Sunday, January 6, 2013

Celebrate Life--The Gift of the Spirit

"When he comes, the Spirit of truth,
he will guide you to all truth."

(Jn 16:13)
The Holy Spirit is clearly on the move.  As the Church's new evangelization continues to unfold, powerful winds of transformation are bringing forth the Kingdom of God--on both a personal and a communal level.  And in the Diocese of Joliet, this month's theme for our ongoing observance of the Year of Faith centers on "The Holy Spirit--Lord and Giver of Life," who is the primary Agent of authentic change in the world.

But who is the Holy Spirit? And how can we "see" and really “know” the Spirit?  It seems to me that we come to know who the Holy Spirit is by noticing what he does--that is, by being attentive to his "workings" or his “fruits.”  Jesus himself said that "The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit" (Jn 3:8).  When we are attentive to the gift of the Spirit, we can “hear” the sound He makes in the quiet and beautiful moments of our daily lives.

Two of the traditional fruits of the Spirit are joy and peace.  These are gifts that the world cannot give.  Indeed, they are gifts that surpass all understanding.  But when we are truly at peace, no amount of worldly strife can shake us; and when we experience true joy, even pain and suffering pale in its light.  In short, we can "know" and "see" the Spirit in those moments of grace when we say and do just the right thing, at just the right time, in just the right way.

One of the clear "workings" of the Spirit today is strong leadership from our Bishops.  In another bold yet humble initiative, the U.S. Bishops have called for prayer, penance and sacrifice in defense of Life, Marriage, Religious Liberty.  From the recent Feast of the Holy Family through the feast of Christ the King this November, the successors of the Apostles are urging us to answer wholeheartedly the promptings of the Holy Spirit.  Instead of merely capitulating to the "spirit of the times" in which we live, we are invited to open ourselves to the Spirit of the Lord who wants more for the human race.  In the weeks ahead, there will be more to say about the threats we face, but the reassuring reality is that Jesus has not left us orphans.  Rather, our Lord has given us another Advocate.

A recent sign of the Spirit in my life has come through a wonderful book by Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC, called 33 Days to Morning Glory.  One of the best ways to get in touch with the Spirit is to learn from those who knows him best.  And who is more in touch than our Blessed Mother, the Spouse of the Holy Spirit, whose entire life is defined by openness to the "Lord and giver of life"?  Our Lady wants nothing other than for us to grow closer to her Son, by following the lead of the Spirit.  So if you are interested in a "do-in-yourself retreat" (a couple of pages of reading for each day's reflection), and if you are open to considering Marian consecration as a way of drawing closer to Jesus through his Blessed Mother, then you will love this book.  It builds off of the teachings from some of the great Marian saints of recent centuries--Louis de Montfort, Maximilian Kolbe, Mother Teresa, and John Paul II.  Ant it is not only very readable, but also simply profound.

But perhaps the most simple way to see and know the Holy Spirit is to start tracking his touches in our daily lives.  When we become more aware of how we have been and are being prompted, we come to see more clearly how to better dispose ourselves to the Spirit.  In other words, we come to see new ways to let the Spirit use us as worthy vessels in his hands.  And that's something worth celebrating!

Come, Holy Spirit, let us be like wind chimes waiting for a gentle breeze,
so you can move us to bring peace and joy to everyone we encounter.