Gifts of the Holy Spirit: Fortitude

Two great movies are “Touching the Void” and “Lone Survivor.” The former movie is a documentary about a mountaineer, Joe Simpson, who broke his leg at the summit of a difficult climb, fell off a cliff on his way down, and was assumed dead. And yet he managed to crawl down the mountain on one good leg back to camp where his climbing partner was able to get help. “Lone Survivor” is the story of Marcus Luttrell and a Navy SEAL mission gone bad. He crawled to safety with a broken back after a terrible gunfight with the Taliban killing everyone on his team.

What is remarkable about both these true stories is how hard they fought to stay alive without knowing how their situation would turn out. For all Joe knew, his climbing partner may have broken camp and left the area. His efforts to get crawl down the mountain may have been for nothing if there was no one left to get him to a hospital. For all Marcus knew, he could have crawled into a Taliban camp instead of a village willing to protect him. Both of them didn’t give up fighting although they had no idea whether their efforts were in vain.

That brings us to the next gift of the Holy Spirit — fortitude.  “Fortitude is the virtue that allows us to overcome fear and to remain steady in our will in the face of all obstacles, physical and spiritual. Prudence and justice are the virtues through which we decide what needs to be done; fortitude gives us the strength to do it. It show itself in moral courage against the evil spirit of the times, against improper fashions, against human respect, against the common tendency to seek at least the comfortable, if not the voluptuous.”(learnreligions.com).

I see fortitude as the strength to practice the Catholic faith in the face of uncertainty. We take it on faith that all the prayer, sacrifices, and restraint leads to a closer relationship with God and eternal happiness in Heaven. And while we may know this, it can be hard to muster the strength to practice it on a daily basis. We don’t always feel close to God. It’s this gift that reminds us not to give up doing God’s Will.

Fortitude in the Rosary

Look at Jesus in the Fourth Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary. I know I’ve mentioned this point several times in the past, but He fell three times and got back up knowing that his situation was never going to improve. Just think about the strength Jesus had to posses to look past his physical pain and see the greater role God had for Him. Jesus knew that God’s Will was not to have Him die on the road. But that meant Jesus had to summon the courage to get up and follow God’s Will to His Crucifixion so that he could triumph through His Resurrection.

We must look at Jesus’ example of fortitude in our own lives. Let’s face it, being a Christian isn’t always easy or fun. We are saddled with our crosses. Prayer doesn’t always seem fruitful. Fasting doesn’t seem beneficial. Following God’s laws isn’t always a joy. Making this more difficult is that we don’t receive immediate feedback. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could see our heavenly scorecard whenever we practice virtue or sin? But it’s the gift of fortitude that allows us to carry on, like Jesus taking up His cross, in the face of uncertainty. When you pray any of the Sorrowful Mysteries, meditate on how faith requires fortitude because we need to do God’s Will without immediate, concrete feedback.

We must also remember that fortitude isn’t just about summoning courage for the “big things.” We all aren’t called to be martyrs or overcome some momentous challenge. We must show fortitude in the small things too. That means remembering to pray every day, attend Mass, receive the sacraments, fast, and live chastely. These aren’t easy. Sure, we may be able to muster the strength on our own some days. But in order to do God’s Will consistently, we need this gift from the Holy Spirit. Otherwise, we’ll just get worn out, dejected, and give up. It’s this gift of fortitude which gives us that “second wind” to keep going even when we think we have nothing left to give.

Gifts of the Holy Spirit: Understanding

I’m going to explore the next gift of the Holy Spirit — understanding. Understanding is closely related to wisdom as well as knowledge. It shares many of the same attributes as wisdom such as engaging one’s mind. If wisdom is the desire to seek the truth, understanding helps explain the “why” behind those truths.

When I think about understanding, I think about my kids. I find it easy to resort to an authoritarian mode where I expect them to blindly follow my instructions. But it is far more effective to have kids understand the reason behind my requests rather than resorting to “because I said so.” Without understanding, we are in a mode of “because I said so” with God. Our Catholic Faith is reduced to a set of rules we follow merely to stay out of Hell. It’s the gift of understanding that elevates us to follow God because we can see the sound reasoning behind the rules.

