After 40 days of Lent and 50 days of Easter, we have plunged back into Ordinary Time. But before doing so, we were given the great Feast of Pentecost, which the Church celebrated last Sunday. The readings at Mass on that day recalled how the Holy Spirit descended upon Christ’s followers, completely changing their lives. The same weak and timid men who had abandoned Christ at his crucifixion and hidden in the upper room for fear of the Jews were now boldly proclaiming his name in the streets, speaking in tongues, and filled with courage to the point of martyrdom. What could cause such a startling transformation in the lives of these men? The Holy Spirit – the third Person of the Trinity, whom they had received in a rushing wind and tongues of fire at Pentecost.
However, the presence of the Holy Spirit is not limited to that single event 2,000 years ago. Rather, he wants to act in our lives today, and while we may not experience the wind and fire that the Apostles did at Pentecost, we can nevertheless have our lives transformed as they did. If we allow the Holy Spirit to work in our lives, he will change our hearts by developing the ‘fruits of the Spirit’ within us. The Catechism explains, “The fruits of the Spirit are perfections that the Holy Spirit forms in us as the first fruits of eternal glory. The tradition of the Church lists twelve of them: "charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity"” (CCC 1832).
Apart from memorizing the list of these fruits for my Confirmation in 8th grade, I have never spent a great deal of time thinking about them. But reflecting on them now, I realize how particularly fitting they are for college students. While the fruits of the Holy Spirit are desperately needed in all stages of life in today’s world, they are especially pertinent to students on a college campus, where the dominant atmosphere is often anything but virtuous.
Just imagine how different our lives would be if we had the fruits of the Holy Spirit flourishing in them. Living out true self-giving charity among college students who are all too often living only for themselves. A sense of joy and peace in our lives that would surely stand out in the midst of so many people who are empty and searching for meaning. Profound faithfulness in a setting that attacks our faith every moment of every day. Patience and kindness towards every person we encounter. Goodness, generosity and gentleness that would define our character and draw people to us. Modesty, self-control and chastity in an atmosphere that glorifies promiscuity and indulgence to the extreme. What an amazing witness we could provide to those around us if we allowed the Holy Spirit to develop his fruits in our lives!
So as we return now to Ordinary Time, we are given the chance to build virtue in our everyday lives. We should remember that ‘ordinary’ does not mean ‘mediocre.’ We are not celebrating a special liturgical season, but this does not mean that we take a vacation from our spiritual progress. Rather, we can use this time to grow in sanctity as we go about our daily business, working on forming virtuous habits and eliminating vices as we interact with others at school, work and home. With this in mind, let us pray to the Holy Spirit during this period of Ordinary Time, asking him to come into our lives and transform them, making our day-to-day encounters far from ordinary.