounded.  Either it does not know how to cure its wounds or it believes that it’s not possible to cure them.  And it’s not just a question of social ills or people wounded by poverty, social exclusion, or one of the many slaveries of the third millennium.  Relativism wounds people too:  all things seem equal, all things appear the same…  Pius XII, more than half a century ago, said that the tragedy of our age was that it had lost its sense of sin, the awareness of sin.  Today we add further to the tragedy by considering our illness, our sins, to be incurable, things that cannot be healed or forgiven.  We lack the actual concrete experience of mercy. The fragility of our era is this, too:  we don’t believe that there is a chance for redemption; for a hand to raise you up; for an embrace to save you, forgive you, pick you up, flood you with infinite, patient, indulgent love; to put you back on your feet.  We need mercy.”

Pope Francis calls relativism a wound because it disables our ability to determine right from wrong and truth from error.  Christ forbids us from judging other people because only He knows what is in their hearts.  However, we must be able to make moral judgements about actions and choices.  It’s just as important to know the dangers of sin to the spiritual life, as it is to know the dangers of gravity when leaping from high places.   I tell my boys all the time, especially in the summer when they are careening down the hill on their bikes or scooters, “Force = Mass times Acceleration –  think about how fast you are going, because you could get hurt badly!”  The same truth becomes even more important as they get older.  Now that my oldest has his driving permit and is nearing his license, I try to curb the teenage boy’s “need for speed” with the same physics lesson.  I’m not being judgmental, I’m being loving by teaching him the truth.  The same applies to the spiritual life.  Sin wounds, hurts, and can even kill.  The Truth of Christ is a saving gift.

In today’s Gospel Jesus teaches that Truth, Goodness, and Love are inseparable.  Without truth and without virtue, we will miss out on love.  Jesus said that He is the Truth (Jn 14:6), and those who love Him follow His commands.  God is a relationship of three distinct Persons in one divine nature.  The three Persons of the Trinity share a unity that exceeds our understanding, but Jesus unveiled a glimpse of its experience.  He speaks on numerous occasions of the unity of He and the Father. That unity comes from a relationship of love and obedience through an eternal self-gift.  The Holy Spirit is described as the Love between the Father and the Son. For us to share in the intimate relationship of the Trinity, we must share in God’s love through the gift of the Holy Spirit.

When we place our faith in Christ, He sends the Holy Spirit that we may live by His Truth, following His commands, and thereby grow in intimate love.  Jesus told the apostles,

I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)

Christians must not only love, but love like Christ – sacrificial, unconditional, and merciful.  Merciful love means speaking the Truth instead of enabling someone in their self-deception or rationalization.  It means never helping someone sin, but always helping them when they try to leave their sin.

To love in this way, we need supernatural grace which flows from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  St. Cyril of Alexandria, a bishop and Doctor of the Church, describes the Spirit’s transformative power in a beautiful way in a commentary he wrote on the Gospel of John:

 “After Christ had completed his mission on earth, it still remained necessary for us to become sharers in the divine nature of the Word. We had to give up our own life and be so transformed that we would begin to live an entirely new kind of life that would be pleasing to God. This was something we could do only by sharing in the Holy Spirit…

Only by his own presence within us in this way could he give us confidence to cry out, Abba, Father, make it easy for us to grow in holiness and, through our possession of the all-powerful Spirit, fortify us invincibly against the wiles of the devil and the assaults of men.

 It can easily be shown from examples both in the Old Testament and the New that the Spirit changes those in whom he comes to dwell; he so transforms them that they begin to live a completely new kind of life…

Does this not show that the Spirit changes those in whom he comes to dwell and alters the whole pattern of their lives? With the Spirit within them it is quite natural for people who had been absorbed by the things of this world to become entirely other-worldly in outlook, and for cowards to become men of great courage.”

The Holy Spirit infuses us with Divine Love which bears fruit in our lives.  This love is so exceptional, that Jesus tells His disciples it will be evident to the world that they are His followers.  The fruit of worldly love is loneliness, anxiety, and depression.  The fruit of Christian love is intimacy with God and His followers, peace, and joy.  Worldly wisdom wounds, but Christian wisdom heals.  The great paradox of happiness, which Pope St. John Paul II re-iterated time and again, is that self-fulfillment can only be found in self-gift.  Christians experience the intimacy of friendship in their shared vision of the Truth, the intimacy of true love in living their vocational call to sacramental married love, Holy Orders, vows of religious life, or the single vocation, and above all – the deepest, most intimate, abiding love of our Trinitarian God dwelling in our soul as His very own Temple.    Happiness is loving and being loved, Truly.