Understanding allows us to see the world as God does in a limited way. We cannot comprehend all that God does, but the gift of understanding allows us to partially know and better appreciate God’s plan. The gift of understanding provides us that insight into God’s plan, and hence, passionately follow it as the saints do. Understanding is what moves us beyond obeying God because He’s the ultimate authority figure into wanting to follow Him because we know it’s ultimately beneficial to us.

Understanding in the Rosary

Let’s look at the Fifth Joyful Mystery, Finding Jesus in the Temple. A young Jesus is asking and answering questions amongst the learned scribes and scholars. God doesn’t impart the gift of understanding solely through learned scholars. In this mystery, it came through a child. God has a tendency to pick unlikely messengers whether it be Moses in the Old Testament, Jesus, Saint Peter and Paul, and numerous other saints. God often imparts understanding through unusual means. When you pray this mystery, ask yourself, are you open to all the ways God is speaking to you? Maybe He wants you to better understand Him and you’re not open to the way He delivers His messages.

Another great Rosary mystery that focuses on understanding is the First Sorrowful MysteryThe Agony in the Garden. Jesus begged God to find a different way to redeem the world but ultimately said He would do God’s Will. Jesus understood that God has a reason behind everything He does and allows to happen. Logically, we may not comprehend it or even agree with it, but it’s that gift of understanding that allows us to joyfully obey. It’s not blind obedience rooted in fear, but one where we know that what God asks of us is to our benefit.

Finally, contemplate the Fifth Sorrowful Mystery, Jesus’ Crucifixion. On the cross, one criminal challenged Jesus to save them all from death. The other criminal humbly understood who Jesus was and didn’t dare question why Jesus didn’t save Himself or them. He simply asked Jesus to remember him. That’s the root of understanding — not treating God like some sort of genie who gives us what we ask for. Instead, it’s understanding why God does what He does and seeing the greater good that comes from it.

Understanding is penetrating insight into the very heart of things, especially those higher truths that are necessary for our eternal salvation—in effect, the ability to “see” God.

Summa Theologiae (I/I.12.5; I/II.69.2; II/II.8.1–3)

Understanding is not easy. Like children, we often want to do things our way and resist any authority that tells us otherwise. This is why understanding is a gift since it’s not something easily obtained by ourselves. But it’s important to understand the “why” behind our faith. Everything we believe and do as Christians has a reason. The more we understand those reasons, the happier we will be doing God’s Will.

The Fifth Sorrowful Mystery: Jesus is with Us in Turmoil

People are understandably anxious and stressed out over the covid19 pandemic. People are getting sick, store shelves are empty, and many of us (myself included) are on lockdown in our homes. Besides their health, many people are worried about their jobs and finances as the world economy has tanked. In these times, it’s natural to ask, “Where’s God and why doesn’t He do something?”

In these times of uncertainty, I choose to meditate on the Fifth Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary, Jesus’ Crucifixion. Instead of seeing Jesus as someone detached and unconcerned with the world’s suffering, I see Him as someone suffering along with us. Although He was God made man and sinless, Jesus suffered and died on the Cross. He died in the same way as the two criminals next to Him.

Jesus remains among us through our suffering today. The question to meditate on when we pray the Fifth Sorrowful Mystery is whether we choose to see Him in our lives or not. So many people at the crucifixion refused to see Jesus as the Son of God unless He performed some sort of miracle. Similarly, many people today might not see Jesus in their lives unless He performs a miracle like making this pandemic magically disappear.

But then there’s the other group that knows that Jesus is here with us even in the absence of signs and miracles. The good criminal on the cross saw that Jesus was the Son of God suffering alongside him. He used that opportunity to ask Jesus simply to remember him. And we can use this opportunity of being locked down, quarantined, sheltered in place, etc. to acknowledge that Jesus is with us through the turmoil. We can turn to Him in prayer and ask Him to remember us. Because Jesus isn’t a distant, uncaring deity. He’s here with us and ready to comfort us if we just ask.

In this time when many of us are cooped up in our homes, let’s take the time to pray more than usual. It is still Lent after all. Pray hard so that you may see that Jesus is present in this world. He understands us because He’s with us. Pray and meditate on that when you’re feeling anxious.

