Be careful how you live

Be careful how you live

“Watch carefully how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise.” (Eph. 5:15)

School is starting.  College students will soon be going off on their own, and they will need to watch carefully how they live, by making good choices.  As the year gets busy with all kinds of sports and extracurricular activities, it is easy for families to get immersed in the activity without keeping priorities.  Soon the family suffers and their spiritual life weakens.

 “Watch carefully how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise, making the most of the opportunity, because the days are evil.” (Eph. 5:15-16).  How can we watch carefully?  St. Paul urges us to “watch carefully . . . because the days are evil.”

First, realize that there is a larger battle in life, between the Evil One and God.

Every day I am dealing with forces larger than my heart and will.  Every day I am dealing with more than the other person who does wrong to me.  The battle to be a good person is not just between me and other people.  It involves larger spiritual forces.  This is essential to remember in little daily decisions, as well as when we face epic spiritual battles, like clergy sexual abuse.  If we forget this dimension of life, then we are susceptible to tragic sin.

As Jesus began his public ministry, he began with confronting the devil.  The temptations in the desert set the context for the larger battle.  He does not do battle only with the Jewish leaders, or Judas who betrays, or the Romans who crucify him.  His main battle was with the Evil One.

After the temptations in the desert, Luke says,“Having exhausted every way of putting him to the test, the devil left him, until the opportune moment.” (Lk. 4:13)

The larger battle in life is between the Evil One and God. We have to keep that in mind in our daily journey.  We must remember this as a Church.  “Watch carefully how you live . . . because the days are evil.” (Eph. 5:15-16).  Or as St. Paul says in Ephesians 6:11, “Put on the full armor of God so as to be able to resist the devil’s tactics.”

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin said, “We are not human beings on a spiritual journey.  We are spiritual beings on a human journey.”  Parents, are raising your children as spiritual beings?

Attend to the ‘spiritual.’  People are good at exercising their bodies.  This generation works at physical fitness, but often ignores spiritual fitness.  Do you have a spiritual fitness plan for your life?

Start by realizing that there is a larger battle in life, between the Evil One and God.  Next, remember that we need God’s help for this battle.  So we need to pray daily.  And the center of prayer is to do God’s will.  Paul says, “Do not continue in ignorance, but try to understand what is the will of God.” (Eph. 5:17).

The best way to know God’s will is to say every day, “What do you want, Lord?”

  • What do you want as I start a new day in high school or college?
  • What do you want for my family, as I seek to be a good parent?
  • What do you want in this relationship?

If I am going to know the Lord’s will, then I have to know the LORD.  Reading the Bible is the best way to know God.  Every day take a few minutes with the Gospel so that you know how Jesus speaks and acts.  When you come to Mass, ask God to give you a word that strikes your heart.

Sometimes sports on the weekends leads a family to missing Sunday Mass.  Then sports become idols.  Then two commandments are broken:  Not keeping God above other gods.  Not keeping the Lord’s Day.

We let that happen … because we do not realize that we are spiritual beings … because we fail to understand that the larger battle is between the Evil One and God … because we do not realize that we need God’s help.

Jesus gives us his own strength as he says, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” (John 6:56).  Another translation says, “lives in me and I live in him.”  The word translated as remains or lives is literally to dwell, like dwelling in a house.  This is the goal of spiritual beings who are on a human journey.”  We are created to dwell in God.

“Watch carefully how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise, making the most of the opportunity, because the days are evil. . . . be filled with the Spirit.” (Eph. 5:15-16, 18).

Responding to Sexual Abuse

Responding to Sexual Abuse

People are struggling with the Pennsylvania grand jury report on sexual abuse within the Catholic Church.  Perhaps the most disturbing thing is how Church leaders failed to deal with priests who were abusing.

Cardinal DiNardo described the situation as “morally reprehensible.”  The Vatican issued a public statement, saying that the abuse is best described with two words, “shame and sorrow” and called the abuse “criminally and morally reprehensible.”

What should be ‘next steps’ for the Church?  First, bishops need to focus on the survivors of abuse, not on our reputation.  One thing that contributed to the mishandling of abuse cases in the past was that we were too self-focused on the institution of the Church.  One of greatest moral failures has been our neglect of victims.  We have improved, but we must do better.  This is especially true for the bishops, but it applies to the Church at-large.  Pope Francis responded to the report by telling the victims that he is “on their side.”

