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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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Mary Magdalene de' Pazzi: Mystical ecstasy is the elevation of the spirit to God in such a way that the person is aware of this union with God while both internal and external senses are detached from the sensible world. Mary Magdalene de' Pazzi was so generously given this special gift of God that she is called the "ecstatic saint." 
<p>She was born into a noble family in Florence in 1566. The normal course would have been for Catherine de' Pazzi to have married wealth and enjoyed comfort, but she chose to follow her own path. At nine she learned to meditate from the family confessor. She made her first Communion at the then-early age of 10 and made a vow of virginity one month later. When 16, she entered the Carmelite convent in Florence because she could receive Communion daily there. </p><p>Catherine had taken the name Mary Magdalene and had been a novice for a year when she became critically ill. Death seemed near so her superiors let her make her profession of vows from a cot in the chapel in a private ceremony. Immediately after, she fell into an ecstasy that lasted about two hours. This was repeated after Communion on the following 40 mornings. These ecstasies were rich experiences of union with God and contained marvelous insights into divine truths. </p><p>As a safeguard against deception and to preserve the revelations, her confessor asked Mary Magdalene to dictate her experiences to sister secretaries. Over the next six years, five large volumes were filled. The first three books record ecstasies from May of 1584 through Pentecost week the following year. This week was a preparation for a severe five-year trial. The fourth book records that trial and the fifth is a collection of letters concerning reform and renewal. Another book, <i>Admonitions</i>, is a collection of her sayings arising from her experiences in the formation of women religious. </p><p>The extraordinary was ordinary for this saint. She read the thoughts of others and predicted future events. During her lifetime, she appeared to several persons in distant places and cured a number of sick people. </p><p>It would be easy to dwell on the ecstasies and pretend that Mary Magdalene only had spiritual highs. This is far from true. It seems that God permitted her this special closeness to prepare her for the five years of desolation that followed when she experienced spiritual dryness. She was plunged into a state of darkness in which she saw nothing but what was horrible in herself and all around her. She had violent temptations and endured great physical suffering. She died in 1607 at 41, and was canonized in 1669.</p> American Catholic Blog Lord, keep me in your care. Guard me in my actions. Teach me to love, and help me to turn to you throughout the day. The world is filled with temptations. As I move through my day, keep me close. May those I encounter feel your loving presence. Lord, be the work of my hands and my heart. Amen.

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