Breaking Out of The Routine Through Prayer

Someone I know has a son who has some issues interacting with others. It’s nothing serious but he does sometimes live in his own little world and doesn’t respond well to directions. One morning when she was at her wit’s end, this mom decided the two of them would go to a church to pray. It’s something they don’t usually do. But she thought it would be a great idea to “break out of the routine and try something different.”

There were a few things that I liked about this story. First, I thought the notion of going to church and praying to break out of the routine was a fascinating idea. It reminded me how we so often go through our day without including God. We encounter challenges, experience triumphs, and have many things to be thankful for. And yet, instead of including Him in our day, God is an afterthought. Many of our routines do no include God which is a shame. How many of our challenges could He help us with if we only asked? How much better would our days be if we included God in the routine?

I also liked the idea that when times were tough for this parent, instead of running away from God, she ran towards Him. She didn’t blame God but instead asked for His help in prayer. I’m sure there were some moments of asking “why?” But she approached God as a source of help, not someone who many of us wrongly see as the source of our hardships. The world brings about hardship. God brings comfort in that hardship.

When I pray the Rosary and think about how we must break out of any worldly routines, I meditate on the First Joyful Mystery. I don’t think any of us can say that Mary’s life was routine after the Annunciation. Everything changed both for her and for us. Mary’s “yes” to God changed her life. I think we need to also say “yes” to God so that He may change our lives. While it’s true that God will be with us through our lives whether we ask Him to or not, it helps immensely when we are receptive towards Him. We have to break out of our routine of work, hobbies, housework, etc. and remember to include God in our lives. And this is best achieved in the stillness and quietness of prayer.

We also can’t run away or blame God for the hardships in our lives. Jesus didn’t blame God for His Passion and Crucifixion. Instead, Jesus asked for God’s help through prayer in the garden of Gethsemane. He knew that God was asking a lot from Him. And sometimes God asks a lot from us. But God doesn’t abandon us. He will help us if we have the awareness to ask for His help.

Life isn’t easy. But we make it much more difficult when we try to tackle life’s challenges on our own. God is always there ready to help us. All we need to do is take a break from our busy routines and talk to Him in prayer.

Rosary Meditations with Mary’s Magnificat

A Marion prayer that I often overlook in my daily prayer routine is Mary’s Magnificat. It contains Mary’s words when she visited her cousin Elizabeth in the Visitation which we meditate on in the Second Joyful Mystery of the Rosary. The text is as follows.

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,

my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

for he has looked with favor on his humble servant.

From this day all generations will call me blessed,

the Almighty has done great things for me,

and holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear Him

in every generation.

He has shown the strength of his arm,

he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,

and has lifted up the humble.

He has filled the hungry with good things,

and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of his servant Israel

for he has remembered his promise of mercy,

the promise he made to our fathers,

to Abraham and his children for ever.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,

as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever.

Amen

On Catholic Exchange, this article discusses how the Magnificat is another great Marion prayer to meditate on especially since it focuses on praise and thanksgiving for all God provides us. Not only does the prayer’s text itself come from an event recalled whenever we pray the Second Joyful Mystery of the Rosary, but many of the themes in the Magnificat are reflected in other mysteries as well. Let’s take a look at a few.

When I pray the Third Joyful Mystery, The Nativity, I often meditate on how the shepherds in the field came to Jesus after angels announced His birth. I think about how they took time off from their work to rejoice. And this is Mary’s tone in the Magnificat; one of joy and thanksgiving. She talks about how God has done great things for her and how she’s blessed.

nativity scene

Do we take time out of our day to thank God for all He has done for us? Or are we only focused on life’s challenges asking God to make things easier? Do we think about how Mary’s life, as blessed as it was, wasn’t easy? And yet she still rejoiced in what God gave her. And did the shepherds ignore the angels’ announcement of Jesus’ birth? No, they went and rejoiced at Jesus’ manger. Do we take time out of our day to rejoice in what God has provided us, both the big and the small?

The middle portion of the Magnificat reads like the Beatitudes. Mary proclaims how the proud will be “scattered” and the humble “lifted up.” In essence, those humbly living for God’s kingdom will be the ones who will eventually find happiness in Heaven. And that is a core theme of the Third Luminous Mystery, The Proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus proclaims the greatness of His Father’s kingdom and asks us all to convert from our prideful, earthly ways to heavenly ones.

