"And he measured a thousand, and he brought me through the water up to the loins. And he measured a thousand, and it was a torrent, which I could not pass over: for the waters were risen so as to make a deep torrent, which could not be passed over." Ezekiel 47:5
Ah, the Great Feast of Pentecost...the coming of the Paraclete, the Holy Ghost is upon us. Some will dress in red to be liturgically correct. Others have spent the past nine days praying the novena to the Holy Ghost, saying from their heart, "Come Holy Ghost!" Some will gather for Confirmations with their local Bishop. Others may simply attend Mass, oblivious to the greatness of this feast. All of us are called to pray.
What is this feast all about? I think the thing that really sticks out to me this year is how the timid, fearful Apostles changed instantly into the bold and fearless preachers and missionaries that converted masses of people, baptizing them in the thousands. Oh how we need a new Pentecost among the leaders of our Church. The recent Gallup poll highlights this need by showing that 9 in 10 American Catholics say contraception is morally permissible. (Gallup) If this doesn't prove the failure of Catholic leadership and catechesis that I don't know what would. Peter was willing to confront the people of his time with the Truth, not counting the cost. Unfortunately, most leaders today are too politically correct for that.
This feast then is the great feast of courage...not just human courage but that which comes from God as an outpouring of His own power. Peter was turned from the man that fled from fear and lied in order to protect his own hide, into the fearless prophet of his time, ultimately offering his life on a cross like his Savior. This doesn't happen of man's own power, it takes Divine movement in a man's heart. Ezekiel was led into the water gradually, first knee deep, and then fully into the flow, symbolizing the immersion in God's grace. How did Peter then open his heart to God's grace, how did he go "deep"?
This question is one for each of us men, how do we open ourselves to the Holy Ghost so as to more and more become what He wishes of us? Let's look at Peter as an example of manly conversion. Here are the bullet points:
1. He acknowledges Christ - "Then he saith to them: But whom do you say that I am? Peter answering said to him: Thou are the Christ." Mark 8:29
2. He is willing to do all for Christ, even foolishly - "then Peter answering, said to him: Behold we have left all things." Matthew 19:27 and "Peter saith to him: Yea, though I should die with thee, I will not deny thee. And in like manner said all the disciples". Matthew 26:35
3. He willingly acknowledges his sin and repents - "And Peter, remembered the word of Jesus which he had said: Before the cock crow, thou wilt deny me thrice. And going forth, he wept bitterly." Matthew 26:75
4. He confirms his love for God, multiple times - "He said to him the third time: Simon, son of John, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved, because he had said to him the third time: Lovest thou me? And he said to him; Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee." John 21:17
5. He goes with the other Apostles and the Mother of our Lord and prays - Acts of the Apostles 1:13-14
If you add this to the fact that Peter was one of the Apostles that spent the most time with Our Lord you get the picture of a man given over to God. Peter was not without his faults but he was always a willing servant of God and prayerful...like Ezekiel, he was willing to more than knee deep in God's river. This willingness and prayerfulness opened him up to be receptive to the Holy Ghost at Pentecost. Now this Gift of the Holy Ghost is breathed into us both in Baptism and at Confirmation, just as Christ breathed on His first Apostles (John 20:22). Just as the first Apostles, this Gift may lay dormant for some time until we fully open up to His Grace. For the Apostles it was the first novena, the nine days from the Ascension of Christ to Pentecost. For us, the wait may be years.
As St. Augustine calls us fathers of families, "Coepiscopi" or "fellow bishops", we must be open to God's grace to lead our families. The crisis in the the modern culture cannot be solely blamed upon the ordained bishops, for ultimately our priests are only as good as the families they are borne out of . Fathers of families bear a great responsibility for the state of the modern culture, and as thus, we are called to be prophetic witnesses to a true Catholic mentality and culture. Contraception rates among Catholics will only be lowered through courage and conversion. Once us men open ourselves up to God's grace and are willing to embrace martyrdom, will we be willing to die for our families and be open to the great gift that life is. Accepting God's generous gift of children requires heroic courage and magnanimity in today's dads...it is not for the faint of heart, nor the childish adolescent fathers living for entertainment and modern sporting fantasy. Fear and childishness cannot keep us from entering fully into the river of God.
