At the beginning of this series I mentioned that we are on a mission, that Jesus sent us on that mission, and that He sent the Holy Spirit and all His love and power to help us with it. Evangelizing is something we are called to do by our Lord Himself. Our Popes echo that message, not surprisingly. St. John Paul II gave us the “New Evangelization” in which we were encouraged to share the Good News with people in our own spheres of influence. This was not just about people in far away foreign lands who’d never heard about Jesus. But his call was to share the Good News with our neighbors, and people we work with, and friends and family who don’t know Jesus, or about a God who loves each and every one of us.
I read a book last year entitled “Through the Year with Pope Francis”. It was compiled by & with reflections written by, a friend of mine, Kevin Cotter. Many of you may know him or his wife, Lisa. They work with FOCUS, the Fellowship of Catholic University Students. (A great example of the New Evangelization, by the way, helping to bring young Catholics back to the faith who have left it because they didn’t understand the beauty and excellence of what they had. And they are spreading to more campuses all the time.) Sorry to digress.
In the Pope Francis book I read the following quote from our Pontiff: “In our personal life, in our private lives…the Spirit pushes us to take a more evangelical path, and we [say]: ‘But no, it goes like this Lord,’…Do not put up resistance to the Holy Spirit: this is the grace for which I wish we would all ask the Lord: docility to the Holy Spirit, to that Spirit who comes to us and makes us go forward on the path of holiness.” And the next day I read, “We thus ask the Holy Spirit for this grace of apostolic zeal: be Christians with apostolic zeal. And if we make others uncomfortable, blessed be the Lord. Let’s go, and as the Lord says to Paul: ‘Take courage!’ “
He goes on to remind us that God accompanies us. And just a few days later the Holy Father reminds us that we “cannot keep ourselves shut up in parishes, in our communities, in our parish or diocesan institutions, when so many people are waiting for the Gospel! To go out as ones sent. It is not enough simply to open the door in welcome because they come, but we must go out through that door to seek and meet the people.”
And, finally, for today anyway, the Pope says, “We all experience our poverty, our weakness in taking the precious treasure of the Gospel to the world, but we must constantly repeat St. Paul’s words: ‘We have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us.’ (2 Cor 4:7). It is this that must always give us courage: knowing that the power of evangelization comes from God, that it belongs to Him.” And “the spread of the Gospel is not guaranteed either by the number of persons, or by the prestige of the institution, or by the quantity of the available resources. What counts is to be permeated by the love of Christ, to let oneself be led by the Holy Spirit and to graft one’s own life onto the tree of life, which is the Lord’s Cross.” Kevin’s reflection after this entry is “Place your trust in Him. He will help you spread the Gospel.”
If we depended on our own skill or abilities or talents, we would be lost. We can do nothing without God’s help. And notice how the Pope continues to talk about the Holy Spirit’s power. It is an incredible thing to have that Holy Spirit, in all His Love and Power, within us, within our spirit. To further delve into the Holy Spirit’s critical role in our lives, I will share something that St. John Paul II wrote in his Encyclical Letter, On the Holy Spirit in the Life of the Church and the World. “With the coming of the Spirit the Apostles felt capable of fulfilling the mission entrusted to them. They felt full of strength. It is precisely this that the Holy Spirit worked in them, and this is continually at work in the Church, through their successors. For the grace of the Holy Spirit, which the apostles gave to their collaborators through the imposition of hands, continues to be transmitted in Episcopal Ordination. The bishops in turn by the Sacrament of Orders render the sacred ministers sharers in this spiritual gift and, through the Sacrament of Confirmation, ensure that all who are reborn of water and the Holy Spirit are strengthened by this gift. And thus, in a certain way, the grace of Pentecost is perpetuated in the Church.” Isn’t that exciting? It’s phenomenal.
Jesus tells us in the Gospels that we must carry our cross and follow Him to be His disciples. He never promised there would not be suffering and pain in this life. If fact, He says quite clearly in the Gospel of John (16:33): “In this world you will have troubles, but take courage, I have overcome the world.” And He’s not just observing, or holding our hand, or cheering us on – the Holy Spirit is living in us – individually – and in the Church.