It takes humility and faith to accept something we cannot experience with our physical senses. In fact, God asks us to do more than just accept His will. We must fully embrace it with a sense of joy. Mary wasn’t tepid in her response to God’s calling and neither should we. We may not know the details of what God has in store for us, but we do know that His plan ends with us joining Him forever in Heaven. And that knowledge alone should be more than enough to make us excited over embracing our faith to the fullest.

The Catholic Exchange article ends with talking about the difference between happiness and joy. The Magnificat is a prayer of joy. Mary didn’t say she was happy, she said she was joyful. She must have known that her life wasn’t going to be easy after accepting God’s calling and it wasn’t always going to be happy. She did experience periods of great sadness such as witnessing Jesus’ crucifixion and death which we meditate on in the Fifth Sorrowful Mystery.

We too will experience challenges and unhappiness; some more than others. But that doesn’t mean we can’t live joyfully knowing that God has made a place for us in Heaven. We can live joyfully by seeing all the blessings He has provided us that we may otherwise overlook in our daily lives.

I encourage you to pray the Magnificat daily, either before or after the Rosary. I think it will help flip the mentality that many of us have which is focusing mostly on our hardships and asking God to help us. The Magnificat will provide balance because we’ll also see all that God does provide and blesses us with daily. There’s a saying in the classic 80’s movie, Ferris Bueler’s Day Off. Ferris says, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” I think the Magnificat conveys something similar — “life moves fast and if you don’t slow down and appreciate God’s blessings, you could miss them.”

Jesus’ Crucifixion: A Message of Hope

Being a parent forces you to look at your role in life different ways. On one hand, there are the day-to-day challenges — getting kids ready for school, packing lunches, taking them to their various activities, and resolving disputes. It’s a grind. It’s tiring. And yes, at times it feels hopeless. Maybe you got called into yet another teacher’s conference over your kid’s behavior at school. Maybe your kids are fighting over toys or otherwise creating needless conflict. In these times, it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

This is what parenting feels like sometimes

And then there are those times when everything comes together. Your kid does or says something sweet. Or they are playing nicely with each other; laughing and having fun. Maybe they passed that big test they studied hard for. It’s those times that can make you feel like the parent of the year and fills you with a sense of hope that you can not only handle but excel as a parent.

It’s this dichotomy between despair and hope that surround Jesus’ crucifixion. When I pray the Fifth Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary, I try to focus on the hopeful theme of the mystery.  Wait, what?  How does Jesus’ death send a hopeful message?  Jesus died, an apostle betrayed Him, His disciples abandoned Him.  Where’s the hope in this low point?

Jesus’ crucifixion delivers a message of hope because it all transpired the way He said it would.  Jesus said He was going to be betrayed and that He was going to die.  But He also said that He was going to rise again in glory.  And that’s the hope-filled part of this rosary mystery. Jesus always spoke the truth. So when Jesus said that God loves us and we are meant to spend eternity in Heaven with Him, he meant it.  Jesus asks us to look beyond the current situation, no matter how dire and hopeless it may seem, and focus on His message of hope.

We all have our challenges in life and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by them.  We sometimes feel like giving up whether that be in the form of giving into sinful temptations, stop practice our faith, or just stop believing that God hears us and helps us through our challenges.  We see things getting worse and think there is no hope for a better outcome.  But remember, things also got worse for Jesus — He was scourged, crowned with thorns, carried a cross, nailed to it, and basically suffocated to death.  When things couldn’t get any worse, they did.  And yet, Jesus endured because He knew this was God’s plan which would not end in death and despair but in the glory of the resurrection.

Similar to how Jesus knew that God would see Him through the darkest moments of His life, we know that Jesus, the Holy Spirit, Mary, and the saints will see us through the darkest moments of ours.  I remember what a priest once said about suffering and despair.  He said look at the Bible.  Who wins?  Is it Satan and suffering or God and eternal joy?  SPOILER!  It’s God’s vision that ultimately wins out in the end.  Any suffering in our lives is temporary and ultimately ends in glory if you have faith in God’s plan.

The Power of the Pompeii Rosary Novena Part 2

In my first article about the Pompeii Rosary Novena, I discussed what I learned about Rosary prayer from a tactical standpoint.  I discussed my strategies for finding time to pray 15 mysteries every day and its benefits.  In this article, I’m going to discuss whether Mary responded to my 54 days of Rosary prayer.  I prayed this novena asking Mary to intercede on behalf of people in my life who have chronic illnesses.

