"Holy Spirit, Help me Love God More!"
Originally posted in Facebook by Fr. Michael Cheong, FMVD
Today we celebrate Pentecost, the 50th day that concludes Easter season. Throughout this season, we have been pondering on the events of the life of Jesus in the light of the resurrection experiences of his first disciples. We began our reflections with the appearance of Jesus to his disciples behind locked doors, and we conclude this Sunday with the same passage where Jesus greets them with peace. "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you."
On Pentecost, we celebrate the birth of the Church, but most of all we celebrate the gift of God that sustains that community of believers throughout these past centuries - the Holy Spirit: the Spirit of consolation, the Spirit of holiness and truth, the Spirit of love, the Spirit of Jesus.
Who is the Holy Spirit? What is this gift that we have received in a special way in our Confirmation? Why did Jesus give Him to us? What is the effect in a person who receives the Holy Spirit and learns to live according to His promptings and friendship?
First of all, the Holy Spirit teaches us to love God. As Saint Paul says in the second reading, no one can say "Jesus is Lord" without the Holy Spirit. To love God is a divine gift. To believe in that Someone we do not see is truly a gift that comes from Him. The Holy Spirit kindles that love for God and makes it grow like a fire in us, to do great things for love of Him and for others in ways we could never imagine.
The Holy Spirit is God's capacity of love in us. He expands our hearts and teaches us to love those beyond our imagination, those we thought we could never love or even care about. He gives us the power of forgiveness, of peace and reconciliation. "Receive the Holy Spirit. Whomsoever's sins you forgive are forgiven..." In other words, you can forgive anyone, love everyone, with the faithfulness and joy that come only from God.
The Spirit is the spirit of humility: The Spirit of Jesus, most powerful and yet humble. It is only the heart that recognises it's need of Him and humbly welcomes Him that is able to receive the Holy Spirit. Because He is so humble and will never impose Himself on anyone who does not welcome Him. A humble heart simply recognizes that it cannot live fully without God in their life, and that draws the Spirit so quickly to that person.
This week, we come to our last capital sin: gluttony. Gluttony is the least understood sin, in the sense that most cannot understand why it is even a sin! Lust is terrible! Anger, jealousy and pride destroy communion! Greed is idol worship, and laziness cripples the soul... but what is wrong with Gluttony?
Gluttony is a manifestation of 'humiliated pride'. It is a pride that has already been humbled but still cannot accept that humiliation before God because of an exaggerated self-sufficiency. It seeks other ways to console itself rather than turning to God and being in need of Him.
Humility comes from the word "humus" or earth. It speaks of the capacity to accept ourselves as human beings - from dust we are made and to dust we return. The only thing that keeps us alive is God's eternal spirit. Humility is accepting that acute and painful awareness of our daily need for God that makes us turn to him. We do not need to wait for disasters in life to happen in order to go to God, which we often do! We can do it everyday just by recognising our nothingness without Him in prayer.
Gluttony is often linked to over- eating, but can also be seen in substance abuse: alcohol, drugs and all kinds of addictions or even mindless entertainment in order to fill an empty heart in need of God's love. It is a rejection of the painful sense of our limitedness, or even our emptiness or loneliness, of that effort and longing for a more meaningful life that we somehow cannot find in ourselves, without God. Are you aware of these feelings sometimes? Gluttony is a panicked way to cover up these feelings, but if we simply and calmly present them to God, His spirit directs us to that true and lasting consolation.
No one can find real meaning in life or in love without a perspective of eternity. It is Jesus' own eternal Spirit who gives dignity to life and makes a Christian love with His same eternal love. "There is no greater love than for a man to lay down his life for a friend." (John15:13 ) "You are my friends", Jesus says to his disciples. The Holy Spirit makes us friends of Jesus, making us realize that the same great power of love is in us, to love like Jesus.
That is what the birth of the Church is about: the Holy Spirit wishes to help us love like Jesus, to find our true fulfilment as persons through Christian love, a love that is inclusive and for everyone! Pentecost, therefore, is not the end of Easter. It is its new beginning, as we Christians do not keep the experience of the resurrection to ourselves, but rather commit ourselves to proclaim it to everyone
Fr. Michael Cheong is a Singaporean missionary priest of the Verbum Dei Missionary Fraternity. His current assignment is in Rome, Italy.