In my last letter I wrote about the goodness of God, and his unconditional love that we can experience when we open ourselves and trust him. When we enter into the truth of this unfathomable love the only reasonable response is to become his disciples.
There is a story about a well known man who encountered Jesus in his everyday life. As he learned more about Jesus and his teaching he realized in a moment of grace that, more than anything, he wanted to follow Jesus. So he committed his life to Him and began to follow. However he soon discovered that it was not as easy as he first thought. He kept making mistakes and after several years of trying he ended up frustrated and discouraged, feeling unworthy, and at a complete loss of what to do next. Then one day after much prayer the Holy Spirit came upon him in a way that changed his understanding forever. He discovered that he had access to courage and wisdom that he did not have before. More importantly he discovered that the Holy Spirit would lead him in every day life if he would surrender all to him.
You may have guessed that the man of whom I speak is Peter, the great Apostle to the Jews and the first Pope of the Roman church. It is amazing to me that a man who spent 3 years with Jesus face to face, heard all his teachings, and saw all the miracles, would end up with so little understanding about how to fulfil his calling. In John’s gospel we read in Chapter 20 that Jesus breathed on them and said receive the Holy Spirit. The church has always believed that they did receive the Holy Spirit at that time. So what was he missing?
Peter, like most of us tried to figure things out for himself. But in order to be whom he was called to be, he had to learn that he could not be the leader. He had to learn to be the follower. So once he saw clearly that his methods did not work, he was ready for the Holy Spirit to come upon him and teach him to follow.
In the world, especially the western world, we try to figure everything out and form our own opinions. We use our powers of reason and intuition and then determine the course that is best, or, solve the problem. If we try to use that worldly method in regards to following the Lord, like Peter, we are doomed to fail and be frustrated. Perhaps you too have experienced a little frustration in your faith walk. I know I have.
Proverbs 3:6 says “ on your own intelligence rely not but in all your ways be mindful of Him and He will direct your path.” In other words … do not try to figure everything out (we don’t have all the information – only God does). Especially when it comes to what God wants us to do in the variety of situations we might find ourselves every day. Mary did not tell the servants at the wedding to do what they thought was best; she said do whatever he tells you. It made no sense to human reasoning to fill the jars with water. But with obedience came the new wine.
So what can we learn from Peter? How did he change his ways? Well, first of all, as mentioned above he had to see that the ways of the world consistently fail when applied to the journey of faith. There can only be one leader in the journey of faith and that is the Holy Spirit. Secondly, at Pentecost the Holy Spirit introduced himself to Peter and the others in a powerful way, to let them know that they were not alone and that he would lead and assist them. This introduction has come to be called the baptism of the Holy Spirit, or the pentecostal experience. We see in the book of Acts that the Holy Spirit makes his presence and his direction very discernible to the disciples such that they know (by revelation and not by human reasoning) what to do next.
In Vatican 2 the Pope prayed for a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the church. In 1967 a group of catholic university students in Montreal, inspired by Acts chapter 2, decided to have a 10 day prayer meeting (like the disciples in the upper room) and ask for that same outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit came upon them and the Charismatic Renewal was birthed in the Catholic Church. Not only were there manifestations of the Holy Spirit, but there were also miracles that followed. Within 20 years 50,000,000 Catholics around the world had experienced the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit. I was one of those. It happened to me in my living room when no one was home. My way of looking at life and faith changed forever. I was no longer timid about sharing faith and began to serve in the church much more than I ever thought I could. This empowering introduction to the Holy Spirit is available today to those who earnestly seek God and are willing to ask for it.
The Holy Spirit leads, directs, and informs in regards to our daily personal mission. When we keep our hearts focused on the fire of his constantly burning love we see more clearly … we hear more clearly … and wisdom finds a home in us. This wisdom does not come from study or lived experience. It only comes from the Holy Spirit as we learn to discern his presence and leading.
He speaks to us in many ways. In our thoughts and impressions; through our friends and families; in our times of prayer and our times of service; in the silence we give him in meditation. He often moves us to act or to pray. We can also see him at work in the circumstances of our lives if we pay attention. He will give us insights that, if we are not careful, we will take credit for.
Over the years I have had many struggles trying to determine if I am hearing him or not. It does take faith, and at times I am a little short of that. None the less I have heard him many times and have seen the fruit of obedience to his requests. These days I try to keep things simple. He is … He speaks … I hear … I obey.
If you have managed to read this far, and you recognize a desire in your heart for a more intimate walk with the Lord why not ask the Holy Spirit for his empowering encounter. It is recorded in the book of Acts that some of the disciples experienced his baptism more than once. Our dear departed Sister Aquinas used to say “the reason we need to be filled with the Holy Spirit time and time again is because we leak.” Now that is not to be taken literally but every relationship needs to be renewed from time to time. And there are times in life when we need the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit to move us, as scripture says “from faith to faith (Rom 1:17) and glory to glory (1 Cor 3:18)”.
May we come to know the Holy Spirit as our best friend and teacher. May we walk each day in the newness of His life. May His consolations carry us to our heart’s desire. May the Saints in heaven pray for us and inspire us. And may the Angels protect us and assist us with the good works that we are called to do.