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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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Philip Neri: Philip Neri was a sign of contradiction, combining popularity with piety against the background of a corrupt Rome and a disinterested clergy, the whole post-Renaissance malaise. 
<p>At an early age, he abandoned the chance to become a businessman, moved to Rome from Florence and devoted his life and individuality to God. After three years of philosophy and theology studies, he gave up any thought of ordination. The next 13 years were spent in a vocation unusual at the time—that of a layperson actively engaged in prayer and the apostolate. </p><p>As the Council of Trent (1545-63) was reforming the Church on a doctrinal level, Philip’s appealing personality was winning him friends from all levels of society, from beggars to cardinals. He rapidly gathered around himself a group of laypersons won over by his audacious spirituality. Initially they met as an informal prayer and discussion group, and also served poor people in Rome. </p><p>At the urging of his confessor, he was ordained a priest and soon became an outstanding confessor, gifted with the knack of piercing the pretenses and illusions of others, though always in a charitable manner and often with a joke. He arranged talks, discussions and prayers for his penitents in a room above the church. He sometimes led “excursions” to other churches, often with music and a picnic on the way. </p><p>Some of his followers became priests and lived together in community. This was the beginning of the Oratory, the religious institute he founded. A feature of their life was a daily afternoon service of four informal talks, with vernacular hymns and prayers. Giovanni Palestrina was one of Philip’s followers, and composed music for the services. </p><p>The Oratory was finally approved after suffering through a period of accusations of being an assembly of heretics, where laypersons preached and sang vernacular hymns! (Cardinal Newman founded the first English-speaking house of the Oratory three centuries later.) </p><p>Philip’s advice was sought by many of the prominent figures of his day. He is one of the influential figures of the Counter-Reformation, mainly for converting to personal holiness many of the influential people within the Church itself. His characteristic virtues were humility and gaiety.</p> American Catholic Blog When we suffer, we don’t just come to understand the pain of Christ’s cross more, we come to understand the depth of God’s love for us: that he would endure such pain for us—in our place. We have a God who endured death so we would never have to do so.

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