May 2021 – what an outstanding month! May 1st, the first Saturday in May, we celebrate the Crowning of Mary. Them, May 1st we also celebrate St. Joseph the Worker, and this year dedicated to St. Joseph, we consecrate ourselves to him. May 5th is the foundation day of the Padre Pio Prayer Groups which in a few decades have spread across the world manifesting the work of the Holy Spirit. May 2021, we celebrate the Ascension when Jesus ascended to the Father after appearing to those who believed in Him for forty days. And finally, fifty days after Easter, we celebrate the Holy Spirit descending upon the Church (Acts 2). This certainly is a “fully loaded” month spiritually.
God continues to shower His Church with endless blessings; He even purifies us so we are properly disposed to receive the Sacraments.
Pentecost is associated with the Sacrament of Confirmation. Have you looked back to reflect on the day of your Confirmation? Perhaps confirmed as an adolescent or an adult but the nature of Confirmation is to seal us with the Holy Spirit and grace us the seven gifts: Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety, Fear of the Lord. With these gifts we can live and say, “Jesus is Lord” (1 Corinthians 12:3).
These are “gifts” because God freely gives to each of us these gifts to strengthen our spiritual life. At Confirmation we hear the expression “soldier of Christ” conveying the sense that we are on the battlefield -- to defend ourselves against the forces of the Evil One. Yet, the reality is if we do not know the enemy, we do not know how to defend ourselves; and for that matter, we do not even know how to make use of these seven gifts that we freely received.
The Evil One is the one who leads us away from God; away from the Sacramental life, namely, Confession and Communion; the Evil One is the one who falsifies truth so instead of following Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6), we are following the path set out by Satan, the path to perdition.
Does your Confirmation make a difference in your life? What about the Gifts you have received? These Gifts that are freely given to us by the power of the Cross. Christ died so we can have Eternal life; but this also means to be a disciple of His and to follow His teachings. We receive the Holy Spirit at Confirmation, so we have the graces we to be faithful disciples of Christ.
If we live by the standards of the world which is constructing a self-focussed morality, this is the antithesis of Christ’s teachings. Christ taught us that to love in truth is to offer oneself for the good of the other. The gifts of the Holy Spirit strengthen us to love in truth – as Christ taught and lived Himself. For our sins to be forgiven presupposes that there are sins to forgive (John 20:23). Are we capable of acknowledging sin in our life? Sins that our society endorses and promotes. Sin-driven ideologies that have hijacked some Catholic school boards while ignoring Catholic sexual ethics. It makes me wonder if people actually believe in the reality of sin. The only pandemic on my mind that is not addressed is the moral sickness of our society.
The moral pandemic is due to a crisis of truth. How can we say we have faith when we do not even know what is true? We are left to give up on truth and simply follow rhetoric – persuasive impact arguments that appeal to emotions. So, our feelings are stirred up to believe what is false and reject what is true. Is this not what happened to the man and the woman in the Garden who believed Satan rather than God? Read Genesis 3 carefully to see how “sleezy” Satan is turning innocent people completely against the God who created them.
This is why God our Father sent His Son. This is why Christ offered Himself as the perfect sacrifice on the Cross for us. This is why Christ sent us the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete: because we cannot save ourselves! Because we cannot get to heaven on our own efforts or even our own intelligence. We cannot even love as we are meant to love without the grace of God.
And so, on our Confirmation day we received the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Can we honestly ask ourselves, how we have grown, if at all, in these seven gifts? Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety, Fear of the Lord. The Book of Proverbs (9:10) tells us the Wisdom begins with the Fear of the Lord. “Fear” is to be understood as the reverence and awe that we have before the Transcendent God whom we dare not offend. When this reverence and awe are lost, as we see in our society, God is replaced with movie celebrities and music icons and their power to shape societal beliefs, norms, and behaviour. What about fortitude which is another word for courage? Do we stand up for Christ’s teachings or have we watered Christianity and Christ’s teachings to simply “feeling good?” Do we have the courage to stand up for truth? That is, the Truth Christ taught; not the truth of the agenda-driven media. Are we “soldiers” of truth?
Our month started with the outstanding models of faith, Mary and Joseph. A life of holiness is possible because Christ’s resurrection teaches us that after death, there is eternal life. And there is life in the Spirit. But also eternal damnation awaits for those who give themselves over to Satan. We are given the Holy Spirit to live as Christians; Christ knew that we needed this supernatural strength to follow His teachings. We can reject grace, of course, and live in darkness. Without light, without truth, there is no sin to confess, there is no need for John’s Gospel or the teachings of Christ.
Pentecost is a time to give thanks to God for the gifts He has given us. Pentecost is also a day to be honest with ourselves and ask what we have done with these gifts.
Only by the power of the Holy Spirit can we say, “Jesus is Lord!”
May Mary who conceived the Son of God by the power of the Holy Spirit intercede for us. Amen.