Second, we need to acknowledge the wrongs that have been done, and not go on the “defensive,” which, at times, has been our first reaction.  As bishops, we need to listen to the pain of the people in the pew.  Conversion is only possible when we admit our sin.

Yet, a balanced perspective is essential.  Since the Dallas Charter in 2002, much has changed.  This was shown in the Pennsylvania grand jury report, which revealed very few new instances of sexual abuse since 2002.  Our manner of responding to allegations of sexual abuse has changed drastically.  We should not be discouraged and lament that nothing has changed.

Also, the response to allegations has been different in every diocese.  In one of the media reports, it was stated the what happened in Pennsylvania is true for every diocese in every state.  That is false.  It is a gross generalization that the facts will show to be incorrect.  Some bishops were getting this right well before 2002.

Next, the Bishops need to invite qualified lay people to scrutinize the issues with impartiality. Bishop Scharfenberger of Albany has called for a commission of lay people to investigate claims of abuse and misconduct against bishops. Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo has announced that the bishops will take up a comprehensive plan to address these issues in their November meeting.

These are a few places to start.  Also, I am writing about this situation in the September issue of the Wyoming Catholic Register.  In the meantime, remember all the good and faithful priests who are serving so well each day.  Find hope in their sacrifices and fidelity.  Together let us pray for the Church and work hard to address our sins.

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Our Lady of Guadalupe

I visited the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe (above) in Mexico City on Saturday, July 14 and celebrated Mass with Fr. Hiep Nguyen, a priest of the Diocese of Cheyenne. We prayed for our Diocese and other special intentions. In December 1531, the Virgin Mary appeared to St. Juan Diego at this place (Tepeyac hill), and the iconic image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was miraculously imprinted on his tilma. This is the most visited Catholic religious site in the world, with approximately 20 million pilgrims annually.

Fr. Hiep and I are studying Spanish in Cuernavaca, an hour south of Mexico City. The study program includes cultural excursions like this so that students learn the culture and history of the people. I am grateful for the gift of a benefactor, which has made this experience possible.

Today’s Press Release

Today’s Press Release

Today, the Diocese of Cheyenne sent out a press release announcing credible allegations of sexual abuse by Bishop-Emeritus Joseph Hart, the retired Bishop of Cheyenne.  You may find the press release on our diocesan website.  In this sad and painful time, please join me in praying that healing and peace will come to all who have been impacted by these allegations.  Also, let us pray for renewed hope in the power of grace over sin.  St. Paul expresses this hope so well in his Letter to the Romans by writing, “Where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more” (Rom. 5:20).

Take healing to the margins

Take healing to the margins

Imagine the anguish of Jairus when he fell at Jesus’ feet and begged him, saying, “My daughter is at the point of death.  Please come lay your hands on her that she may get well and live” (Mk. 5:23).  Everyone can relate to a parent whose little child is close to death.  Your heart aches for parents when their child is critically ill.  How could Jesus not go immediately to help Jairus’s daughter?

Jesus saved people in dire situations.  He healed people isolated and on the margins – lepers, blind beggars, or the woman who was bleeding for twelve years (Mt. 5:25-34).  Her hemorrhage was gynecologic bleeding.  So she was considered “unclean” and anything she touched was unclean, so she was completely isolated.  She could not have children.  She probably had no husband.  She had no one else to care for her, and she was totally broke.

Jesus not only cured her physical ailment, but he restored her well-being.  That is what it means when he says to her, “Go in peace” (Mk. 5:34).  Peace or shalom in the Old Testament is wholeness or salvation.  Shalom means that everything is okay.  The person is healthy physically and mentally.  They have a house and enough to eat.  They enjoy peaceful relationships.  Shalom is more than the absence of war.  It is a wholeness of every aspect of a person’s life.  When we wish each other the Peace of Christ at Mass, it expresses the shalom that he gave to the woman with a hemorrhage.

As a Church we are called to continue his healing ministry. Pope Francis challenges us to be a field-hospital church.  This image goes back to Jesus’ own healing vision.  How well do you think that we are being a healing church ….. a church that brings shalom to the injured people on the margins?

One issue in the media these days is the disturbing plight of immigrant children separated from their parents.  The executive order to end family separation was a positive step.  Yet, it did nothing to provide relief for the 2,300 children separated since May.  There is no concrete plan to restore them to their parents.

