GIFT OF PIETY: A HOMILY ON THE FEAST OF STS. PHILIP AND JAMES
I dont know if you noticed that recent blogs have had a lot to do with the Holy Spirit. Indeed, this is a Holy Spirit period, because after the resurrection of Jesus, He sent the Holy Spirit to be with the apostles. Without the Holy Spirit, they could do nothing, and the same to us as well. One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, one which I have not heard much on is th gift of piety. My own definition of Piety is that Piety is to fall in love with God. Piety is the gift of first recognising one as a beloved child of God (BCOG), then embracing this love by loving God above all things, and loving others as children of God. We can love people, without loving them as children of God. Piety enables us to be excited about Godly things, Godly places, Godly people, etc. Indeed, if you are in love with someone, you will be excited about anything that has to do with that person. A pious person will say ‘I cannot wait to see God!’ A pious person does not stop praying. Everything he does is a prayer, because he does everything from the motive of pure love for God.
After the resurrection, you will get the impression that people were just running around in excitement. In our First reading, we can see the excitement with which St. Paul is telling us about the people to whom Jesus appeared after His resurrection. Indeed, if you are in love with someone, and the person dies, you will be excited to see the person again, even if it is in a dream. James, whom we celebrate today is mentioned as one of those to whom Jesus appeared. St. Paul cannot wait to tell us that Jesus appeared to him also.
In the Gospel we see Philip, whom we celebrate along with James telling Jesus that he cannot wait to see the Father, and this is the only way he will be satisfied. He certainly has the gift of piety. A pious person is someone who is no longer satisfied by worldly things, but will be satisfied after a prayer session, after celebrating Mass and recieving the Eucharist. When Jesus tells us in the Gospel to ask, our minds will often go to asking for more money, more houses, more of material wealth. One thing the Holy Spirit does is not only to enkindle the fire of God’s love in us. He also enables us to pray properly, to ask for the right thing. Many people, left on their own can go to the extent of praying for the death of their neighbour. The Holy Spirit enables us to pray like Philip, to ask to see the face of God, to desire God more than we desire anything else. Otherwise, our prayers will be very egocentric and mundane. Jesus says ‘If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.’ Does that mean I can ask him to kill my boss at work who is giving me a hard time? Without the Holy Spirit, we cannot pray properly. Do not trust yourself when it comes to prayer. Beware of yourself!!!
A pious person tries to make their relationships with others Godly, because they do not love people as persons. They love people as fellow children of God. We all love people. Even the most wicked human beings have people they love. The difference is that our love for others is often not based on our common identity as children of God. It is often based on how good they look, what they can do for us, and other physical qualities. Without the Holy Spirit, we will only relate to people based on external qualities. But the Holy Spirit will open our eyes to look at a person, and see that this is a child of God, loved by God into being. I will love him, not because I like him or the way he behaves, but because God has loved him into being.
Like other gifts, we do not possess piety naturally. We have to ask the Holy Spirit to give us this gift of piety which is the antidote to the spiritual acedia that we often suffer. Piety will change our sadness and anger towards God and Godly things/people. Piety will enable us to experience a spiritual joy in relation to God and fellow children of God.