Knowing the Holy Spirit

Jesus said to his disciples: “When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, he will testify to me. And you also testify, because you have been with me from the beginning.

– John 15

On Friday, Erin reflected on the mystery of friendship that Jesus offers us. Jesus mentions a very important fruit of this friendship in today’s Gospel: He sends us the Holy Spirit. At first (and not just at first, honestly) the Holy Spirit seems rather mysterious: Who is He? What is He? How does He do His thing today, in 2018, in my life? How can we come to know Him?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 688 is a helpful guide:  

“The Church, a communion living in the faith of the apostles which she transmits, is the place where we know the Holy Spirit:

– in the Scriptures he inspired;
– in the Tradition, to which the Church Fathers are always timely witnesses;
– in the Church’s Magisterium, which he assists;
– in the sacramental liturgy, through its words and symbols, in which the Holy Spirit
puts us into communion with Christ;
– in prayer, wherein he intercedes for us;
– in the charisms and ministries by which the Church is built up;
– in the signs of apostolic and missionary life;
– in the witness of saints through whom he manifests his holiness and continues the work of salvation.”

So in other words, we find the Holy Spirit and come to know Him wherever we find the Church.  Read a biography of Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati, and you’ll find he was working the entire list pretty hard – because he sought to live fully within the Church! What Erin said about mystery in general is very applicable here: “no matter how deeply we study this complex truth, there will always be more layers of understanding to peel back, always something new to learn.” The list above is not exhaustive by any means – there are many, many ways to know the Holy Spirit and to welcome Him into your life in a deeper way!

My challenge for you today: spend some time in prayer with the list above. Pray the simple prayer “Come, Holy Spirit!” throughout your day. Ask the Holy Spirit in what ways He wants you to come to know Him. And then be open! Have confidence that through your life, the Holy Spirit will testify the love of the Father to the world as shown through the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus.

Come Holy Spirit!

Pax et bonum,
Andy

The Faith to Be Healed

Paul…looked intently at him, saw that he had the faith to be healed, and called out in a loud voice, “Stand up straight on your feet.” He jumped up and began to walk about.

– Acts 15

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.

– John 14

The power of Jesus, working through His disciples (Paul, Barnabas – and us!) can heal others in a profound way – if they have the faith to be healed. The Evangelists tell us several times in the Gospels that Jesus either was – or was not – able to heal people based on their faith.

Do we have faith that Jesus, working through His Bride, the Church, can heal us? Do we have the faith that Jesus actually wants to heal us? That whatever current pain or suffering we experience, from without or within, is not meant to last? And faith that the time of pain can actually bring us closer to Jesus, even when the path is steep and you feel disoriented?

On the flip side, do we have faith that the Lord can make us instruments of His healing in the lives of others, knowing full well our poverty and weakness? Paul was Saul at one point – still somewhat of a piece of work even after his conversion – and yet the Lord used him in ways he could not have foreseen as he was led by the hand to Damascus. When your heart feels crushed or broken, it’s hard to see beyond the pain. But, it is precisely in our crushed and broken hearts that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit want to dwell, revealing their love for us.

Let us pray that the Holy Spirit will remind us of all Jesus has told us in the Scriptures and through His Church, that He wants to reveal His Father’s love through us and within us. May we keep His word and know His love for us this day!

Pax et bonum,
Andy

By the Hand

I, the LORD, have called you for the victory of justice,
I have grasped you by the hand;
I formed you, and set you
as a covenant of the people,
a light for the nations,
To open the eyes of the blind,
to bring out prisoners from confinement,
and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.

– The Servant Songs of Isaiah

Praying with today’s readings, the comforting words I have grasped you by the hand reminded me of my favorite scene from The Fellowship of the Ring. Frodo has decided to journey to Mordor alone, paddling his boat across a broad river. Faithful Samwise realizes what Frodo is up to, and plunges in after the boat. But Sam cannot swim and soon begins to sink, hand stretched towards the surface. Right as Sam’s hand becomes still, Frodo’s hand plunges down into the water. He grasps Sam’s hand and hauls the waterlogged hobbit up into the boat.

This Lent, perhaps more than any before, I have experienced the Lord grasping me by the hand and leading me into a deeper life in Him. It is not that He’s provided consolations, or that I have been particularly good at adhering to disciplines of prayer, fasting, or almsgiving. Perhaps it has something to do with receiving kindness, joy, and forgiveness from my wife and daughters in response to my weaknesses and poverty. Maybe it is the daily opportunities to serve all these ladies in my life, reminding me time and again that my life is not my own and I am called to empty myself. Or it could be finding community and brotherhood in an unfamiliar place, taking hesitant steps with hesitant trust only to be reminded again that God is faithful, He had always been faithful.

Frodo saves Sam from drowning – he saves Sam’s life. And yet because Frodo grasped his hand, Sam will go on to experience terrible suffering (no more spoilers here – read the books!). Sometimes when I feel the Lord reaching out His hand I would rather not take it – His hands bear nail marks, and I know what that means. This week more than any other reminds us of the cost of accompanying Jesus and entering into His life. And yet the wounds that signify the Cross are the same wounds that reveal the Resurrection, that are signs and witnesses to the power of God.