Unfortunately, the practice of separating children also happened under the Obama administration and before that.  But with the current zero-tolerance policy, the rate of separation has intensified.  And in response to public outcry, U.S Attorney General Jeff Sessions said: “If people don’t want to be separated from their children, they should not bring them with them,” meaning they shouldn’t bring them along when trying to cross the border, which many do as they seek asylum.

Therefore, it seems that this is an intentional policy of trying to prevent future immigration, even asylum seekers, by taking their children away!  In other words, it appears that Mr. Sessions intentionally wants to terrorize children and terrify their parents, so that anyone else who might think of seeking asylum here would also be terrified of coming here.  Terrifying children and their parents is being used as a means to deter immigration.

As a nation who claims to be an international leader in human rights, how can we let this happen?  As a church who advocates for the human dignity of every person from the womb to the tomb, what is our responsibility?  How can we say that we reverence the child in the womb, yet not protect the child outside the womb?

We cannot claim to be a pro-life nation when we do this.  Nor can we claim to be disciples of Jesus, if we stand by idly as this happens.

As Pope Francis wrote in his latest Apostolic Exhortation,“Our defense of the innocent unborn . . . needs to be clear, firm and passionate, for at stake is the dignity of human life, which is always sacred . . . Equally sacred, however, are the lives of the poor, those already born, the destitute, the abandoned and the underprivileged, the vulnerable infirm and elderly exposed to covert euthanasia, the victims of human trafficking, . . . and every form of rejection” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 101).

When the U.S. Bishops gathered for their spring meeting on June 13, Cardinal DiNardo, the president of the Bishops’ Conference, read this statement on behalf of the bishops denouncing the government’s zero-tolerance policy.  “Families are the foundational element of our society, and they must be able to stay together. While protecting our borders is important, we can and must do better as a government, and as a society, to find other ways to ensure that safety. Separating babies from their mothers is not the answer and is immoral.”

The bishops in Texas are closest to the problem, and they have been the strongest in their statements.  San Antonio’s Archbishop said, “Refugee children belong to their parents, not to the government or other institutions. To steal children from their parents is a grave sin, immoral (and) evil. . . . Their lives have already been extremely difficult.  Why do we (the U.S.) torture them even more, treating them as criminals?”

Maybe you read those words and feel that they are too strong.  Or is Archbishop Gustavo being faithful to Jesus who brought healing to those on the margins?  Remember that the prophet’s words are often painful to hear.  They sting out hearts.

The danger today is this.  Many Christians are more faithful to a political position, than to Jesus.  At times, all of us are guilty of being so closely aligned with a political party that it makes us deaf to the Gospel.  It is true that in the media today there are people who simply oppose everything that the current President does because of his political party.  That is wrong-headed.  Yet, no matter who is in office, we need to weigh the values based on the Gospel, so that we never identify ourselves by a political party, but as disciples of Christ.

How well are we letting the teaching of Jesus inspire our actions as we respond to the world’s problems?

Jesus saved people in dire situations.  He healed people isolated and on the margins, like the woman who was bleeding for twelve years.  He said to her, “Go in peace.”  Because of him, she experienced shalom, wholeness, total well-being.  We are called to bring his shalom to people on the margins.

Are we responding to the cries of the needy in the spirit of Christ?  Or have we become deaf to the Gospel?

Revealing the Father’s Heart

Revealing the Father’s Heart

Clark Lenz and Bryce Lungren were ordained priests for the Diocese of Cheyenne on Friday, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  We had a wonderful celebration with St. Mary’s Cathedral filled to overflowing.  When Clark and Bryce were introduced to the congregation, they received a standing ovation!  Please pray for them as they begin their priestly ministry.  The homily from their ordination is below.

Bryce and Clark, many people will ask you why you became a priest?  So I want to begin with a similar question.  Why are you being ordained?  It might seem like it is little too late to ask that question.  But why are you being ordained?  What does it mean to be ordained a priest?

The ritual for today gives us a concise summary in the first paragraph of the homily which it provides.  It says, “Christ was sent by the Father, and he in turn sent the Apostles into the world, so that through them and their successors, the Bishops, he might continue to exercise his office of Teacher, Priest, and Shepherd.  Indeed, priests are established co-workers of the Order of Bishops.”