The big question is, were the people whom I prayed for cured?  Yes, but not in the way you may imagine.  I learned that there are more ways to cure the sick than just physically.  The people I prayed for have gotten marginally better, but not miraculously cured of their physical ailments.  Naturally, I hoped that they would be in that select group of people who experienced a miraculous physical cure as a result of the Pompeii novena.  But that was not God’s plan, at least not yet.

I’ve come to realize that a physical healing is not necessarily the point of a novena.  I know that Mary heard my petition and that Jesus is comforting them in His grace.  The physical illnesses may still be there but so is the increased strength and courage to endure.  God, in His infinite wisdom, decided that a miraculous physical healing is not what is needed in this case.  And while that would have been great and I still hope and pray for one, I also understand that God applies His grace uniquely to every situation.

Now the cynic would claim that I’m just rationalizing God’s inaction and that I really just wasted my time over the last 54 days.  But I’m sure many people would be cynical of the Pompeii novena even if there was a physical cure.  They would say it was good science and medicine and prayer played no part.  There are some people with such a hardened heart that even the greatest miracles wouldn’t change them, let alone the more subtle ones.  That is why we must keep the hardened-hearted cynics in our prayers too; for they benefit from them whether they admit it or not.

God’s response to my novena reminds me of Jesus’ crucifixion (Fifth Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary) where the criminal asks Jesus to remember Him.  Jesus’ response was that that criminal would join Him in paradise (Luke 24:43).  Here you have the criminal in a terrible situation reaching out to Jesus similar to how we reach out to Him in prayer.  Jesus didn’t miraculously bring the criminal down from the cross.  But that doesn’t mean Jesus did not respond to the man’s plea.

Jesus gave the criminal something much more important than physical relief from his dire situation and that was His grace and the promise of Heaven.  While I’m sure the criminal would have been grateful if Jesus had physically rescued him from the cross, that physical saving would have paled in comparison to what Jesus actually gave the criminal.  Because no physical saving can compare to the promise of Heaven brought about by one’s faith in Jesus Christ.

Like the criminal on the cross, I have faith that Mary, Jesus, and God the Father heard my plea to remember those in my life who are ill.  While God didn’t bring them down from their “crosses” by physically healing them, I know that my prayers will help them obtain graces and spiritual healing.  And ultimately, that is more important than any temporary physical cure.  Because all physical cures are temporary because our lives in this world are temporary.  It’s our souls that live on for all eternity.  When it comes to tradeoffs, a healed soul always wins over a healed body.

Thus ends my Pompeii novena experience for this year.  But it won’t be my last.  I will turn back to it when I know people who are in dire need of some sort of healing.  Or, if my energy to pray the Rosary starts to wane, the Pompeii novena is a great way to jumpstart it again.  It’s like going through spiritual boot camp.  Remember, Mary does hear your petitions.  But you must be open to how she intercedes for you and how God responds.

How the Rosary Helps Us Avoid “Everlasting Sin”

 

“’Amen, I say to you, all sins and all blasphemies that people utter will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an everlasting sin.’”

This passage from the Gospel of Mark confused me until recently.  We talk about an all loving and merciful God so how can there be an unforgivable sin?  How can the God that created everything from nothing not have the capacity to forgive everything?  When I was younger, I asked myself, “what if I already committed this unforgivable sin and not know it?  Is the rest of my life pointless because God has already told St. Peter to not allow me into Heaven?”

Fortunately, the unforgivable sin doesn’t work like that.  This isn’t some sort of gotcha or fine print in Catholic doctrine that God will use to keep you out of Heaven.  It’s simply a way of restating that a sin will remain unforgiven if you never ask for forgiveness.  This Catholic Exchange article does a good job of breaking down the unforgivable sin into six aspects:

  1. despair
  2. presumption
  3. impenitence
  4. obstinacy
  5. resisting truth
  6. spiritual welfare

Do you notice a common theme in these?  As the CE article states:

In every case analyzed above, we can determine that the only way any sin is truly unpardonable is if the person remains unrepentant. The reasons, as we have sorted through, vary from envy to despair. Each is caused by a hardness of heart, which is directly opposed to meekness. Meekness is that beatitude that mollifies and softens what has become calloused by deep, unhealed wounds. Our models for meekness, of course, are Jesus and Mary.

