use the gifts that you were given
I’m sure all of us had the experience of receiving a gift but not knowing what to do with it. You might exchange the gift and get something you actually want, or you might try to re-gift it to someone else. Maybe you just put it somewhere out of sight where you’ll never see it again and simply forget about it. Whether it’s exchanging it or forgetting about it, can we do the same thing with the gifts that we get from God? God gives us the gift of piety but we would rather exchange it for something else. We get the gift of fortitude but then never bother wanting to use it.
Today we celebrate Pentecost, the great celebration of the Holy Spirit coming down upon the apostles and giving life to the Church. It’s God’s greatest gift to his apostles – the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Bible assigns various titles to the Holy Spirit. He is the Consoler, the Paraclete, the Sanctifier, the Advocate, and a lot of these titles we can relate to. Being our Consoler, He brings us consolation and strength. Being the Sanctifier, He helps us to grow in holiness. But a title that I feel like we need to pay more attention to is the Holy Spirit as our Advocate.
The Holy Spirit is my Advocate. He is the one who comes to my aid and defends me. But if He’s my Advocate, from what is the Holy Spirit defending me? He defends me from the one who opposes me and accuses me. He defends me from the Enemy to all of our lives – the devil, who only wants to bring harm to our spiritual lives by sowing doubt, discouragement, despair and other subtle ways to take us away from God.
We all know the feeling whenever we’re overwhelmed by any one of these ways from the devil. We feel alone, we can lose hope and feel like we have no life. How easy it is to give in to those temptations that take us away from God.
That’s exactly why we need our Advocate, the Holy Spirit. Someone to defend us, to strengthen us and to give us that hope and encouragement. Pentecost is a great celebration because it reminds us to use the gift that God gave us. Have him defend us from easily giving in to doubt and discouragement, and ask that we use those gifts of courage, fortitude, and piety, the seven gifts of the Holy Spirt that we have all received with the Sacrament of Confirmation, so that we can always remain firm in our faith and to be faithful to what God wants us to do. It’s the greatest gift God gave us. Let’s not exchange it or forget about it. It’s only with the Holy Spirit that we can be the disciples that God wants us to be.
the great commission
Forty days after the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Church celebrates his Ascension in to Heaven. Before his departure, Jesus gave his disciples one last command, the Great Commission: "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you" (Mt 28:19). We also read in the Acts of the Apostles that our Lord tells his disciples, "You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8).
Reading through the book of the Acts of the Apostles, we hear how they effectively witnessed their faith and gained many more disciples to believe in Jesus Christ. We also hear how some responses to their witness were not always well received. The Apostles were put into prison, and often times they were beaten and tortured to try to stop them from giving this witness.
There was something to their witness that shook people up. It made them uncomfortable because it put into question their way of living, evaluating what is right and what is wrong. And so, they were beaten and tortured, and put into prison, to stop their witnessing of Jesus Christ.
How were the Apostles able to persevere? Why were they so compelled to give witness, despite all the threats and persecution they got from the people? They were able to persevere because they witnessed the Resurrection. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ changed them so much they didn’t care what happened to them because the most important thing for them was to preach the truth of Jesus Christ, which brought them real freedom and joy to their lives.
And thank God for their witness because it gives us the opportunity today to come together as a Church giving our own praise and thanksgiving to God. But in order for the next generations to know the same joy and freedom that the truth of Jesus Christ brings, we have to be the ones who are the witnesses today, being just as compelled to preach the truth of Jesus Christ. We are the ones to carry on the Great Commission.
We say we believe in Jesus’ Resurrection, that he ascended into Heaven, that we believe God is truly present with us, that it really is the body of Jesus Christ that we receive every time we go to Mass. And so, let what we believe urge us to be those witnesses so that others can know the real freedom and joy that the truth of Jesus Christ brings.
your grief will become joy
How encouraging it is to hear Jesus say, "Your grief will become joy." In our Gospel for today, Jesus reassures his disciples that despite the pain and sorrow they will experience, "No one will take your joy away from you."
We know that life has plenty of moments when we experience that grief in our hearts, those times when we have to endure the pain and sorrow of whatever situation we're going through. And during those moments, it's helpful to hear Jesus say, "Your grief will become joy." But what are we expecting with that joy? Do we expect that joy to be simply an absence of hardships, when life is easy and fun, and everything is going our way? If that's the case, even if that expectation of joy comes, how quickly we'll be disappointed when the next round of grief and sorrow comes our way.
The joy that no one can take away is the joy of Jesus Christ himself. It is knowing the presence of Christ in my life, the truth that he has proclaimed that has brought real freedom to my life, the mercy that he has shown to take away my sin, the love that I have experienced knowing that I am a child of God, that no matter what pain or hardship I am experiencing, no one can take that joy away from me.
As he said to St. Paul during his own experience of trials, "Do not be afraid. Go on speaking, and do not be silent, for I am with you." God is with us, and that grief will be changed into joy, when we can proclaim, both in our words and in our actions, the saving truth of Jesus Christ.
a mother's love
As we celebrate Mother's Day and thank our mothers for all they do for us and for all their love, we also remember Mary, our Blessed Mother! Certainly we should show our own love and devotion to her this day, but also to be inspired by her unwavering faithfulness to God. Being so committed to her love for God, there was no struggle or hardship that would cause her to compromise her "yes" to God.