As co-workers with the Bishops, priests are ordained to continue Jesus’ ministry of Teacher, Priest and Shepherd.  This textbook description of the offices of Teacher, Priest and Shepherd offers us fitting images.  But I want to offer a simpler, more powerful image.  Priests are ordained to reveal the heart of the Father.  That was the purpose of Jesus’ life.  He came to reveal the heart of the Father.

His last act on earth was to show us the heart of the Father.  Everything about his Passion went according to God’s plan, so he saved the best for last.  The Father had a soldier pierce the side of Jesus to show us his heart.  To open his heart and pour out the riches of God’s grace.

Think of it.  In God’s providence, the very last act of Jesus was to have his heart pierced with a lance “and immediately blood and water flowed out” (John 19:34).  His heart was emptied to fill us with his life.  This is the source of the sacraments.  So the sacraments should, first of all, be an experience of the Father’s heart.

Jesus came to reveal the heart of the Father.  Priests are ordained to reveal the heart of the Father.

Everything you do – as Teacher, Priest, Shepherd – must reveal the Father’s heart.  The reading from the prophet Hosea describes how the Father’s heart beats with tenderness for his people.  He says, “I drew them with human cords . . . I fostered them like one who raises an infant to his cheeks” (Hos. 11:4).

This is why Pope Francis often speaks of God’s ‘closeness’ or ‘tenderness.’  Jesus’ mission was to draw us into the tender embrace of the Father.  He insists that God is a Prodigal Father who runs out to embrace selfish and wayward sons (cf. Luke 15).  It is much like Hosea who hears God say about the rebellious people of Israel, “My heart is overwhelmed, my pity is stirred [for them]” (Hos. 11:8).

Let’s take a few minutes to remember how Jesus revealed the Father’s heart.  Matthew’s gospel summarizes his ministry in this way. “Jesus went around all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness among the people”  (Matt. 4:23).

Seminaries focus so much of priestly formation on teaching and preaching, but how much of it is about healing?  There are a few seminary faculty members here today.  How does your approach to formation incorporate this healing dimension?  Even in the preaching practica, are seminarians trained to preach on healing and forgiveness like Jesus did?

Virtually every description of Jesus mentions healing as integral to his mission.  Because God desires to heal us; it weighs heavily on the Father’s heart.  In the Acts of the Apostles, Peter says, “God anointed Jesus . . . with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil” (Acts 10:38).

By the way, God chooses wounded healers to be priests.  People often think that priests do not have problems like other people, but that is not true.  Yet, God uses priests who have wounds to bring his healing to others.  Bryce and Clark, watch how God will use your own weakness to help others.

When people think of the Church, often they think of RULES before HEALING.  Yet, for Jesus, healing trumps even the Sabbath rules.  When he was criticized for healing a crippled woman on the Sabbath, he said, “This woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan has held bound these eighteen years, was it not right to untie this bond on the Sabbath day?” (Lk. 13:16).

In everything you do, ask yourself, “How am I revealing the heart of the Father?”  Am I continuing the healing ministry of Jesus?

 In your homilies, speak not only to those who have a strong journey with the Lord, but also to people who feel barely worthy to darken the door of the church.  All of us who preach, should ask ourselves, Does my preaching speak to the outsiders?  Do I relate to the broken with my examples or stories?  Jesus was criticized for eating and speaking with sinners and tax collectors.  If people criticize you for merciful preaching, then you are right on target.

As you prepare for Mass, ask your musicians to choose music with Jesus’ attitude in mind.  Are the songs sung at Mass something only a trained choir can sing and understand?  Or do they speak to the multitude, to the lost sheep, to the sinner for whom Jesus heart was pierced?

St. Paul described his ministry by saying, “To me, the very least of all the holy ones, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the inscrutable riches of Christ” (Eph. 3:8).  Gentiles were the outsiders.  Yet, now they are to be graced with the “inscrutable riches of Christ.”  That seemed odd to faithful Jews of Paul’s day.  If your priestly ministry seems odd to Catholic insiders, then you’re probably in sync with Jesus.

Pastors:  Does your receptionist have Jesus’ spirit?  Is he or she hospitable to the immigrant or stranger?  How about the leaders of RCIA?  Are they tuned into the heart of the Good Shepherd who seeks out the lost one?  First of all, as priests and bishops, we need to model this attitude.  If we treat people this way, it will be contagious to other parish leaders.