How does the Rosary teach us about meekness and avoiding behaviors that lead to an unforgiven sin?  Let’s look at the Fifth Joyful Mystery and the finding of Jesus in the Temple.  Mary and Joseph searched for Jesus for three days after losing Him in the caravan.  They did whatever they needed to do to find Jesus.  We too must do whatever it takes to find Jesus when we lose Him by sinning.  We can’t have a hardened heart or the presumption that Jesus is okay with our behavior.  We must acknowledge our wrongdoings and come back to Him through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Think about the Second Luminous Mystery of the Rosary and Jesus’ miracle at Cana.  We see Jesus’ ability to perform miracles and turn potential disaster (a wedding without booze, oh no!) into overflowing joy.  That miracle is a great metaphor for what happens to our souls in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  God, through the Holy Spirit, takes our broken, damaged soul and miraculously transforms it into a pure one filled with hope, joy, and grace.  Mary asked Jesus to perform a miracle at Cana.  And, whenever we enter that confessional, we ask Him to perform a miracle too.

Next we turn to the Third Glorious Mystery of the Rosary — the descent of the Holy Spirit.  Why is a hardened heart such a grave offense?  Remember, the Holy Spirit is one part of the Holy Trinity.  So rejecting the power and authority of the Holy Spirit is rejecting God.  And what’s mortal sin but the total rejection of God?  By thinking that God can’t or won’t forgive us, we reject His supremacy over His creation.  We are saying that we, the created, are capable of actions that are beyond God’s control.  When we pray this Rosary mystery, let’s not only think of the Holy Spirit as our guide but also remember that He’s also God as part of the Holy Trinity.

Finally, the Fifth Sorrowful Mystery — Jesus’ Crucifixion.  There’s actually two things to consider.  First, Jesus is so willing to forgive that He asked God to forgive the ones who crucified Him.  For most of us, our sins will probably never be as grave as murdering God’s begotten Son.  If God can forgive that, He can forgive anything we do.

Also, the criminal crucified next to Jesus simply asked Jesus to remember him.  And Jesus proclaimed that the criminal would be with Him in paradise.  Again, ask Jesus anything with a meek and humble heart and Jesus will respond.

Okay, now that we’ve talked about the power of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, I’ll end on a more light-hearted note.  Here’s a clip from The Simpsons about the limits of God’s power.

The Pope’s June Intention: RESPECT

My wife and I spend a lot of time teaching our boys about respect; respecting adults as well as respecting each other. That usually means lessons about listening, responding, and following directions. When we don’t follow directions and do what is expected of us, we aren’t respecting others. We need to listen and acknowledge what people are saying and can’t ignore them. We need to understand that sometimes people have deadlines and multiple priorities and so we need to show respect by providing our full cooperation.

Pope Francis’ June intention is, “That social networks may work towards that inclusiveness which respects other for their differences.” The key word in the pope’s intention is respect. The easiest way to think about respect is to remember the Golden Rule — treat others as you want to be treated. Or, as Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Respect isn’t only about loving those we see and interact with. We also need to respect Jesus and His Church. We need to listen to Him, talk to Him, and follow His instructions. We can’t say we follow and respect Jesus if we do the opposite of how He asks us to live. By sinning, we are showing disrespect. We are like little kids ignoring our father’s directions.

Even if we’re not committing confessable sins, we still may be disrespecting Jesus by ignoring Him and not responding to His call. Are we talking to Him in prayer? Are we listening to Him? Is our relationship with Jesus something important to us and something we work on maintaining? Respect implies that we acknowledge the importance and authority someone has. How can we call ourselves one of Jesus’ disciples if we don’t routinely and honestly acknowledge His importance to us?

Social Media

In the modern world, much of our communication is online whether it be Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, email, or even just the comments section of web pages. Now ask yourself, what if Jesus was one of your “friends” or “followers” on your social networks and He read your posts? Would you be proud of them? Are you fostering a respectful environment? Note that respectful doesn’t mean always being agreeable or a pushover. It doesn’t mean compromising your values and the values of the Church. But it does mean recognizing that how you treat others is also how you treat Jesus. So if you’re not respecting others online, you’re not respecting our Lord.