His hands, those wounds, this week…He’s calling us – the blind, the imprisoned – to know His Light and Freedom, and to bring His Light and Freedom to others who are blind and imprisoned. This Holy Week, grab hold of His hand that you may encounter Him in the suffering and and encounter Him in the joy.

Pax et bonum,
Andy

Ite Ad Joseph!

Behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,
“Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.
For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.

I recently finished the first book in the novel Kristin Lavransdatter. Laverns (father of the main character) strives to be a good father to his daughters, to love them and teach them to God, the Church, their family, and their neighbors, especially the poor. I am amazed that the struggles of fatherhood do not look that different whether you have daughters in 21st-century America or 14th-century Norway. Over the past year and a half I have wrestled with, prayed through, and pondered the questions: what does it mean to be a good father? Am I a good father? How can I become a better father? And often a simple answer comes: Be like St. Joseph – Sleep more and talk less! (I need help with both – just ask my wife)

But this answer – although both humorous and true – only skims the surface. More than his affinity for rest and silence, in St. Joseph we find a friend who was patient, humble, just, merciful, and attentive and obedient to the will of the Lord. He – like all of us – encountered difficult and unexpected situations in his life, and followed the Lord onto uncomfortable, even painful paths on which he would otherwise not dare to trod. He wants to accompany us on the difficult roads of this life, to protect and guide us as he protected and guided Jesus and Mary.

I do not know if Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati had a devotion to St. Joseph, and cannot confess intimate familiarity with his writings. Based on his attraction to his friend Laura and his love for the faith, I imagine that he would have had both a love and respect for St. Joseph, and a deep desire for fatherhood. This desire was frustrated by his parents and his illness/death – yet neither of these roadblocks kept Bl. Frassati from following the Lord and knowing joy even in the sufferings.

What would St. Joseph’s path been had the Father not chosen Him to father His Son? Would He still be a saint? How would he have responded to the challenges of life? And Bl. Frassati – what other great deeds would he have done had he not gone Home at such a young age? As Erin said last week, these final days of Lent can be the hardest. So today during your prayer, turn to St. Joseph and Bl. Frassati, and ask them to pray for you to be open to the will of the Father in your life, to allow Him to lead you into – and out of – the valleys of tears, trusting that He is near, and He is bringing you closer to His love through it all.

Pax et bonum,
Andy

Faith

From Today’s Gospel (John 4):

Now there was a royal official whose son was ill in Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, who was near death.
Jesus said to him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe.”
The royal official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.”
Jesus said to him, “You may go; your son will live.”
The man believed what Jesus said to him and left. While the man was on his way back, his slaves met him and told him that his boy would live. He asked them when he began to recover.
They told him, “The fever left him yesterday, about one in the afternoon.”
The father realized that just at that time Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live,” and he and his whole household came to believe.

Three thoughts on today’s Gospel:

1) Jesus’ response can sound like an admonition (Unless you people…), a scolding for the people’s lack of faith. But what if it’s not? What if Jesus is rather acknowledging the reality that the people’s faith is based on an encounter with Him that reveals Him as Healer, Prophet, Savior? In other words, “You people will begin to believe in me, once I reveal myself to you.” He knows us, and continually acts to reveal Himself to us in a manner that will draw us to Him.

2) God often intervenes in our lives in ways we would not expect. The official first wants Jesus to come to his son and heal him there in close physical proximity – perhaps thinking of the recent sign that Jesus performed at the wedding feast in Cana. And yet Jesus chooses to act in a different way, sending the man on a 1-2 day journey home, with “only” a promise of healing. Jesus shows the official, the town, his disciples – and us – that even His words have power, even His voice can heal and bring life.

3) Our faith is progressive – that is, we should progress in faith through every encounter with our Lord. St. John notes that the official first believes in Jesus’ word “Your son will live,” and then again after he receives confirmation that his son was healed at the time when Jesus spoke the promise. Every day, God reveals Himself to us in love as Father, Son, and Holy, Spirit. Every day, He invites to believe in Him again, to draw close Him, to be transformed.

Blessed Pier Giorgio, pray for us today – that like you, we may receive God’s actions and words in our lives, and respond in such a way to increase our faith and lay down our lives for others.

Pax et bonum,
Andy

Close

For what great nation is there
that has gods so close to it as the LORD, our God, is to us
whenever we call upon him?
– Deuteronomy 4:7

Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets.
I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.
– Matthew 5:17

Sisters and brothers, in this season of repentance, I pray that we also take a moment to reflect on the Eucharist so that, upon receiving forgiveness, we sprint to receive Jesus’ body and blood with new eyes and refreshed hearts.

Today’s readings remind us of Jesus desire to be in a state of intimate relationship with us. He calls for repentance, yes, but not as king demanding a show of loyalty and obedience, but as a friend who misses us. The Israelites found cause to praise the Lord for His closeness even during their 40 years in the desert. The Lord had just given them His commandments, and they saw them as a sign of His closeness.

How much closer is the Lord now?! We have the Eucharist! We are temples of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us! If the Israelites could give thanks for God’s closeness, how much more we ought to express our gratitude!

Say a prayer of thanksgiving today for the Lord’s closeness. Go to Confession. And then sprint to receive Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament at the foot of the altar as often as you can from now until Easter.