[Father Kavanagh 28th Anniversary as a priest.]
The past couple of weeks have been extra-ordinarily busy for my family and me – all good stuff, but just busy all-day, every-day it seems. When I find myself over-extended, which I admittedly do too often, I find myself of going through the motions of completing task X, Y, and Z without investing lots of thought or emotion to each task. The risk in doing this is that I miss the joy of life, which is the happiness that comes in loving and being loved from our everyday experiences. We must realize that we are called to know, experience, and share with others God’s great love for us and the great joy that comes from this love.
Throughout the Easter season, which concludes this Sunday with Pentecost, we have been celebrating this great love of our God. We celebrate our God who, out of love, sent his Son to us to teach us how to love and heals our broken relationship with God, by his obedient and humble death on the cross; and it is our loving God who also gives us his Spirit, which we celebrate today, to help us and comfort us as we live out our Christian lives of love and service to God and others.
The Holy Spirit, which the Apostles received at Pentecost and we receive in the Sacraments of Initiation – Baptism and Confirmation, is a wonderful gift from our loving God. We credit the Pentecost event with the start of the Church, and more importantly, with the movement of the Apostles from fear and doubt to boldly praising our loving God and proclaiming his love to all.
The tradition of the Church lists twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit, which result when we, like the Apostles, give ourselves completely to God’s love. When we put aside our own agenda and love and trust God completely, then God, through his Holy Spirit, generously pours out in our lives: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity.
I can attest to this! When I place my complete trust in God – putting aside my own agenda or worries – then and only then am I truly at peace and I am a better husband and father, son and brother, friend and co-worker, a better deacon in service to you and the Church. When I do this, the fruits of the Holy Spirit are present in me and I have a glimpse of the eternal happiness that God offers.
However, I am not perfect. And possibly like you, I too often find myself consumed by doubt and insecurity, pride and selfishness, all of which keeps me from loving as I should. So too often I find myself unable to love as I am called to love and feeling incomplete because I am not living as I am called to live.
But here is truly the Good News: our God loves us so much that he knows our faults and weaknesses, is willing to move beyond our self-imposed limitations, and gives us – without condition or hesitation – the gift of his Holy Spirit to help us to live as we are called to live. These gifts of the Holy Spirit are:
1. Wisdom, which is the desire to direct our whole life to God
2. Understanding, which enables us to know more clearly the mysteries of faith
3. Counsel, which warns us of the sin and evil in our world
4. Fortitude, which strengthens us to do the will of God in all things
5. Knowledge, which enables us to discover the will of God in all things
6. Piety, which is the love of God and helps us to obey Him out of love
7. Fear of the Lord, which places in us a dread of sin and fear of offending God
It is these gifts that help us to live as the Christian men and women we are called to live. Maybe, you are living very busy lives and not experiencing fully God’s love; maybe you are in a place between despair and hope, that Father Kavanagh spoke of last weekend; or maybe you are struggling with an addiction, an illness or a very difficult relationship. So, I encourage you, wherever you may be, to ask in your daily prayer for the gift of the Holy Spirit you need most that day. And, trust that if you ask, God will provide!
In concluding, I offer this prayer for you and me from the Rite of Confirmation:
All powerful God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, by water and the Holy Spirit you freed your sons and daughters from sin and gave them new life. Send your Holy Spirit upon US to be OUR helper and guide. Give US the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of right judgment and courage, the spirit of knowledge and reverence. Fill US with the spirit of wonder and awe in your presence. Amen.