Category : Scripture

gifts
Advent, Grace, Holy Spirit, Scripture
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Gifts of the Holy Spirit

As a post-Vatican II cradle Catholic, initially catechized by 1980’s parish CCD, I didn’t grow up memorizing the gifts of the Holy Spirit. In fact, during Confirmation prep, I remember wondering how I would suddenly receive these gifts when the bishop anointed my forehead… as if the Sacred Chrism Oil were some magical Gummi Berry Juice.

I didn’t get it. I surely didn’t get how Sacramental grace worked. Nor did I get how wisdom differed from understanding, which somehow differed from knowledge. Amid my solid grounding in the abundant love and mercy of God, I especially lacked a healthy understanding of what was meant by “fear of the Lord.”

As a teacher of adolescents and adults, I’ve spent some time making sense of this beautiful concept.

The gifts of the Holy Spirit are identified in Isaiah 11:2-3, which was in Tuesday’s daily Mass reading and will be proclaimed again in the First Reading on the Second Sunday of Advent.

Isaiah 11.2-3 Gifts of the Holy Spirit

The gift of God’s love poured into human hearts through the Holy Spirit provides us with wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord.

Explaining Each Gift

To better understand each of the gifts, we turn to St. Thomas Aquinas.

  • Knowledge as a gift of the Holy Spirit refers to knowing divine truth in a way that guides one’s moral life in both theory and practice; it is a knowledge of justice, balance, proportion, and judgment.
  • Wisdom extends from the perspective gained from combining theoretical knowledge with practical experience in order to make wise judgments aligned with goodness.
  • Understanding offers penetrating, intuitive insight into the very heart of things; the ability to “see” God and “to see as God sees.”
  • Counsel moves us beyond the human power of self-reflective deliberation, allowing us to be guided by the Holy Spirit in discerning God’s Will
  • Fortitude is the firmness of mind to do good and avoid evil, particularly when doing good is difficult or dangerous; beyond the cardinal virtue, this gift of the Holy Spirit allows us to confidently endure evil, fortifying us with the strength of God.
  • Piety is the gift that enables us to show the proper reverence, respect, honor, devotion, and worship for God
  • Fear of God is a fear only in the sense that we deeply fear losing those whom we deeply love; being in such “awe” of the relationship, rooted in such deep love, that one fears losing that relationship.

The Gift of Grace

The gifts of the Holy Spirit work as all gifts of God’s grace. Grace is the word we use to describe God’s freely given gift of God’s very self. Think of grace like divine assistance. This assistance only works if we cooperate with it.

It’s like this: imagine Jesus throws you a football of grace. Football of GraceYou either catch and run with it or it falls flat. Without your cooperation, nothing happens. The grace–and gifts of the Holy Spirit—lay dormant at your feet, waiting for you to do something with them. God deeply respects our freedom and dignity. God will not force the gift of Grace upon us.

Another beautiful image places the the gifts of the Holy Spirit as deeply planted roots from which the fruits of the Holy Spirit grow.

Gifts-of-the-Holy-Spirit

If we cultivate and grow the internal gifts that we have been given, by life lived in the Spirit, those gifts will bear fruit.

Are you cultivating those gifts or is the Football of Grace lying dormant at your feet?

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Litany of Humility Feature Image
Grace, Humility, Scripture, Spirituality, Virtue
2

Reflecting on the Litany of Humility

Have you ever prayed the Litany of Humility?

Litany of Humility

The beauty and wisdom of the Litany of Humility are especially evident in the way it manages to address both sides of our struggle with humility: pride and insecurity.

Both “too much pride and “too many insecurities are unhelpful, and both are violations of truth.

From Rick Warren Purpose Driven Life, though often attributed to CS Lewis

Humility is about LOVE

Humility is about loving God and knowing that you are loved by God, fully and completely.

Screenshot 2019-05-16 10.11.48

There is no need to “desire God’s love. You already are loved by God, fully and completely. Have faith in God’s perfect love. Stand firm in the knowledge of that love.

Allow the truth of God’s perfect love to speak to any insecurities.

Anyone or anything that would give you the impression that you are not fully and completely loved by God, just as you are, is violating the truth of God’s perfect love.

Humility is about TRUTH.

Humility rejects the falsehood of TOO MUCH pride, arrogance, or self-centered ego.

Pride prevents us from honestly seeing ourselves before God.

The problem isn’t taking pride in a job well done… the problem is when we claim all glory, honor and praise for our accomplishments as our own, without recognizing that in truth, we only build upon and work with the gifts and talents God has given us.

Moreover, the problem isn’t receiving praise and honor… the problem is the desire.

