Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

Leaders Disagree

If there were a Catholic version of Jeopardy there might be some questions we could ask about the Feast of St. Barnabas today, June 11. Did he die on this day? No. Were his relics brought to some church on this day? No. We celebrate his feast today because he’s a key figure in the Post Pentecostal church. He tells us something about the leadership of that church, especially, and also about church leaders today.

Leaders can disagree. 

Barnabas and Paul were missionaries together, but a sharp disagreement occurred between them and they went their separate ways. (Acts 15, 36-41)  Will disagreement always occur among Christian leaders?

Today the US Catholic bishops meet in Baltimore to deal with the crisis of sex abuse in our church. They agree the issue has to be strongly addressed, but they seem divided about how to address it. There are strong personalities involved; men holding on to positions they’re committed to. 

We might like it to be different, but it was that way from the beginning. The Spirit leads the church, not human beings. “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”Then, completing their fasting and prayer, they laid hands on them and sent them off.” (Acts 13, 1-3)

From the beginning the Spirit brought human beings to lead who are different and will disagree. 

Why? So that no one can boast?

The Spirit is our guide. Lord, send out your Spirit and renew the face of the earth.

How about political leaders? Another story, or the same?

My guess is it’s the same. Beware of the one who knows it all.

Paul’s Conversion

 

The dramatic conversion of Paul is recalled in today’s  first reading at Mass from the Acts of the Apostles. Luke describes this event three times, acknowledging Paul’s special  role in the spread of the church from Jerusalem to Rome.

 Luke sees Paul’s conversion and ministry as a work of God, who uses the apostle for his own divine purposes. It’s not Paul’s genius or imagination that achieved so much. God’s grace brought him to the ground on his way to Damascus and God’s grace sent him on his mission.

“Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”  Jesus says to him. Their meeting caused Paul to be convinced that faith is a gift that justifies us and that the church is the body of Christ. He did not come to those beliefs on his own.

Paul’s great conversion story in Acts introduces a succession of stories recalling the conversion of the gentiles. Though Paul has a prominent part in these stories, he is still an agent whom God sends and constantly empowers.

The Acts of the Apostles is not just a description of the past;  it’s a template for the church of every age. Personalities like Paul and human factors play a part in her growth, but the church’s advance is not principally through human power, reason, or imagination. The power of God’s Spirit guides and supports it through time.

We need to recognize the church as God’s church..

Will the Spring Rains Come?

 April showers. Spring rains.

Cyril of Jerusalem has a wonderful sermon on water that he preached to catechumens centuries ago. Here are a couple of lines:

“Water comes down from heaven as rain, and although it is always the same itself, it produces many different effects, one in the palm tree, another in the vine, and so on throughout the whole of creation. It does not come down, now as one thing, now as another, but while remaining essentially the same, it adapts itself to the needs of every creature that receives it.”

The saint goes on to say that just as water adapts itself to every creature, the Holy Spirit gives life to each one according to its needs and to benefit the common good. The Spirit’s coming is gentle, not felt as a burden, with tenderness, as a true friend, to save, heal, counsel, strengthen and console.

So back to spring rains. Will they come this year? Climate change? Is it at work with the spring? The magnolia tree outside my room hopes the rains will come, and the other trees and plants in our garden hope they will too. They’re waiting for the rain to fall on the earth to do what it always does. Like the Spirit of God, water brings life.

Send the spring rains, Lord.

To Pray is to Hope

Prayer is more than looking for something, like a cure for sickness or getting a job., In prayer we search  for something we do not even understand. It’s a hope we have for something beyond anything we know, St.Augustine writes to Proba, a woman asking him about prayer.

“There is one thing I ask of the Lord. This I seek: to dwell in the house of the Lord for years to come. To gaze on the loveliness of the Lord…” The psalms express that hope..

We have an “instructed ignorance,” the saint says, and the Spirit of God helps us in our weakness.

“The Spirit pleads for the saints because he moves the saints to plead… to plead with sighs too deep for words by inspiring in them a desire for the great and as yet unknown reality that we look forward to with patience. How can words express what we desire when it remains unknown? If we were entirely ignorant of it we would not desire it; again, we would not desire it or seek it with sighs, if we were able to see it.”

The Wisdom of Ordinary Time

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The readings in today’s Mass point to the wisdom of ordinary time. “Whoever is not against us is for us,” Jesus says to his disciples who complain there are others “who do not follow us” driving out demons. (Mark 9,38-40) Wisdom is not just in our tradition; it’s there everywhere in ordinary time.

I like the hand in the picture above of Bernini’s famous window in St.Peter’s. Who’s hand is it, anyway? A believer’s hand. Yes, for sure. But also the hand of all who walk this earth searching for truth.

“Wisdom breathes life into her children” (Sirach 4,11 ) Like much of the wisdom literature in the bible (Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Wisdom, Psalms) the Book of Sirach, one of the readings at the beginning of ordinary time, draws much of its content from the culture of the middle east which influenced the Jews at home and in their exile in other lands.

As the gift of God breathed into ordinary time, the Holy Spirit “renews the face of the earth.” The Spirit’s wisdom is everywhere.

The Holy Spirit: Water Poured Out

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The Holy Spirit is “poured out on all flesh,” Peter tells the crowd at Pentecost. The Spirit is like water poured out, St. Cyril of Jerusalem tells his hearers:

“The water I shall give him will become in him a fountain of living water, welling up into eternal life. This is a new kind of water, a living, leaping water, welling up for those who are worthy. But why did Christ call the grace of the Spirit water? Because all things are dependent on water; plants and animals have their origin in water. Water comes down from heaven as rain, and although it is always the same in itself, it produces many different effects, one in the palm tree, another in the vine, and so on throughout the whole of creation. It does not come down, now as one thing, now as another, but while remaining essentially the same, it adapts itself to the needs of every creature that receives it.
 “In the same way the Holy Spirit, whose nature is always the same, simple and indivisible, apportions grace to each one as he wills. Like a dry tree which puts forth shoots when watered, the soul bears the fruit of holiness when repentance has made it worthy of receiving the Holy Spirit. Although the Spirit never changes, the effects of his action, by the will of God and in the name of Christ, are both many and marvellous.
 “The Spirit makes one person a teacher of divine truth, inspires another to prophesy, gives another the power of casting out devils, enables another to interpret holy Scripture. The Spirit strengthens one person’s self-control, shows another how to help the poor, teaches another to fast and lead a life of asceticism, makes another oblivious to the needs of the body, trains another for martyrdom. His action is different in different people, but the Spirit himself is always the same. In each person, Scripture says, the Spirit reveals his presence in a particular way for the common good.

“The Spirit comes gently and makes himself known by his fragrance. He is not felt as a burden, for he is light, very light. Rays of light and knowledge stream before him as he approaches. The Spirit comes with the tenderness of a true friend and protector to save, to heal, to teach, to counsel, to strengthen, to console. The Spirit comes to enlighten the mind first of the one who receives him, and then, through him, the minds of others as well.
“As light strikes the eyes of a person who comes out of darkness into the sunshine and enables him to see clearly things he could not discern before, so light floods the soul of someone counted worthy of receiving the Holy Spirit and enables him to see things beyond the range of human vision, things hitherto undreamed of.”  (Catechesis)