Modern men, whether they be ordained bishops administering a diocese of thousands of souls, or the newly married young man with his potentiality yet to be realized in fatherhood are called to go deep, to live fully for God, to live devout lives, to live heroic witness to Christ - while not counting the cost. To live anything less, is well, less manly...and certainly, less divine!
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The following is a quote that really convicted me that the sin I commit doesn't just affect me...it also affects my children. As I am duty bound to raise them in the saintly virtues and in the faith, I am also required to give them good example and protect them from "evil company". How does this quote hit you? This is a quote from Fr. Goffine's book, "The Church's Year" - a must have for every family!
"How do parents give scandal?
By giving their children bad example; by excessive anger, cursing and swearing; by avarice, injustice and cheating; by discord and quarrels; by gluttony in eating and drinking; by extravagance and vanity in dress; by sneering at religion, good morals, etc.; by not keeping their children from evil company, but sometimes even bringing them into it; by not punishing and endeavoring to eradicate their children's vices. How much parents sin through such scandals, cannot be expressed; at the Day of Judgment their children will be their accusers!"
Lately, I have been really busy. Spring has sprung and with it...LIFE! With the end of the school year comes vegetable gardens, chicken butchering, the ongoing battle with taming the weeds on our little corner of the 28 acres, and the inevitable run-in with ticks, bees, and dive-bombing barn swallows. This is also the time designed by God for us to pray the traditional novena to the Holy Ghost.
Spring always has a powerful effect on me. I chalk it up to my farming ancestors and the need to work harder and longer during these weeks of planting. The windows of opportunity to get seed in the ground are small, and the farmer is ever aware of the quality of the soil and sun. Spring is the time God has set for planting, not only in the field of the earth, but also in the field of eternity. We celebrate the joy of Easter, but ultimately, the Holy Ghost is coming to finally give life to the seed that was planted on Good Friday ("unless a seed falls to the ground and die..."). Pentecost is the great feast of establishing the Kingdom of God in the power and courage that was hidden in the hearts of Peter, John, and the rest of the Apostles.
I have often had a problem with those that have called recent years or events, "a New Springtime". Whether it was Pope John Paul II calling for a new springtime in the Church or those calling the modern revolutions in the east, the Arab Spring. It always struck me as odd...in the Church it seemed like the hem was coming loose and more and more dissent was becoming metastasized in the Church (think Georgetown today?!) How was this a Springtime? As to the Arab Spring, well, it may well become a Christian Autumn in the Middle East. All of this being said, I have recently reflected upon springtime and may see what the Holy Father was trying to inspire.
Springtime is a time for planting, fertilizing, growth, new life, etc, etc etc. To use some old scholastic philosphical terminology, Spring is the great time of potentiality. The seed holds within it potential to become a verdant head of lettuce. The egg holds within it the potential to become a chick, then a full grown chicken, and then dinner for my family. The Apostles held this potentiality in themselves from Christ breathing on them in the upper room. We hold potentiality within us from our Baptism to become all that God desires of us. As Christian men, we hold within ourselves the great potential to become the priest, prophet, and king of our family and of turning our little corner of the world to the good God that has made us.
All of this potential is what ultimately makes Spring great. I often laugh at the image of the pessimistic farmer (yep, they are all around). What is funny is that, although he may be pessimistic, he still tills...he still plants...he still fertilizes...and yes, he still harvests the crop in due season. Many of us may also be pessimistic in our attitudes about ourselves, our kids, our wives, our families. We seem to be stuck and can't change our ways. We are stuck in our addictions to entertainment, food, pleasure, and selfishness. Spring tells us, "Don't give up...just plant some seed...watch it grow!" God is telling us, "If you have died with me, so you shall be raised up with me." All the potentiality of our Baptism is there, waiting for us to pray and act. Pentecost will see the great germination of the seed of our Baptism if only we will let it grow.
Here is a recent article I stumbled across on manly purity and pornography. He makes an excellent point.