6th Sunday of Easter. May 21, 2017.
Acts 8:5-8,14-17; 1Pt 3:15-18; Jn 14:15-21
The language of the Spirit-filled
We have received the gift of the Holy Spirit in Baptism and Confirmation. We have God’s Spirit being poured into our hearts in prayer and in the sacraments. But are we really thinking and speaking the language of those who are Spirit-filled? What does this language sound like?
First, are we people who say with conviction, “God, you are always with me and I am never alone?” The Spirit that Jesus offers and speaks to us about in today’s Gospel is One who “remains with us always,” who also “remains in us and will be in us” irrespective of how we are feeling or our conditions in life. God’s presence within us is a pure gift won for us by Christ on the cross and His prayer to the Father, “I will ask the Father and He will give you another Advocate.” Divine presence in us is neither earned by what we do nor is it dependent on how we feel or what others think about us. On a practical level, being Spirit-filled, we are ready and willing to lift up our eyes and heart to God in heartfelt and sincere prayer at any moment of our lives and we refuse to judge our closeness to God by our feelings or conditions in life.
Secondly, are we people who face all events and circumstances in life by asking, “God, what are you trying to teach me through this event or experience?” The Spirit is a “Spirit of Truth,” who also “guides us to all truth.”(Jn 16:13) In addition to begging God for the graces that we need to overcome obstacles and difficulties in life, being Spirit-filled, we also live with that conviction that, through our life experiences, God is constantly revealing to us truths about Himself, His mysterious ways of acting, who we are as God’s children, and how we are supposed to behave in our relationship with God and others.
In today’s First Reading, Philip, like other Greek speaking Christians of his time, were compelled to leave their homes in Jerusalem after the martyrdom of Stephen and the violent persecution of Christians. Even in that painful experience, there was a Spirit-message to spread the Gospel beyond Jerusalem and to reach out to the Samaritans, “Philip went down to Samaria and proclaimed the Christ to them.” The result of his preaching was overwhelming and “there was great joy in that city,” because Philip was not deaf to the constant teaching of the Spirit even in his painful moments.
Thirdly, do we say with conviction, “Lord, I believe in your words to me more than in my own experiences or what the world may say or expect from me?” The Spirit of Truth guides us along paths that are not always the common way of judging, speaking and acting. Since it is a Spirit that “the world cannot accept because it neither sees nor knows Him,” we cannot judge the Spirit’s inspiration or truth by worldly standards or fall into easy compromises with the world. The greatest reality for us is God’s words, much more than public opinion, personal experience, or cultural expectations.
Fourthly, do we also ask, “How can I give God greater praise and glory in this situation or through this experience?” The Spirit is given to us to enable us to seek the glory of God by doing His holy will alone, “Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me.” The Spirit constantly moves us away from selfishness and self-will. Philip did not seek self-preservation in his trials but continuously used his gifts for the glory of God, “With one accord, the crowds paid attention to what was said by Philip and saw the signs that he was doing.”
Fifthly, how ready are we to say, “God, I trust that you will always sustain me in all things as long as I am seeking to give you praise and glory.” The Spirit is an Advocate who helps us in all things. We cannot even pray without the assistance of the Spirit, “The Spirit helps us in our weakness, for we do not know how to pray as we ought; but the Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.” (Rom 8:26) This means that we are ready to let go of all forms of self-reliance, self-dependence and self-seeking in our thoughts and actions.
Why is it important to think and speak as befits one who has the Spirit of Jesus? The Spirit and other gifts are given to us to make happy here on earth and to journey to heaven. We easily abuse or underuse our gifts when we do not speak the language of the Spirit-filled. Consequently, we lose that joy that the Spirit brings because our language does not reflect His abiding presence within us to teach and support us constantly.
I recently met a well-educated woman who once owned a lucrative real estate business. She had friends and family who looked up to her. She had lost everything through her gambling addiction. She is now living in a shelter for the homeless in Manila, blind and deserted by her loved ones. I was struck by her joyful demeanor and her words to me, “Maybe God has taken away all my wealth and my sight so that my heart can now be fixed on Him alone.” There is no self-pity here but honest acceptance God’s love for her even in her bad choices. Her joy was no longer in her material gifts or status but it is now a joy that comes from contact with the God who is ever present and active within her, constantly sustaining and teaching her about God’s mysterious and often painful ways and how she is to respond. She had learned from her painful experience that true joy does not come from more gifts but from having our thoughts, words, actions and attitudes shaped by the abiding presence and pedagogy of the Spirit within.
Mother Mary, the ever-faithful spouse of the Spirit, spoke the language of the Spirit-filled. Believing that God was always with her, she faced all life’s events by “keeping all these things and pondering them in her heart,”(Lk 2:19) to discern the voice of the Spirit within her. She let God alone to sustain her, “He who is mighty has done great things for me.” Through Mary and with Mary, we too can learn something about God, self, and others from the events and conditions of life. Experience is the best teacher and we never graduate from the school of the Holy Spirit’s instructions in life’s experiences. Mama Mary is a tested and trusted guide for us in this school of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus, our Eucharistic Lord, will never cease to pour His Spirit into our hearts as He does in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Indeed, we are never left orphans. God is ever with us, ever teaching and supporting us, to bring us to that unending joy that comes from our faithful use of God’s gifts to the very end and for His greater glory. All we need to do is to begin to think, speak, and act out the language of the Spirit-filled.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!