Fr. Bryan Howard
The Nativity of St. John the Baptist – 24 June 2018
This is only the second time in my priesthood that this feast day has fallen on a Sunday; the last time was in 2012. The Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist celebrates the birth of the man who was called to help prepare the way for the public ministry of Jesus. What we want to look at today is how we can prepare the way for Jesus in our own lives. Do we take the time to listen to God?
St. John’s father, Zechariah, was a Jewish priest. The priests would take turns serving at the Temple and when their rotation was done they’d go back home. During his groups rotation, Zechariah was in the Holy Place putting incense into the incense bowl when an angel appeared to him, the Archangel Gabriel. St. Gabriel told him that his wife, Elizabeth, would become pregnant, even though she was past her childbearing years, and that the child would be filled with the Spirit of the Lord.
It was clear that John was special, even before he was born. When Gabriel the Archangel came to Mary to tell her that she would be the mother of the Messiah, he also told her that Elizabeth, her cousin, was pregnant. So Mary went to visit Elizabeth. When she went in, John leaped in Elizabeth’s womb, because he recognized that Jesus was there, even though He was still in Mary’s womb.
If we want to prepare ourselves and the people around us to receive the Lord, the first thing we have to do is recognize that He is with us. We know that Jesus is present in the Eucharist, in the words of the Bible, and in the Church, but do we see that Jesus is present in our own souls? At Baptism we receive the indwelling of the Trinity, which means that God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, comes to live in us, and God is even present in non-Christians, because He created them. It’s so easy to forget that God is right here, with us, all the time, but we can learn how to be more aware of God from St. John the Baptist.
John needed to prepare that people of Israel for the Messiah, but how did he do it? Did he go to the Temple, where all of the Jewish people go at least twice a year? No. Did he go around to all of the cities and towns, like Jesus Himself did? No. He went out into the desert. He wore animal skins for clothes and eat locusts and wild honey. If we could ask John one thing, it would probably be, “Why?” Sometimes you need to get away from all of the distractions of daily life in order to be able to hear what God is trying to tell you. The people went out to see John because they knew that he spoke the word of God, and out there, in the desert, it might have been just a little bit easier to listen.
Between tv, radio, the internet, cell phones and smart phones, and social media. Think about this. There’s nowhere that you’re out of reach. Before the telephone became common, once you left work, if you’re boss needed you back before your next shift, he would actually have to send a person to get you. But it’s not just that we’re never out of touch, it’s that we’re constantly being bombarded with information, with advertisements, and with entertainment. Sometimes we find it difficult to just sit and be silent, without talking or thinking or doing anything. I’ve blamed this on technology, but that’s not really true. Over 150 years ago a philosopher named Kierkegaard said, “If I were a physician, and if I were allowed to prescribe just one remedy for all the ills of the modern world, I would prescribe silence. For even if the Word of God were proclaimed in the modern world, how could one hear it with so much noise? Therefore, create silence.”
The world has gotten a lot noisier since the 1800s, and it’s gotten that much more difficult to hear the people around us, but we’re also very good at ignoring the things we don’t want to hear. We have to be good at it or we’d probably go craze. The problem is when we ignore the really important things. Have you ever been driving somewhere and realize that you don’t really remember the last few minutes? You were just driving by memory and not fully paying attention to the road. That’s a scary feeling. Sometimes, we do that with life. We just do things by memory, not really paying attention, but just doing what we’ve always done. We need to shake ourselves out of our routine to really appreciate what’s going on in our lives.
I want to invite all of you this week to silence. Go sit on the front porch with a glass of ice tea, or go for a walk, or visit the adoration chapel at Prompt Succor, push everything out of your head, work, school, family and friends, your to-do list, give all of that to God to take care of for 15 minutes, and just sit with God in the silence. Ask God what He wants to tell you, and just listen. God is always talking to us, but usually we’re too busy to listen. If we just stop every once in a while it might help us to hear what He’s saying the rest of the time.
A member of our parish, Craig Taffaro, was ordained as a deacon of the Catholic Church on Saturday, June 23, at St. Louis Cathedral-Basilica. This is a great blessing for our parish and I want to congratulate Craig and his family.
The diaconate is the oldest of the three ranks of the hierarchy, the others being bishops and priests. The ordination of the first deacons is recorded in the Acts of the Apostles in the bible, Acts 6:1-6. It records that the early Church grew very quickly as the apostles preached the Gospel and made many converts from Judaism. Eventually, the apostles found that there were too many people for them to continue to do everything themselves, so they choose seven men from the community of believers. The apostles prayed over these men and laid hands on them, which is the same way that deacons are ordained today; the bishop lays his hands on their heads and then prays over the men to be ordained.
