Pentecost: Mission, Method, and Means

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Editor’s Note: Today we’re excited to welcome Jen Haganey to our Tech Talk team of writers!

Today is blustery. My windows are open. A strong breeze whips my curtains about and the wind is rustling in the trees. I sense God’s presence here with me in the otherwise quiet room. A subdued awe holds down the excitement that begins to rise.

If an ordinary day can stir my emotions so deeply, I can hardly imagine what the first disciples must have felt gathered together on Pentecost when “a strong driving wind” filled the entire house, delivering tongues of fire to rest on their heads and flooding them with tremendous gifts to build our community, the Church.

When I reflect on that first Pentecost, awe and fear of the Lord fill me. He does such amazing things with some not-so-amazing and rather ordinary people like Peter and Paul, Mary Magdalene–and you and I.

Yes, you and I.

Pentecost Mission Method Means

God descended upon them, and He descends upon us today. He continues to use common folks to spread His Word and build His Church; and He provides us with all the tools needed to accomplish that work, just as He did for the first believers.

If the idea that God wants to use you to build up the Kingdom doesn’t fill you with at least a tad of wholesome fear and trepidation, then you probably aren’t really paying close attention.  So, here’s the basic breakdown: God–you know, the Fella Who created and maintains the entire universe? Yeah, that guy–He has a job for you and He’s going to come in person and fall upon you.

“Why would He want to use me?” you might say. “I don’t have the skills or ability to do anything.“

God knows what you can and can’t do and He gives you grace for the mission. God has a gargantuan bag of sanctifying grace and He’s going to reach into that bag and gift you with whatever you need to get the job done.

At the first Pentecost, and ever since, the Holy Spirit has given us a mission as well as the method and means to accomplish it.

THE MISSION

So, what is the job? The mission is now, and always has been, to preach the Gospel to all nations, to build up the church and introduce everyone we possibly can to Christ.

“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations . . .”  (Mt 28:19)

Roman Catholicism is the largest religious denomination in the world with 1.2 billion people claiming to be Roman Catholics and members of the Church on every inhabitable continent and possibly in every nation.

We might be inclined to be impressed. We may be tempted to say “Mission Completed,” but we know in our hearts the job is far from done.

Facebook has nearly as many devotees as the Catholic Church, 1 billion+, and its numbers are growing much faster than ours. If Facebook was a country it would be the third most populated one on Earth — and it’s a country that has yet to be claimed for Christ.

Make no mistake about it, this is a mission field:

  • 91 % of all adults use search engines
  • 81% of U.S. adults use the internet (September 2012 survey)
  • 95% of teens use the internet
  • 87% of U.S. adults own a cell phone, 45% of whom own smartphones
  • 78% of teens now have a cell phone, and almost half (47%) of them own smartphones.
  • 66% use social media (up from 11% in 2002)
  • 27% of all time spent on the internet is spent on social media

“The world of digital communication, with its almost limitless expressive capacity, makes us appreciate all the more Saint Paul’s exclamation: “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel” (1 Cor 9:16) The increased availability of the new technologies demands greater responsibility on the part of those called to proclaim the Word, but it also requires them to become more focused, efficient and compelling in their efforts.”

~ Pope Benedict XVI

The US Bishops tell us in the USCCB’s Disciples Called to Witness,

“Evangelization occurs most effectively when the Church engages the culture of those she evangelizes.”

To engage this modern culture we must take part in it. To effectively engage this modern culture we must take part in it under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

The early disciples went out into untamed lands to spread the Good News. We must do that as well. Christians are always to be missionary.

Where the people are is where the Holy Spirit want to be. The people are online. Six out of seven people on the planet do not yet have the fullness of the truth that is the Catholic Church. Jesus wants these souls and the Holy Spirit wants us to give them to Him. We have to go out to them and share the good news.

THE METHOD

People are online because they long for God. Even if not all of them know it!

Pope Benedict highlights this truth when he said that,

“In the final analysis, the truth of Christ is the full and authentic response to that human desire for relationship, communion and meaning which is reflected in the immense popularity of social networks.”

