The world looms large in Jesus prayer today. “I gave them your word, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the Evil One.”
World here is not world as cosmos, that created reality fashioned in goodness by an all good God. Nor is it the complex network of relationships that sustain the cosmos in unity, love and purpose.
Rather, “the notion of ‘world’ serves to unmask the demonic universe of refusal and rejection” (Quoted by Francis Martin, “The Spirit of the Lord is Upon Me,” The New Evangelization, 67). The world is everything in the culture, society, the economy, education, our personalities that resists the God who comes to us in love, friendship, grace and as Lord of the Universe. It is that fundamental inclination within us, as already witnessed in the garden of Eden, that declares our independence from any need for a god outside ourselves. The world insists on finding all meaning within itself, apart from its source and summit, the living God.
This is the ‘demonic energy’ that Jesus intercedes against for us. Jesus prays that our lives might be held in an essential receptivity to the self-revealing God. He prays that we not close in on ourselves because of the aggressive response of the world to such receptivity to transcendence.
Here again the Spirit plays his essential role for us. “The witnessing action of the Spirit consists in the activity by which he brings us into living contact with Jesus, who, forever fixed in the act of love in which he died, is the abiding Revelation of the Father, and as such is the Truth. The action of the Holy Spirit takes place in the Church through the liturgy and the sacraments, by his direct action in the souls of the believers, and…by the ‘works’ of the disciples in their own witness to the truth” (Ibid., 64).
How does the world act upon me to keep me from trusting God? What are the pressures I feel to find my purpose and happiness in what I can do and acquire by my own resources? Are there times of fear in my life that keep me from living faith, fear flowing from the sense that the world is greater than God?
Let us pray:
Holy and divine Spirit!
Through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Your spouse,
bring the fullness of Your gifts into our hearts.
Comforted and strengthened by You,
may we live according to Your Will
and may we die praising Your infinite mercy.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
The gospel today brings us to the great High Priestly Prayer from chapter 17 of John’s gospel. In this prayer we are given a glimpse into the prayer being offered by Jesus before the Father for his disciples until the final consummation of all things. This is Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father interceding for his church.
Jesus prays that his disciples be given eternal life, and “this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.” To know, again, is to enter into a living and vital relationship with the one known. “I revealed your name to those whom you gave me out of the world,” which is to say that we have been graciously granted access to the very person of God, who Jesus called his Father.
To have life that is fruitful, full, filled with meaning and purpose, and indestructible is to live our lives in an abiding and authentic relationship with God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, “Abba, Father!” The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:14-16).
How many of us spend a great deal of time ‘trying to find ourselves,’ to ‘prove ourselves,’ to gain the acceptance and approval of others, to show that our lives have value. All the while, this is being offered to us as gift. Jesus pours out his Spirit that we might know the truth of who we are. The Spirit reveals the truth of who we are and the true value of our lives: we are the children of God the Father who is the source of eternal life for us. There is no need to ‘find ourselves,’ because our very selves have been revealed to us in Christ by the action of the Holy Spirit.
Come, Holy Spirit! Speak Spirit, in the depth of my spirit, revealing the truth to me of the Father’s love and dependability. Let me cry out from the deepest part of my soul, “Abba, Father!”
O heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of truth,
Who are everywhere present and fills all things,
Treasury of good things and Giver of life,
come and abide in us,
and cleanse us from every impurity,
and save our souls,
O Good One.
(Traditional Orthodox Prayer)
Recently we celebrated again with our young people the Sacrament of Confirmation. Something I like to ask those preparing for that sacrament is, ‘What do you expect from God when you receive the Sacrament of Confirmation?’ You see, we really do believe that something, well more accurately, Someone, is communicated to us in the sacraments. Unfortunately, we too often approach the sacraments distractedly, with little expectation of encounter.
