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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Week's Reflection from Fr. Bob Warren: Bring the Power of the Spirit into the World (John 16:12-15)

Franciscan Friars
Franciscan Friars
Bring the Power of the Spirit into the World
(John 16:12-15)
It has been a long journey since we entered the season of Lent on Ash Wednesday. We have known the gift of Holy Thursday, the agony of Good Friday, the glorious triumph of Easter Sunday, the bewilderment of the Ascension. Now, we celebrate the conclusion of that journey as we enter into a whole new dimension of God's working with-for-and through His people.
We hear the message God chooses to share with us. It is a message so vital that God pulled out all of the stops to be sure we hear it. Unlike many of the important events in Christ's life, this one is dramatic, spectacular. The Son of God came to earth in silence and obscurity, but the culmination of His time on earth is unlike anything ever before experienced. Picture the group—huddled together in fear. Then, suddenly, a great wind filled the room. A tongue of fire appeared over each person, and they were filled with the Holy Spirit: the same Holy Spirit who brooded over the waters when God made heaven and earth; the same Holy Spirit who spoke through the Old Testament prophets; the same Holy Spirit who overshadowed a young girl and made her the Mother of God. The same Holy Spirit would descend upon the apostles in tongues of fire and transform cowards into heroes.
When we read today's scripture, the word 'power' comes to mind. The apostles were given power—that they had never known before. We know there are all kinds of power. There is political power. The President can veto a budget bill, pressure other nations to do this or that. There is economic power. If you think it is love that makes America go 'round, it is not. It is the Dow Jones average, it is Wall Street. Then there is social power—whether you like it or not, society has an effect on all of us. What we eat or drink, what we wear, what is 'in', what is 'out.'
Now, there is perhaps the most powerful—computer power. We can no longer live without them. They launch people into space, they fly our planes and fight our wars. Computers tell us our weather and balance our checkbooks at every bank. So much for power in our world. There is another kind of power, a power that, in a sense, is out of this world—the power of the Holy Spirit. This is not just pious talk, something that I have to say. It is all through the New Testament. It is because of the Holy Spirit that a young teenage girl became the mother of the Son of God. The angel told her the Holy Spirit will come upon you. The power of the most high will overshadow you. And just before His ascension, Jesus promises His apostles that they will receive the Holy Spirit.
St. Paul never stops talking about the Holy Spirit. This is the Spirit that filled the twelve on the first Pentecost, when they began to speak in other tongues to devout Jews from every nation under heaven. So it seems we have the power of the world and the power of the Spirit. The temptation is to use one and canonize the other. But that would be wrong. The world and all its power is not God's enemy. How could it be? God created it and said it was good. Our task is to bring the power of the Spirit into the world. Our liturgy is not an escape from a Godless world a private party where the good people huddle together for one blessed hour of forgetfulness. No, the liturgy sends you back into the world, and its power, to make a difference so that your thought, words and deeds somehow reflects the presence of God within you.
The readings for Pentecost tell us an important truth that the Church originated, not with people, but with God. Christ founded it, guides it and is still its Head. That makes the Church unique, no civic club, no fraternity, no business, no social clubs, no bank, no government, can say Jesus Christ is its founder.
Our Church was so beautifully described in Vatican II, in the words of the document, the constitution of the Church. It reads, "The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men and women of this age, especially those who are poor, or in any way afflicted, these too are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the Church."
Our Church is more believable when its love is visible, when the Church is shaken by every life violated by violence, when it agonizes over hands without work, stomachs without food, humans beings without human rights, when it is the Church of the outcast, not a church that casts out people, when nothing that is human is a stranger to it. That is our task as members of this Church. We are the Church.
Our Church is far from perfect. We have made mistakes in the past, and we will make more in the future. The Church will wax and wane. Cynics will continue to write her obituary. But the Church is here to stay, for it is the creation of God who told us, "I will be with you until the end of the world."
As members of the Church we might want to say, "Lord, send out your Spirit to help us renew the face of the Church."
Fr. Robert Warren
Yours in Christ,
Fr. Robert Warren Signature
Fr. Robert Warren, S.A.
Spiritual Director
Franciscan Friars
Franciscan Friars of the Atonement
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