03 June 2020

He destroyed death

Charles Lwanga & Companions
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St Dominic Priory, NOLA

Jesus quotes his Father speaking to Moses, I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob,” explaining to the Sadducees, who deny the resurrection, “He is not God of the dead but of the living.” Jesus is pointing out to the Sadducees that our call to holiness (how we live apart in this world) is “not according to our works but according to [God's] own design.” So, he asks them, “Are you not misled because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God?” The answer, of course, is Yes, they are misled. But how? Paul helps us here by reminding Timothy that God, “did not give us a spirit of cowardice...” Most English translations render δειλία as “fear” or “timidity.” Opposed to fear, timidity, cowardice is the spirit of power, love, and self-control. These gifts are best used in the service of bearing witness, of giving testimony to the truth that God has “saved us and called us to a holy life.” The living God, the God of the living, calls us to holy life of boldness, love, prudence, and power. Knowing that the resurrection awaits us only reinforces our supernatural desire to bear witness to the mercy of God in this world. The Sadducees (both ancient and modern) see this world as the end, the only world we need worry about. They are misled. We know that Christ “destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel.” As preachers and teachers of the Gospel, we are vowed to proclaim over and over and over again, “He is not God of the dead but of the living!”

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31 May 2020

The Spirit is the soul of the Church


Pentecost Sunday 2020
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP

Each one of us here is a body and a rational soul. A human person. All of us together make up one Body, the Church. Just as each one of us is a body and the soul, so the Body the Church has a soul – the Holy Spirit. The job of the rational soul is to animate the human body, give it life, direction, purpose; imbue it with intelligence, will, and creativity. Just so, the Holy Spirit animates the Body of the Church, gifting us with wisdom, knowledge, fortitude, piety, understanding, counsel, and fear of the Lord. Each one of us received these gifts at our confirmation and the Church received them all at Pentecost. And receives them still. While the disciples hide in fear, trembling, crying, mourning the death of Jesus, the Holy Spirit breaks through their despair with wind and fire and sets them ablaze with a supernatural mission – to out into the world and teach and preach the Good News of Christ Jesus. That same Holy Spirit abides with us even now, energizing the Body of Christ, the Church, to do all that he has commanded us to do. Therefore, “brothers and sisters: No one can say, 'Jesus is Lord,' except by the Holy Spirit.” If Jesus is your Lord, do as he commands.

Doing what Jesus commands us to do is no easy thing. We all know this b/c we have all failed at some point and will probably fail again. But doing what he commands is how we grow in our friendship with the Lord. It's how we accomplish our holiness and bring others to Christ. Every human failure starts with a profound failure to understand a fundamental truth about our who we are as Children of the Father. As Children of the Father, adopted sons and daughters, we are persistently and unavoidably always in the presence of the Holy Spirit. Nothing we say, do, feel, or think is ever not said, done, felt, or thought w/o the presence of the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised the disciples that at his ascension into heaven he would send to them (and us) an Advocate, a spiritual guide who will be with us always. When we move to do as Jesus commands to move we do so fully in the presence of the love that the Father and Son have for one another. In the presence of the Holy Spirit. If you try to move w/o the Spirit, if you try to speak, think, or feel w/o the guidance of the Holy Spirit, you fail. In essence, you are the pinky toe trying to walk w/o the foot. The foot trying to run w/o the ankle. The ankle trying to jog w/o the shin. You are trying to succeed w/o the very source of Success Himself.

So, if we are always in the presence of the Holy Spirit, how can we ever fail? Good question. The Holy Spirit is with us always. No question about this. However, we are not always with the Holy Spirit. Here's an analogy: the local radio station is pumping out music whether you are listening or not; whether you are tuned in properly or not. The airwaves are filled with TOP40, rap, country, classical, talk, but you can't hear any of it b/c your receiver is off. The Holy Spirit is pumping out Divine Love 24/7. He never stops. He never pauses. So, the question is: are you tuned it? Is your Holy Spirit receiver properly tuned? If you are in a state of sin, then the answer is no. If you aren't praying for the Father's will to be done in your life, the answer is no. If you aren't following Christ's command to love and forgive and accomplish great things in his name, the answer is no. If you are allowing the spirits of this world – rebellion, hatred, vengeance, lust, greed, wrath – if you are allowing these malignant spirits to rule your heart, the answer is no. The Holy Spirit will be with you and me always. But will you and I always be with the Holy Spirit? 
How do we guarantee that we are always with the Holy Spirit? How do we make sure that our Holy Spirit receiver is always properly tuned? Immerse yourself in prayer. Always and everywhere give God thanks for everything you have and everything you are. Never cease offering Him praise and thanksgiving. Grow in holiness by looking to the saints for examples of how to grow apart from this world and closer to Christ. Surrender your heart and mind – your whole person – to the will of the Father, and seek His guidance in everything you say and do. Ask for what you need and wait on His grace. Never forget that you are a citizen of the Kingdom, an heir to a divine inheritance. You do not belong to this world. Death is nothing to fear b/c death for you and me is beaten. Christ's victory is our victory, and the war is won. And lest we take pride in this victory, remember: it was won for us not by us. Our gratitude in sharing in this victory is the measure of our humility. Lastly, know that the Holy Spirit gives each one of us everything we need to remain faithful and true. “No one can say, 'Jesus is Lord,' except by the Holy Spirit.” Jesus is Lord! Make it so.

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