A good question to reflect on for those of us who have long ago received the Sacrament of Confirmation might be, ‘In what ways do I experience the Holy Spirit active in my life, in the life of the Church, in the world?’ Though we wouldn’t respond as the folks in today’s first reading, “We have never even heard that there is a Holy Spirit,” some of us might say, unfortunately, “We have never even experienced the Holy Spirit?”
If we haven’t, it might very well be that we simply haven’t reflected deeply enough on it. Where have I experienced God in my life? Have I felt courage and strength to do what is right in the midst of a hardship? Was there a time when ‘the light went on’ and suddenly the solution to a difficult, personal problem came to me? Did I ever say ‘I am sorry’ or have I said ‘I forgive you’ for a very significant hurt done to me? When have I been motivated to give to another of myself, my time or something I have? What are ways that I serve my community, my parish? Have I ever felt calm even when things were crazy around me? All these experiences are indications of the activity of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life.
And so, I state the question again for you and in a different way: What do you need the Holy Spirit to do in your life today? What ways do you need the Holy Spirit to direct your relationship with God, with another person, with something you need to do?
Let us pray:
O God, who by the mystery of Pentecost
sanctify your whole Church in every people and nation,
pour out the gifts of your Holy Spirit
across the face of the earth
and in my life,
and, with the divine grace that was at work
when the Gospel was first proclaimed,
fill now once more the hearts of believers.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen
(adapted from the Roman Missal)
Our reading today from the Acts of the Apostles describes for us the ascension of the Lord into heaven. “When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.” The next verse is equally important. “While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them. They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.” Now, add to this the first verse of today’s gospel. “Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.”
Two essential movements intertwine in the mystery of the Ascension of our Lord into heaven. The first and most obvious of these is the movement of ascent. Jesus breaks through the boundaries and barriers of this material cosmos and enters into what is eternal and ultimate. In the ascension we discover anew that we are made for eternity and our ultimate destiny is to exist forever in the heart of God.
The second movement, flowing from this first, is that the ascension pushes us outward and onward. “Why are you standing there looking at the sky…Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” The ascension of Jesus reveals our dignity as children of God and our ultimate destiny to live for eternity in that relationship of great honor and glory. This must be shared, allowed to shape the present world we live in, increasingly breaking down structures of oppression and discrimination and expanding the horizons of peace and respect in every relationship.
The explosive reality at the center of this mystery of ascension is something that can only be communicated and made effective for us by God. It is the Holy Spirit alone who can both lift us upward with Jesus and explode the horizon of our spirits outward in proclamation and service to the kingdom.
Let us share this Act of Consecration to the Holy Spirit, written by St. Pius X:
O Holy Spirit, divine Spirit of light and love,
I consecrate to You my understanding, my heart
and my will, my whole being for time and for eternity.
May my understanding be always submissive
to Your heavenly inspirations and to the teachings
of the Holy Catholic Church, of which You
are the infallible Guide.
May my heart be ever inflamed with love of God
and of my neighbor;
may my will be ever conformed to the divine Will,
and may my whole life be a faithful imitation
of the life and virtues of Our Lord and Savior
Jesus Christ, to whom with the Father
and You, Holy Spirit, be honor and glory forever. Amen.
Today’s gospel begins by repeating the last verse of yesterday’s gospel: “Amen, amen, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you.” Later in this gospel passage Jesus repeats a second time our need to ask the Father “in his name.”
What does it mean to ask God in the name of Jesus? Jesus’ words that follow immediately are a strong indication. “I came from the Father and have come into the world. Now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.” Jesus seeks to offer his disciples a glimpse of the love he shares from all eternity with the Father. The God he calls father is the origin and source of all he is. The Father is, just as surely, the goal and summit of all he is. There is a rhythm of love that exists in the essence of God, which we express as the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
We can come at this another way, perhaps. St. Paul tells us that God the Father “did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us” (Romans 8:32). This ‘handed him over’ is the same expression used to describe the actions of the traitor, Judas. Certainly it must have a different meaning in reference to God’s action than to Judas’. Somewhere St. Thomas explains this by pointing out that God the Father ‘handed over the Son’ by inspiring in him such love for his Father’s saving plan that he spontaneously entrusted himself to the passion. The handing over was a handing over of love that called forth love.
