Advent Day 8: A Spirited day

From today’s first reading (Is 11:1-10):

The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him:
a spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
a spirit of counsel and of strength,
a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD,
and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.

Is 11:2-3

The Holy Spirit dominates the day’s readings. This quote from the great prophet Isaiah is where we get the classic seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. Isaiah prophesies here, as he often does, about the coming messiah. Wow! What a lineup of characteristics we would like to call our own! And we can! Anyone in God’s good graces can call upon the same generous Spirit to strengthen us in all these ways (and those separated from God…get to confession!). But, how often do we do so? The Holy Spirit has been called the forgotten person of the Trinity. Probably because we much easier relate to the Father and the Son and can picture them more clearly in our mind’s eye and in art. The Spirit is depicted as fire or a dove, or even wind (try to draw that!), but rarely anthropomorphized. Yet, we should not be putting Him in third place or neglecting Him altogether. Jesus sends the Spirit to enlighten us. We should call on Him often to do just that. Who couldn’t use more wisdom or understanding or knowledge or counsel or courage or piety or fear of the Lord?

From today’s psalm (Ps 72):

Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.

This is the people’s response, although it does not appear verbatim in the psalm itself. But it does express the sentiment of the entire chapter quite well. Peace comes when all the earth acknowledges the Truth: God Himself. Certainly, we can recall Isaiah prophesying about the Prince of Peace. But when we think of peace associated with God, we naturally associate this concept with the Holy Spirit. Paul tells us that this is one of the many fruits of the Spirit. But there are many other connections made in Scripture between peace and the Spirit (see here). Even in the pseudo-religious realm, certainly you have seen Christmas cards with a dove carrying an olive branch above “Peace on Earth” (inspired by the story of the Flood — see Gen 8:11). So, when frustration, distress, anxiety, or discord enter in, call first on the Spirit for relief. Ever ready to shower His gifts upon us, find comfort and strength in Him. If it is an injustice that is troubling you, note that justice and peace are linked in today’s response. Let Him possess you and pray fervently that He will do the same for the persecuted — and the persecutors.

From the second reading (Rom 15:4-9):

Whatever was written previously was written for our instruction,
that by endurance and by the encouragement of the Scriptures
we might have hope.

Rom 15:4-5

It should go without saying that the Bible must have a preeminent place in our lives. Reading of or listening to the Word of God is an indispensable part of day to day living. How else do we get to know Jesus (just ask St Jerome)? In doing so, though, we must invoke the same Spirit who inspired the sacred authors to give us the gift of understanding (see how this all ties together?). Dei Verbum, the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation from Vatican II, required reading before any serious Bible study, says this about the Spirit and the Bible:

Those divinely revealed realities which are contained and presented in Sacred Scripture have been committed to writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. For holy mother Church, relying on the belief of the Apostles (see John 20:31; 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Peter 1:19-20, 3:15-16), holds that the books of both the Old and New Testaments in their entirety, with all their parts, are sacred and canonical because written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author and have been handed on as such to the Church herself.(1) In composing the sacred books, God chose men and while employed by Him (2) they made use of their powers and abilities, so that with Him acting in them and through them, (3) they, as true authors, consigned to writing everything and only those things which He wanted. (4)

Therefore, since everything asserted by the inspired authors or sacred writers must be held to be asserted by the Holy Spirit, it follows that the books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings (5) for the sake of salvation. Therefore “all Scripture is divinely inspired and has its use for teaching the truth and refuting error, for reformation of manners and discipline in right living, so that the man who belongs to God may be efficient and equipped for good work of every kind” (2 Tim. 3:16-17, Greek text).

Dei Verbum, 11

Paul tells us that from Scripture we receive endurance, encouragement, and hope. Just a few more fruits of the Holy Spirit we are all desperately in need of in these turbulent (an understatement) times.

From today’s Gospel (Mt 3:1-12):

He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

Mt 3:11c

Here, John the Baptist is speaking of his cousin Jesus. John’s baptism is one of repentance. Necessary, but incomplete. Christian baptism is so much more. But do we think of what baptism really entails? Certainly, we know that baptism makes us children of God by filling up with saving grace the empty space left by the sin of our first parents. For those with personal sin, it wipes that away, as well. But are we possessed by the Spirit that dwells within us? Are we on fire for our faith? Would that we be like Jeremiah:

I say I will not mention him,

I will no longer speak in his name.

But then it is as if fire is burning in my heart,

imprisoned in my bones;

I grow weary holding back,

I cannot!

Jer 20:9

or the apostles:

And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were.

Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.

And they were all filled with the holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.

Acts 2:2-4

May our hearts and tongues be on fire for the Lord, and may we heed Peter’s words:

Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope

1 pt 3:15

and remember Jesus’ promise:

do not worry about how or what your defense will be or about what you are to say.

For the holy Spirit will teach you at that moment what you should say

Lk 12:11-12

BP BARRON’S SERMON

HOLY SPIRIT RESOURCE (FREE!)

The Holy Spirit, Our Greatest Friend by Paul O’Sullivan

The Holy Spirit is a painting by Alfonso Garcia which was uploaded on March 30th, 2019.

God bless!

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