A lived relationship with the Lord

As I was beginning to write my article for this week, I realized that much of what I wanted to say was in my homily for Pentecost Sunday. So instead of reinventing the wheel, let me share with you the text of my homily:

I was able to take Thursday and Friday off last week and it was spent getting ready for my retreat this week. One of the tasks that needed to be accomplished meant leaving the Cape. When I left the house I had forgotten that it was Memorial Day weekend. As I headed over the bridge, I was reminded that it was Memorial Day weekend.

As I saw the line of cars sitting on Route 25 and the approach to the Bourne Bridge — my planned return route — I could feel myself get stressed. 

Now, I was good. I didn’t cut anyone off. I didn’t yell at anyone or offer versions of a wave.

But to be totally honest, I was not reflecting on the mysteries of God’s love in the Paschal Mystery. Nor did the thought that all these other drivers were made in the image and likeness of God enter my mind or create sense of awe at the wonders of God’s love.

I got annoyed. I was becoming impatient and muttering to myself. 

When I was driving through the traffic, I was feeling stressed, anxious, annoyed, impatient. All of these are signs of self-centeredness. They are the fruit of a heart set on oneself.

A little Catechetical review: the fruits of the Holy Spirit are: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity. These are the signs that one is living for God and in love with God. 

Last week there were two Baptisms celebrated here at our parish; this weekend there will be five. Last week we had close to 30 First Communions and another 30 Confirmations. These Sacraments are not just celebrations in our lives. They are very real encounters with the Risen Lord that challenge us to live differently.  

Baptism conforms us to Christ and to the Church. Through the waters of Baptism we are reborn to new life in Christ, meant to walk with Him each and every day. 

The Second Vatican Council taught that at our Confirmation we are more “perfectly bound” to the family of faith and to God and that the Holy Spirit gifts us “with special strength so that we are more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith, both by word and deed, as true witnesses of Christ” (Lumen Gentium #11).

That’s what the readings are telling us today. 

Jesus’ words are pretty straightforward: “As Father has sent Me, so I send you” (Jn 20:21b).

Paul tells us that the Spirit gives us gifts that are unique to each of us to carry out the one mission entrusted to the family of faith: the continued proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

There is a line that St. Paul uses that gives me pause. “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1Cor 12:3b). Match this up with Jesus’ words today in John’s Gospel: “Peace be with you” (Jn 20:21a).

We are not simply given a task. We are called to a way of life. Not just professing faith in God with our words, not just doing this and not doing that and certainly not knowing about God. 

We, as Christians, are called to live in love with God. This is more than falling in love — the warm fuzzies and Spiritual highs. 

Yesterday Archbishop Oscar Romero was beatified. The archbishop was shot and killed while celebrating Mass 35 years ago. I came across a quote from him that helps us understand this life God calls us to:

“Let them steal our material churches, the Church’s history is full of that.
That’s not why the Church is on earth. 
The Church is something different, says Christ.
The Church seeks adorers of God in Spirit and in truth, 
And that can be done under a tree, on a mountain, by the sea.

Wherever there is a sincere heart that seeks God sincerely,
There is true religion.
This, my friends, scandalizes many because many have wanted to tie the Church to these material things.

They call this prestige, they call it faithfulness to their traditions.
But it can be a betrayal of the Church’s truth.
God is Spirit and does not need the powers and the things of earth.
He seeks sincerity in the heart.” 

Our Catholic faith is about a lived relationship with the Lord; one of love and uniting our minds and hearts to the God Who desires nothing else than our love. Living this kind of relationship doesn’t just happen passively. It requires commitment: spending time with the Lord, listening, learning and sharing our lives.

It is the Lord Who initiates this relationship and the Lord Who gives us the special graces to persevere in growing in that relationship. The fruit that is born out in our lives helps us to see the focus of our hearts: towards ourselves or open to the Lord so that He may dwell within us.

Thinking about it, I think I would prefer love, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, etc. over anxiety, stress, frustration and impatience.

Anchor columnist Father Frederici is pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Pocasset and diocesan director of Campus Ministry and Chaplain at UMass Dartmouth and Bristol Community College.

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