Humans are social beings who desire friendship and communion. Ultimately it will come from God but we seek it with each other. To share Christ with others, we must go to those places where they are seeking to fill their longings for community. In today’s world that place is often social networks.

Okay, so we know where he wants us to be, but how will we win them over once we get there?

Start with people you know, just like any other form of evangelization, communicating with whomever God has placed in front of you, and work on getting to know more people so you can share the Good News with them.

Reaching out to new people can be daunting sometimes, but we should remember that Pope Emeritus Benedict has encouraged us to ”identify new ways of evangelization with missionary audacity.”  Audacity means “boldly without fear.”  Don’t you just LOVE that?

The key to getting past fear can be found in scripture—perfect Love will cast it out and, since we can’t be perfect under our own power, this is where the Holy Spirit comes in with that huge bag of gifts!

We will win the world over through the gifts of the Spirit. That’s why God gives them to us. They aren’t just fun novelty toys for our religious amusement. They serve a purpose and that purpose is always aimed at growing the body of Christ and snatching as many souls from the fire as we can.

THE MEANS

The primary gifts of the Holy Spirit granted to every Catholic are: Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety, and Awe. He wants us to take these gifts into the pagan world and convince them through our actions to come home to Christ.

People think wisdom refers to knowing and understanding many facts. In terms of gifts of the Holy Spirit, though, that’s not quite right. Wisdom is the desire to know love and serve God in the way He wants to be known, loved and served. It is an openness to living the contemplative moment of God.

An example of wisdom in our New Evangelization would be following the inspiration to shut off the computer and pray before answering someone trolling your comment box.

Our society brazenly flaunts its evil online and, too often, we are so eager to jump right in there and start winning souls for Christ that we end up hurting and angering others instead.

Win the argument, but lose the soul?

Hint: If you think you’re winning anybody’s soul, it’s time to shut off the computer and pray! Only Christ wins souls–not us. Sometimes, if we’re lucky, He chooses to do so through us.

The gifts of the Holy Spirit are meant to build up the church; they make us good, usable tools in the hands of Christ. So, if your online evangelization efforts seem to create more conflict than win souls, it’s very possible you might unwittingly be doing it more for your own glory than God’s. And that means it’s time to step away from the computer, pray, and listen before continuing the conversation.

Wisdom requires silence, a lot of silence, including online silence, and patience. Be patient (it’s a virtue!) and wait for the Holy Spirit to come. Even the early Christians had to wait before going out to conquer the pagan world.

While meeting with them, he enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for “the promise of the Fatherabout which you have heard me speak;for John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the holy Spirit.” (Act 1 : 4-5 )

If you wait in wisdom, often understanding comes. Understanding is different than wisdom. You can have wisdom with little or no understanding, which enables us to grasp and comprehend the Catholic faith with some degree of certitude.

Understanding should not be confused with knowledge, which is also a good thing and can at times be a gift of the Spirit, but not always. Saul had pretty impressive knowledge as a Jew. Yet, it was not until Christ knocked him off his high horse that he began to gain understanding . . . and even then, he had to spend a decade relearning everything he thought he knew about scripture!

We see understanding in use in the New Evangelization with the many gifted apologists who have read the scriptures and the catechism and mesh it all together into fresh and logical arguments.

Understanding is reflected not only in your grasp of the subject matter, but also by how well you are able to bring others to a similar comprehension. Scott Hahn would be an ideal example of understanding at work in our world.

Counsel is sometimes called right judgment.  Do you know right from wrong? Do you act in accordance to that? If so, that is the gift of good counsel at work.

Counsel perfects the virtue of prudence and aids in the ability to judge how to act in a given situation. Counsel can be seen in the charitable, tactful, and well-informed responses of the faithful in the comments sections when friends, relations, and politicians promote abortion or same sex marriage on blogs, Facebook, or Twitter.

A gay libertarian who, by his own words, disagrees “with the Catholic Church on just about everything!” told my daughter that Catholics were his favorite protesters. You see, there once was an abortion clinic right next to his shop and he would watch the protesters.  The Catholics, he said, were always praying and respectful, and the little, old, Catholic ladies never seemed to get angry when the pro-abortion activist would spit at them or yell profanities. What he saw acting  in the Catholic protestors is the gift of counsel–doing what’s right in the right way.