The Bible records that the role of the deacons was ministry to the needy, to preach the Gospel, and to assist the apostles and later bishops of the Church. Eventually, the Church would grow big enough that all of the Christians in a town or city couldn’t fit in one Church, so parishes were formed and priests ordained to run those parishes, and the deacons would also assist the priests in the parishes, but they didn’t come until later on.
The Church has grown and developed over the last 2 millennia, but deacons are still basically the same as those first 7 deacons. They still assists the bishops in governing the Church, the still serve at Mass and minister to the needy, and they still preach the Gospel. Today is a good time to give thanks to God for the gift of the diaconate and the ministry of deacons in the Church, and that one of our own was called to the order of deacons. Please pray for Craig and the other men that were ordained deacons this weekend.
Next Week: One Year Anniversary
Fr. Bryan Howard
11th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year B – 17 June 2018
Today’s readings teach us that appearances can be deceiving, and that the Lord can take something that seems to be small and insignificant and make something great come out of it. We are that small and insignificant thing, and the Lord wants to make something great happen within us, but He can only do it if we cooperate with His work. If we are full of ourselves, then we won’t have any room left over for the Lord, so we must empty ourselves and ask God to fill us back up.
In the first reading, the Prophet Ezekiel is talking about the Kingdom of Israel. At the time He’s speaking, the 10 Northern tribes had been conquered by the Assyrian Empire, the people taken into exile and scattered, and foreigners settled on their land. Now, the two tribes that are left have been attacked and defeated by the Babylonian Empire and are on the brink of defeat. Ezekiel says that right now, they are like a little branch that’s been torn off from the tree, but the Lord will plant that branch and make a large Cedar grow from it, thus restoring the Kingdom. He says, “And all the trees of the field shall know that I, the LORD, bring low the high tree, lift high the lowly tree, wither up the green tree, and make the withered tree bloom.”
In the Gospel Jesus uses something even smaller, a seed, a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all the seeds. The mustard seed grows into a great plant and all the birds of the air find shelter in its branches. The seed represents the Church, which started out small and insignificant, just 11 apostles, Mary, and maybe a few others. They had no money, no power, and no important people, as the world counts it, but God made the Church grow, underground, as it were, and today it’s the largest religion in the world and all peoples are welcomed under her roof.
In many places the Church still seems weak and insignificant, like the Middle East, China, Vietnam, and many other places where Christians are persecuted. Remember, there have been many times throughout history when the Church seemed on the brink of defeat from tyrants like Nero, Diocletian, and Emperor Henry V, and the various Muslim invasions of Europe. Those tyrants and their regimes are now nothing more than footnotes to history, but the Church is still here, not because the leaders of the Church were so wise and good, but thanks to the grace of God.
The idea of the little seed that becomes the great plant might remind you of something else that Jesus said in the Gospel of John, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.” Jesus is the seed. Jesus was born as the son of a poor carpenter, who couldn’t even get a room at the inn, not the son of a wealthy nobleman. He lived His life in obscurity before starting His public ministry. He didn’t seek fame, in fact He told people not to tell anyone about the miracles He performed. He didn’t try to overthrow the government, but He allowed Himself to be crucified with common criminals. He emptied Himself and was planted, or buried, in the ground, but He rose again on the third day in glory. He showed us that we must also empty ourselves by making ourselves small and humble, then one day we too will arise in glory, the glory that only God can give. If we try to take it for ourselves, then we will lose it forever, but if we follow Him, and take up our crosses, then He will bring us into the Kingdom of Heaven.
I recently read something that illustrates my point. This story was recorded by St. Justin Martyr, who was born about the year 100 A.D. and lived just 20 miles or so from Nazareth. He knew the descendants of people who knew Jesus before He started His public ministry. The story was passed down that Jesus was a carpenter and He specialized in making yokes for Oxen. For a poor farmer, an ox might be the most expensive thing they own, like a piece of heavy farm equipment today. If the yoke wasn’t fit just right then it would rub on the ox’s shoulders and create sores, which might get infected and kill the ox. Jesus had the reputation of being the best with animal collars and yokes, and people would come from all over the region of Galilee to have their animals fitted for collars by Jesus. This is how we empty ourselves. In whatever you happen to be doing, in how you treat your family, how you treat strangers, how you do your job, how you pray, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem, do it to the best of your ability, do it with love and compassion, and do it so that it makes a worthy offering to the Lord.
