So, how’s it going? Here we are again, Advent is close, Easter follows winter. The cycle of life goes on and the Church is a mirror to that. If you are a fairly new Catholic or one who has been part of the cycle for a very long time, what has been your role in that progression? How are you doing, what are you doing, how do you tell? Are you one of those who obediently went through Catholic School and/or sacramental preparation and somehow got the message that when you graduated grammar school and were confirmed that also meant you were done with your participation in life as a believer. Perhaps you got the message that there was no more work to be done as far as your spiritual wellness was concerned? Maybe you were led to believe that religion is confined to Sunday behind closed doors.
If your answer is yes to any of those assumptions all I can do is extend my apologies to you. You have been cheated on a grand scale. You have been robbed of the opportunity to have a life full of the richness and the generosity of God. The idea of a peaceful spirit and a tangible way to deal with grief and tragedy in a manner that makes you better not bitter has been taken from you.
Whether you know it or not your journey through the cycles of the Church as well as the cycle of life is never supposed to settle into the same boring routine. A great saint once taught that if you are comfortable in your faith life, you must be doing something wrong. What do you actually do, though, when there is no more instructor and you’re not really sure what prayer is actually supposed to be?
First of all, I sincerely hope that somewhere along the way you have gotten the information that you are not of this world. You are special, chosen by God! Yes you, and me! As a recipient of that amazing gift, God’s hope for you is that through your life you aim at being the best you can be. That includes right now, with your life as a preparation for and participation in eternity, literally!
[W]e … with Christ are being transformed by a newness of mind. We are not of this world and the world has no affection for us, and for good reason. Saint Jerome (†420), hermit.
Given these truths about who we are as believers, then, the question remains: How can I know if I am doing this successfully or not? That’s not as complicated a question as you might believe because Jesus has already given us the tools to do this. They are in plain sight if you know where to look. You might recall the spectacular occurrences at Pentecost when the Church was born. The Spirit swept in and gave the disciples all the tools they needed to bust a move, go out into the world and shed all their fears that they cowered with when in the upper room. He conferred to them: wisdom, knowledge, understanding, faith, healing, miracles, tongues, the interpretation of tongues. They took these tools and evangelized the world. The bible teaches that not everyone gets all of the gifts but all believers get some of the gifts for the building of the kingdom.
If you are wondering, however, what the tools look or feel like and how you can tell which gift you have or are supposed to use, that’s not as hard as you might think. Along with the Gifts of the Spirit, He also conferred the Fruits of the Spirit.
All the Fruits are accessible to all believers and because they are straight from God, the Fruits couldn’t be a more reliable measuring stick for the way your spiritual growth is going. Here are the Fruits: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
As a reliable check for your progress in the spiritual life, take an honest look at the fruits. Are you more patient than you used to be, are you joyful? Do you choose kindness rather than judgement? Do you have a kind word when it would be easier to complain? More than that, compare your behavior to a year or two ago. When it comes to the fruits are your behaviors and attitudes different than they were? Have you gained patience, has your critical nature changed? The Fruits are the perfect measuring stick. Identify what’s changed and what hasn’t! Whoop there it is! Right in front of your face.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2