Church, society need gifts of Holy Spirit more than ever, cardinal says

NEWARK, N.J. (CNS) — Ahead of the feast of Pentecost, Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark offered a reflection on the gifts of the Holy Spirit and how society and the Church, he believes, need these gifts “now more than ever.”

“As we celebrate the great feast of Pentecost this weekend, we acknowledge the urgent need for the many gifts that the Holy Spirit shares with us during this troubled time,” the cardinal said May 29.

“We need wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord (cf. Is 11:2-3) to guide us as we continue to protect the vulnerable, slow the spread of COVID-19, and begin the gradual process of recovery in our Church and in society,” Cardinal Tobin said.

In his reflection he discussed the need for each gift and included a prayer with each one:

— Wisdom is needed “to make the right choices even when there are disagreements, strong emotions, anxious fears and widespread uncertainty among our leaders and the people we are called to serve,” he said. “Come, Holy Spirit, help us to grow in wisdom and to be prudent in our decisions for the common good.”

 — Understanding is especially necessary “given the scarcity of information and the widespread uncertainty about the accuracy of experts’ opinions,” he reflected. “Come, Holy Spirit, help us to reflect on your Word and search out the most accurate and reliable information available to us.”

— Counsel “provides encouragement and hope, especially when things seem most desperate and beyond our control,” Cardinal Tobin said. “Come, Holy Spirit, enlighten our hearts. Teach us to follow your good counsel and that of Mary, Mother of the Church, and all the saints, as we seek the light of Christ in the darkness caused by this pandemic.”

— Fortitude, he said, allows us “to stand firm even when we feel frightened and weak in the face of physical, emotional and economic threats.” “Come, Holy Spirit, fill our hearts with the fire of your love,” he prayed. “Makes us bold and uncompromising in our witness to the joy of the Gospel.”

— Knowledge “reveals the wonder of God’s creation and the healing power of God’s love,” the cardinal continued. “Come, Holy Spirit, open our minds to the beauty of our common home. Teach our scientists and research professionals to discover the hidden elements that can lead to the prevention and cure of this deadly virus.”

— Piety reminds the faithful “to stay close to God — Father, Son and Holy Spirit) — and to imitate Mary and all the saints in our love of God and neighbor,” he said. “Come, Holy Spirit, fill our hearts with divine love and fervor so that we can serve our sisters and brothers unselfishly.”

— Fear of the Lord “fills us with reverent awe at the majesty of God and the depth of God’s love for us,” the cardinal said. “Come, Holy Spirit, inspire in us true reverence for all that is holy — including the divine image in “the least of these” our brothers and sisters in Christ.

All of the gifts the faithful receive from the Holy Spirit — including the gifts of Pentecost — “help to sustain us and empower us as faithful missionary disciples,” Cardinal Tobin said in his reflection. “Now, more than ever, they are powerful resources in our efforts to overcome the coronavirus and recover — safely and responsibly — from the devastating effects of this disease and all the collateral damage it has caused.”

He called on Catholics to keep in mind “the challenges we are all facing, and the needs of those who are most vulnerable” and pray together “these beautiful words from the sequence for Pentecost”:

“Come, Holy Spirit, Creator blest,/ And in our hearts take up Thy rest;/ Come with Thy grace and heav’nly aid/ To fill the hearts which Thou hast made./ To ev’ry sense Thy light impart/ And shed Thy love in ev’ry heart./ To our weak flesh Thy strength supply:/ Unfailing courage from on high.

In his homily on Pentecost, Cardinal Tobin said that as he prepared to celebrate the feast this year, “I became convinced that we must pay special intention to the crucial words and gesture of the Risen Christ, who bestows the Holy Spirit.”

“For we are living dreadful events that paralyze and terrify precisely because they deprive human beings of breath. Today the responsorial psalm recalls fate of living creatures who are deprived of breath: They perish,” he said May 31.

He tied that reference to breathing to the coronavirus and the May 25 death of George Floyd while in police custody.

COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, has killed 370,000 people around the world, including over 100,000 people in the U.S.; it is largely a respiratory disease, though it can affect many organs in the body. “The last conscious thought of many, probably most, must have been ‘I can’t breathe,’“ Cardinal Tobin said.

And as Floyd, an African American, “was dying on a Minneapolis street” while pinned to the street by a white police officer, he “gasped, ‘I can’t breathe,’“ the cardinal said. “The news of these deaths and the destruction they have generated, literally takes our breath away.”

But “Jesus is here among his frightened disciples,” Cardinal Tobin concluded. “He breathes on us the gift of the Holy Spirit, who is our advocate, the spirit of truth. … The Holy Spirit will create true unity in diversity and bestow gifts given for the life of the world.”

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