Pentecost Sunday Bulletin Reflection by Michael Bayer
I don't care if you can name all seven gifts of the Holy Spirit,” I told the classroom of 8th grade students preparing for Confirmation. “I care very much if you can tell me what it would look like to show fortitude in a high school hallway when you see someone getting bullied. What does fortitude, which is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, concretely look like?"
As a youth minister, I tried to impress upon teenagers and their parents that our faith is not, as Pope Francis insists in The Joy of the Gospel, about “the transmission of a multitude of disjointed doctrines.” It is, rather, an identity. A way of living in the world that permeates every moment of our day.
The word disciple comes from the Greek mathetes, which most nearly means, “apprentice.” More than merely a student who reads books (or in our case, listens to podcasts), a disciple is called to take on the very lifestyle of the master. If we are to be true disciples of Jesus, it is not enough to memorize theological formulations or recite Scripture passages—we must actively imitate the person of Jesus. We must be Christ to others.
But living out the teachings of Jesus on an everyday basis is hard. The commandments of the Hebrew Scriptures established a relatively minimalist ethical system that delineated those actions that offend God, harm our neighbor, and tear society apart. Do not kill. Do not steal. Do not commit adultery. Most of us can check off those boxes pretty easily. Jesus, by contrast, establishes what scholars refer to as a supererogatory ethics: or what we might call, going above and beyond the bare minimum.
“You have heard it said that you shall not strike your brother, but I say to you that if you harbor anger towards him, you have already sinned!” Jesus tells us that it is not enough to not-kill our neighbors—we are called to forgive them. To pray for them. To love them and do good to them. To go from “don’t murder” to “don’t hold grudges, and also, love those who harm you” is quite a leap, in terms of degree of difficulty!
And so, in order to help us live out this mission, Jesus sends us the Holy Spirit. At our Baptism, we are infused with supernatural graces, which are amplified at Confirmation and reinvigorated every time we participate in the sacraments. These gifts: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord, help us to live out our faith on a daily basis.
When we cultivate these gifts, it will bear fruit. People who live with true wisdom and fortitude stand out in our society. Others take notice. St. Paul says, in his Letter to the Galatians, that those who are filled with the Holy Spirit radiate the fruits of joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. When you develop the gift of wisdom, you demonstrate fruits like patience and self-control, so you don’t lose your cool over every little argument.
Over the coming weeks, identify one fruit of the Holy Spirit you would love to have more of in your life, and pray for the grace to receive the gift that will allow you to live this fruit more fully. This is our challenge on Pentecost: to be open to the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and, in doing so, to change the world around us!