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Official Website of the
Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Published: May 31, 2020
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor preached the following homily at the Diocese of Little Rock House of Formation in Little Rock on Sunday, May 31, 2020.
On that first Pentecost when God poured forth the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles, it was to empower them to live the life of the Kingdom of God and these gifts are the spiritual tools God gives us as we deal with the challenges we encounter in serving the Lord.
We see our need for these gifts today as we continue to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Wisdom enables us to see the big picture and so keep the COVID-19 threat in perspective — not underestimating the threat, acting irresponsibly, but also not letting it paralyze us.
If this tiny virus that none of us can even see with the naked eye has brought us to our knees, what more do we need to show us where to place our trust and hope, both in this life — and in the case of those who have died — also in the next.
Understanding enables us to have a more accurate grasp of what we are dealing with that takes into account not only medical information about COVID-19 for instance, but also how God may be using this for his purposes. For instance, God used the time when the public celebration of Mass was suspended to increase our longing for and appreciation of the sacrament of the Eucharist — absence making the heart grow fonder.
Counsel helps us to make good, practical decisions that take into account the common good of all of us, with special concern for the weakest and most vulnerable. In the case of COVID-19 this meant using masks, for instance. We learned that our masks mainly protected others from us and their masks protected us from them, so if everyone wore masks, everyone would be protected. We wouldn’t have figured that out on our own, but by listening to others who know more about these things, we benefit and so does everyone else.
Fortitude strengthens our resolve to overcome obstacles to doing God’s will. Think of all the health care professionals who pray for God’s help and then courageously draw on the strength of the Holy Spirit, putting their own health at some risk, in order to minister to others.
Knowledge helps us to see the path to follow and take seriously the dangers that could get us off track. This age of COVID-19 is a very stressful time that has taken a toll on all of us — for instance being confined to our homes, school being conducted only online, parents out of work and worries about how to pay the bills — to the point that there was a danger that we might get off track and return to normal activities too soon, risking a second wave of infections.
Piety fills us with confidence in God and an eagerness to serve him, and isn’t it true that COVID-19 has brought us to our knees in prayer far more than before? We realize more clearly than ever that we depend on God for everything. If this tiny virus that none of us can even see with the naked eye has brought us to our knees, what more do we need to show us where to place our trust and hope, both in this life — and in the case of those who have died — also in the next.
Fear of the Lord makes us aware of God’s sovereignty and the respect due to him. He is the only one we really need to please. COVID-19 has been the most fear-inducing experience that we have faced as a society, and yet that is not what we are talking about when we say, “fear of the Lord.” Our fear of COVID-19 is fear of harm, and while God can use fear of consequences for his purposes, fear of the Lord is a much bigger concept than just that. After all, everything God wants is for our benefit, even the hard things he uses to discipline us and form us. But fear of the Lord means most basically that doing his will is our highest priority, that we want to please him more than anyone else.
On that first Pentecost God showered the gifts of the Holy Spirit on the apostles and the Church was born. God continues to shower the gifts of the Holy Spirit on us today. Let us draw on these gifts, which we received in confirmation, and ask God to help us make them more fully our own, making a conscious choice to allow them to enlighten us with wisdom, free us from unnecessary fear and empower us with courage as we deal with the COVID-19 threat today.