2nd Week of Easter/St. Athanasius
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
In the midst of some horrible situation – final exams, Capstone project due in ten minutes, you've missed your homily tutorial – in the midst these horrible situations, have you found yourself crying out to God, “O Lord! Please help me! I'll pray three rosaries a day for a year; give up coffee for a week; and read all of my assignments next semester if you help me!” This cry from the heart is a cry for grace – divine assistance, and I've no doubt that all of us here have at one time cried out to God in such desperation. We might imagine a distant, mostly indifferent deity wafting around in heaven oblivious to our (mostly) self-inflicted wounds, a deity whose attention we must attract and whose pity we must entice with promises, bargains, and offers of sacrifice. So, we begin. We promise. We bargain. We offer sacrifice. And, inevitably, we slink away in confusion and disappointment when our rich bounty of proffered spiritual loot results in nothing more than a Grand Silence from the heavens. The problem here is this: this is how the pagans pray. John teaches us, “[God the Father] does not ration his gift of the Spirit.” And neither do those who follow His Son.
When we pray, we testify; that is, when we open ourselves to commune with the Divine, we bear witness to the reality of God's presence in our lives, and we manifest the Spirit of God who animates everything we think, say, and do. Because God does not ration His Spirit, His Spirit is freely given in infinite abundance to any and all who will receive Him. There is no promise, no bargain, no sacrifice that is worthy of this gift. There is no created thing that can be offered to Divine Love Himself that equals the generosity of this gift to the believer. The only proper response upon receiving the Spirit is infectious joy, copious praise, and perpetual thanksgiving. To be clear: in receiving the Spirit there is no necessary exchange btw God and His creature. We have nothing to give Him that is not already His. For our sake, we are allowed to speak as though there is an exchange – a way for us to grasp imperfectly the nature of Christ's sacrifice on the Cross. But truly – what we have to give ultimately comes to nothing: our sin, our disobedience, our rebellion. So, when desperate, do not promise or bargain or sacrifice. Instead, receive. Open your heart and mind to the abundance of the Spirit and bear witness in prayer to the Divine Love Who created you, who re-created you in Christ, and who will make you perfect as He Himself is perfect.
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