Why do we place so much importance on parents in our society? After all, very few groups get their own holidays, but parents have two, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, and we celebrate these day more than we do most other National Holidays, of which there are dozens.
First, it’s because of the impact that parents have on the lives of their children. If we think about ourselves, so much of who we are can be traced back to the influence of our parents, including big things like the values that we hold, our religion, and our political opinions, and everyday things, like the foods that we like and the way that we talk. Our parents help shape who we become through what they teach us and the example that they give by the way that they live their lives.
Parents have a very grave responsibility. They are responsible for the lives of their children. They have to keep them alive and healthy, educate them, and raise them to be successful in the world. Studies show that parenting has a huge impact on the physical, emotional, academic, and mental health of their children not only during childhood, but throughout their entire lives. Children raised with attentive and loving parents in a stable home tend to be healthier, do better in school, get better jobs, have better emotional health, have less legal trouble, and form healthier relationships of their own in adult life.
Parents also have responsibility for their children’s eternal life as well. Parents are entrusted with teaching their children the faith and how to life out the faith in their lives. The example that parent’s give can either help their children to grow in the faith or make it that much more difficult for them. A study done in Switzerland shows how important the parent’s faith life is to the children. The study showed that, if both parents attend church regularly, 33% of their children will end up as regular church-goers and 41% irregular, with the regaining 24% not going at all. However, if neither parent attends church, only 4% of their children will attend regularly and 15 % irregularly, with over 80% not attending at all. If the mother attends regularly but the father irregularly or not at all, then she helps give her children some connection to the Church, ensuring that a larger percentage attend occasionally. The big shock of the study, however, was in the influence of the father. If the father goes to Church regularly, he increases the chances that his children will attend Church regularly, helping them to develop a strong connection to the faith, even when the mother goes irregularly or not at all. As Robbe Low put it in an article on the study, “A non-practicing mother with a regular father will see a minimum of two-thirds of her children ending up a church. In contrast, a non-practicing father with a regular mother will see two-thirds of his children never darken the church door.” Men sometimes think of church as “women and children stuff,” but, just like a part of a mother’s job is to witness to the love and care that God has for each of us, part of a father’s job is to witness to Christ as the Good Shepherd, leading His flock. Don’t be afraid to take a leading role in the faith life of your family.
We are right to be grateful to our parents for everything they do for us, from feeding us and raising us, to teaching us about right and wrong, to helping us become the men and women that we are today. So I’d like everyone to stop and say a special prayer for your parents, asking God to bless them, whether they’re still with us or having already gone on to their final reward.
Next Week: On Deacons
Fr. Bryan Howard
10th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year B – 10 June 2018
Throughout the Bible, in the Old and New Testaments, battle and military metaphors are used to describe the spiritual life, for example, St. Paul speaks of putting on the armor of the faith and wielding the sword of the Spirit. Also, the living members of the Church are traditionally called the Christian militant, and several of the saints are remembered for their military exploits, such as St. Joan of Arc and St. Louis IX, King of France, and even more were soldiers before experiencing a conversion, such as St. George, St. Ignatius of Loyola, and St. Martin of Tours. In today’s Gospel Jesus uses military images to teach us a lesson about spiritual combat.
The first lesson we have to learn is that Satan, or the devil, is real. When we think of the caricatures the devil that we see in cartoons, the little red guy with goats horns and a spiked tail sitting on someone’s shoulder, it’s hard to think of him as a real being. But the devil was originally called Lucifer, meaning the Bearer of Light, and he was created as the highest of the angels. He lead a rebellion against God because, in his pride, he thought himself to be equal to God, and was cast out of heaven. That’s what hell is; it’s not a physical location, but being away from God and completely cut off from His grace.
At the end of the Gospel, Jesus says to those around him, and to us, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” Satan hates us because God loves us. He’s jealous of our closeness to God and wants to make us just as miserable as he is. So, like any good general, he scouts our defenses, finds where they are weakest, and attacks, not with swords and spears, but with temptations to anger, jealousy, greed, lust, laziness, and many more things.
So, how do we defend ourselves against this attack? We have to make sure that our defenses are strong. As Jesus says, “If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.” Are you divided against yourself? We all have divided loyalties because our love for God is not pure. Money, popularity, pleasure, and comfort compete with God for the top spot in our lives. None of these things are bad in themselves, in fact, they’re all good things. It’s when I have a disordered love for them that they become a weakness in our defenses. The devil knows where our weakness are better than we do, and he’s able to attack us in exactly the right spot.
