Monday, May 16, 2016

The Power of Pentecost

As I sat in the pew just prior to Mass, I could feel the energy. Was it my imagination or was the Holy Spirit present in a heightened way on this Feast of Pentecost?

Red abounded in the Church—from the decorative banners, vestments, and flowers to the people—many of whom also dressed in red. There was an excitement and anticipation that was palpable.

I thought about the readings and the awe those gathered in the Upper Room must have felt as the strong wind moved about the room and tongues of fire rested above their heads. Hearts transformed, charisms unleashed, movement to the streets and the Gospel proclaimed in the languages of the people that had been unknown to the disciples prior to the gifting. What an experience of the Reality and Power of God!

I smiled. Unless a miraculous healing occurred at Mass I would not be speaking today—I had laryngitis. I thought of how Zechariah had been silenced until the naming of his son, John the Baptist and how silence is a gift too.

Being able to listen is integral to evangelization. If we don’t listen to others, we become the resounding gong and clashing cymbal of which St. Paul writes (1Cor 13.1). Listening allows us to hear the other’s story and meet them where they are. If we don’t, evangelization would be as fruitful as putting a kindergartener in a college level calculus class and wondering why they didn’t grasp the material.

Listening is an art and I almost wonder if not also a charism. We all have ears to hear, but often wonder where the listening goes—in one ear and out the other? Perhaps to the head or the heart but not to both?

If I am honest, I have to admit that many times I listen but have caught myself forming opinions and responses before the other is even finished with what it is they have to say. That is judgment—intellectual listening without compassion in order to respond with an answer to fix or solve a problem.

When I listen with my heart first, I am compelled to hear another’s story with openness. Empathy and compassion are present and I am moved to respond in kind. The heart then engages the head and I can discern how best to console or connect with the other.

As the Holy Spirit lavishes charisms upon us all, we are invited to be open channels for these sacred gifts. Charisms are always received to be given away for the building up of another. Charisms are gifts given to us by the Holy Spirit to bring others into relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Just as Mary gave her “yes” to the invitation of the Holy Spirit allowing Jesus to come into the world, we too are given the opportunity to give our “yes” and incarnate Jesus through our lives—so that others may come to know Him too.

Following the Feast of Pentecost let us continue to reflect on how that same Holy Spirit who once empowered those gathered in the Upper Room empowers us today. May our ears be opened. Whose voice is crying out? Where is the hand of God leading us to bring His Word? How can you be a vessel to incarnate the unconditional love, mercy, forgiveness and compassion of Jesus in our family, community, and world?

How is God inviting you to listen with a compassionate heart and respond to the needs of His People?

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Focusing on the Year of Mercy:

The Phrase that Makes God Weep


I have arthritis and need to wear braces on my hands to calm down flair ups. The supports limit my range of motion and make any task having to do with grip or dexterity all the more challenging. On a recent trip to the grocery store, I found myself in the produce section struggling to get a plastic bag opened for my celery. Trying to rub the top of the plastic to separate the thin sheets, I was becoming more and more frustrated. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a woman approaching me.

“Oh, I know how hard those bags are to get open,” she cheerfully said. I admit her chipper attitude just added to my aggravation. “I can help you with that” she offered kindly. “I got this” I said, focusing all the more intently on the task. She came closer. “No, let me help” she smiled.

Upset at the fact I was struggling and too proud to accept her assistance, I assured her I was capable of doing it myself. Nodding, she smiled and walked away. After a few more tries I finally got the bag open, put the celery in and continued my shopping. As I did began to think about the kindness offered and my refusal. I searched for the woman to apologize for my rudeness. I never did find her.

On the way home I replayed the scene over and over. I felt awful. I did need help in the store and someone, seeing my struggle, responded out of mercy. My pride stood in the way of accepting her offer of kindness. Upon further reflection, I began to think about all the times I have refused God’s mercy because I was too stubborn to admit I needed Him. I thought how sad God must be every time He watches me struggle, whether it be in small tasks or large life issues and as He sends angels or graces to help, my response is to say, “I can do this myself” and with hardened heart attempt, time after time, to do it my way.

While we may think the Year of Mercy is about us being merciful to others (and it is), we are also invited to reflect on how we receive mercy. We live in a culture that thrives on individualism and independence, but truth be told, we are the strongest when we learn to rely on God and each other. God knows our needs and sends others to us in times of weakness and trial. The virtue of humility is integral to our being able to accept another’s merciful assistance. It also allows them to live out their God-given mission as well.

As we continue to grow and understand the great gift of God’s Mercy, let us pray for the virtue of humility so that we may humbly accept God’s help when we need it!