Sweet Comfort: Gifts and Fruits of the Holy Spirit
I had the privilege of preaching at the Baccalaureate Mass for the graduating class of Maur Hill – Mount Academy. Almost all of our Masses for Benedictine College and Maur Hill – Mount Academy are Votive Masses for the Holy Spirit. I explained to the students that we are sending them forth with the Holy Spirit, because we need the Holy Spirit!
I told them that they are all going to hear beautiful speeches filled with hope and optimism about their future. And then I added that this homily isn’t going to be one of them!
I quoted a line from a movie (although I didn’t tell them that) — I think it was The Song of Bernadette. Our Lady told St. Bernadette that “I don’t promise you happiness in this life, only in the next.” I explained to them that I cannot promise you happiness and a life without suffering. You know this. We all have gone through trials in life, and some of us are still going through difficult trials. Experiences that shake us, and we feel like even the very ground we stand on is unsteady. The only thing our Lord promises us is eternal happiness, as long as we are faithful. In this world, we shall have trouble, but He tells us not to fear, because He has overcome the world.
But sometimes we feel like the world overcomes us. We become victims of our afflictive emotions, unable to surrender them or let them go, ruled by the prevailing winds of feelings, tossed about, fearing the next shoe to drop. To use the language of St. Paul, we find ourselves committing the works of the flesh. Some of us may try to escape and medicate our pain by way of immorality, impurity, lust, idolatry, or sorcery. But who hasn’t been swept away by anger, resulting in hatred, rivalry, jealousy or its malicious relative envy? There are more works to the list, but I think you understand.
Therefore, we need the Holy Spirit! We need the Holy Spirit! We need the Holy Spirit!
I will often tell high school students to pray to the Holy Spirit for His fruits and gifts. There’s a good formula to use: “Holy Spirit, please give me the gift of (fill in the blank).” Look at the list St. Paul gives us. Which gift you do you need right now?
If we experience any of these, we know that we are in God’s favor. We know that He is at work in our lives. If you are swept up by anger and you pray and experience these gifts, that is a miracle! I don’t know about you, but my fallen nature wants to lash out in anger. It is only by His grace that I experience love, joy, peace, especially patience, and so on, when I am angry.
What’s going on? The works of the flesh are self-centered. “My will be done,” not “Thy will be done.” I am turned in on myself. It’s all about me. Me trying to control things, of which I really have no control. It is the opposite of the Serenity Prayer, because I am unable to accept the things I cannot change.
But the moment I pray, I am turning out of myself and turning to God. I begin to realize that “it’s not always about me.” I have made things too personal, and I begin to see that there is a bigger picture of reality. And the biggest picture is what God is up to: salvation of souls, especially mine. And I thwart His work when I practice the works of the flesh, when I turn in on myself. He is about a grand, beautiful, marvelous work of salvation, and I am always so concerned about myself and my feelings. I need to turn outward again and toward Him.
In order to do so, I invite you to ask the Holy Spirit for three specific gifts.
First, “Holy Spirit, give us the gift of Fortitude.” We need courage to face the storms of life. We need perseverance in that courage, which is fortitude. We need to set our face towards heaven despite the prevailing winds. Therefore, we need this gift of the Holy Spirit, for the world is a painful and difficult place.
Second, “Holy Spirit, give us the gift of praise.” During difficult times, we don’t want to praise. But the moment we see that there is a big picture, that God has a plan for us, even though we don’t know the details, we can start praising God. You may want to say instead, “Lord, I’m confused! God, I don’t know what you’re up to.” Then go on: “You’re up to something. Whatever it is, it will be fantastic. I don’t know how you’ll get me there, but you will. Therefore, I shall praise you.” Trust me, praising God in prayer lightens the heart and allows us to trust Him and surrender to His will, not mine.
Third, “Holy Spirit, give us the gift of rest.” I invite you to look up the sequence from Pentecost Sunday’s Mass. This is a prayer between the second reading and the Alleluia that we use sometimes for major feasts like this one. In its prose version, it says: “Kindly Paraclete, in your gracious visits to man’s soul, you bring relief and consolation. If it is weary with toil, you bring it ease; in the heat of temptation, your grace cools it; if sorrowful, your words console it.”
Yes, we can find our rest in the hands of God, in His very Spirit, while the storm rages around us. We don’t have to be victims of our afflictive emotions but witnesses, watching the storm rage below us as we are on the mountaintop with God, resting in His Spirit.
All we need is the Holy Spirit! And then we shall await the happiness of eternal life as we face the trials and tribulations of this passing world. We won’t need to fear or worry or be filled with anxiety and dead, for the Spirit of God will be with us, and we will be at peace.
This appeared at KansasMonks.org.