Consider:

  •  Consider the relationship between Truth and Love.  Why is honesty necessary for relationship?  How does honesty deepen intimacy?
  • Have you ever had to make a decision that required you to choose between worldly wisdom and Christian wisdom?  Which did you follow and why?  What were the results?
  • Consider the power of the Holy Spirit to transform us.  Have you experienced spiritual healing, transformation, or love through the Holy Spirit?  Have you witnessed it at work in another person?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  •  Grow in your relationship with Christ who is the Truth, by studying Scripture or studying the faith.  Read a spiritual book, join a bible study, listen to Christian talk radio or podcasts, or visit with someone advanced in the faith who can teach you.
  • Invite the Holy Spirit to bear more fruits of love within you by connecting with Him in prayer and/or the sacraments.  Add just 5-10 minutes of prayer to your day (or if possible, I highly recommend adding a daily Mass), and note the change in your reactions to others and to situations, or to the level of peace you feel amidst whatever is happening around you.

Related Posts:

~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2017

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The Most Marvelous Mystery! Gospel Meditation for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

by Angela Lambert

May 22nd, 2016; Solemnity of the Most Trinity 3Holy Trinity

Gospel of John 16:12-15 NAB

Jesus said to his disciples: “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming. He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you. Everything that the Father has is mine; for this reason I told you that he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.”

Meditation Reflection:

The mystery of the Trinity transcends our comprehension and its reality cannot be rightly conceived in our imagination.  At the same time, God desired that we know something of His nature and being. Christ revealed this truth during His public ministry since we could not have known it otherwise. Still, we lack understanding without supernatural help and so Jesus explains to His apostles, “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth.”  When the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles at Pentecost, He opened their eyes of faith, elevated their understanding, and fortified their courage to believe and proclaim such wonderful truths.

The Holy Spirit continues His work today in our own hearts as well.  We know from Genesis that we image God, but because of sin we struggle to know what that looks like.  Through Baptism however, the Trinity comes to dwell in our very souls.   His image grows within us and begins to radiate more and more brightly in our minds and in our lives to the extent that we cooperate with His gifts.

So what is the Trinity? What did God reveal about Himself? What are we supposed to image?  The Church explains it in this way:

“The Trinity is One. We do not confess three Gods, but one God in three persons, the “consubstantial Trinity”.83 The divine persons do not share the one divinity among themselves but each of them is God whole and entire…” (CCC 253)

“The divine persons are really distinct from one another. “God is one but not solitary.”86 “Father”, “Son”, “Holy Spirit” are not simply names designating modalities of the divine being, for they are really distinct from one another: “He is not the Father who is the Son, nor is the Son he who is the Father, nor is the Holy Spirit he who is the Father or the Son.”87 They are distinct from one another in their relations of origin: “It is the Father who generates, the Son who is begotten, and the Holy Spirit who proceeds.”88 The divine Unity is Triune.” (CCC 254)

The divine persons are relative to one another. Because it does not divide the divine unity, the real distinction of the persons from one another resides solely in the relationships which relate them to one another” (CCC 255)

Understand?  Great!  Just kidding.  I can explain…kind of.  First, we must accept that we cannot fully comprehend or imagine the Trinity so let go of that goal.  However, it does not mean that we can know nothing of the Trinity.  God revealed His Trinitarian reality and so we ought to accept and contemplate this mystery with the help of the Holy Spirit.

First, God is one.  He has one divine nature.  We tend to imagine it divided into three parts but this is where our imagination fails us.  Each person of the Trinity is wholly God.

Secondly, God is three.  Our imagination tries to reconcile this with His oneness by imagining God as having three different modes or faces but being essentially the same.  Not the case.  God is three distinct persons.