This, it seems to me, brings us to something of what it means to ask the Father in the name of Jesus. Recalling that in the biblical tradition, to have access to another’s name is to gain access to their person, asking in the name of Jesus is to be filled with love from the Father so as to pour out our lives in prayer to the Father for the sake of the world. This is the prayer not to be refused by the Father. To pray in love for the healing, reconciliation, transformation of the world.
This love of the Father for the Son, does it need to be said, is who we know to be the Holy Spirit. To be filled with the love of God is to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
One of my favorite prayers to the Holy Spirit is written by Cardinal Mercier.
O Holy Spirit, soul of my soul,
I adore You.
Enlighten, guide, strengthen, and console me.
Tell me what I ought to do and command me to do it.
I promise to be submissive in everything that You permit to happen to me,
only show me what is Your will.
Today is the beginning of the traditional Novena to the Holy Spirit, nine days of prayer to the Holy Spirit, concluding on the Vigil of the Feast of Pentecost. In this way, with the original band of Jesus’ disciples, who “devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with…Mary the mother of Jesus” (Acts 1:14), we might encounter for ourselves a deep and profound renewal of the life and action of the Holy Spirit in our midst.
It is my hope to offer on each day of the novena a brief reflection, guided by the daily readings from Mass, and to share a prayer to the Holy Spirit.
The last verse of today’s gospel provides us with a wonderful place to begin. There we hear Jesus say to his disciples, “Amen, amen, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you” (John 16:23).
We need to be, first of all, very attentive to this. The “amen, amen” indicates a solemn promise on the part of Jesus to us. The essence of this promise, I dare say, is the essence of the Easter mystery. God can be trusted. Jesus passed into the depths of death to be met by the always faithful God who drew him to resurrection and eternal life. God can be trusted.
But still, this is a deep mystery. Jesus did, after all, pass through death. Most of us, perhaps all of us, have addressed desperate petitions to God many, many times, only to receive no apparent response. There is the child who prays for years for the healing of a parent from cancer, only to see mom grow worse until she dies. How many parents have prayed for a wayward child who has only gone further off course? There is the addict who has pleaded with God for freedom, only to fall again into the deadly behavior.
We touch here a disturbing mystery. “Whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you.” Jesus’ words are sure! Yet, what do they mean for us here and now?
The early Christian patristic writers, when coming upon this verse, most often commented that what Jesus was referring to, the petition which the Christian should be addressing to the Father in his name, is nothing other than the Holy Spirit. Ask for the Holy Spirit, the very reality of divine life, and the Father will never, ever withhold it from you.
This is what we long to receive from God: the abiding indwelling presence of his divine life active through the Holy Spirit. Divine life, which is to say, indestructible, unquenchable, infinite, eternal life filled with fire and love and goodness and strength. This is the source of the peace Christ promised, a peace the world cannot give or take away. What we pray for is to know life that is eternal and ours as gift from a Father who loves us and will not refuse us.
In any present darkness, the living movement of the Holy Spirit in us communicates the assurance that God’s life is ultimate and God can always and everywhere be trusted to pour forth this life for us!
Come Holy Spirit,
fill the hearts of your faithful
and kindle in us the fire of your love.
Send forth you Spirit
and we shall be created
and you shall renew the face of the earth.
While I was studying at St. John’s School of Theology and Seminary, I often attended prayer with the monks. On several occasions, I attended Mass and other celebrations at the Abbey Church.
I was always intrigued by how they walk in statio, two by two, bowing first to the altar, then to each other. After seeing this, I asked a classmate why they do that. He told me that they first acknowledge Christ’s presence at the table and then they turn toward each other and recognize Christ within.