Two years ago, on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart, Pope Francis said,  “The fundamental question of priestly life is this: Where is my heart directed?  Our ministry is often full of plans, projects and activities: from catechesis to liturgy, to works of charity, to pastoral and administrative commitments.  Amidst all these, what is my heart set on?” 

Our hearts can become cluttered….. disoriented ….. fatigued.

According to Pope Francis, the two greatest treasures of the Sacred Heart were his heavenly Father and us.  He says, “Encounter the Father in prayer and be open and available to others.”  Bryce and Clark, you are ordained to reveal the heart of the Father.  “Encounter the Father in prayer and be open and available to others.”

This day, ask the Father to bless you with the inscrutable riches that flow from the heart of Christ.

Washed in Blood

Washed in Blood

One of the songs often sung at Mass in the seventies was ‘Take our Bread.’  As a teenager, I was struck by the words in the second verse of the song: “Your holy people standing washed in your blood, Spirit-filled yet hungry we await your food.”

The imagery is striking!  What does it mean to pray to God, “We are washed in your blood!”?  That image is gruesome and awesome.  It evokes for us God’s prodigious and permanent love.  Whoever wrote that verse was thinking of the covenant at Mt. Sinai when Moses sprinkled the people with “the blood of the covenant” (Ex. 24:8).  In the Hebrew religious culture, Blood is sacred.  Blood is the life-source of animals.  Since God is the source of life, then blood is sacred.

Because the altar is a symbol of God’s presence, sprinkling the altar and the people with blood signifies a communion between God and the people.  This is a covenant ritual, a permanent bond between God and us. Ancient covenant rituals were the most solemn agreement you could make.  They were lifelong and unconditional.  To sacrifice an animal with a covenant was like saying, “If I break this covenant, then let what happened to the animal happen to me.”

This Sunday, our celebration of the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ is centered on the Eucharist as a COVENANT.  We’re in Ordinary Time, but this feast is an extension of the Easter Mystery.  The gospel is from the passion account read on Palm Sunday.  The preface for the Eucharistic prayer is the same one used for Holy Thursday.  As Jesus celebrates the Last Supper he says, “This is MY blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many” (Mk. 14:24).  The Hebrew word for ‘many’ means ‘multitude.’  The Eucharist is the new covenant, sealed with Jesus’ blood for the multitude of humanity.

Some verses are missing from this gospel passage, important verses that give a much stronger meaning to the Last Supper.  The missing verses describe a disturbing context for the covenant of the Last Supper.  After the preparation for the meal and immediately before Jesus breaks the bread and gives it to them, he predicts Judas’s Betrayal.  Immediately after the narrative institution Jesus speaks about Peter’s Denial.  The Church probably eliminated these verses from today’s reading because they would lengthen the gospel by ten verses.  Or maybe it was to narrow our focus on the institution narrative of the Last Supper.  Nevertheless, we need to remember that the context of the Last Supper was one of betrayal and denial. 

This is how Mark sets the scene:

  • Jesus shocks them by declaring that one of the Twelve will betray him.
  • Then he celebrates the Last Supper by faithfully giving his life to them.  He says, “This is MY blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.”
  • Next, Jesus warns the disciples, “You will all fall away.” When Peter objects, he says, “This very night, you will deny me three times” (Mk. 14:30).

Jesus’ faithful covenant is sandwiched between BETRAYAL immediately before and DENIAL immediately after.  The New Covenant of the Eucharist emphasizes God’s fidelity despite humanity’s infidelity.  That is what it means to be washed in Jesus’ blood when we receive Communion.  A bond is forged between God and us that is pure gift.

A few months ago, a woman spoke to me after Mass and she said, “I am so tired of hearing all this talk about MERCY.”  I had preached about mercy, and it seems that she feels that the Church has over emphasized the mercy of God.  Yet, if we stop talking about mercy, then we cannot talk about the Eucharist.  It is pure mercy.  I wonder what the Eucharist means to someone who is tired of hearing about mercy?

In today’s preface you will hear this prayer:  “We approach the table of this wondrous sacrament, so that bathed in the sweetness of your grace, we may pass over to the heavenly realities here foreshadowed.”  Bathed in the sweetness of your grace” recalls how we are “washed in his Blood.”

The first goal of religion is WONDER.  It is to be bowled over by who God is and by what God does.  Today, stare in wonder at the gift of the Eucharist.  Drink in the faithful love of Christ, while you are aware of your constant stumbling in sin.  We are God’s holy people standing washed in his blood.