Jesus goes on to say, “But no one can enter a strong man’s house to plunder his property unless he first ties up the strong man.” If we rely just on our own strength, then we’ll fail, because Satan is smarter, and stronger, and more experienced than we are. That’s why we have to rely on someone even stronger, the Holy Spirit. When God defends us, then our defense can withstand any attack. That’s why Jesus says that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is the only unforgiveable sin. Grace and forgiveness come to us through the Holy Spirit, so how can we receive either if we’ve rejected Him?
You’ve probably heard that the best defense is a good offense. What weapons does a Catholic use in spiritual combat? First, there’s the examination of conscience. I keep a stack of them by the confessional and we have a some in the resources tab of the parish website. Second, the Rosary, which takes us through the entire life of Christ. Finally, the Mass. This book is a Daily Missal, which has all of the prayers and readings for the Mass in one place.
There are many other spiritual weapons that we have at our disposal, but these are some of the best and strongest. We have to take this battle seriously. Soldiers train extensively to prepare for combat, because their life and the lives of many other people may depend on it. In the Christian life, in spiritual combat, it’s not just our physical lives but our eternal lives that are on the line, so we should all train just as hard, if not harder.
The prayers at Mass and colors we wear, our devotions, and our liturgical life is covered by the liturgical calendar. So the calendar actually governs a lot of our Catholic spiritual life, but it doesn’t have to be that way. So Christians don’t use a liturgical calendar. They do pretty much the same thing at every service. The minister chooses the readings, songs, and theme for the service based on what he wants to preach on. Catholic priests don’t get to do that nearly as often, because the prayers and readings for the Mass are decided by the liturgical calendar. This means that a Catholic can go to Mass anywhere in the world and find the same colors, readings, prayers, and general themes being used. This is important to us because we are one Church throughout the world, not a lot of separate churches.
The calendar is based on the life of Christ. The year begins with Advent, when we begin to prepare ourselves for the birth of Christ at Christmas. The season of Christmas lasts about a month. Then we have a few weeks of ordinary time. Ordinary Time is the season when we don’t celebrate anything specific, and it takes up most of the year. During the season of Lent we prepare for the Crucifixion and Resurrection. It lasts 46 days. Remember, we don’t fast on Sundays, because on Sundays we celebrate the Resurrection. If we take out Sundays, we have 40 days of fasting in Lent, because Jesus spent 40 days fasting in the desert after His baptism in the Jordan River. The Paschal Triduum is Holy Thursday through Easter Sunday, and this is when we celebrate the death and Resurrection of Jesus. The celebration of Easter is extended for 50 days, and ends with the celebration of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles in the upper room. Then, we have more ordinary time until Advent starts again. The colors give you a clue to what the season is about. Advent and Lent are times of preparation and penance, so we wear purple. Christmas and Easter are times of celebration and joy, so we wear white or gold. During ordinary time we wear gold.
The amount of thought, time, and effort that the Church puts into the liturgy is amazing, as you can see in just this one part of it. This is because the Mass is the highest form of worship of God. In a way, offering worthy worship to God is the main job of the Church. Hopefully I haven’t bored you too much, but maybe this can help you live the liturgy of the Church a little more fully.
The website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has the liturgical calendar right on the home page, on the right hand side, and if you click on the date it will take you to the Mass readings for that day. The website is http://www.usccb.org.
Next Week: Parenthood
Going to Mass is the highest form of worship of God. The Mass is the memorial of the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ, and in the Mass the salvation of the world is presented to us. All graces flow from the Cross, and the Cross is the only path to heaven. However, over time we begin to take all of this for granted and treat the Mass is just something that we’re told we have to do. We don’t always give God the reverence He deserves.
The first way we can show God reverence is through the way we dress. If we go to Mass dressed like we’re going to the beach, then we’ll starting treating the Mass as if it’s no more important than going to the beach. We must remember that going to Mass is entering God’s house, and so we should dress appropriately. Obviously, there will be times when you won’t be able to do that, and I’d much rather that you come to Mass dressed even in rags than that you not come to Mass. I also don’t want anyone to judge someone else by what they wear to Mass, because we don’t all have the same resources or the same idea of what’s appropriate. I’m just asking that we ask ourselves how we can show reverence to God in everything, even in how we dress.
