Friday, May 20, 2011

The Holy Spirit warns Paul of Persecution

“When we had been there several days a prophet called Agabus arrived from Judaea. He came up to us, took Paul’s belt and tied up his own feet and hands, and said, ‘This is what the Holy Spirit says, ‘The man to whom this girdle belongs will be tied up like this by the Jews in Jerusalem and handed over to the gentiles.” (Acts 21: 11 – 12)

What is happening here? Why does the Holy Spirit warn Paul of impending persecution? This is not strange in salvation history. Jesus warns the apostles of His passion and death. He also warns them to be ready for intense persecution. I would like to be warned of impending persecution so that I could prepare for it through prayer, through lectio divina and through the Eucharist. Simeon warns the Virgin Mary that her Son would be a sign of contradiction and a sword would pierce her heart. Mary responded to this revelation through prayer and searching the scriptures. When the time comes for the unfolding of the Paschal Mystery, she was fully prepared.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

An alert guard

“Be on your guard for yourselves and for all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you the guardians, to feed the Church of God which he bought with the blood of his own Son.” (Acts 20: 28)

It is the Holy Spirit who appointed us to the ministry which we exercise today in the Church. The same Holy Spirit urges us to be vigilant first and foremost for ourselves and then for all the people we minister to. A guardian is like a keeper or watchdog for a very important asset. What we guard for ourselves in the treasure of salvation within us. This treasure is in an earthen vessel which is fragile. We guard it from wolves in sheep clothing whose only interest is to despoil us and our flock of this treasure.
Be on the alert therefore for yourself and for your flock.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

In Captivity to the Spirit

“And now you see me on my way to Jerusalem in captivity to the Spirit; I have no idea what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit, in town after town, has made it clear to me that imprisonment and persecution await me.” (Acts 19: 22-23)
How I love the expression, “in captivity to the Spirit.” How I wish I am in captivity to the Spirit for the mission that God has destined me for. In Acts 20: 24, Paul writes: “…….provided that I complete the mission the Lord Jesus gave to me – to bear witness to the good news of God’s grace.”

“I have chosen you from the world to go and bear fruit that will last.” (John 15: 16, 19)
“I will bear a witness to you in the world, O Lord. I will spread the knowledge of your name among my brothers, alleluia.” (Psalm 17: 50; 21:23)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Ignorance of the Holy Spirit

“it happened that while Apollos was in Corinth, Paul made his way overland as far as Ephesus, where he found a number of disciples. When he asked, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers? They answered, ‘No, we were never even told that there was such a thing as a Holy Spirit.’ He asked, ‘Then how were you baptized?’ They replied, ‘With John’s baptism.’ Paul said, ‘John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance; but he insisted that the people should believe in the one who was to come after him – namely Jesus.’ When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, and the moment Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came down on them, and they began to speak with tongues and to prophesy.” (Acts 19: 1 – 17)

Today we might smile to learn that some early disciples of Jesus did not know that “there was such a thing as a Holy Spirit.” Yet, many years ago in the midst of my desert experience, when I received the message that “all that I need is the Holy Spirit.” I wondered: “What is the relevance of the Holy Spirit to my pressing problems of unemployment, money, health and a host of other problem?” Because I considered the messenger trustworthy, I did not discard the message. I did the Novena to the Holy Spirit before Pentecost of that year and on the final day of the Novena, following the instruction in the booklet I was using, knelt down and pleaded with all my heart for the Holy Spirit. When I got up, I was filled with a serene joy. My joy in the Holy Spirit continued to grow throughout the years. Then one day about three years ago, I discovered this amazing truth from the Roman Missal: “God is the source of all inspiration and power.” This is it for me. The search has ended! The Holy Spirit is all that I need. It is true! He is the source of all inspiration and power.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

My Good Shepherd

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
Besides restful waters he leads me;
He refreshes my soul.” (Psalm 23: 1-3)

On this Good Shepherd Sunday, I reflect what it means to me when I say that Jesus is my Good Shepherd. I remember many years ago when I first took spiritual notice of this Psalm. What struck me immediately was the phrase: “I shall not want.” It was probably the lowest period of my life when I seemed to experience every type of want. It was also the beginning of my conversion experience. I was also beginning to gain the insight that the word of God is true and trustworthy. Starting with God’s word and not my actual experience I tried to understand the meaning of the words. I argued that if God says that He is my Good Shepherd, therefore I have everything I need, this means that I have here and now everything I need. I turned this proposition in my mind for some time and then began to list every type of need that I experienced at that time, namely:

It was impossible on the surface to say that I had everything that I needed. I must have been aided by grace at the time because dissecting the above needs one by one, I saw clearly that I was adequate in everything. The configuration of each supply was in accordance with my real need of the time. When I saw the light, I thanked God for it. What is the key to my insight? I started with God’s word and not my needs. I believed prior to reflecting on God’s word that His word is true and trustworthy. I was reading God’s love letter to me. He says to me right here and right now: “I am your Good Shepherd, you shall not want.” Do I believe Him or not?

Over the years since that initial reflection, in periods of dire necessities, I return to Psalm 23 and repeat the reflection that gave me the light. I have also been exposed to other insights on “I shall not want.” In one period of great need, a friend in Australia wrote to me as follows:

“Don’t you have a roof over your head tonight? Do you not have food on the table tonight?”

This helped me to realize that all that I truly need here and now is what I truly have here and now. Jesus puts it in these memorable words:

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.

Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.” (Matthew 6: 33-34)

Jesus Christ is indeed the Good Shepherd.