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May 19, 2020

Fortitude

Last weekend I was on YouTube, hopping from one liturgy to another. I would fast forward to the homily just to get a thought on which I might ponder a bit deeper. My “video hopping” resulted in a spiritual stew rather than a main meal. Let me explain.

Just like a stew is made from broth, meat and vegetables, I began “chewing” on a few thoughts from several homilies I viewed and then how these thoughts would tie into where we find ourselves today.

I was struck by the Gospel for the Third Week of Easter: The Road to Emmaus. You can find that reading in Luke 24:13-35. You might want to get your bible and read it yourself. Go ahead. I’ll just wait here!

So these disciples have witnessed the horrid death of their beloved Teacher, Jesus. They are traveling back from Jerusalem totally downcast and dejected. All their hope is gone! What they thought and believed about Jesus seems like smoke at that moment.

Upon reading this story this time, I wondered if they were going back home. Going back to the world from which they came, actually hungering for what they knew was normal. Remember, the Apostles all went fishing soon after the Resurrection. There is something about the human heart that finds great comfort in the familiar when that changes in an instant.

Still, they encountered Jesus in Jerusalem and their lives could never be the same. They were grieving during that seven-mile journey for “what should have been, what could have been,” “if only,” and “why did they…” In short they were hungering for a world they understood.

What did they come upon? In the midst of their crazy, upside down world, Jesus was walking right beside them and they could not even tell! They didn’t even recognize him! But once they did, they went back and proclaimed the Resurrection. Their deflated feelings were filled to contagious joy!

This story made me reflect on life that we all experience right now on many levels. First, they were looking for normal, even hungering after it. Aren’t we doing the same thing? All of us know that, at least right now, face masks, social distancing, hand washing, elbow bumping, cyber hugs, and not touching the face are all parts of our life. How can we make this “new normal” peace-filled? By “leaning into” or spiritually claiming the gift of fortitude. Let me explain.

Fortitude is a gift of the Holy Spirit that was first given to us at our Baptism and then strengthened within our soul at Confirmation. Through the action of the Holy Spirit, supernatural courage, or fortitude, is infused within us. “In our weakness, His strength is made perfect. (2 Cor. 12:9). Please read that sentence again! There is such a mystery in this fact!

Supernatural Fortitude is founded in the trust that God will work out all things for good for those who love Him. (Rom 8:28) How many times have you heard yourself say since the pandemic started, “God will make good things out of this, even if I can’t see it right now? After all, He is the one that is in charge!” That trust is rooted in hope which is associated with love. We hope because we love. I love because I have surrendered myself to God, who has a personal interest in me and my problems. He is not just a nebulous force of good in the universe. He knows me inside and out, and profoundly loves me with a love that my finite intelligence can never understand! (Please notice that I changed the pronouns from plural to personal for a reason!)

God’s love is personal. His love IS about ME!!!! He gives us the courage and superhuman virtue of fortitude to not only give the gift of strength to live in the midst of emergencies or dire situations, but the ability to live our faith realistically every day of our lives. The Holy Spirit gives us the bold confidence that this is capable for us. All the saints did this in their lives, and we are called to the same today!

I was reminded of this by a deacon of our Diocese when I was sharing some of my fears of what is going on. He wrote in Messenger, “Your confidence is contagious and your transparency gives hope to others!” To which I responded, “I am just trying to figure it out like everybody else! My Beloved has endless patience!”

I came across a blog that says it this way: “The Gifts of the Holy Spirit are expressions of actual grace. In other words, they help us to act in ways that strengthen our relationship with God. Trusting God strengthens our relationship with Him. Relying on His strength is one way that we partner with God and participate in the Divine Life. Fortitude helps us overcome sin and evil so we can embrace God’s goodness. So, even if you don’t feel brave and strong most of the time, pray for the Gift of Fortitude and draw up on the strength of the Lord.”1

Remember that Christ does walk with us in this journey, even if you don’t recognize him!

1 https://catholiclife.diolc.org/2019/08/01/the-gift-of-fortitude-staying-strong-in-times-of-trial/

By Sister Geralyn Schmidt, SCC, Special to The Witness

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