Fortitude is sometimes called courage.   With this gift, you will be able to stand up for God and the truths taught by the Holy Catholic Church.  You could say it is the gift of conviction, which gives you the strength to follow through on good counsel.

A priest I know says, “Sometimes in marriage you’re going to feel like you’re dying. When you feel like it’s killing you, that’s when you know God is calling you to stand firm as a witness to love.”

When Christian couples marry, and then stay married even though the extremely tough times they are publicly evangelizing to their children, their communities and the whole world. When you behave with chastity proper to the marriage state online, that is the gift of fortitude. When you repeatedly clarify the truth of marriage when everyone else is calling to redefine it, that is fortitude.

As mentioned above, knowledge is frequently confused with wisdom or understanding. Wisdom is a desire to understand and do the will of God. Understanding is an ability to comprehend the faith.  Knowledge is holding of information that  accords the ability to do things according to the faith, to live up the purposes of God.

The internet is a great boon to this gift. We all now have quick and convenient access to the Catechism of the Church, the scriptures, and the teachings of the saints!  Once you have the basic gift of knowledge of what it is the church teaches, looking up the specific wording and citation is easy — it’s all just a google away.

Piety is probably the most misunderstood of all the gifts the Holy Spirit bestows, with many negative connotations in the modern world. “Look how pious she is!” is too often spoken as a sarcasm, rather than a compliment!

Piety is not just being super-sweetly religious. The hypocritical Pharisees were religious people, but they weren’t truly pious because everything they did was to serve themselves, not God.

Piety is the desire to serve and worship God out of love, rather than from duty or social and cultural obligation. Piety is relationship with God.

Piety can feel awkward in the modern world, our new mission field. Someone posts a Saint of the Day quote or a beautiful picture of the Blessed Mother. When we “like” or “share” it, we  are expressing a form of piety because we are helping to make the online community one more place to glorify our Lord.

Awe, more commonly known as Fear of the Lord, is all about proper perspective. It’s knowing who God is and who you are. It’s a desire not to offend Him and the grace we need not to do so.

Contemplate this “awesome” perspective for a few moments:

In our human arrogance, we occasionally think we’ve advanced so far, but we must never forget how little we actually know. As much information as we have gathered together in the last 30 years on the internet is as one book in a universe of libraries in comparison to what God holds in His Being, always has and always will . . . and infinitely more.  He doesn’t have to search.  He never loses a file; it’s all right there in Him.

Then, when we are justly humbled in our arrogance, awe will have served its purpose because only then will we realize our need for His grace to continue learning and yearning to know everything there is to know in God.

These major gifts are given in various measure to all the faithful and feed other more practical and specialized gifts such as prayer, tongues/languages, administration, evangelism, exhortation, financial helps, mercy, pastoring, prophecy, servitude, and teaching—all of which are given to specific people for specific jobs that need to be done to grow the church and bring the Body of Christ to full maturity.
Do you doubt that you actually have these gifts?

Don’t doubt, but believe!

You have them; if you are having trouble feeling them, then ask for them by name in prayer and frequent the sacraments. These are the ordinary ways that God enters our lives.

There are so many ways your gifts can be put to use.  Always, and in every case, the most effective way to use the gifts of the Spirit to help promote the gospel in our modern mission field is to be yourself, be friendly, interact with people, and be authentically Catholic.

Ask the Holy Spirit: “What gifts have You given me for this task—and why?”

This Pentecost take some time to meditate on what gifts you have and what gifts you may still need to be an effective ambassador of Christ online. While it may seem rather daunting at times remember what Blessed John Paul II always told us:  Be not afraid!

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Copyright 2013 Jen Haganey

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2 Comments

  1. Nicely done, Jen! I hope this doesn’t mean I should to go back to the conspiracy forums and continue clarifying their misconceptions about the Church; like diving into a pool filled with sharks. Now I just occasionally go in to read the posts and pray for them all.

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