“Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love.” The dictionary defines spirit as something that is vital and is the principal animating force within a living thing. In terms of vitality, the spirit is needed and is absolutely necessary because it performs an essential and vital function in the living body. Without the spirit, a living thing is unable to function on its own and would be rendered lifeless. In terms of being principal, the spirit is the main, primary and most important element in a living body. It leads and animates a living body giving it lifelike qualities – it can live, move, breathe. I think the same is true and can be said of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the vital and essential force in our body. It breathes life into us. It moves, instructs and guides us. It helps us to live forever. But unlike any spirit, the Holy Spirit is a person, a real person, the third person of the Holy and Blessed Trinity. And although the Holy Spirit is unable to be seen by the human eye, He can be seen, heard and experienced through the eyes and ears of our heart, as well as through a rock solid faith and unshakable belief in God, through a loving obedience and peaceful surrender to the Father’s will, through silent prayer and confident trust in Christ and through a genuine openness and total abandonment to the Holy Spirit’s guidance and inspiration. The Holy Spirit is a gift from God. The promised gift that will teach and instruct us in the Way of Christ and remind us all that he taught and told his disciples. We are reminded that in God’s infinite love and mercy towards his special creation, he came down from heaven to lead his children and be with them always but they rejected his loving invitation. Then in the Father’s infinite love and mercy, he sent his Son Jesus to show the world the extent of God’s love for us – just look at the Cross. Although this time God’s invitation was rejected by some it was lovingly accepted by many. After Jesus returned to Heaven he sent the Holy Spirit to sanctify our hearts and consecrate us in Truth – God really loves us and desires to be with us always. But if we want to be with God, we must cooperate with his Spirit and allow him to empty us, heal us, renew us, restore us, fill us and inflame us with the fire of his Holy Love. “Come, Holy Spirit, come!”
Reflections from the Heart
“The one who descended is also the one who ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.” I often contemplate the great beauty of Heaven; the possibility of possessing it, the hope of dwelling in it, the gift of eternal peace. I also think about how as adults we lose the hope of Heaven, the desire of obtaining it, the longing for peace. I often ask, who wants to go to Heaven? I’m often surprised at the unenthusiastic response and sadden by the lack of desire to be with God in a place of absolute peace created for you and me; a place of eternal love, perpetual peace, forever joy for eternity and who wouldn’t want that? Our minds have been occupied by so much noise; our ears are filled with it, our lives governed by it, our hopes diminished by it, our dreams silenced by it – we love noise. We love noise so much that when we don’t have it, we create it, we seek it, we make it. Heaven on the other hand longs for silence, is sought after in quiet, is found in stillness. Stop for a moment; give noise a break – give silence a chance. Create an opportunity to experience the beauty of the Divine, the presence of your Creator and the possibility of Heaven. What does Heaven look like to you? Is it real? Is it possible for you? I am ever grateful and always filled with great joy when asking children, who wants to go to Heaven? With hands way up they shout “I do, I do.” They move and inspire me with their enthusiasm and with their view of the Heaven they see and experience. A place where the sky is always blue, with an ocean of clouds. The sun is so bright and the grass is always green. There are flowers and trees and angels everywhere. No one ever gets sick there and no one ever dies there – they live forever. Imagine that Jesus left this amazing place to enter into our darkened world filled with decay and disease, noise and confusion, sin and death. He did this because God really loves us. God desires us and hopes that we would love him and desire to return to our real home; the paradise that was created for us to dwell with God in peace. Not for a quiet moment or a day in our life time but forever, for eternity. Christ died in atonement for our sins, he rose from dead to free us from corruption, he ascended to the Father to prepare a place for us. So, who wants to go to Heaven? I do, I do.
“Remain in me, as I remain in you.” To “remain” is a word or the concept of staying in something or with something perhaps like staying in a current or an ongoing situation for a quick second or for a length of time sort of like sticking with something until the end, hanging in there until it’s over or seeing something through to final completion. The idea of remaining can also be like dwelling in a place or occupying space for a moment or perhaps for sometime similar to remaining in a city or a house or in prayer or in a particular state of mind or life for a given time or forever. To remain can also mean to abide “with” or “in” such as abiding with someone for many years or for days unending sort of like being friends forever or maintaining a long term relationship or being sealed in the unbreakable bond of holy matrimony or being part of a family who prays and stays together just like Jesus when he entered into an everlasting covenant with humanity. He entered into our human family to suffer and die with us and for us so that united to him in his Word, through his Prayer and with his Sacraments we could remain with him forever and always – for today and for eternity. And this is God’s everlasting promise to us, that in Jesus, we can abide, dwell and remain with him not just in this life but in the one which never ends. But we must do our part to remain in him as he reminds us, “Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me.” We remain in Jesus when we spend quiet and quality time with him in and with sacred scripture. Not by reading scripture as if it were only words on a page but as having a deep and personal conversation with someone who is real, alive and present to us as we pray, reflect, speak and listen. We also remain in Jesus when we honor the commandments, live in beatitude or simply exercise acts of love, kindness and mercy in the name of Jesus and with his help. But we truly and really remain in Jesus when we receive him in the Blessed Sacrament with an open spirit, a contrite heart, a quiet mind and a peaceful disposition and simply say, “Jesus remain in me so that I can more perfectly remain in you.”
“Beloved, we are God’s children now.” The term “beloved” is one that has taken me considerable time in my spiritual journey to understand, to hear, to receive, to embrace, to believe. It is a word that can be difficult to say. A name that can be challenging to hear. A phrase that can seem unattainable. A possibility that can never be realized. But God’s plan is that we will all come to know, believe and experience the love that he has for each of us – a love that is personal, intimate, sincere, intentional. What does it mean to be “beloved”? From God’s perspective, who is the source in which all love – true, holy and pure – originates from, flows from and is continually nourished and sustain from; to be God’s “beloved” is to be the center of his attention, the constant thought on his mind, the precious object of his affection, the delicious apple of his eye, the burning desire of his heart. To be-loved by God is to allow God to be who he is – God is love and so are we. To be-loved by God is to permit God to be who he is and to be who he created us to be, for he is love and we are his beloved. So when the Beloved Disciple says to our hearts, “Beloved, we are God’s children now” what does that mean, what does that say to you? I think, funny it’s great that God so loves me and now has made be his beloved child but it begs the question, whose child was I before I became his? Who did I belong to? Was it Adam and Eve my creation parents? Or perhaps Mary and Joseph my new creation parents? Or maybe Ivan and Eddy my biological parents? Or Gloria and Israel my godparents? Or even Roseann and Jimmie my spiritual parents? Now that we are God’s children, whose children were we before? The truth is we were and have always been God’s children. God created us in his love, helped us in his grace, forgave us in his mercy, and continues to love us in eternity. And even when we couldn’t reach him because we drifted so far from him, even though we couldn’t see him because we preferred darkness, even though we couldn’t hear him because we preferred other sounds and voices, even when we failed to love him, God continued to love us; we continued to be-loved by him for we are his beloved. “Beloved: See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are.” Fr. Ivan