The Rosary

There are many rosary mysteries to consider and meditate on when it comes to respect. For example, think about the Descent of the Holy on Pentecost (Third Glorious Mystery) and the role the Holy Spirit plays in our lives. Are you showing God the proper respect by listening to the Holy Spirit and allowing Him to guide you in life? Or are you ignoring Him like a disrespectful child? The same can be said about our Mother Mary who reigns as Queen of Heaven which we pray in the Fifth Glorious Mystery. Are we listening to the guidance of our Heavenly Mother and respecting Her authority?

What about respect for Jesus in the Eucharist which we meditate on in the Fifth Luminous Mystery? Are we receiving Him in a worthy state or are we showing him disrespect by receiving Him in a state of mortal sin? And are we truly appreciating the gift which is the Eucharist and thanking God for how lucky we are to receive Him? While we may not have any mortal sins on our soul, receiving the Eucharist without much thought of its preciousness is another sign of disrespect.

Of course, we all falter and sin. We all disrespect Jesus at some point in our lives. But the good news is that Jesus is willing to forgive us and start anew through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Think of Jesus on the cross in the Fifth Sorrowful Mystery. He said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” Our Lord was willing to forgive those who killed Him. He will surely forgive us for the times we haven’t respected Him.

In this month of June, let the idea of respect, particularly how you conduct yourself online, be at the forefront of your mind. Show Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and your Heavenly Mother Mary the proper respect they deserve by listening to their guidance and following Jesus’ teachings. You may not always succeed in living how Jesus directs you, but He will be proud of you when you put in the effort.

How God Enables Greatness in Us All

When Jesus ascended into Heaven, the apostles must have felt incredibly scared.  This wasn’t the fear they felt when Jesus was arrested and crucified.  That fear had passed since experiencing the truth and glory of His resurrection.  But they must have been scared knowing that the Church was now in their hands.  The apostles were no longer followers, but leaders.  They were commissioned to go out and spread Jesus’ teachings to the whole world.  But there was a hitch — they weren’t Jesus!  They were fishermen, tradesmen, and even a tax collector.  They only had two years of on-the-job training with Jesus and they were confused most of the time.  How were they going to lead God’s Church as effectively as Jesus?

That’s where the decent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost comes into play.  On Pentecost, we see God’s plan coming together for the post Jesus-as-human world.  The apostles weren’t left to their own devices but had the Holy Spirit to guide them.  I’ve often talked about how one of the greatest gifts of the Holy Spirit is courage.  I’m now realizing that part of that boost in courage must come from the reduction in anxiety.  When the Holy Spirit came and the apostles were able to speak in any language, that must have been a great confidence builder for them.  At Pentecost, the apostles must have realized that it was possible for them to go out and do the seemingly impossible — spread Jesus’ teachings.

Icon of the Pentecost
Icon of the Pentecost (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What about us?  Are we any different from the apostles?  They were common people who were able to do uncommon things because they allowed the Holy Spirit to guide them.  They weren’t Pharisees, scribes, or other learned people.  We, the laity, aren’t priests.  But Jesus does not want us to be passive consumers of the Catholic faith and leave the heavy lifting to the priests and nuns.  We are called to the same service as the apostles and we have the exact same strength and courage through the Holy Spirit as they had.  In other words, we are just as capable of leading God’s Church as the original apostles.

We have to remember that compared to the power of God, all humans are roughly the same.  Comparing the greatest saint to the lowest sinner and then comparing them to God is like asking what grain of sand is mightier compared to a mountain.  The original apostles did great things, but not because they were superhuman.  They would have failed if they were left solely to their own abilities.  The apostles succeeded because they had the help of the Holy Spirit.  They contributed all their power and ability, and God provided them with the rest (which was probably 99.9% of the overall power needed to spread His Word).

Pope Francis’ May intention is all the more relevant in the light of Pentecost.  He asks that the lay faithful may fulfill their specific mission, by responding with creativity to the challenges that face the world today. The pope echoes what Jesus asked of His apostles in the Ascension — do not be passive consumers of the faith. Do not hoard your faith by not sharing it with others.  We each have a mission which requires active participation.  Be champions of the faith.  Embrace it.  Listen to the Holy Spirit, and don’t be afraid to follow Him.