Nothing is so Powerful

Nothing is so Powerful

The priests of the Diocese of Cheyenne will be on retreat at Sacred Heart Jesuit Retreat House, Sedalia, CO this coming week (Monday to Friday).  Next Friday, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Deacon Clark Lenz and Deacon Bryce Lungren will be ordained priests at 2:00 PM in the Cathedral of St. Mary.  Friday is also the World Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of Priests.  This week, please pray for our priests and the two men who will be ordained.

Father Teilhard de Chardin said “Nothing is so powerful on earth as purity and prayer.”  He speaks in the book THE DIVINE MILIEU of a nun praying in a chapel:  as she prays, all the forces of the universe seem to reorganize themselves in keeping with the desires of that tiny praying figure; the axis of the world seems to pass through that chapel.  And Father Anthony de Mello wrote, “It is only at the end of this world that we shall realize how the destinies of persons and nations have been shaped, not so much by the external actions of powerful men and women . . . but by the quiet, silent, irresistible prayer of persons the world has never known.” (Sadhana, p. 144).

In part, I mention the importance of prayer because during the last year a few people have written letters to me to state that it is not good that all the priests go away on retreat or for conferences.  They feel that it is imprudent to have them all away at the same time in case of emergencies or death.  On the one hand, such letters show appreciation for the important presence of priests at critical moments of parishioners’ lives.  On the other hand, these letters reveal a real poverty in understanding the power of prayer.

One of the most important things that a priest can do for his people is to be immersed in prayer, not only for his own spiritual life, but also for his people.  In addition, it is essential for the priests to be together for days of prayer and fellowship.  Those who advocate that priests should not go away and be together fail to understand their need for fraternity and being rejuvenated in communal prayer.

Finally, I think that such appeals to keep priests from going away for days of prayer reveal a heresy of contemporary Pelagianism, which Pope Francis wrote about in his latest Apostolic Exhortation.  This heresy attributes too much power to human effort, rather than God’s grace.  As Francis writes, they forget that everything “depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who shows mercy” (Rom. 9:16) and that “he first loved us” (1 Jn 4:19).  See 47-62, Gaudete et Esultate.

Please pray for our priests, for those to be ordained and for vocations to the priesthood.

Walk in the Spirit

Walk in the Spirit

This Sunday, I celebrated Confirmation at St. Mary’s Cathedral for people from the three parishes in Cheyenne.  Below is the homily.

Do you see Pentecost as a one-time event, as something that happened long ago and out of reach for us? Do you see it as only something that happened to the first disciples, while we get just a small taste of the Spirit at Confirmation?

Pentecost unleashed the Holy Spirit in the Church, like the wind that blows in Cheyenne.  You cannot get rid of it.  You cannot stop it.  Wind is a great image for the Spirit because it is a constant force in creation.  In the Old Testament, the word for spirit also means breath or wind.  It is often the breath of God.  God is always filling his people with the breath of life.  Even when we are unaware, the Spirit is moving in our hearts.

St. Paul uses several verbs that signify this constant action of the Holy Spirit.  In this passage from the Galatians he says, “Live by the Spirit” (Gal. 5:16).  A more literal translation is “Walk by the Spirit.”

‘Walk by the Spirit’ implies that every step of your life should be under the influence of the Spirit.  In the Old Testament, Moses told the Hebrews to “walk in God’s ways” or “walk in the commandments” (Deut. 8:6).  But Christian morality is to ‘walk by the Spirit.’   That’s why Paul says, “If you are guided by the Spirit, you are not under the law” (Gal. 5:18).  The Christian does more than just obey laws or commandments.  Rather, he or she listens to the Spirit.  The Ten Commandments are no longer enough.  Now we are to be guided by the Spirit, so that we can act just like Jesus.

Paul uses four similar verbs as he urges us to be tuned into the Holy Spirit.  He says, “Walk by the Spirit…. Be guided by the Spirit…. Live by the Spirit.  Finally, he ends with, “Let us follow the Spirit.”  Remember, for Paul, Jesus and the Spirit are the same presence.  So to ‘follow the Spirit’ is to be a disciple who follows in Jesus’ footsteps.

