Bestowing the Gift of the Spirit
by Rev. Jack Peterson, Y.A.
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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John wrote to show that Christ was
the Messiah, the Divine Son of God.
Jesus said to his disciples: "Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; yet the word you hear is not mine but that of the Father who sent me. "I have told you this while I am with you. The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. You heard me tell you, 'I am going away and I will come back to you.' If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you this before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe."
As we approach the end of the Easter season, we turn our attention to the precious gift of the Holy Spirit, the great promise of Our Lord to his disciples.
Jesus gives fair warning to his disciples of his impending departure: “I am going away and I will come back to you. If you loved me you would rejoice that I am going to the Father … And now I have told you this before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe.”
Our Lord’s departure from his earthly journey was going to be most difficult to comprehend and accept, but it was absolutely necessary.
Jesus’ ascension was profoundly important for many reasons. It was the will of the Father; it was one more critical moment in the work of salvation; it was the chosen moment to forge a clear path to heaven for his disciples; and it was time for the risen Jesus to take his place at the right hand of the Father.
In addition, Jesus’ departure from us on the 40th day led to one of his most precious gifts — the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in a wonderful new way on Pentecost. We can’t possibly overestimate the significance and power of the Holy Spirit working in our lives and in our world.
The Holy Spirit is the love that both exists between and emanates from the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit is the means by which Jesus fulfills his promise to come back and to dwell in our hearts: “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.”
Love seeks union with the beloved. God loves us so deeply that he greatly desires to come to us, dwell in us, be united to us and share his infinite love with us. The fire of his love purifies us of sin, cleanses our hearts of our selfishness and makes a home for himself in our souls. This is arguably the great gift of our Christian faith — to be in an intimate, personal and life-giving relationship with God through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Another grace that flows from the Holy Spirit is to assist the church in her mission to authentically preserve and proclaim the truths of our Christian faith as well as to apply them appropriately, according to God’s will, to new circumstances that come up throughout history: “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.”
Our first reading provides a real life example of the early church needing to settle a hotly disputed question by the assistance of the Advocate. The debate arose very early about the need for Gentile (non-Jewish) converts to become Jewish first and follow Jewish law and its prescriptions. A delegation, including Barnabas and Paul, was sent to consult with the apostles, especially Peter, who was residing in Antioch. After prayer, discussion and turning to God, the church sent a message back: “It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities … ”
While Jesus’ physical departure was sad and frustrating, it was the necessary channel for bestowing the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Allow me to finish with a prayer to the Holy Spirit from St. Augustine: “Breathe into me, Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy. Move in me, Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy. Attract my heart, Holy Spirit, that I may love only what is holy. Strengthen me, Holy Spirit, that I may defend all that is holy. Protect me, Holy Spirit, that I may always be holy.”
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