Pope Francis made the following statement in a homily a few years ago on the topic of the Holy Spirit in our lives:
“This is the work of the Holy Spirit: he brings us the new things of God. He comes to us and makes all things new; he changes us…God is even now making all things new: The Holy Spirit is truly transforming us, and through us he also wants to transform the world in which we live.” –Homily, St. Peter’s Square, Mass and Conferral of the Sacrament of Confirmation, April 28, 2013.
The Holy Spirit Can Make Us New
The Holy Spirit has the power to completely transform our hearts to becoming more like Jesus Christ. The excerpt from Pope Francis in his homily from 2013 is very encouraging. As people of faith, we have been given a true gift in the Holy Spirit which we receive upon Baptism and when we become Confirmed members of the Church. The Holy Spirit is also at work everywhere in the world, in the hearts of all people who love God and wish to serve Him because the gift of love and service to others always comes right from the heart of God Himself. On the topic of the “competitive spirit” we may have inside our hearts, the Holy Spirit can also transform the negative aspects of competition into love.
Nothing is more life-giving than the gift of the Holy Spirit and the gift of Christ’s love. This gift is for every single person in the world, not just for Catholics and Christians. Christ’s wish is for us as faith-filled people is to pass on His love to everyone we meet. We thank Jesus Christ for this awesome gift of sacrificial love to be offered to all, regardless of race, religion, sex, or political views. When we let go of our need to exercise control and competition with others, the love of God can shrine through us.
“Year of Mercy”
We are the middle of what the Pope has named the “Year of Mercy”. This year is a wonderful opportunity for everyone to show the love of God to others. We can do this by exercising the virtues in the gifts we receive from the Holy Spirit. Some of these gifts are: charity, humility, kindness, gentleness, peace, patience and others.
Another way to show this mercy is through the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy which as Catholics we know as giving food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, praying for the living and the dead, and instructing the ignorant. These are tangible gifts we can give to others to show the love of Jesus. It takes humility to be able to offer ourselves to others in this way, but it is important to God and to people. What we receive in return is peace and the love of God in our hearts. It will be hard to treat others with an “air of superiority” when we exercise the love of God in our daily lives.
Letting Go of Competition With Others
We have often heard in life that “healthy competition” in life is good. I agree. However, a good portion of the time, competition can be negative. When we are on a sports team, competing for a job we really want, or engaged in some kind of “contest”, competition is fine. However, when we get involved in a lot of comparison with other people for the sake of proving ourselves better, it is definitely not “of God”. All of us have been exposed to this kind of competition especially if we have been through the school system. Sadly, there is competition even within families and in our Churches. It is then that we must call on God to help us to see the good in others and to stop ourselves from attempting to prove we are better.
A few years back I was talking to a priest who explained a term that is considered “slang” amongst priests and religious. The term “climber” refers to a priest or religious who has his eyes on “moving up the ladder of success” within a diocese or Archdiocese. I was shocked to hear of this, however, it enlightened me to the fact that even within the Church and in religious circles, there exists a type of unhealthy and self-centered competition.
In Churches, there also exists religious groups of friends who sometimes compete for “holiness” with their peers. Maybe it is that popular family within the Church or school that we measure ourselves up against since they seem to have many followers; we may view them as the perfect family. Perhaps we are competing with the individuals we meet in fellowship groups or with our own close friends or family members. We may find ourselves, without realizing it, competing for “holiness” and for “perfection” within these groups, and also for “popularity”.
Competition may also become part of our spirituality when in contrast, our “perfection” has to be in our love of God and of others, not in an outward appearance of perfection. We choose to be more “real” and less “letter of the law” in the eyes of God. God truly sees our hearts and knows the reality of our existence and our destiny. Church-goers and religious sometimes do engage in competition, however, we know that competition is also in our homes, workplaces, neighborhoods, schools, and especially within the political realm in this presidential election year. We must call on God for His help in all of this to humble our hearts away from a mean-spirited, competitive behavior rooted in a need to prove ourselves better or “right”. A lesson learned is remaining silent in times that we feel the need to prove our point unless God gives us a grace-filled moment to educate someone about an important issue.
Becoming More Caring
The pain and humiliation we have all experienced at some point in life is sometimes the only way God can teach us. Perhaps when it comes to the subject of competition, the best we can do is pray to our Lord to humble our hearts. We are in the “Year of Mercy”, and it is the perfect time to listen to what God may be speaking to us about humility, loving Him more and giving our love to the world. The Lord has spoken to my heart on these topics, especially about tackling pride and becoming less competitive. When we meet the Lord, will stand alone before Him. He will be the just judge; the only thing which will matter is humility, love of others the love and sacrifice of Christ. No one else will be there standing next to us at that time.
God has revealed wonderful examples of holiness and love through Jesus, the saints and also in our current Holy Father. The “Year of Mercy” is a perfect time to reflect on the love of God so we can show His love and mercy to the world. God is not asking us for complete perfection, but to mirror the love of His Son.
May God bless all of you today and every day. Let us ask for more of God’s Holy Spirit to keep us humble and spread love which the world needs at every moment. The love of God is what is needed in this world right now. And always.