So how can God be one and three?  In heaven you will see the face of God and something of this mystery.  This incredible vision will be the source of joy so great that you will have to be supernaturally empowered to take it in without being overcome.  Live a holy life so you can one day have this awesome opportunity!  From Christ’s teachings we know that God’s oneness and threeness reveal that His essence is one of relationship.  God is a relationship of Three Persons.  I mentioned in a prior post that when God created us in His image, He created a family.  A man and a woman become “one flesh” and a child is born who is both of their nature and yet distinct as well.  The union of persons in life-giving love images God who is also a union of persons in life-giving love.  Is it no wonder that Satan’s primary attack against God is directed at His image; thus Satan’s efforts to promote a self-centered individualism in contrast to the other-centered gift of self required for an intimate union of persons?

We cannot imagine God’s Triune nature but we can contemplate it and try to live as an image of it with the help of the Holy Spirit and the graces of the Sacraments.  Baptism unites us to God and each other, the Eucharist nourishes that unity, and Confession reconciles us when we have separated ourselves through sin.  The more we open ourselves to God the more we will see Him.  That process begins on earth and the joy that accompanies it begins here as well.  We can look forward with hope and anticipation to the day that God enables us to see more of Him in heaven and we will be free to sing endless songs of praise and love.

Consider:

  •  Consider your relationship with God the Father.
    • What does it mean to be a son or daughter of God?
      • Consider your dignity as an heir of heaven where your Christ your brother reigns as king and Mary your mother reigns as queen.
      • In a family, each member is irreplaceable. You are an irreplaceable member of God’s family.  You matter to God and to every member of the Christian family.
    • How does that affect the way you see yourself?
    • How does that affect the choices you make?
  • Consider your relationship with God the Son.
    • God became man so you could encounter Him directly. He shared in the human experience so He could be closer to you.  Reflect on times you have encountered Christ.
    • Consider the mysteries of His life – how has He experienced similar sufferings to yours?
    • He still draws near to you today through the Eucharist and His Mystical Body the Church. Reflect on the immanence of Christ in your daily life.
  • Consider your relationship with the Holy Spirit.
    • The Holy Spirit opens our eyes to see Christ and enlightens our understanding to appropriate His teachings.
    • When was a time the Holy Spirit brought comfort and peace to your soul?
    • When was a time He gave you fortitude and perseverance in your Christian walk?
    • When was a time He gave you wisdom to discern the right choice to make when faced with a difficult decision? Invite the Holy Spirit to guide your decisions today as well.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Take a moment today to appreciate God’s creation.
  • Visit Christ present in the Eucharist.
  • Pray to the Holy Spirit each day to reveal God more to you, and to transform your heart that your life might reveal God more to someone else.

 

~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2016

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Holy Spirit, Help Me!…Gospel Meditation for the Feast of Pentecost

by Angela Lambert

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May 15th, 2016; Pentecost

Gospel of John 14:15-16, 23b-26 NAB

Jesus said to his disciples: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always. “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him. Those who do not love me do not keep my words; yet the word you hear is not mine but that of the Father who sent me. “I have told you this while I am with you. The Advocate, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.

 Meditation Reflection:

Christ’s greatest gift to us – the first fruit of all of His suffering, death, and resurrection, the first thing He asks the Father on our behalf from His throne in Heaven – is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  In the gift of the Holy Spirit we experience the mystery of the Trinity.  God is one and therefore the Spirit makes Christ present in our soul along with the Father.  At the same time, God is three Persons, and therefore Jesus explains that He must ascend to Heaven so that the Spirit may descend upon us.  Because Christ merited the forgiveness of our sins, His Spirit could begin His work of cleansing us and sanctifying us.  The Spirit applies the healing balm of Christ’s sacrifice to the wounds of our sins and works as fast as we will allow to help us regain spiritual health and freedom.

