This is my column for this month’s Catholic Free Press. May the Holy Spirit give you strength and consolation as he fills you with God’s love and leads you to new life.
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Towards sanctity: the Spirit’s call from fear to love
Sometimes I think I should have been born a house cat. Indoor cats crave comfort and security above all else and this is my priority too. Have you ever noticed the lengths cats will go to find that perfect spot to sleep? It’s always on the softest pillow, the coziest quilt, the laundry basket full of clothes just drawn from a hot dryer.
That pursuit of comfort drives my actions. I will choose to look frumpy rather than wear clothes that bind me in any way. I opted out of going to a favorite spot to watch the spring bird migration because it was cold and rainy. Making comfort my top priority has turned me into a notorious homebody. I’ve become complacent and rigid.
This makes it all the more difficult for the Holy Spirit to affect change in me. How can I grow in sanctity if I am unwilling to give up comfort and security in favor of challenge and growth?
The apostles were fishermen. Before Jesus came their sphere was small, their lives parochial and secure. They were fearful, illiterate, not well-traveled—hardly the makings of a group of men who would change the world. And yet they change it they did, not on their own power but through acceptance of the Holy Spirit into their lives. Once infused with the Spirit, their lives were transformed and so were the lives of all whom they encountered. Being faithful to the Spirit sanctified their lives, established the Church and made it possible for countless millions to achieve salvation.
Comfort and security were not priorities for St. Paul once he came to know Jesus Christ. He recounts in 2 Corinthians 11:23–28 all which he willingly suffered for the sake of the Gospel: shipwrecks, beatings and dangers of many sorts (even from his own people), all the while anguishing over the churches he had helped establish. It eventually led to his martyrdom as it did for many of the apostles. Yet he writes in Acts 20:24, “I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me–the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”
As I contemplate the coming Pentecost, I must examine my own life: is my top priority allowing the Holy Spirit to work in me? Or is it comfort and security? God gave me a call to become an author and despite the many difficulties (especially my doubts), I answered it, but only up to a point. When the call became uncomfortable, I resisted. Writing in the comfort and privacy of my home was easy; sharing it with others is another matter. The Spirit is challenging me: will I step out, pushing through doubts, shyness and fears of rejection and failure in order to share my work to others? Will I forsake comfort to travel to faraway places? Am I willing to push myself physically? Am I allowing the Spirit to lead me or am I thwarting him with excuses? It is ironic that I wrote River of Grace to share about a life transformed after great loss and yet now I resist the Spirit’s prompting to share that message.
We are all called to share the Gospel through whatever means we have been granted by God. And we are all afraid. The apostles overcame their fear by allowing the Spirit to fill them with a love of Christ so firm that they would risk death to spread his Word. Love indeed conquers fear. Complacency, smallness and rigidity are signs of fear whereas largeness, flexibility and growth towards God are fruits of love. Only through love can we be changed and thus, change the world.
Therefore, we must allow Love to have His way. And so we pray, “Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful. And kindle in them the fire of your love.”
Come, Holy Spirit
(based on reading #521 of To the Priests, Our Lady’s Beloved Sons, compiled by Don Stefano Gobbi)
Come, Holy Spirit
Come fill our hearts
And kindle in us the fire of Your everlasting love
Oh breathe on us, dear Lord
Come breathe on us (now)
Oh, Holy Spirit
Soften our hardened hearts
Help us this day to recall
The love of our Savior
Oh precious Jesus
Suffering servant of all
Taking upon Him the wounds
Inflicted by all our sins
Come Holy Spirit
Rain down your fire from heaven
Purify every heart
And show us our poverty
Shower your rain on us
Filling each thirsty heart
That we may go forth refreshed and renewed
Singing praise to God
Come Holy Spirit
Fill us with praise
That we may proclaim the greatness of the saving heart of God
Sing praises to His Name
Sing praise to Him (His Name)
©1999 Susan W. Bailey
“Come Holy Spirit” is available on iTunes and on my CD, Teach Me to Love.
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