Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
We celebrate the feast of the Visitation this week (May 31): Mary, pregnant with Jesus, visits Elizabeth, pregnant with John the Baptist.
The feast day raises two good questions for us: 1) How do I bring Jesus to others, as Mary did? 2) How do I recognize when others bring Jesus to me, as Elizabeth did?
These are two key questions for us to ask as we engage in the All Things New pastoral planning process. Answering them will help us to proclaim the Gospel more boldly and clearly.
This week the readings bring us to the end of the Acts of the Apostles and the end of the Gospel of John. Acts ends by saying, of St. Paul: “With complete assurance and without hindrance he proclaimed the Kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.” The Gospel of John ends by saying, of St. John: “It is this disciple who testifies to these things and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true.”
“Begin with the end in mind,” that’s the old adage. Both of these New Testament books end with the proclamation of the Gospel and witness to Jesus. That’s another lesson and challenge for us as we think about All Things New. This week, we begin the summer. This week, we begin the month of June. This week, we begin the one year countdown to the unveiling of the All Things New pastoral plan. With all of these beginnings, we need to keep the end in mind. Everything we do over the next year needs to be guided and measured by this goal: a clearer proclamation of the Gospel and a clearer witness to Jesus.
All of that will only work, of course, if we allow ourselves to receive and be guided by the Holy Spirit. So, as we prepare for Pentecost, here are three things that can help us reflect more deeply on what it means to receive the Holy Spirit.
First, read Luke chapters one and two, and reflect on the characters who Luke tells us are “filled with the Holy Spirit.” The results are slightly different in each case, but it’s always related to Jesus. Ask yourself: What does it look like when they’re filled with the Holy Spirit, and what would it look like for me to be filled with the Holy Spirit?
Second, read Galatians 5:22-23, which lists the fruits of the Spirit. Wherever you find these in your own life, you’re seeing the effect of the Spirit’s presence. But whatever leads you away from these — and St. Paul gives a helpful list of deviations in Galatians 5:19-21 — leads you away from the Spirit. Ask yourself: What parts of my life help me and others enjoy the fruits of the Spirit, and what parts of my life lead me and others away from those fruits?
Finally, think about what St. Cyril of Jerusalem once said: that the grace of the Holy Spirit in our lives is like the effect of water on plants. While always remaining itself, water allows different plants to bring forth different kinds of fruit. Similarly, while remaining itself, the Holy Spirit produces different fruits in different people. Ask yourself: How can I rejoice in the different works of the Spirit, rather than envying gifts that I don’t have? And how can I contribute the gifts I do have, with greater confidence that God wants to do something in and through me?
If we live more deeply in the Spirit, we’ll give witness to Jesus more boldly and clearly. Let’s keep that end in mind as we lean more deeply into All Things New.