ISSUES OF FAITH: Return to God with your whole heart

FIRST, IT’S GREAT to be alive.

I just spent 10 days at Swedish hospital, half of that in ICU — my second heart surgery in four years, and hopefully, the last.

Words can’t express the gratitude to the doctors, nurses and their assistants who helped to get me back on my feet, literally.

To all those who are suffering and sick or on the mend, pray without ceasing for those near and dear.

The daily Mass readings of late rely heavily on the book of Acts.

It is truly fascinating to read, even if you’ve read or heard it many times before because you see the Holy Spirit play such a prominent role in everything the Apostles and disciples do.

We see in Acts 13:52, “The disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.”

Throughout Acts the Holy Spirit is everywhere, guiding them, inspiring them, even preventing them from entering certain locales.

In Acts 8, the Apostles Peter and John went down to Samaria to pray for the people there and that they might receive the Holy Spirit, “for it had not fallen upon any of them.”

And then, like our Bishops today, in every Archdiocese of the world, “Then they laid hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.”

In the Catholic Church, this is called Confirmation, an outpouring of the Holy Spirit from a direct descendent and successor of the Apostles.

Often teenagers will wonder and the brave ones will even ask, “What is the purpose of Confirmation?”

It is the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the fulfillment of baptismal promises, full initiation into the Church and as Jesus called it, the Advocate, the one who will bring us to all truth and will be with us forever.

Read the Acts of the Apostles if you doubt or wonder how the Spirit can work in our lives.

It is fascinating reading on the beginning and growth of the early church.

I was reminded recently of the first reading on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 26, and the beginning of Lent, and it is really appropriate in our times today.

Many people have wondered if this virus is a chastisement, and where God’s hand is in all this.

We turn to the prophet Joel (2:12-18) as Judah is experiencing natural disasters, plagues of locusts, and the threatening of mass starvation for the people.

“Says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart,” and implores the people to act in a way they know, but have put aside.

“The prophet then succinctly records God’s merciful response: Then the Lord was stirred to concern for his land and took pity on his people.”

The Lord restored an abundant food supply and promised an extraordinary outpouring of his Holy Spirit, not only on his own people but on the whole world, bringing salvation and the knowledge of God.

God allows us to experience the consequences of our choices.

As professor Mary Healy said, “When society deliberately turns away from God, choosing to worship idols of its own making, as our own global culture has done, it removes itself from God’s blessing and protection and therefore exposes itself to various kinds of evil.”

God cannot directly will evil.

“God is light, and in him is no darkness at all,” (1 John 1:5) but he permits evil because in his infinite wisdom he is able to bring a greater good out of it.

How many of us take Sunday seriously as a day of rest? For most Christians this is generally the day we go to Church, but is that it?

Seek God on this day; through prayer, scripture reading, or sitting outside contemplating the beauty of God’s creation.

We know that Jesus got in trouble for healing people on the Sabbath.

If you can do that, in all seriousness, I think that’s OK to do on the Sabbath.

Don’t clean your hot tub or vacuum out your cars.

There is a reason many businesses are closed on Sunday, and it isn’t laziness.

It’s honoring God.

We have kind of got ourselves into this fix, and as we as individuals are really so interconnected, the innocent suffer along side the guilty.

Jesus speaks of this in Luke 13, regarding a construction accident that didn’t spare the good or the bad.

We have no idea how our prayers and good deeds affect others, but be assured they do — in a beautiful and positive way.

As I say in most everything I write, honor God and good things will happen, not only to you but in our interconnectedness in areas and ways you will never hear about.

God has assured us of this.

The evil of this virus and its aftermath can be atoned by us, if we hear the word of God and in our pleading may God be “stirred to concern for his land, and take pity on his people.”

All the difference in the world can be made if we return to God with our whole heart.

_________

Issues of Faith is a rotating column by five religious leaders on the North Olympic Peninsula. Mike Acheson is director of religious education at Queen of Angels Roman Catholic Church in Port Angeles and St. Joseph Parish in Sequim. His email is [email protected].

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