Screenshot 2019-05-16 14.12.44

Deliver me, Jesus, from the desires of my pride.

Humility also rejects the falsehood of TOO LITTLE confidence, which feeds insecurities and dwells on unworthiness.

Our God who again and again tells us “fear not” and “be not afraid” does not want us to feel insecure. Our God who blesses us with gifts and talents so that we may be the hands and feet of Christ to everyone we meet does not ask us to dwell on unworthiness.

Humility isn’t about unworthiness.

St Theresa of Avila quote on Humility

But before getting to “unworthiness,” there’s a TRUTH-related vocabulary word that needs clarity.

What is “calumniated” and how do you even say it?

Screenshot 2019-05-16 14.56.06

Calumny [CAL-oom-nee] appears in the Catechism’s section on truth, following the Eighth Commandment (Thou shall not bear false witness), and refers to misrepresenting  someone’s reputation, particularly with the intent to harm.

In the Litany of Humility, this speaks to that fear of being talked about behind your back. Ouch.

Deliver me, Jesus, from my fears and insecurities.

It’s Not About Worthiness

Far too often, we want to make our relationship with God about worthiness.

The Scripture passage about worthiness that we are most familiar with comes from the healing of the Centurion’s servant in Matthew 8:5-13, which we pray before receiving the Eucharist.

Lord I am Not Worthy

The Centurion asks Jesus to heal his servant. As Jesus agrees, the Centurion stops him with his powerful line, “Lord I am not worthy…” and goes on to express tremendous faith, “only say the word and my servant will be healed” (Matthew 8:8). Read this passage closely, and you’ll see that Jesus doesn’t disagree: the Centurion IS NOT worthy.

Of course, he’s not worthy. None of us are worthy. And if you’re the kind of person who struggles with the pride and ego side of humility, sit with this for a while.

Grace, mercy, love, and healing are gifts given by God, to us, freely.  It’s not about worthiness; it’s never about worthiness. We should really stop making it about worthiness.

The Virtue of Humility

Humility is the virtue that asks you to:

  • know that you are completely and fully loved by God for who you are
  • stand firm in the truth
  • value God’s opinion of you more than the world’s
  • trust in God’s Grace and Mercy
  • use the gifts and talents that God has given you to glorify God by your life
  • recognize that you are a vessel and God is the source of those gifts and talents

Humility is not to be confused with humiliation, which is a violation of TRUTH. Humility doesn’t ask you to be a doormat, content with verbal, physical, or emotional abuse. But when you experience humiliation, the virtue of humility grounds you in the truth of God’s love, not the world’s opinion. Humility frees you to trust in God’s Grace and Mercy.

Humility asks you to keep your pride in-check. To remember that all that you have and all that you are extend from God’s goodness, love, and blessings. Humility takes all of the glory from all our accomplishments and uses it to give greater glory to God.

And in everything, humility relies upon the virtues of courage and wisdom; to courageously and wisely speak the truth with love.

Screenshot 2019-05-16 21.51.34

Grant Me the Grace

The Litany of Humility invites us to explore the parts of the virtue of humility that you may find uncomfortable.

Through the Litany of Humility, petition God: Deliver me from my desires and fears… and grant me the grace to desire those aspects of humility that I still struggle with.

Screenshot 2019-05-16 21.52.33

Please feel free to print and share my Litany of Humility graphic, available in PDF.

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Screenshot 2019-02-04 12.19.55
Action, Article, Calling, Scripture, Service
0

Here I am, send me!

A 5th grade girl asked a simple question. A frequent visitor to nursing homes (while her Mom works as a nurse practitioner), Ruby asked a resident why she was looking outside so intently.  The woman paid a pet-sitter $12 to bring her dog of 12 years to visit; she watched as the dog left, not knowing when she’d see her beloved pet again. With tremendous empathy, Ruby saw that what brought this woman so much sadness had a simple answer. More, she started to wonder what other simple requests residents might have. So she simply asked: asked residents “if I could bring you 3 things in the whole world, what would those be?”  CNN reports Ruby found that rather than asking for a new car or a million dollars, the requests were simple things: pants that fit, a phone, pet food, fresh fruit. With the help of her mom, they set up a Facebook page “Three Wishes for Ruby’s Residents” and a GoFundMe account, raising more than $93,000 for residents in five nursing homes in Arkansas.

It’s so simple: See a need and respond with love.

On the path of discipleship, this is what God asks of us: to love one another as we are loved (John 13:34). To see and respond to the needs of the least of our brothers and sisters (Matthew 25:40).

Say to the Lord: “Here I am, send me!”

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying,
“Whom shall I send?  Who will go for us?”
“Here I am,” I said; “send me!”

