Editor’s Note: This post was intended to be posted yesterday, but life happened and I’ve had to delay it by one day. A day late but never too late for its message. Although spiritual in nature, its message is one today’s divided and angry world could use, regardless on one’s beliefs.
One of my favorite prayers to teach little ones, including our daughter when she was young, is the very simple “Holy Spirit, help me today in everything I think, do, and say.” It’s not biblical or found in a specific scripture, but I’ve always thought it pretty well sums up what should be our thought process each and every morning.
I’ve always had a special affinity for the Holy Spirit. I have a prayer that’s typed out on an old-school typewriter that I’ve had and said for years. I don’t know where I got it but I do know it’s very special to me. This should be somewhat surprising considering that growing up the Holy Spirit was often referred to as the Holy Ghost. Yikes! What young Catholic girl would ever want anything to do with a ghost? As it turns out, me and many others.
Granted, the “ghost” reference is somewhat up there with rotary phones and televisions with antennas, but the third person of the Holy Trinity is indeed ageless and timeless. Maybe I’m a fan because the Holy Spirit is often described as the love between Father and Son and is also sometimes referred to as the “female” side of God; the kinder gentler side full of wisdom and joy. Not that God and Jesus aren’t, but who doesn’t need a spiritual mamma in their life?
The Holy Spirit is on my mind because the church celebrates Pentecost today. It is one of the most important feast days of the year and it concludes the Easter season. It’s also considered the birthday of the church.
Pentecost is the Christian celebration of the Holy Spirit descending upon the Apostles, Mary, and other first followers of Jesus as they gathered in the Upper Room; literally and figuratively lighting a fire in them for the Word. It commemorates their transformation from frightened and confused to ultimately those who preached and made believers of millions thanks to the gifts given to them to do so. It’s those gifts and their ripened “fruits” that I feel, regardless of your beliefs and opinions, are much needed in today’s world.
The name “Pentecost” is derived from the Greek word “pentekostos,” which means 50. Pentecost always occurs 50 days after the death and resurrection of Jesus and 10 days after His ascension into heaven.
As often has it, there is a parallel Jewish holiday, Shavu’ot, which falls 50 days after Passover and commemorates the sealing of the Old Covenant on Mount Sinai when the Lord revealed the Torah to Moses. I have to believe my Jewish brothers and sisters would agree with today’s message.
The Gifts of the Holy Spirit
Without going into too much detail, the Gifts are dispositions that make us open to following the promptings of the Holy Spirit. They are there for the asking and give us strength for the journey. Four enlighten our minds: wisdom, knowledge, understanding, and counsel; and three strengthen our hearts: fortitude, piety, and fear of the Lord. They are biblical and can be found in Isaiah 11:2 and are ways of living we should all strive for. They are:
Wisdom. The ability to exercise good judgment and distinguish between right and wrong. It is also common sense and often advances in years and gains life experience.
Understanding. The ability to think clearly and have insight and discernment.
Counsel. The ability to give and receive good advice.
Fortitude. Moral strength, courage, determination, and resiliency.
Knowledge. The ability to study and learn and put what is learned to constructive and good purpose.
Fear of the Lord. Acknowledges that everything comes from God and therefore downplays personal achievement, pride, and self-sufficiency.
Piety. Being devoted to goodness, decency, mercy, meekness, and virtues.
The Fruits of the Holy Spirit
The Gifts are to be made of good use or they won’t ripen and grow. They must be cultivated and applied daily; the result of which are the Fruits of the Holy Spirit, and I’m not talking apples, oranges, and bananas. As with the Fruits of the Spirit, those types of fruits are never manufactured but grown; seeds need to be planted and a gardener needs to tend to them. As opposed to the “bitter fruits” of immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, drunkenness, and carousing found in Gal 5:19-21, the Fruits of the Spirit are good habits, virtues, and deeds that are by-products of God’s presence in our lives. They can be found in Gal 5:22 and are:
Love. Unconditional love that expects nothing in return. Opposite: Self-serving.
Joy. Inner contentment that comes with speaking and upholding truth, honesty and integrity in relationships, and decent conduct. Opposite: Discontent.
Peace. Living with contentment in a world that is never satisfied. It is also when the dignity of all living beings are respected and when legitimate differences are tolerated. Opposite: Anxiety-filled.
Patience. The virtue of suffering delay with composure and without complaint. It is also the willingness to wait even in a world of instant gratification and to slow down and set aside one’s personal plans and concerns. Opposite: High-strung.
Kindness. A warm and friendly disposition demonstrated by a kind and compassionate person who is polite, well-mannered, respectful, considerate, pleasant, agreeable, cheerful, helpful, positive, and complimentary. Opposite: Privileged and Elitist.
Goodness. A bigheartedness grounded in unselfish generosity and integrity and the courage to do the right thing even when it’s hard. Opposite: Dishonest and Deceitful.
Faithfulness. Demonstrated by loyalty, fulfilling commitments fulfilled, keeping promises, and being true to one’s word. Opposite: Unreliable.
Gentleness. Sensitivity and humble consideration for others. Mild-mannered, not pushy or abrasive. Quick to listen and slow to speak with a desire for wisdom and understanding before the desire to be heard. Opposite: Arrogant and Melodramatic.
Self-control. Reject evil and choose goody by being in control of one’s self rather than controlled by temptation or other people. The ability to remain calm, cool, and collected especially in times of crisis; be even tempered; and avoid impulsive, knee-jerk reactions and responses. Opposite: Undisciplined.
It is often said that these Gifts and Fruits are also revealed in The Beatitudes, which Jesus delivered in His Sermon on the Mount and can be found in Matthew 5-7. On the flip-side, they and the Virtues of humility, chastity, kindness, temperance, vigilance, meekness, and generosity can also ward off the Seven Deadly Sins of pride, lust, envy, gluttony, sloth, anger, and greed, respectively.
Turn on any newscast or scroll any social media site and the urgent need for all of these good traits and true gifts will quickly be revealed. Time to be the gardeners of our inner spirits so we can plant the seeds of fruits that are healthy for the whole of the land. Time to dig deep.