April is usually a beautiful time of year here in New England, the snow starts to melt and the crocuses show their tiny faces. I received the sacarment of Confirmation in the month of April, so it's also a time of special gratitude for the Spirit and of remembering the event that jump-started a new space for God to work inside me.
I'll never forget the first of our Confirmation classes. Our teacher, a very nice woman probably in her 40s, laid down the law: "If you miss even one class, you will not be confirmed." Really?! That certainly got my attention, this must be more important than I thought, you couldn't skip even one class.
I don't remember all that we learned in those months of preparation, but I did take away a profound sense that the Spirit would give me the grace to follow Jesus. For me at that time, Confirmation meant that I was to be responsible for living as a disciple of Christ. Yes, now it was up to me...with God's help of course. And the Spirit was/is generous, so nothing to fear!
The years passed, and as I grew older, I kept asking myself, "So how do I follow Christ now that I'm a Freshman...Sophomore...Junior...Senior?" I had great friends in high school, and I think all of us struggled through some or all aspects of our teenage years, navigating personal identity, family, relationships, school, sports and everything in between. I especially needed the Spirit's gifts of wisdom, counsel and fortitude to get me through. I still do! I look back at that time and marvel how God provided people along the way to encourage and challenge me in great and small ways.
Have you have ever seen the movie Emma, based on the Jane Austen novel of the same name and set in early 19th century England? The naive heroine, Emma, learns many a lesson the hard way as she grows in maturity, arduously and at times quite comically, making her way to become a person of greater character and integrity. She's helped by those who know and love her. It's a great story and watching it, you come to love Emma, despite her faults. You catch yourself rooting for her to grow up and you realize that despite her limitations, there is a goodness about her, in ways both great and small.
We too, have a great story to grow into, with the help of God's Spirit. The saints who are our patrons, baptismal and confirmation, will help us in this journey. Do we ask them? We follow after them, seeking to live like Jesus and we have a pilgrimage, called to make our little area of the world a better place in whatever way we can.
In his newest apostolic exhortation on the family, The Joy of Love (Amoris Laetitia), Pope Francis encourages us to "care for one another, guide and encourage one another" in the family we belong to, and might I add, at our workplace too. He goes on to tell us just how important our contribution is: "Each of us, by our love and care, leaves a mark on the life of others; with Paul, we can say: 'You are our letter of recommendation, written on your hearts… not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God' (2 Cor 3:2-3). Each of us is a 'fisher of men' (Lk 5:10) who in Jesus’ name 'casts the nets' (cf. Lk 5:5) to others, or a farmer who tills the fresh soil of those whom he or she loves, seeking to bring out the best in them." (Amoris Laetitia #321, 322)
Yes, we who are called to be fishers of men, let us cling to God's Spirit, asking for the grace to live our faith and love fearlessly, in the situations we find ourselves today. Let the mark we leave on others be a blessing, a breath of fresh air, and a shoulder to help make burdens lighter. We can do this with God's help, asking for the gifts and fruits of the Spirit.
Just to help you pause a moment and reflect back on your own Confirmation. Can you name the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit? The gifts of the Spirit are: wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge, fortitude, piety, and fear of the Lord (wonder). The fruits of the Spirit are: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control and chastity.
Sr. Mary Martha Moss, FSP
Thank you for spending this time with me today! I just ask that you take a moment and ask yourself:
What gift or fruit of the Spirit do I need most in this coming week?
What challenges do I face and how will I ask God to help me with them?
What blessings do I want to make sure I savor in the coming week?
If you would like to share any of this with me and with all of us, please send a comment. Then we can all encourage one another with our shared reflection and lift one another up in prayer.