Saturday, May 4, 2013

Being Spirit-filled

Our readings for this Sunday point us towards Pentecost, towards the Father's sending the Holy Spirit at Jesus' request. It is by the Holy Spirit, who effects the sacraments, that God fills us with Himself, thus empowering us to live the new life we received through our Paschal death, burial, and resurrection, which occurred at our Baptism. The Holy Spirit is the mode, or the precise way, that Jesus remains present in us and through us between His Glorious Ascension to the Father's right hand, where He reigns forever, and His return in glory.

In St. Matthew's Gospel Jesus said to the high priest, who demanded that our Lord tell him "under oath before the living God whether you are the Messiah, the Son of God" (Matt. 26:63), "You have said so. But I tell you: From now on you will see 'the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power' and 'coming on the clouds of heaven.'" (Matt. 26:64).

In the Acts of the Apostles, the final words of Jesus just prior to His Ascension are, "you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth" (Acts 1:8).

Our Gospel for this Sixth Sunday of Easter, the Sunday prior to the Church's observance of the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, which is normatively observed on the Thursday between the Sixth and Seventh Sundays of Easter, is from Jesus' Last Supper Discourse in St. John's Gospel. Jesus reassures His disciples, who are worried that He has told them He is going away, by telling them that the Father will send them an "Advocate," in Greek parakeltos, from whence we derive the word Paraclete, which means someone you call to your side to help you. Jesus tells them this is the "Holy Spirit... [who] will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you" (John 14:26). In the context of the passage it seems that the things about which the Holy Spirit will remind them are what it means "to Keep" Jesus'"word." The "word," of course, as we know from last Sunday's Gospel, is "love," or, agapé.

Jesus promise was fulfilled at Pentecost, when His disciples "were all in one place together" (Acts 2:1), when "suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim" (Acts 2:2-4). They proclaimed Jesus Christ: "God raised this Jesus; of this we are all witnesses. Exalted at the right hand of God, he received the promise of the holy Spirit from the Father and poured it forth, as you (both) see and hear crucified, buried, and risen from the dead" (Acts 2:32-33).

In our reading from Acts chapter fifteen this Sunday we see the Holy Spirit at work in the Church at the so-called "Council of Jerusalem." The council was convened to determine whether Gentiles, who Paul and Barnabas were instrumental (acting as instruments of the Holy Spirit) in converting at a rapid pace, needed to first become observant Jews and live by the Mosaic law, including men receiving circumcision. The conciliar decision was written and conveyed to the churches via letter and began: "It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities" (Acts 15:28).

You, too, are to be filled the Holy Spirit. You receive the Eucharist, which we also call the sacramentum caritatis (i.e., "the sacrament of love"), for this very purpose. From here you are dismissed, that is, sent out, re-filled with the Holy Spirit, to be a witness for Jesus Christ outside these walls, "glorifying the Lord by your life," announcing "the Gospel of the Lord." This amounts to telling others what Jesus has done for you; first by the manner in which you live and then, because what you say will be credible, by your words.

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