Jesus says in the Gospel today, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." Expressing in words your love for another person is very important. It’s good that a person say, "I love you". Those three words can be the most beautiful and powerful words in a person’s life. It’s necessary for husbands and wives to say to each other I love you. Today being Mother’s Day, how good it is for children to say to their mothers, “I love you.” But also, how necessary it is for children to hear words of love from their parents. And when those words are said to you, you know how powerfully moved you can be when you're told that you are loved. You can be lifted up out of feelings of depression, out of loneliness, out of feeling unappreciated.
But, while saying those words are effective and meaningful, those words don’t mean anything unless they are also reflected in what we do. Loving someone is not expressed just by what we say, but it becomes real by a person’s action. What Jesus is saying from our Gospel today is that if we say we love God, what actions do we do that express it? “Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me.” Whatever God expects us to do, whatever He tells us, it’s entirely motivated by His love for us. God is Love – and everything He does is Love. And so, wanting us to follow His commandments is meant for us to experience more deeply God’s love for us, and to teach us how to love.
If we say that we love God, then how do we show it? It’s not saying that we love God, but then not go to Church every Sunday, or say that we love God but then treat people disrespectfully with slander and a lack of charity, to say that we love God but hate our enemies.
Mary, our Blessed Mother, desires that we have that unwavering faithfulness to God. May she intercede for us, that her prayers can help us to have that same “yes” to God like hers, that our love for God will always be shown in our commitment to be faithful to His commands.
if the world hates you
When you encounter hatred, how do you react? With kindness? With patience? With understanding? Or with more hate? Our Gospel today has Jesus telling his disciples, "If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first" (Jn 15:18). It's not an encouraging statement, but it is the reality when we choose to follow Jesus Christ. Not everyone is going to like it, some might even hate you for it. And so, when you encounter that hatred, how do you react? As Jesus did, knowing that God's love conquers all hearts.
Today we honor Our Lady of Fatima who gave the message that God's love can conquer all hearts! In 1917, Mary appeared to three children in Fatima with the message to pray for the conversion of souls, to make reparation for the sins committed against God, and to pray the rosary everyday for peace in the world. During a time in the world where there was much hate, Mary wanted those children to respond with love, fervently praying that God's love will conquer hearts.
Our Lady's message is the same today. How much she desires that those who follow her son respond with love to the hate in the world, fervently praying that more hearts will be conquered by God's love.
O My Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of Hell
and lead all souls to Heaven, especially those who are in most need of Thy mercy.
-the Fatima prayer
Jesus says in our Gospel today, "You are my friends if you do what I command you." We don't normally associate friendship with following commandments. If you demanded that another person always do what you told him to do in order to be friends, I'm sure the other person would not want to pursue a friendship with you. However that is our Lord's definition of friendship as he said in the Gospel.
When Jesus tells us that if we truly love him that we’re supposed to follow his commandments, it’s not just some meaningless set of rules that we blindly follow. Whatever God expects us to do, whatever He tells us, it’s always motivated by His love for us. God is Love – and everything He does is Love, and wanting us to follow His commandments is meant for us to experience more deeply God’s love for us.
And what is it that he commands? Again from our Gospel today, "This is my commandment: love one another as I love you." To love like God loves, not just the ones that we want to love, but also our enemies. To forgive like God forgives, no matter the countless times we have to give it. To pursue what is good, right and just. To be a gift of self to others.
Authentic friendship with God and with others is when we can live out this commandment, loving in the same manner as God, loving with the same Sacred Heart of Jesus. When understood in that way, then we can see how friendship and following commandments can actually go together.
Do you live your life just going through the motions, simply settling for how life turned out for you, or do you you know what it means to live your life to the full? Jesus said in our Gospel on Sunday, “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6). Can it be any clearer why God calls us to be his disciples? So that we can have life to the full! Jesus is the way. He is the only way. Jesus doesn’t say that “I am a way.” He isn’t just one way among other ways to show us what life is all about. He’s the only way for us to come to know real happiness and joy. Jesus is the truth. When there are so many competing voices in our society wanting to influence our lives with their own “truth”, Jesus is the only Truth that brings real freedom and fulfillment. As he said, “The truth will set you free” (John 8:32) - revealing the truth of God, but also, the truth of ourselves, in order to be set free. Jesus is life. He wants to give us life. “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Following in his way and listening to his truth, he shows us how to have life to full with so much zeal and excitement, driven with so much purpose. Knowing that is what’s in store for us, it seems to be an easy choice to follow through with God’s call.
Prayer of abandonment
This is a prayer by St. Charles de Foucauld that I would often say in the morning to start my day. A good reminder that no matter what might happen during the day, may it all be according to God's will.
I abandon myself into your hands;
do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you:
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only your will be done in me,
and in all your creatures -
I wish no more than this, I Lord.
Into your hands I commend my soul:
I offer it to you with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands without reserve,
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father.
Father Adam Park grew up in the Washington, DC area. He discovered his vocation to the priesthood while on retreat during his senior year in high school. Being ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Washington, he has served in different assignments throughout the archdiocese.