Even the word Jesus uses for the Holy Spirit expresses this constant guidance.  He calls the Spirit the Paraclete.  Often the word is translated as Advocate, which is the Latin word.  Paraclete is Greek for someone “called beside” you.  The Paraclete is the one whom you call to your side to help you, to guide you, to defend you.  Another term for a lawyer is advocate, because a lawyer stands beside someone in court to help them.

The Holy Spirit is our Advocate, the One whom we call to our side to help us.  The Spirit will guide every step, if only we ask for that guidance.

  • Are you constantly aware of the breath of God whispering in your ear?
  • Do you call the Spirit to your side for help?
  • Are you following the Spirit? Or merely obeying the commandments?

Recently, I have been reading Pope Francis Apostolic Exhortation, GAUDETE ET ESULTATE, on the call to holiness.  He says that the Holy Spirit guides us in every moment to do little deeds of holiness.  This is how he describes it.

“This holiness to which the Lord calls you will grow through small gestures.  Here is an example: a woman goes shopping, she meets a neighbor and they begin to speak, and the gossip starts. But she says in her heart:  “No, I will not speak badly of anyone”. This is a step forward in holiness.  Later, at home, one of her children wants to talk to her about his hopes and dreams, and even though she is tired, she sits down and listens with patience and love. That is another sacrifice that brings holiness.

Later she experiences some anxiety, but recalling the love of the Virgin Mary, she takes her rosary and prays with faith. Yet another path of holiness.  Later still, she goes out onto the street, encounters a poor person and stops to say a kind word to him. One more step.”  (16, Gaudete et Esultate).

That woman is not merely deciding on her own.  Rather, she is being guided by the Holy Spirit.  She is walking by the Spirit:  One step is to refrain from gossip; another step is to be patient with a child; another step is to show kindness to a street person.  With each step, she is walking by the Spirit, or living by the Spirit.  Her holiness grows in small steps.

The person who is in tune with the Spirit is constantly being transformed.  Paul speaks of the Christian as being transformed into the image of the Lord, from one degree of glory into another (2 Cor. 3:18)….. from one degree of goodness to another, from one degree of selfless love to another.

Transformation into Jesus is one of the effects of Confirmation.  The Spirit conforms us to Christ, or makes us more like Christ.  Maybe the best way to describe the change is by reflecting on the fruit of the Spirit.  Think of how the fruit of the Spirit describes the attitude of Christ:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (cf. Gal. 5:22-23).  Ask for the fruit of the Spirit today.  Ask God to make them shine out in you – Love, Joy, Peace etc.

As we celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation with you, open yourself the great gift of the Holy Spirit.  First of all be open and humbly acknowledge such a gift!  “The Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you” (Rom. 8:11).

Realize that the Holy Spirit has been unleashed like the wind.  It is always blowing.  It is unstoppable.  God is always breathing his Spirit into our hearts.  Walk in the Spirit.  Be guided by the Spirit.  Step by step the Holy Spirit will transform you.  You will be conformed to Christ Jesus.

A few years ago, a lady told me that her coworker was struck by how peaceful she was.  The coworker, who was not baptized, noticed that this other woman was so peaceful despite the stress of her job.  So she asked her, “Where do you get your hope and peace?”  I have seen people who suffer with cancer stay upbeat and strong because of their prayer.  That kind of peace and strength is the fruit of the Spirit.  I know people with marriages that are strained who work at forgiveness and not be imprisoned by bitterness.  They are not perfect.  But they are working at being merciful and patient.  That is the fruit of the Spirit.

 Step by step the Holy Spirit will transform you.  You will be conformed to Christ Jesus.  Realize that the Holy Spirit has been unleashed like the wind.  It is always blowing.  It is unstoppable.  God is always breathing his Spirit into our hearts.  Walk in the Spirit.

New Chancellor

New Chancellor

Today Patti (Patricia) Loehrer begins as Chancellor of the Diocese of Cheyenne.  It is a joy to have her with us.  She is excited to be here, and we are grateful to the Lord for the gifts that she brings to the People of God in Wyoming.  As expected, the next few months will be a time of learning new things and meeting new people.  Please pray for her.

Patti’s education includes a BA in English/Political Science from St. Ambrose University, Davenport, IA; an MA in Systematic Theology (2009) from Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology, Hales Corners, WI; and a Masters of Church Administration (2017) from Catholic University of America, Washington D.C.  For the past 15 years, she has worked as the Safe Environment Coordinator for the Diocese of Milwaukee.