Isaiah 6:8

hands heart volunteer

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Psalm 150 Beach Meme
Faith, Joy, Life, Prayer, Scripture, Spirituality
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What is my Psalm?

Biking around my NASA affiliated Houston neighborhood is one of my simple joys.  When neighbors ask if we’re “the family that bikes to Church,” I smile with delight and gratitude.  Yes. Yes, we are.

Honestly, this isn’t something that I would instinctively insert into my daily prayer.  Yet, studying the Psalms has prompted me to ask at any given moment: What is my Psalm?  This simple question helps integrate prayerful conversation with God into the ordinary moments of daily life.

To pray in the style of the Psalms – or to pray using the words of the Psalms themselves – it’s helpful to know a little background.

The Book of Psalms is a collection of prayers and songs from throughout Israel’s history.  They are prayerful responses to real, specific life experiences.  And as varied as our life experiences may be on any given day, so are the Psalms!  This variety and connection to life is why the Psalms were so often sung and prayed in worship by the ancient Israelites, sung and prayed by Jesus and the apostles, and continue to be sung and prayed by us today.

Acknowledging simple joys with a Psalm of Praise is a beautiful way to recognize God’s presence in all things.

How?

Begin by inviting praise, such as: “Let us praise God!” Then articulate the specific reasons for praising God in that moment. And conclude by recapping the praise.

Look at how Psalm 117 – which is the shortest Psalm, with only two verses – provides a great example of this basic structure:

Praise and Psalm 117

As I bike through my neighborhood, if I were to use the words from Scripture, I might recite the final verse of Psalm 150

Psalm 150 Meme

But the beautiful gift of the Psalms is how they also teach us how to pray our own Psalm of Praise.

Praise God

For my adorable green bike

For its form and its function

and its matching green basket

For the ability to ride

For my wonderful neighborhood

For biking to the homes of friends,

to fun at the pool,

to Church,

to Starbucks,

to CVS.

For the opportunities I have

to share this with my family

whom I love

For all that I have; for all that I am,

Praise God

IMG_0147

Ask yourself: What is my Psalm?  And then say it, write it, sing it, pray it.

For more Wisdom of the Psalms, be sure to subscribe by entering your email on the sidebar.

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Old Bible
Article, Questions, Scripture
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Have You Ever Wondered: Why the Different Bibles?

Did you know that Catholics use a slightly different Bible than other Christian denominations? Have you ever wondered why?


My 8 year old son (mini-Bill Nye the Science Guy) made his First Holy Communion in May, and has been obsessed with what the differences are, and why there are differences.

When your kid suddenly becomes obsessed with a facet of faith, you do your best to respond in kind.  The explanation–which is wrapped up in Church history–is actually quite interesting.


Alex and Fr. Wencil at 1st Communion

Why the Differences?

A brief recap Jewish history to get some context:  

  • Around 1280 BC, Moses led the Chosen people to the Promised Land
  • King David reigned around 1000 BC
  • In 721 BC the Northern Kingdom of Israel fell to the Assyrians
  • In 586 BC the Southern Kingdom of Judah fell to the Babylonians  

As each kingdom fell, the Jews were exiled and scattered–or dispersed (“diaspora”)–around the region.  In the Diaspora following the fall of the Southern Kingdom, many Jews settled in the Egyptian city of Alexandria, which was immersed in Greek language and culture.  After about fifty years, the Persian Ruler, Cyrus the Great allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem, but a whole generation had been born and raised while living in foreign lands, many of whom chose to stay.  As time passed and more Diaspora Jews spoke Greek, there was a desire to have a copy of the Jewish Sacred Scriptures translated into the Greek language.

Legend has it that 72 scholars set out to translate the Scriptures from Hebrew to Greek.  The Greek word for seventy is “septuaginta,” which is why this translation is known as the Septuagint [sep-tue-ah-jint].  It was completed around 100 BC and was widely used by Jews outside of Jerusalem.

So then the New Testament came to be:

  • The life, ministry, parables, teachings, miracles, crucifixion, and Resurrection of Jesus happened around 30-33AD.
  • The Letters of Paul, Peter, James, John, and Jude were written to various Christian communities in the years that followed the Resurrection.
  • These Letters were so profoundly powerful that they got passed around from community to community while the stories of Jesus were told and retold orally.
  • Eventually the Gospels were written down and passed around as well.
  • Since most people spoke and wrote in Greek, the Gospels and Letters were also composed in Greek.

Although the New Testament itself was written in Greek, since Jesus and the Apostles lived and traveled in and around Jerusalem and Judea, they probably did not use the Septuagint when they read from scrolls.  They probably used scrolls written in Hebrew and Aramaic.  Which brings us to the next part of the story…

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