Last Week’s Class on The Holy Spirit

We started our last class with a surprise discussion – a talk about Holy Souls.  The month of November is special month to us Catholics as we remember and pray for all souls, especially family members and those who have no one to pray for them.  The Church has many recorded stories of assurances of people who have gone to heaven, and it is a treasure to have such a story in our families.  I had such a story in my family.  I forgot to tell you about it.  If you remind me, perhaps I’ll share it with you.

Speaking about Holy Souls, how do souls become holy?  We spent much of our time talking about the Holy Spirit.  We spoke about how St. Patrick explained the Trinity to the pagan people of Ireland by using a clover.  He would show that one clover consisted of three leaves, representing the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, yet they were all were one.  Oh, and we talked about how four leaf clovers were good luck because some took it as having a close relationship with Trinity.

So how does the Holy Spirit help us to become holy?  The Holy Spirit comes to us in a special way through the sacrament of Confirmation.  We want you to be very prepared for this great sacrament, so that when the time comes you can be receptive to all the graces it offers.  In class, we used a powerful memory technique from medieval times to help people remember their catechism; namely, story imagery.  Do you remember our story?  Take a few moments to remember to recall all the details, and how we used it to remember the 7 Gifts of the Holy Spirit.

How did you do?  Were you good on the story?  How about all of the words?  Just to review, here they are once again.  The 7 Gifts of the Holy Spirit are…

  • Wisdom
  • Fear of the Lord
  • Fortitude
  • Understanding
  • Counsel
  • Knowledge
  • Piety

We also talked about the abundance – that is, the great generosity – of God’s gift-giving.  When we give a typical gift, it’s just that – the one gift.  When God gives a gift, it bears fruit.  The example we made was the difference between giving someone an ordinary houseplant, versus giving them a pear tree.  The gift of a tree goes well beyond the tree itself, but includes it’s beauty, its shade, the song birds it attracts, each of the flowers it produces, each of the fruit season after season – and if those fruit are used wisely, a vast orchard that will last for generations.  The Fruit of the Holy Spirit are…

Charity

Chastity

Faithfulness

Generosity

Gentleness

Goodness

 

Joy

Kindness

Modesty

Peace

Patience

Self-Control

 

 

So, now that you’ve memorized the Gifts of the Holy Spirit (and I thought the recall by those who were in class was amazing), think of someone in your family who you believe has this gifts.  Here’s a hint.  Think of someone who takes their Faith seriously.  Take a few moments to do that now…

Now revisit the Fruits of the Holy Spirit.  Would you say that the person you thought of bears these fruit?  If the Gifts you noticed truly came from the Holy Spirit, you will see many of the Fruits as well!

These are all Gifts and Fruit which you want to receive in their fullness as well.  The more you are prepared to be receptive to these Gifts through an open heart, the greater your ability to allow these Gifts and Fruit to shape your character and your life for the better.  And people will notice this goodness about you.  And when your nieces and nephews are in 6th Grade Religious Education and are asked “Who would you say in your family has received the Gifts of the Holy Spirit?”, I pray that they will think of you!

Last Week’s Class – The Paschal Mystery

Hello Everyone!

We had a lot of students miss last week, and I thought it might be a good idea to create a means to help everyone get caught up with what took place, and to also to get ramped up for the next time we meet.  Who knows?  Maybe this blog will become a regular thing.  We will see…

Last week’s topic was the Pascal Mystery.  Simply put, the mystery of Jesus’s Suffering, Death, and Resurrection.  We also brought up the word “profound”.  Something that is profound is very, very deep.  You could keep trying to understand it until you are an old man or old woman, and you may never fully understand it.  We’ll come back to this word later…

To get yourself started – especially if you missed – go grab your bible and turn to Exodus 12:.  I was really impressed with how each of you on the first day I taught class already knew exactly how to find book, chapter and verse.  Way to go!  For those of you who don’t have a bible ready in hand, here’s a quick link, but I encourage you to keep your bible on the desk where you do your homework (just in case your homework gets boring).   So give it a read.  I’ll wait.  No pressure…

So, in this part of Exodus, God has already punished the Pharaoh and the Egyptians with many plagues.  Now, he is about to strike down (kill) every first born male – both people and animal alike.  But God wants to protect his people.  So here in Chapter 12, you see that God is about to do something amazing.  So amazing, that they are told right away to put it on the calendar, because it is going to be a holiday they will celebrate every single year going forward – and it has been celebrated for thousands and thousands of years.  There are four take-aways in here I want you to notice.