That image has stuck with me. Though I don’t go around bowing to every person I meet, one thing I’ve been trying to do is to look people in the eyes when I meet them, even if it’s a brief encounter.
I once watched a television show where they videotaped customers visiting a convenience store. When the customer went outside the store, a camera person recorded their reaction as a reporter asked them to describe the clerk who they just encountered literally seconds ago. Most couldn’t do it. Some could recall the color of a shirt or hair color. Some couldn’t remember if the person had glasses or facial hair. Some couldn’t even recall if the person was male or female. Another image etched in my memory.
How often do we really “see” the people around us? Who are we not seeing?
I’ve been working on a series of articles on mental health. I was blessed to be invited to sit in on one of the meetings of a local mental health support group. I admit that on the way there, I was thinking about how comfortable or uncomfortable the members might be to have me, a stranger and a reporter, there listening to their very personal stories. I admit that I was worried how comfortable or uncomfortable I might be spending time there, too. Would I say the wrong thing? Would I ask the wrong question? Would I offend anyone just by my presence?
Silly me. The group was a truly welcoming, loving group of people. They made me feel like an honored guest rather than a nosy reporter. There was no “get to know you” waiting period; they willingly opened their hearts to me. They looked into my eyes and I looked into theirs. I like to think we recognized Christ at the table and Christ within.
Now to offer a brief reflection on the fifth and final promise concerning the Holy Spirit found in St. John’s Gospel (16:12-15).
I have much more to tell you,
but you cannot bear it now.
But when he comes, the Spirit of truth,
he will guide you to all truth.
He will not speak on his own,
but will speak what he hears,
and will declare to you the things that are coming.
He will glorify me,
because he will take from what is mine
and declare it to you.
Everything that the Father has is mine;
for this reason I told you that he will take from what is mine
and declare it to you.
This promise is distinctive among the five for its richness and the multiple directions the Holy Spirit moves within the disciples. The Spirit will ‘guide into all truth,’ will ‘speak what he hears,’ will ‘declare’ and ‘glorify’ the Son. Notably, the juridical tone that dominates the first four promises is gone from this promise (Ignace de la Potterie, La Vérité dans Saint Jean, Tome I, 422). In this promise, all is relationship. The relationship of the Spirit to the Son, which is the same as that between the Son and the Father, all shared in relationship with the disciple.
There is then, in this promise, an overarching melody that offers a glimpse into the eternal interrelationship of the Trinitarian God and the disciples share in that life. Just as the Son glorifies the Father by revealing his loving and saving plan for all people, so too does the Holy Spirit glorify the Son by filling the hearts of believers with affection and trust for the Son. As the Father withholds nothing from the Son, for all eternity, so too does the Son withhold nothing from the Spirit, who in turn graciously pours this everything into the hearts and minds of believers. We glimpse here eternal love and the promise of being drawn into this love is extended to us.
Essentially, this fifth promise makes precise the action of the Spirit in relationship to the words and life of Christ. “[T]he future action of the Paraclete consists in rendering living and effective, in the lives of believers, the word of Jesus. One can therefore say, in a certain sense, that it is Jesus himself who continues to ‘speak’ to the disciples; but from now on, in a new and interior manner, by the Spirit” (Ignace de la Potterie, La Vérité dans Saint Jean, Tome I, 444). The Spirit’s role is “to ensure in the Church the living permanence” of the words of Jesus (ibid).
The opening line of this promise, “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now,” gives an added dimension to the particular role of the Spirit. The Spirit does not simply repeat what has already been said or, even, sustain what Jesus has previously taught. Rather, the Spirit must in some way serve “to interpret the mysterious revelation of Jesus so as to come to unfold its full sense” (Ignace de la Potterie, La Vérité dans Saint Jean, Tome I, 448). There is, importantly, no adding to the teaching of Jesus, but an unpacking of its richness and significance for the believer in the concrete circumstances that will confront them as they go forth bearing the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world. Once again we see that the Spirit comes to make the teaching of Christ accessible to the believer precisely at the moment the believer is most ready to receive and appropriate that teaching.
