2nd Week of Easter (W): Reading
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
SS. Domenico e Sisto, Roma
What does it mean to live under a spirit of salvation? First, let's think about what it means to live “under a spirit.” If we take “spirit” to mean something like “what animates one's mind and body,” or “the vital force of a person,” we understand spirit to be a neutral term, being neither negative nor positive. One's mind and body could be animated by a spirit bent on destruction. And a person's vital force could be sacrificial love. Some Christian communities use phrases like “a spirit of sickness,” “a spirit of rebellion,” “a spirit of mercy,” to describe basic personality traits in individuals, enduring dispositions that characterize a person and describes the condition of a soul. We might think too about how one's spirit constitutes a fundamental way of taking in the world, processing the information our senses gather up, and using all that data to make decisions, choose actions. Medieval physicians often used the theory of humors to classify types of diseases. Depending on the relative levels of the four humors in your body, you could be sanguine, phlegmatic, choleric, or melancholic. This theory has the advantage of diagnosing the overall condition of the person by accounting for both the state of the body and the state of the soul. Though we no longer use the humors to diagnose disease, we still talk about someone's melancholic or sanguine spirit. Given all these different uses for the notion of the spirit, what does it mean the Christian soul to live “under a spirit of salvation”?
John teaches us that “. . .God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned. . .” Anyone who believes in His Son is given eternal life; they are saved from eternal perishing. But before those who have been saved from an everlasting death die their natural deaths they live on and do so under a spirit of salvation. If we are saved in Christ—who is the way, the truth, and the life—then we are participants in his truth, intimate players in the life of human salvation. Christ's truth is not a warm bath to lazily soak in, or a prize bed for us to linger in but an active, enlivening force, a vital spirit that animates us to not only speak the truth but to act truthfully as well. To speak and act out of the fullness of his truth that fills us to overflowing. If our truthful speech and acts are to be ministerial, a service to others, then they must be done in the light for all to see.
John writes, “. . .whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.” The apostles have been imprisoned by their religious enemies. The Lord sends an angel to free them. This same angel instructs them on how to use their newly gained freedom: “Go and take your place in the temple area, and tell the people everything about this life.” They do exactly that. For those who have been freed from the prison of sin, those who would walk the way of Christ's truth, their words and deeds must be spoken and done in the light so that a witness may be given. This not to be playacting or street theater but a genuine expression of a soul living under the spirit of salvation, the words and deeds of one who is infused to the bone with the truth of Christ's saving mercy. The spirit that animates you as a person, the vital force that drives you must be the spirit of Christ resurrected—a new life risen from death, freed from sin, given to you so that you can bring those enslaved by darkness to the light.
Lest we bear false witness to those whom God loves and intends to save, we must be Christ's truth always and always in the light.
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