Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Spirit and Annoying Catholics

"No one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:3).”

Over the last couple of weeks, Pope Francis has been delivering some powerful homilies about the Holy Spirit and what it truly means to be a Catholic.  He did this over the course of three homilies that he preached as the Church prepared for Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit.  First, he said that the Church must be wary of “lukewarm” Christians that lack courage and only cause the Church to look inward and become tepid.  If we are lukewarm, the Pope says, then we don’t seek to expand our horizons and open ourselves to the wonderful possibilities that the Spirit has in store for us.  The second homily that drew my attention is when he told us to be wary of “part-time Christians” that live our faith on a part-time schedule or when it suits them or is convenient. Our faith is a full-time job, and if we don’t open our hearts to the Holy Spirit, then “our being Christian will be superficial.”  But the good Pope Francis doesn’t end there, just last Thursday he said in his morning homily that we must be careful with “couch potato Catholics.” As only he could, the Pope was reflecting on what a nuisance St. Paul was because he irritated those he preached to.  One translation has the Holy Father calling out coach-potato Catholics, but here’s the official translation of what he said:  "There are backseat Christians, right? Those who are well mannered, who do everything well, but are unable to bring people to the Church through proclamation and Apostolic zeal. Today we can ask the Holy Spirit to give us all this Apostolic fervor and to give us the grace to be annoying when things are too quiet in the Church the grace to go out to the outskirts of life. The Church has so much need of this! So let us ask the Holy Spirit for this grace of Apostolic zeal, let’s be Christians with apostolic zeal. And if we annoy people, blessed be the Lord. Onwards, as the Lord says to Paul, ‘take courage!' "

So the Pope is asking us to be annoying, to be a nuisance like St. Paul.  Well, I’m being too simplistic, but we get the point.  The Holy Father doesn’t want us to be “pew-sitting” Catholics that don’t contribute anything to the mission of the Church.  He doesn’t want us to be closed off to what the Holy Spirit can do in each one of us.  And the thing is that good Catholics are indeed annoying.  We’re annoying to society because we stand up against basically everything that the secular world promotes.  We become a nuisance to people that don’t want to hear that there is life in the womb at conception, that marriage is between one man and one woman, that the death penalty is wrong, that the proliferation of guns is wrong, that everyone has a right to health care as long as we don’t have to compromise our morals to get there, and that Jesus Christ is the one Savior of the world.  When we annoy people, when we stand up for our faith and become a nuisance: that’s when we’re really living our faith!  I’m sure workers at abortion clinics across the country drive in to work every morning and see people praying the rosary silently across the street and consider them a nuisance even though they’re only praying.  I’m sure there are politicians in our government that consider the Church annoying because we just won’t shut up about all issues that have to do with the sanctity of human life.  And next month when the Supreme Court decides on how marriage is defined, the Church will continue to annoy people with her “archaic” teaching that God did make us male and female and only a male and female can become one in marriage.  That last line is going to get me arrested one day but I really don’t care.  I’m just trying to be annoying.  As the Holy Father said:  “If we annoy people, blessed be the Lord.”

So on this Pentecost Sunday, we must call down the power of the Holy Spirit upon us because we need that life giving Spirit now more than ever.  If we want to be courageous Catholics and not part-time Catholics, we must pray to the Holy Spirit daily to guide us, to speak for us, and to help us defend our faith.  The Spirit renews, refreshes, and recreates.  We need some of that fire of the Spirit to penetrate our hearts so that can boldly go forward with courage and set the world on fire.  And if we annoy some people along the way…blessed be the Lord!