This final promise offers us the beautiful assurance that because of the active presence of the Holy Spirit, Jesus will never be far from us. As a matter of fact, precisely because Jesus has gone and given way to the Spirit, Jesus has become more interior to us than he ever could have been simply by remaining a physical presence within history. By the Holy Spirit, Jesus’ words and deeds, accomplished once for all in the distant past, are made alive, present and meaningful for us exactly where we live and act today.
Because the Holy Spirit is with us, we know with absolute confidence: Jesus Christ is alive!
Walking door-to-door handing out “missing person” flyers in the pouring rain was not how I expected to spend my Wednesday evening [May 17]. Ever since the 17-year-old Aaliyah [Kazimer] went missing last weekend, I had been following her story. Something this big, happening so close to home, really struck a chord with me.
I had never met Aaliyah; all I knew is that she was clearly a very gorgeous girl that had so much more of life to live. Yesterday I came across an article saying they needed more people to help with their search efforts. I didn’t think twice when I rounded up two of my cousins to go see how we could help.
When we got there tonight we were given a pile of fliers and told to go from house to house and ask if they had possibly seen this girl or knew anything that could help us find her. The people that answered their doors surprised me with their sympathy and their promise that if they see or hear anything they would call 911 immediately. It definitely showed me that there still is compassion in this world even though we maybe don’t see it as often as we should. After a couple hours in the rain we made it back to our car and headed back to the search headquarters.
When we walked into the shelter there was a different type of energy than when we had left. I immediately got a phone call from my dad that they had found her! Everyone in the shelter was so happy!! There was supposed to be a prayer service at 7pm and instead, it turned into a celebration that she had been found-ALIVE! We were talking to two girls from Aaliyah’s high school and they were saying how sad everyone was that she would potentially never see the day she got to graduate, but now there was a chance she would be able to graduate, this Friday.
Ever since I got home this evening Aaliyah has been on my mind. Just how rare this type of ending is. How lucky she is to be alive. And just how great of a guardian angel she has!! This opportunity has made me realize just how much I take my own life for granted. Every day is a gift, and we should not let a single day go by without telling our loved ones just how much we love them, and God how grateful we are for the day we have. I think it is also so important that we all continue to pray for Aaliyah as she processes and heals from most likely the scariest and most life-changing week she will ever encounter.
Guest blogger Travis Hartnell talks about his journey to full communion with the Catholic Church at this year’s Easter Vigil.
Many people have asked me the question, What brought you to the Catholic Church? I heard this question numerous times throughout my journey and every time it meant something different. I wasn’t sure how to respond at first since I hadn’t warmed up to sharing my story. I always felt it was obvious God brought me here, but I knew there was more I could offer people. I was blessed with many graces, and given the hardest conflicts of my entire life during this time. I went through the scariest rollercoaster ride of my life and wasn’t sure when I would get off. So today I want to give you the meat and potatoes of that journey.
The spark that ignited this journey happened at the turn of 2016. Now to start you there wouldn’t be just. I had influences throughout my life that helped me become a spiritual person. I was raised by a spiritual father who was born and baptized Catholic, but didn’t practice much of his life. My mother has been a caring, liberal woman who didn’t present us with specific spiritual offerings but the belief that God is real. Both of my parents didn’t attend church or tell us we were required to growing up. They took an approach that allowed life to be open to ourselves as we grew older. This let us have the freedom to explore what made us happy growing up without feeling judged or different for our choices.
My whole life I have believed in God, a higher power that put us here with a destiny. Countless times in my life I have been shown things happen for a reason. To believe in this means there is someone else [God], that puts us where we are in life against our own will. I say this because it is what truly brought me to Catholicism, and brought me to the happiest point of my life. I have learned people come and go in our lives. Some stay longer than we want, others leave too soon. Best of all, those we are really meant to be with, stay forever.