The Spirit is the primary mover in our conversion.  He prompts us to turn to God, provides the strength to actually make the conversion, sanctifies our souls with the grace of Baptism and the sacraments, then guides the ongoing process of union with Christ.  At the same time, the Spirit requires our cooperation.  We can hasten or hinder His work.  It reminds me of trying to clean the house with my three kids.  Granted, a mother has to come to peace with a certain level of mess if she ever wants to survive motherhood.  At the same time, order and cleanliness lend beauty and peace to a home.  During those times when I attempt to clean everything up and restore order to the house my kids’ cooperation (or lack there of) unavoidably determines the success and timeframe of my effort.  When my kids were little I felt like a gerbil running in it’s wheel.  As soon as I cleaned up one mess I would turn around to find my kids had made another.  If I stopped to read with them or take them outside where they couldn’t mess up the house, I couldn’t clean it up either.   As they got a little older I could finally kick them outside to play while I cleaned inside or “quarantine” off rooms one by one from the kids as they were cleaned.  Still, work was often slowed by needs for water or snacks, complaints and fighting, etc.  My kids are now at an age where these challenges remain but they are old enough to pitch in and help. Our life is busier with activities and the house gets neglected by our rush in and out.  As a result, on days where we are all home I will tell the kids “We all have to work together for one hour and we can get everything back in order.”  I remind them that I can no longer do it on my own and I need their help.  I am amazed at how the house can turn around so fast when everyone pitches in.  That’s not to say that I don’t take the opportunity to clean when they are all away from the house and I can get things done uninterruptedly.  However, I’ve learned that I have to employ their help on a more regular basis with the schedule of the new stage we’re in.

Similarly, the Holy Spirit can work in our souls to the extent that we cooperate.  When our faith is still immature we tend to act like little kids – creating one mess after another.  We may feel like progress is slow and that God isn’t doing very much.  However, we need to be honest about our expectations.  Every parent who has ever stayed at home with the kids knows how hard they work all day with nothing visible to show for it.  The other parent may leave for work and return with the house looking the same or worse than when they left.  However, what’s not reflected in that picture is the hundreds of other messes cleaned up constantly, the love and nurturing that took place, and the work at developing a child’s heart and mind.  The Spirit works in our souls in a similar way – drawing our minds up to God, comforting us in our sorrows, forming our conscience, encouraging us, and cleaning up our constant messes.

As we mature in the faith we become less of a hindrance to the Spirit and He works more efficiently in our soul.  As we become less attached to sin the messes slow (some) and the Spirit can make greater progress teaching us about Christ and deepening our love.

Finally, the mature Christian cooperates with the Holy Spirit in the work of following Christ and grows quickly in union with God.  The Sacrament of Confirmation celebrates this as we receive an increase in the Holy Spirit and prepare to be soldiers of Christ, contributors to the faith we have received.

It’s natural for children to depend on their parents more heavily when they are young.  It’s also an expectation that they contribute to family life as they get older.  The Holy Spirit makes us adopted sons and daughters of the Lord.  Through His indwelling we experience the nurturing necessary for sanctification and mature love of God.  Moreover, He blesses us with gifts to strengthen and nurture the faith of others.

May we all this Pentecost, reflect on the gracious work of God in our lives, that others may say of us as the crowd did in Acts 2:11“we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.”

Consider:

  • Consider your cooperation with the Holy Spirit.
    • Ask the Holy Spirit to show you habitual sins you struggle with and pray for His help to overcome them.
    • Consider how you can grow in virtue so that the Holy Spirit can act even more powerfully within you. The virtue of purity especially increases the Holy Spirit.
  • Christ calls the Holy Spirit the “Paraclete.” Consider each of the meanings of Paraclete – “advocate”, “intercessor”, “teacher, “helper”, “comforter”.
    • When has the Holy Spirit advocated on your behalf? Consider the sins you have been freed from because the Holy Spirit advocated for you before the Father.  Consider a time when you need the Holy Spirit to advocate for you in the heart of another person.
    • The Spirit intercedes for us and teaches us how to pray.  Thank the Holy Spirit for His prayers on your behalf.  Spend 5 minutes of silent prayer just letting the Holy Spirit speak for you to God.
    • Ask the Holy Spirit to open your mind and heart to God’s word in Scripture. Ask Him to help you see God’s truth in the events of your daily life.  Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal Christ to you.
    • Consider a time the Holy Spirit gave you profound peace when you were suffering and in pain. Invite the Holy Spirit to bring His comfort now and for the grace to turn to Him first.
  • Paul tells us in I Corinthians 12 that the Spirit bestows different gifts upon Christians for the upbuilding of the whole body. Read I Corinthinas 12 and pray about what your gift is and how you can put it at the service of Christ.

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Each day this week ask the Holy Spirit to open your eyes to the presence of Christ, to your sins, and to God’s will.
  • Determine one way to grow in the virtue of purity and do it each day this week.
  • Ask the Holy Spirit for the opportunity to serve God with the gifts He has given you. Then take that opportunity each day.
  • Each day, take a minute to praise God for His mighty works in your life.

 

~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2016

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