We also show God reverence by preparing ourselves for Mass through prayer. Try to get to Church a few minutes early so you can spent that time praying. Invite the Holy Spirit into your soul, ask God to draw you closer to Him through the Mass, and offer the Mass for your intentions, such as a family member or friend in need, a lost loved one, or help with a problem you’re having. Jesus Christ really is present in the Eucharist and we should prepare our bodies and our souls to receive Him.
Finally, show God reverence by participating in the Mass. One thing I love about Our Lady of Lourdes is that a lot of people at Mass sing the hymns. That doesn’t happen at every Church and I’m always glad to hear it. When we fully participate in Mass by singing, saying the responses, and listening to the readings and prayers we express our love for God and tell Him that we want to accept all of the graces that He has to give us.
Next Week: The Liturgical Calendar
Fr. Bryan Howard
Trinity Sunday – Year B – 27 May 2018
One of the things that sets Christians apart from all other religions is that we believe in the Most Holy Trinity. We believe that there is one God, but that God is a Trinity of three persons united in one nature. This is a mystery that is simply beyond our understanding. We won’t ever completely understand the Trinity because God is infinite, and we aren’t. We can, however, understand more than we do right now.
The reason it’s so hard to understand that Trinity is because we’ve never experienced anything like it in our lives. There’s nothing in the world that is both three and one at the same time. So, we’ve tried to make analogies to help ourselves understand. The Trinity is sort of like a three leaf clover. There are three leaves, but it’s one plant. Or, like these three rings melded together, right here in front of the altar. There are three equal rings, but it’s one object. There’s a problem with these analogies, though. One leaf of a three leaf clover is only one part of the plant, and one of these rings is only one part of the object, because there physical objects. God is spirit. God the Father is not 1/3 of God, He IS God. God the Son is God, and God the Holy Spirit is God.
So, if the Father is God and the Son is God and the Holy Spirit is God, does that mean that we worship three God’s? No, we don’t. They are also perfectly united. There’s another analogy to help us understand. We’ll never have a perfect explanation of the Trinity, but this is the best one we have right now, at least until we get to heaven and see God face to face. God is like a family. A husband gives himself to his wife totally and completely out of love for her. His wife receives that gift of love and, in turn, gives herself totally and complete to him out of love. The result of this gift of love is that, nine months later, you have to give it a name. The love of husband and wife results in a third person being added to the family
In the Trinity, God the Father is eternally giving all of Himself to the Son, and the Son is receiving this gift of love and eternally giving all of Himself back to the Father, and this eternal exchange of love is the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. This is why the family is so important. The love that is shared between members of a family is meant to remind us of the love of God Himself, and to teach us that God Himself is a family. If God is a family, then He is inviting us to become members of His family.
In the second reading St. Paul tells us, “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a Spirit of adoption, through whom we cry, ‘Abba, Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.” Brothers and sisters through Jesus Christ we are children of God and heirs of God, heirs with Christ. Our inheritance is the glory of God in the Kingdom of heaven.
Today we’re not just celebrating that God is a Trinity, but that God is love, and that He is inviting us to live in His love as His children. The Bible says that “eye has not seen and ear has not heard what God has prepared for those who love Him.” How could we have possibly imagined that God would call us to rise above our lowly state to become children of God. We sometimes think of heaven as a place where all of our wants and desires are given to us, where we have the best food and drink and all of our dreams come true, but if we can imagine it, then it’s less than what God as prepared for us, if only we trust Him.
You may have noticed that I quoted all of the second reading except the last two lines, which say this, “If only we suffer with Him, so that we may also be glorified with Him.” Jesus came to make us children of God and to teach us how to BE a child of God, and He showed His love to us through the Cross. Love means being willing to pour yourself out for another person, and that’s something else that we learn as a member of a family: total, selfless, unconditional love. Today, as you come forward to receive Communion, ask the Lord to help you to love the people around you a little bit better, so that we can grow together as one family in Christ.
Good News About Sex and Marriage by Christopher West
I’ve just finished up the series of bulletin articles on the seven sacraments that I began in August of last year, and throughout the series I’ve tried to recommend books and other resources to help further deepen your knowledge of the sacraments. Today, I’m recommending a book by Christopher West called Good News About Sex and Marriage: Answers to Your Honest Questions about Catholic Teaching. Christopher West teaches at the Theology of the Body Institute in West Chester, Pennsylvania. He’s written many books explaining Pope St. John Paul II teaching on marriage and sexuality as it’s found in the Bible. This teaching is called “the Theology of the Body.”
