"A lay Catholic perspective"

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Fighting the Good Fight

by Cecile Flater


OUR FIRST YEAR OF PREPARATION for the Jubilee Year 2000 was devoted to reflection on Jesus. Do you recall this theme proposed by many cardinals and bishops: "Jesus Christ, the one Savior of the world, yesterday, today and forever"? Thank God for the Word made flesh in Jesus, our Saviour and Lord forevermore.

Jesus fulfilled his mission of evangelization, and the Holy Spirit calls and empowers us to continue the mission he began. We walk in his footsteps accepting whatever circumstances we find ourselves in as an opportunity to be his faithful followers and witnesses. Jesus calls us to unite our suffering and sickness to his cross in order to experience his glorious resurrection and victory over all sin and death.

During this year of our Lord, I have experienced the hand of God melting, moulding and fashioning me into the image of his Son, Jesus. Believe me, I am not boasting. For to be disciplined by God is an awesome experience. Throughout this year I really came to appreciate just how dependent we are on God to reveal his precious will to us in all the circumstances of our lives.

One of the situations which brought home to me the reality of God's providence was my mother's death. In July of 1997 she had a stroke which paralysed her left side. This began for her a bed ridden five months where she experienced tremendous pain physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Whenever I visited her, I knew God was with her, and because she lived a holy life, I was not concerned about her salvation. But I could see her suffering. She wanted to get up and walk but could not move. At times she could not experience God's presence and felt alone. She could not believe what had happened to her. How could someone so active be struck down and taken so quickly? I wanted to blame her condition on doctors and nurses who couldn't foresee the problem. However, I finally came to the conclusion that God allowed everything for his own good purpose.

Job was a good man too, and God allowed Satan to cause him the pain of poverty, illness, and mockery. Job remained steadfast and was later rewarded. My mom stayed faithful through all her sufferings. Many people visited her and were touched by her desire to reach out to them. During his visits with her, Fr. Philip Lee concluded that she gave more to him than he gave to her. When he left her side, he would ask her to pray for him. Sincerely she would reply, "I always do." Her very suffering united to the cross of Christ produced great grace for all those in her heart.

Her death was beautiful with her children and grandchildren surrounding her. Fr. Michael Dugan prayed over her and anointed her. She died on November 11th, Remembrance Day, as a soldier of Christ. Her life and death makes me think of the passage from 2 Timothy 4:7-8:

I have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith; all there is to come is the crown of righteousness reserved for me, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to me on the Day; and not only to me but to all those who long for his Appearing.

Before her stroke, I was sure my mother was going to live to be a hundred. I was wrong and realized that I didn't know. Only Jesus knows.

Close to the time of my mother's stroke, we experienced some difficulties with one of our children. My husband and I tried what we thought were all the methods of help and resources available, to no avail. We had come to the end of our rope; we tied a knot and hung on to Jesus because we didn't know.

After mom passed away I knelt by her bedside. She had this little smile on her face that seemed to say, I know something you don't. I asked her to talk to Jesus and request a miracle for our family. Eight days later that miracle began! Our child was given a place that could help. Thank you God! Thanks mom and keep praying for us.

At the close of the Year of our Lord, as his baptized, faithful men and women, can each of us humbly admit our lack of knowledge and wisdom? Does our faith keep us near to God even though we don't know?

After Jesus preached to his disciples that they must eat his flesh and drink his blood in order to have eternal life, many of them did not believe and left him. Jesus said to the twelve, What about you, do you want to go away too? The twelve did not understand the mystery of Jesus' body and blood but in faith Peter answered him, Lord, who shall be go to? You have the message of eternal life, and we believe, we know that you are the holy one of God. (Jn 6:67-69)

Having lived out Christ's sufferings through our total abandonment to Christ during the year of discipleship, we are prepared to receive the gifts and insights that the Holy Spirit has for us in the second year of preparation. Pope John Paul II talks about this in his apostolic letter Tertio Millennio Adveniente (As the Third Millennium Draws Near).

The primary tasks of the preparation for the Jubilee thus include a renewed appreciation of the presence and activity of the Spirit, who acts within the Church both in the Sacraments, especially in Confirmation, and in the variety of charisms, roles and ministries which he inspires for the good of the Church.... (45)

Everyone receives different gifts but all are from the same Holy Spirit. Section 45 of Adveniente concludes that the Holy Spirit gives the Church unity through himself and his power. He also produces and stimulates love among the believers working together in his body.

The Holy Spirit acts powerfully in the sacraments. In Baptism we receive the virtues of faith, hope, and love. Not only that, God takes strong hold of our lives as his very own children. In Confirmation we are anointed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit which are knowledge, piety, wisdom, charity, understanding, counsel, fear of the Lord, and fortitude.

The teachings of the Church are also inspired by the Holy Spirit. Among these are natural family planning and the sanctity of life from conception until natural death. These wise teachings guide us to live holy and righteous lives. Although they go against the popular trend of the world they are enduring and true.

The way we as Christians live is vital. When we obediently live out the teachings of the Church, even when we do not understand them, we are a light in the darkness, a little Christ for others to follow. Our reward? — that we are on God's winning team! Remember, the gates of hell will not prevail over the Church and she cannot be separated from her teachings.

We can be signs of hope in our desperate society of today by staying hopeful. The Holy Spirit works in our hearts to remind us that Jesus will come again in glory to save us eternally. As we wait joyfully for Jesus, let us work, serve, and pray according to the Holy Spirit. John Paul emphasizes in Adveniente:

The basic attitude of hope on the one hand encourages Christians not to lose sight of the final goal which gives meaning and value to life, and on the other hand offers solid and profound reasons for daily commitment to transform reality in order to make it correspond to God's plan.

I enjoyed listening to a homily for the First Sunday of Advent. The priest proclaimed the great value of the four Gospels — Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. But he said there is another gospel that is also very significant. It is the gospel according to you. Then he asked if we reflected the joyful hope of the coming of Christ in our lives. Did we show his mercy and love? Did we respond with an open heart to all the circumstances of our lives, willing to make the best of it, knowing God saves?

If you're like me, you're thinking you could use some help. The Holy Spirit is the advocate, the counsellor, and the power. He is present with every breath we take, always moving to create a new heart. He inspires us with God's most glorious plan of salvation for us as individuals and as one Church. Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in us the fire of your love.