  1. They must use a lamb that is perfect – without blemish. This lamb has to be perfect because it is going to be a sacrificed to save God’s people.
  2. They are to eat this lamb with unleavened bread. This type of a bread is flat, and hard.  Not fluffy like the bread you probably eat most of the time.  It is a special type of bread.  Oh, and if they do not eat of this bread, they are cut off from Israel – their country, people, and family – forever.
  3. They must eat of the lamb that is to be sacrificed. If they do not eat of the lamb, they will not be saved.
  4. The blood of the lamb is to be put on the doors. The blood of the lamb will come between God’s people and His wrath, and save them.

Got that?  Remember those 4 things.  They are important.  And if they fail to completely obey any of these things, they will not be saved.

So what does this have to do with the Paschal Mystery?  The story that you just read in Exodus was the founding of the feast of Passover – the “passing over” of God’s wrath, and the rescue of God’s people a horrible slavery in Egypt.  This is the very festival that Jesus celebrated at the Last Supper, the night before he Died.  And Jesus is going to change this celebration in a very profound way.

So, the celebration of Passover is done in a very special way.  The Jews celebrated it with special prayers, special songs, and they would eat the unleavened bread and lamb.  But Jesus does something that startles all of the Apostles.  He does something no one has dared do before.  He stops just before the end of the ceremony and tells them something new…

He took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.”

Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.”

Jesus, makes Himself the Lamb – that perfect Lamb – who all must eat. He makes Himself the Bread which must be eaten to keep from being cut off from God’s people.  In His mercy for us, He offers His own blood to come between us with all our sins and stubbornness, and God’s Justice.  And this total act of love is re-presented to us when actually receive HIM in the Holy Eucharist!

To better understand the cost that Jesus paid to ransom us, we then walked around the church and explained (not prayed) each of the Stations of the Cross.  We went into the horrible, historical reality of crucifixion, and how He did indeed shed His Blood for us.  We also talked about how the Roman government formalized each of their executions and offered a proof of guarantee that their victims were utterly, utterly dead.

With that, we began to speak about His Resurrection, and the amazement the Apostles felt to see that He is alive, and that even death was conquered by Him!  They saw first hand how he gave sight to the blind, fed thousands of people, cured the sick, raised Lazarus from the dead, and forgave people all their sins.  And now this?!  Is there nothing He can do?!  We talked about this at length and how 11 of the 12 Apostles embraced their own slow, horrible deaths because of the absolute confidence and trust they received through Jesus’s amazing Resurrection!  They knew that in dying they would see Jesus face to face once again.

So we celebrate this Paschal Mystery during each Mass – Jesus’s Suffering, Death, and Resurrection.  Now, we know the equations that Jesus = God, and Jesus = the Eucharist.  What this means is that that when we receive the Eucharist, GOD is placed into our very hands!   How could this happen?  Why would He do that?  The only possible answer is that He loves us more than we can completely understand.  And here is that word “profound” once again.  It is too much for us – too much for us indeed, to fully grasp.

So how do we respond to a love that we cannot understand?  Do not worry so much if your minds used to wander about when you were at Church.  You are young and the Lord understands that.  But now that you are getting older, and you begin to understand just how serious, how sacred it is to receive Holy Communion, I give you the following advice.

When you hear the bells during Mass, let that sound re-awaken you to the fact that something VERY important is happening.

The first time you hear the bells, Father brings his hands over the bread and wine and at that very moment, they are turned into the very Body and Blood of Jesus.  When you hear the bells the first time, say in your heart, “Come to me, Lord Jesus!”

The second time you hear the bells, Father is holding Christ’s Body for you to see.  When you see the Body of the Lord, say in your heart, “I love you, Jesus!”.

The third time you hear the bells, Father is holding Christ’s Blood for you to revere.  When you see this, say in your heart “Thank you so much, Jesus.”

Only a few moments after that, Father holds both the Body and Blood of Jesus up high for all to see.  When you see this, we all say “Amen”.  When you hear this, say in your heart “I believe in You, Jesus.  I trust in You, Jesus.”  In time, you will begin to understand something very, very profound.

In the weeks and months ahead, we will revisit the Eucharist and Confession in different ways to help you receive these sacraments the very best you possibly can.  Until then, may the Lord bless you and keep you!