This book is very easy to read and down to earth, answering questions that most people have in a way that shows how the teachings of the Jesus Christ are indeed good news for the world. Christopher West covers topics such as Church authority, the basics of marriage in the Church, chastity outside of marriage and inside of marriage, contraception and reproductive technologies, and the celibate vocation.
I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to gain a better understanding of the teachings of the Church on human sexuality and marriage, who wants to learn how to explain these teachings to other people, and to parents who are getting to the point of having to explain these things to their children.
Next Week: Showing God Reverence at Mass
Fr. Bryan Howard
Pentecost Sunday – 20 May 2018
Pentecost Sunday echoes the ancient Jewish feast of Pentecost, which also happened on this day, the 50thday after the feast of unleavened bread, which was the day of the Resurrection of the Lord. After His Resurrection, Jesus spent 40 days with His disciples, preparing them to begin the work of spreading the Gospel and forming the early Church. On the 40thday, He ascended into heaven, and during the 10 days between the Ascension and Pentecost, the disciples and Mary, the Mother of God, gathered in the upper room, where they’d had the Last Supper with Jesus. On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended upon them as tongues of fire. They all left the Upper Room, went out to the crowds gathered at the Temple for the feast of Pentecost, and began preaching about Jesus. The crowd was astounded, because they all heard them in the own, native languages. By the end of the day there were about 3000 converts, and Christianity didn’t even have a name yet, the just started calling it “The Way.”
The disciples spent those 10 days before Pentecost hiding. Even though they had seen Jesus risen from the dead, they were still afraid that they would be killed like He was. But after they received the Holy Spirit, their fear was gone and they were able to go out and publicly preach the Gospel. In the coming weeks and months, they would be threatened, arrested, and scourged, but they didn’t stop, and more and more people were converted. Eventually, the Roman Empire would get in on the act, and for over 250 years they would persecute the Church. It was worse in some times and places than others, but, in the end, thousands of Christians would be arrested, tortured, and killed in horrible ways. The most merciful death was how St. Paul died, by being beheaded, but many were crucified, or burned alive, or thrown to the lions and the bears. Some would deny Christ when threatened with these things, but many, perhaps most, didn’t. The first 32 popes, from Peter through Miltiades, were all martyred. Yet today the Roman Empire is long gone, but the leader of the Church on Earth, Pope Francis, who can trace His succession back to those same popes, lives near the very spot where St. Peter was crucified.
This is the power of the Holy Spirit, and this is the same Holy Spirit that each one of us received at our baptisms. The Holy Spirit wants to transform you like He transformed the disciples and the early Christians. Do you struggle with the same sins over and over again? Do you have doubts about God? Whether He exists or whether He’s working in your life? Do you just feel like you’re not a spiritual person? You already have what you need to start changing these things: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. These are the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which we all received at Baptism and which were strengthened in us in Confirmation. Wisdom helps us to love the things of God. Understanding helps us to comprehend the truths of the faith. Counsel gives us the prudence to choose wisely. Fortitude gives us the courage to overcome obstacles. Knowledge helps us know the best path to follow. Piety helps us to grow in respect and reverence for God. The fear of the Lord helps us flee from sin.
These are 7 powerful ways that the Holy Spirit guides and strengthens us, but, as in all things, God won’t force us to do anything. We all have free will. First, we need to ask for the help of the Holy Spirit. I would recommend asking specifically for help in the thing that you’re struggling with the most. By bringing your greatest weakness to God and asking for His help, you humble yourself before Him, and God always helps the humble and lowly. It’s when we think we’ve got everything together and don’t need anyone’s help that we really have a problem.
Prayer is necessary, but it also takes discipline and effort on our parts. So, have a plan. Come up with two or three things that you can do regularly, every day or every week, to help you grow in the area you’re struggling with. For example, if you want to work on patience, you could let someone in ahead of you at the grocery store, or in traffic. Unless you have a plan, you probably won’t do anything and you’ll end up staying where you are right now. These may seem like little things compared to what St. Peter and the apostles did, but ever little things can make a big difference in the lives of the people around us, because it’s usually our family and closest friends who are affected by the worst parts of our personality. And remember what Jesus said, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master's joy.”
Don’t give in to the temptation to fall into despair and loose hope. Christ promised to send the Holy Spirit to us, and the Holy Spirit is God Himself who is working in our souls, even if we don’t realize it, in order to bring us always closer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.