EASTER WEEK 04 03
Believing in God – Listening to the Spirit – Living as Church
(Acts 12.24-13.5; Ps 67; Jn 12.44-50)
The readings today continue to plumb the deeper meaning of the Resurrection event, extending to us an invitation to grow in faith, live in the Spirit, and spread that gift of faith.
What we see emerging in the early church is a more developed image of God as Trinity, family, intimate relationship. In the gospel Jesus speaks of being sent by the Father, of doing the Father’s will, of being one with the Father. The first reading draws our attention to the Spirit of the Risen Lord, who both inspires and guides the early Church. The world is seeing for the first time a revelation of God not as an impersonal force in the cosmos, but rather as an inter-personal divine dance or perichoresisof relational love. What a warm and welcoming image of God that is for a humanity struggling with the darkness of ignorance.
Jesus also calls himself the light of the world, sent by the Father to draw people out of the darkness of unbelief or incomplete belief, into a sharing in the very life of the Trinity, an eternal flowing of love among three persons who are also one unity.
We also see the first believers and followers of Jesus being very attentive to and open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, especially as they prayed and fasted. The is a gentle reminder of our need to do the same – to pray the prayer of listening in contemplation, and removing some of the clutter in our lives at the same time, to fast from distractions and unnecessary activity.
This sure is what the Word of God is all about that continued to advance and gain adherents. It was a whole new way of relating to God and living one’s life in relationship with the Holy Spirit. And it naturally led them to “proclaiming this Word” to the Jews and eventually to the Gentiles. One way to describe this way of life theologically is that we are all making our way back to the Father, through Jesus, in the Spirit, with Mary our mother.
Certainly, we can all do well to reflect on our lives, and ask ourselves how open are we to the promptings of the Holy Spirit who speaks to us in a variety of ways. One of the best of course would be the silence of contemplative prayer, in the stillness of our hearts. Here is what Henri Nouwen had to say about that kind of prayer in one of his reflections: “Prayer is not a way of being busy with God instead of with people. In fact, it unmasks the illusion of busyness, usefulness, and indispensability. It is a way of being empty and useless in the presence of God and so of proclaiming our basic belief that all is grace and nothing is simply the result of hard work. Indeed, wasting time for God is an act of ministry, because it reminds us and our people that God is free to touch anyone regardless of our well-meant efforts. Prayer as an articulate way of being useless in the face of God brings a smile to all we do and creates humor in the midst of our occupations and preoccupations.”
But we also need to be open to how the Spirit might be speaking through others who love and care for us, who give us feedback or valuable advice, as well as through the events of our lives.
I recall praying to the Holy Spirit as I entered a First Nations community I was serving, asking where I should start my round of visiting and practicing my Cree. It is amazing how sometimes I was prompted to stop at a certain house, only to be immediately involved in either a hot argument needing an outside mediator, or some other crisis needing immediate attention. Afterwards I would reflect that had to be the work of the Holy Spirit.
The Eucharist is an act of deep faith in the Father’s love in Jesus Christ, and in the transformative power of the Holy Spirit as humble gifts of bread and wine become the body and blood of Jesus.
May our celebration empower us to deepen our faith in God as Trinitarian love, be more attentive to the Holy Spirit and proclaim that Word to all we meet.