May 22, 2019
Pastor’s letter May 26, 2019
It is one thing to know about a subject or listen to a style of music or have a fantasy team in a sport- it is big step to be able to fabricate a product, play a song or master a skill. The disciples, more specifically the Apostles had become experts in all things Jesus. They had watched him for 2 or 3 years of public ministry- they had seen his cures, miracles and exorcisms, they had listened to his teachings, sermons and parables, they had traveled with Him and shared in the food and shelter others had provided. Then after the trauma and confusion of his death they had seen him risen from the dead on several occasions. They were witnesses and students but not yet ready to live his life. It is as if they had the uniform, but weren’t in the game, they were playing air guitar to the music. You know exactly what that is like.
When the 40 days of the Resurrection were over Jesus gathers his disciples to a height in Galilee. HE tells them that they have a mission to the ends of the earth- they will be getting off the couch or sidelines. He will be with them the whole way. Alright here we go. Then He pumps the brakes: go back to Jerusalem and wait- wait because the thing that makes the transition possible will come after 9 days of prayer.
This Thursday is Ascension Thursday. Nine days after is the feast of Pentecost and the descent of the Holy Spirit. It is good time to look at our lives as disciples and the action of the Spirit in our lives. Sometimes when we hear of Pentecost, Pentecostals, people inspired by the Holy Spirit we think of extraordinary things- speaking in tongues, snake- handling, hair-on-fire denunciation of sin. But the heart of the matter is to become a practicing disciple of Christ. They haven’t figured out a wat to fantasy practicing Catholic leagues- if we could place bets on it maybe we could develop some interest in studying how others are doing in practicing the faith. In the meantime we are left to get into the game ourselves and try to speak, act, walk and love like Christ.
The Novena for the Holy Spirit; that is the nine days to prepare for Pentecost should help us become more and more real and practical in our faith. There are two elements in preparing:
- Looking carefully at the life of Jesus. In the Upper Room as they waited with the Virgin Mary I don’t doubt they shared stories. And Mary’s stories would be fascinating. Each story would reveal something about the One who died and rose and what it might mean to them and how they would live.
- Consider the gifts of the Spirit- first in how they were present in the life of Jesus. We don’t need knock-off versions of these gifts but their purest form. Then consider the practical ways our lives would change as those gifts were lived out.
The 7 gifts of the Spirit are:
- Wisdom is to see things in their value in light of God. It to have that perspective that transcends the desires and passions that exaggerate or deny things true importance.
- Understanding is to see how God puts things together- how there is a plan that can be trusted.
- Counsel is the gift that helps us to speak and act in a way that fits God’s plan. It is the heart of prudence; to not overdo nor overreact – to avoid perfectionism or passivity.
- Fortitude or the gift of courage. It goes a long way from watching events to stepping into them. Fortitude helps us to get past the fear of failure or being intimidated by conflict
- Knowledge allows a person to see the specifics of what it takes to do God’s will. They sometimes say “The devil is in the details”, but it is in fact a deeper truth that God’s grace is in the tiniest details of our lives.
- Piety is the appetite for the things of faith. It is easiest to see in its absence. We meet people have no appetite for prayer and religion, and we pray that they could receive the gift- it is hard to convince someone that prayer is rich and sweet.
- Fear of the Lord is to have a sense of awe or reverence. It is one thing to have an appetite for prayer, worship, service; it is another thing to be amazed that it all opens into the immensity of God most high. Fear of the Lord dis to be overwhelmed by something that is too beautiful, too loving, and too powerful.
I hope we have a great Novena and come out of Pentecost more alive in our faith in all its practical aspects- and if your days include snake handling I hope that is blest as well.
Fr. Martin Curtin, O.F.M., cap