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Bible Reflections View Comments

The Spirit Is Real in Our Lives
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, May 5, 2013
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John’s Gospel explores complex and spiritual ideas, far different from the earthy parables of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Sometimes we might think these philosophical discussions have little to do with our daily lives. But again and again Jesus returns to words we know very well: love, peace, joy, freedom from fear.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus promises to send the Holy Spirit to remind the disciples of all that he has told them. This same Spirit moves in us when we face difficult situations. The Spirit gives us the words we need to bring peace to a tense meeting or a hurtful relationship. The Spirit that soothes us to sleep in the middle of a stressful night. The Spirit that reminds us of the good within ourselves and people we love.

Sometimes we forget what we know in the pressures and tensions of our everyday lives. Family, work, the unsettled state of the world, press in on us and in the clamor we can forget our focus, our purpose, our need to surrender to the Spirit. Sometimes all it takes is a little nudge, a reminder that we know that there’s a better way, the way of Jesus, the way of the Spirit.

The Spirit’s nudging reminders keep us focused on the things that matter: peace in our hearts and in our world, love for ourselves, one another and our God, the faith that’s rooted in our baptism and grows and strengthens as we face life’s challenges.

That same Spirit moves through our Church as well. The Acts of the Apostles reminds us that while the Spirit moved in wondrous ways to encourage the growth of the new community, people still had to resolve serious conflicts among themselves. In their day, no less than in ours, the community struggled with the question of rules and laws, of who’s in and who’s out, of what was essential and what was human tradition.

The strong leadership and dedication of people like Paul and Barnabas helped cut through the controversies of the day and reminded the new Christians of the man and the faith they hold dear. We see that same spirit in the best of our leaders today.

The second reading from the Book of Revelation seems a good counterpoint to the controversies in Acts. Human institutions, no matter how lofty their intentions, can become mired in human misunderstanding and sin; in God’s kingdom those failings will be transcended.

As we move through these days between Easter and Pentecost, our readings remind us to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to guide us, to speak to us and for us, to draw us ever more deeply into the love of God. While we never lose sight of the human ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, we know that the resurrection means that we are called into something even greater than this life here on earth. All that we do here, serving our brothers and sisters, should reflect and point to that eternal reality.

The readings from the Gospel of John during these final weeks of Easter often seem to repeat the same things over and over again. But, like a favorite melody that runs through our minds, the words of Jesus in John’s Gospel can soothe and calm us, can move us forward, can give us the peace and courage that are the truly the gifts of the Spirit.


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Peter and Paul: 
		<strong>Peter (d. 64?)</strong>. St. Mark ends the first half of his Gospel with a triumphant climax. He has recorded doubt, misunderstanding and the opposition of many to Jesus. Now Peter makes his great confession of faith: "You are the Messiah" (Mark 8:29b). It was one of the many glorious moments in Peter's life, beginning with the day he was called from his nets along the Sea of Galilee to become a fisher of men for Jesus. 
<p>The New Testament clearly shows Peter as the leader of the apostles, chosen by Jesus to have a special relationship with him. With James and John he was privileged to witness the Transfiguration, the raising of a dead child to life and the agony in Gethsemane. His mother-in-law was cured by Jesus. He was sent with John to prepare for the last Passover before Jesus' death. His name is first on every list of apostles. </p><p>And to Peter only did Jesus say, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matthew 16:17b-19). </p><p>But the Gospels prove their own trustworthiness by the unflattering details they include about Peter. He clearly had no public relations person. It is a great comfort for ordinary mortals to know that Peter also has his human weakness, even in the presence of Jesus. </p><p>He generously gave up all things, yet he can ask in childish self-regard, "What are we going to get for all this?" (see Matthew 19:27). He receives the full force of Christ's anger when he objects to the idea of a suffering Messiah: "Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do" (Matthew 16:23b). </p><p>Peter is willing to accept Jesus' doctrine of forgiveness, but suggests a limit of seven times. He walks on the water in faith, but sinks in doubt. He refuses to let Jesus wash his feet, then wants his whole body cleansed. He swears at the Last Supper that he will never deny Jesus, and then swears to a servant maid that he has never known the man. He loyally resists the first attempt to arrest Jesus by cutting off Malchus's ear, but in the end he runs away with the others. In the depth of his sorrow, Jesus looks on him and forgives him, and he goes out and sheds bitter tears. The Risen Jesus told Peter to feed his lambs and his sheep (John 21:15-17). </p><p><strong>Paul (d. 64?)</strong>. If the most well-known preacher today suddenly began preaching that the United States should adopt Marxism and not rely on the Constitution, the angry reaction would help us understand Paul's life when he started preaching that Christ alone can save us. He had been the most Pharisaic of Pharisees, the most legalistic of Mosaic lawyers. Now he suddenly appears to other Jews as a heretical welcomer of Gentiles, a traitor and apostate. </p><p>Paul's central conviction was simple and absolute: Only God can save humanity. No human effort—even the most scrupulous observance of law—can create a human good which we can bring to God as reparation for sin and payment for grace. To be saved from itself, from sin, from the devil and from death, humanity must open itself completely to the saving power of Jesus. </p><p>Paul never lost his love for his Jewish family, though he carried on a lifelong debate with them about the uselessness of the Law without Christ. He reminded the Gentiles that they were grafted on the parent stock of the Jews, who were still God's chosen people, the children of the promise. </p><p>In light of his preaching and teaching skills, Paul's name has surfaced (among others) as a possible patron of the Internet.</p> American Catholic Blog The way of the cross is unavoidably uphill. Christians don’t get to carry their cross downhill. Suffering has always been inextricably linked with Christianity, but those who carry their cross willingly in these times can serve as an example and inspiration to all of us.

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