In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
In your experience and in your life and practice of faith, who of those three seems to get the least attention? The Holy Spirit would be my answer.
I’ve had any number of people say to me, “Fr. Jim, I can pray to God the Father and certainly to Jesus since he was a human being like me, but I just don’t connect with the Holy Spirit. How do you pray to a “spirit?” Good question.
Ever since we journeyed back into Ordinary Time on Sunday, June 25th, our second reading has been from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans. This is the longest of St. Paul’s letters. It is also the most systematic unfolding of his thought. Unfortunately, it seldom gets preached. I apologize for that shortcoming in my own preaching.
Beginning July 9th and ending July 30th, the Church has us in chapter 8 of Romans. This is a profoundly beautiful chapter that ends with Paul’s stunning affirmation of faith: “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present thing, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
St. Paul’s life and martyrdom will give testimony to these very words.
Today’s second reading is only three verses, 26, 27 and 28 and it focuses on the action of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer.
If you were baptized, would you please raise your hand?
Now, if you received the sacrament of Confirmation, would you please stand, if you are able?
Now answer this honestly while still standing by raising your hand: how many of you feel and experience the power of the Holy Spirit in your daily life and prayer? Thank you. Please be seated.
Let us pray: “Come Holy Spirit, enkindle in us the fire of your love, so that purified of all self-seeking that separates us from you, we may grow in the depth and breadth and the glory of our friendship with God. Amen.”
St. Paul spends much of chapter 8 teaching about the Holy Spirit.
St. Paul says that the Holy Spirit is our source of life in verses 11 and 13.
St. Paul says that the Holy Spirit lives in us and shows us how to live for God in verses 4-6 and 9.
St. Paul reminds us that we are God’s children in verse 16.
St. Paul teaches us today that the Holy Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness in verse 26 and that the Holy Spirit himself intercedes for us in verse 27.
The Holy Spirit is there for us.
The Holy Spirit has been poured forth upon the Church since Pentecost and has guided it and sustained it for two millennia. Yet, how often I forget to ask the Holy Spirit to be with me and to help me when I don’t know what to do, what to say or how to pray.
For me at least, to my own detriment and diminishment, sometimes the Holy Spirit is simply the odd one out.
The Holy Spirit longs to be with us, help us, guide us, fill us, strengthen us, guard us and lead us to heaven, to the fulfillment of our existence.
The Holy Spirit is for us while Satan is against us. It is so important to keep this in mind.
In his letter to the Galatians, St. Paul spells this out so clearly. In Galatians 5:19, St. Paul lays out the effects of the evil one.
“Now the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outburst of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
This is our link to the parables of the kingdom of heaven that we have been hearing these past two Sundays and will hear again next Sunday.
This long list of the effects of sin and evil, which St. Paul surely could have added to, is what separates us from God and from one another. When we use others for our own pleasure and self-centered motives, our souls wither and die; the weeds and wheat grow together; the mustard seed does not get planted; the yeast does not get added.
“In contrast,” writes St. Paul in Galatians 5:22, a line of scripture worth memorizing and using as a template for our daily living: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
St. Paul then writes in verse 25, “If we live in the Spirit, let us also follow the Spirit.”
Who of us does not was more love in our life? More joy and more peace in our relationships? More patience with our spouse and children? More kindness and gentleness in our interactions, in our homes, around the dinner table, at work and in our world?
What would our marriages, our families, our parish be like if we were more generous with our time with one another, more generous in sharing our gifts and talents in service of one another, more generous in giving our treasure, our money for ministry and the spread of the Gospel?
We are all in need of the Holy Spirit. We all need to ask the Holy Spirit into our lives, into our prayer each and every day asking the Holy Spirit to give us what only the Holy Spirit can give.
So let’s end this homily praying together. On the outside back cover of the Breaking Bread in the bottom right hand corner is a prayer to the Holy Spirit. Let us pray it together.
“Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them the firs of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created and you shall renew the face of the earth.
“O God, who has instructed the hearts of your faithful by the light of the Holy Spirit, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may have a right judgment in all things and evermore rejoice in his consolations. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.”