My coming-to-faith moment started at the end of 2015 with the turn of the New Year. I had been unhappy with my life for quite some time. This unhappiness came from a relationship I did not have a desire to be a part of, and a less than ideal living situation. I had been living with a girl I was dating at the time for a few years. I was comfortable where I was, but not happy. I knew I needed a change, and I wanted that more than anything. To initiate this change I needed to find a new place to live that I could afford on my own. I found an apartment right away to move to and was given hope. Little did I know, I would lose this apartment to someone that means the world to me to this day. This disappointment from the apartment loss left me feeling hopeless. I fell deeper into a depressed state than I already had been in. I felt I had nowhere to turn to. I remember being on my knees alone crying in my room. I was trying to find out what I was supposed to do. I found myself asking God, being mad at him. I really only turned to God in moments of need, not gratitude. I remember feeling as though he did not care about me and what happened. Friends, family and God had left me alone.
The difficult task life had thrown at me was moving into a new home. I needed to find a place within my budget, and in a reasonable location. About a month later I had an opportunity to move again, but for some reason I decided to pass. Another month went by, and again an opportunity came, but I passed. I made the choice to actively pass on these apartments because it felt like the right thing to do, and I could not have been happier with the choice I made. If I had taken the instant relief from them, I would have missed out on the biggest life-changing events that happened in my life.
It was shortly after these happenings that I approached Ryan, my sponsor, about church. I wanted to know more about God. I was starting to feel a deeper connection with him from the hopelessness I had been going through. I was unsure as to what this all meant to me. I asked to attend Mass one Sunday morning and was afraid. I was so afraid since I did not know what to expect. I remember wanting to back out that morning, but I gathered the courage and went. I attended morning Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral. You could say I jumped in head first. I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the church, the love of the community, as well as the passion of the priests and others serving the church. It was Father Scott Pogatchnik that first touched me with the words of the Gospel. I remember leaving church feeling refreshed. Like I just hit the restart button on the spiritual darkness I let cloud me. I loved the feelings that overcame me. I soon had asked Ryan to attend Mass a few more times. I knew I wanted to be a part of this community! I just did not know how I was going to get there.
Shortly after this first experience with church, I met someone that would provide a major impact on my life. I knew of this girl, but only as Ryan’s sister-in-law. She was the one that took my apartment in the beginning of this story. Little did I know, without her, I couldn’t credit where I am in my journey today. I met Nicole a year ago. She and I were invited to Ryan and Kaela’s house for a bonfire. Immediately I knew there was something special between me and this girl. They say when you meet the person in life meant for you, that you’ll know when you know. Let’s just say I knew! We became friends, she learned of my new journey in faith and has been a practicing Catholic herself since birth. Because of this she invited me to Mass every Sunday with her. I grew to love Mass, and her. This is where my life had changed me, I felt God’s love. I felt the love from this girl. I knew that if I had gotten that apartment she took, I would never have met her at that fire. She provided me the little bit of comfort I needed to commit to Catholicism. She has changed my world with the support and love she has provided me. I am happy to call her mine!
Summer was coming to an end and I had been attending Mass for months, always watching others take Eucharist and feeling left out. I made the decision that had been aching at my heart for so long. I needed to pursue the path to becoming Catholic. I went to Ryan and asked if he could look into what I needed to do to join the community. He got a hold of faith formation and put me on the path I needed to start. I was nervous and excited at the same time. Joining the RCIA program was amazing. They provided the tools I needed to learn and become a member of the church. I attended class weekly, as well as Mass every Sunday. I met priests, deacons, and even the bishop a few times. I was asked to be involved in some of the Masses at my comfort. I was called in front of the church many times as a catechumen. The unbelievable thing was, I was never nervous. Easter Vigil came, and I was presented in front of the entire church for baptism first communion, and confirmation! Again, with the welcome of the community, I was never nervous. I am sure you could say it was the grace of God, but maybe it was because, it was the one place, I was truly meant to be.