Saturday, 3 June 2017

Pentecost Sunday - Year A

There’s a little prayer I’ve been saying for years now as part of my morning prayer and it begins: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Father, send now your Holy Spirit over the earth. Let the Holy Spirit live in the hearts of all nations that they may be preserved from degeneration, disaster and war.

Although this prayer has a global focus it reminds us, too, that in the life of the individual the presence of the Holy Spirit preserves – from degeneration, disaster and war and, of course, this applies particularly to families. Who, in this church today has not received the sad news of a serious family quarrel or marriage breakup?

“Betty is no longer talking to her father since he divorced her mother. She still talks to her mother but her mother will not talk to Betty’s husband. He won’t talk to Betty’s brother or sister and they are no longer talking to their mother, or letting her see the grandchildren.” You think I’m making this up? Not so.

The Holy Spirit is not a good commodity to run out of. From the moment a person stops going to Mass, stops making a good Confession, neglects daily prayer - they lose the gift of the Holy Spirit and begin, so to speak, to live on the capital of their Christian upbringing. Things will go OK for a while. They will even marry and settle down to what looks like a happy, normal life. Their children, of course, are beautiful and beguiling. Children usually are. But bit by bit things change and the rot begins to set in.

“Did you hear that Mary and John are having problems? Fred has left Wilma; he says he doesn’t love her any more. Jane and Bill are living separate lives now. I heard young Peter was interviewed by the police last week about drugs, and his sister has started hurting herself. And so on, and so on, and so on ....”

The fact is that a life without God is a life without the Holy Spirit of God and unfailingly leads to degeneration, disaster and war. And sadly, this is true of individual lives as much as the life of a nation or even, of the whole world.

But why is the Holy Spirit so crucial to a happy life? Why can’t we do without him?

Firstly because the Holy Spirit brings along with himself seven gifts: the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Do you remember what they are? The Catechism lists them: wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge, fortitude, piety, and fear of the Lord.

No human life, no national life, and no global life can be lived without these gifts, at least, not for very long. These are the gifts which raise us up above the level of human possibilities. They make  us capable of what humans are not naturally capable of. They are supernatural gifts from God which come into action at the very point where we can only surrender to our weakness. Where we say ‘I can’t anymore’; they say not only ‘Yes – we can’ but they add, ‘not only can we go on, we can to on to inconceivable greatness’.

To lay our lives open to the gifts of the Holy Spirit we must live the Christian life in full authenticity. The more genuine and sincere our lives as Catholics the more open we are to these seven gifts. They flower in the faithful soul and mature into twelve fruits: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, forbearance, gentleness, faith, courtesy, temperate-ness, and purity.

In the time remaining let me quote Fr Mark Kirby OSB on the first of these gifts – on the gift of wisdom.

“The Gift of Wisdom gives a taste for the things that will make us truly happy. The wise person is one who consistently and habitually chooses the things that will make him happy, not with a fleeting, deceptive happiness, but with the happiness that comes from being in right relationship with God.

...The Gift of Wisdom is that by which one “sets nothing before the love of Christ” (RB 4:21).
One graced with wisdom knows what will make him happy because he has tasted it; he sings with the psalmist, “O taste and see that the Lord is sweet; blessed is the man who hopes in him” (Ps 33:8).

The Gift of Wisdom makes one take delight in the companionship of the saints, in the example of their lives, and in their writings. The saints are wisdom’s children. A proverb says, “Tell me with whom you keep company, and I will tell you who you are.” The wise Christian never tires of reading the lives of the saints; he prays before their images, kneels humbly before their relics, and, in their company, discovers wisdom’s secrets.

One who lacks wisdom makes foolish choices. There will be disorder in his priorities: an inability to put first things first. One who lacks wisdom will have little or no taste for the things of God, for things holy, heavenly, and divine. He will forever be looking elsewhere for happiness. The unwise person lacks stability. In his search for happiness he knocks at all the wrong doors, passing by the one door open to receive him: the pierced Heart of Christ.”

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