Thursday, February 12, 2015

Jesus Gives Everything Spirit And Life

February 11, 2015
Wednesday of week 5 in Ordinary Time
or Our Lady of Lourdes

Jesus Gives Everything Spirit And Life
Send forth your Spirit, and our hearts will be regenerated;
and you will renew the face of the earth.

What sexual actions are “dirty”?

The short answer is: “None is, unless it comes from a dirty mind.”

And no sexual action is loving, either, unless it comes from a loving heart.

Jesus said in today's Gospel, “Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile.”

Nothing we do with our bodies can make us clean or dirty as persons unless it is the expression of our souls. We can roll in the mud, take a bath—or even get baptized (if we have reached the age of reason)—and it does not affect us as persons unless it is the expression of our heart.

(If we really go into this, however, we will see that every human action, if it is conscious, is the expression of our heart—even though we frequently don’t know what we are expressing).

What makes any human physical action good or bad is something spiritual. Ultimately, it is the human being’s awareness that performing the action in these circumstances is or is not according to the will of God, combined with the free choice to do it.  (For those who know the term, we are not talking about “situation ethics” here).

When Jesus said, “Nothing that enters one from outside can defile a human person,” he was saying that that the human spirit, which does not come from earth, cannot be either destroyed or defiled by anything that comes from earth—or the flesh. Spirit—or the “soul”—can be united to matter and act through matter, but it can never be simply identified with matter or material actions. Its continued existence is not dependent on matter, nor can its value be affected, for better or worse, by anything material, but only by its own free, self-determining choices.

The human spirit, like God, is free; free to do good or evil. What the spirit does, it becomes. Our free choices create us, determine the meaning of our “names” as persons. The “who” we are at any given time is the cumulative result of all the free, life-orienting choices we have made up to that moment. It is the choices that proceed from our spirit—our “soul,” our intellect and will—that make us better or worse, purify or defile us.

(Note: God cannot do evil, but it is not because God is not free; it is because God is all Being, Truth and Goodness, and there is nothing outside of God that could tempt or attract God to do evil. That is why those who possess God totally in heaven cannot sin, although they are still free human beings: there is nothing they don’t already have and enjoy in God that could tempt them to separate themselves from him).

The key word here is “awareness.” Jesus had just quoted Isaiah, “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” He could say the same about many at Mass: “Their bodies are in the pew, but their minds are somewhere else.” Saint Teresa of Avila says about saying prayers that, if we are not aware of who we are, and who it is we are speaking to, and what we are asking for, it is not prayer at all, “no matter how much the lips move” (see The Interior Castle, “First Dwelling Places,” chapter 1, no. 7, free viewing available at; see document library).

How aware of this are we at Mass? For example, are we really aware of “who we are, and who it is we are speaking to, and what we are saying” when we recite in the Gloria, “We praise you, we bless you, we adore you, we glorify you, we give you thanks for your great glory…”?

“Nothing that enters one from outside can either defile or sanctify; but the things that come out from within are what defile or sanctify.”

Jesus would say, “No words you recite from a book outside of you can make you holy, but the words that come out from within your heart are what make you holy.” So we need to make the words of the book our own and speak them consciously from the heart.

We need to realize, however, that we cannot do this—it is impossible for us—unless Jesus sends his Spirit into our hearts.

Jesus was extending the creation story when he said: “It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life” (John 6:63).

The creation story tells us human life—rational or “spiritual” life—did not come from the earth but directly from God. No arrangement of material elements, like brain cells, can explain what the human intellect and will do. (This is not the place to provide that philosophical analysis, which does not depend on faith or divine revelation; here we will just accept it from Scripture).

The Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being.

Genesis doesn’t say this about other forms of life:

God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.” And it was so.

It was afterwards that God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness” and “blew into his nostrils the breath of life.”

For human beings, the “breath of life” comes directly from God. Our “souls” are not simply the product of physical reproduction. Every human, spiritual soul is created individually by God.

It is even more obvious that divine life comes only through an explicit act of God. We are “reborn” in Baptism “of water and Spirit,” not “of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:13; 3:5).

Without the gift of divine Life, the gift of God’s Holy Spirit, nothing that “comes out from within us” is divine. Nothing we do is “holy” unless it is simultaneously our self-expression and the self-expression of the Holy One within us.

Then it is Jesus acting with us, in us and through us. It is his Spirit taking flesh in action.

Everything we receive from God is the gift of the Father, Son and Spirit acting together. But Jesus is the key to the gift of divine life, which we call “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ” (2Corinthians 13:14). He said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John14:6; and vice-versa: “No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me,” John 6:44). We are sons and daughters of the Father—filii in Filio—only because we are “in him” who is the “only Son of the Father” (John 1:14, 18; see Matthew 11:27).

It is by being incorporated into Jesus as his body that we receive his spirit, the Holy Spirit. John the Baptizer said, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming… He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Luke 3:16). Jesus spoke both of “the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name,” and of “the Advocate whom I will send to you from the Father” (John 14:26; 15:26). After his resurrection, he “breathed on” his Apostles as God had “breathed into the first man the breath of life” (Genesis 2:7), and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:2). He told them before his ascension into heaven: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

It is through Jesus that we are in relationship with the Father and the Spirit, because it is through him that we share in God’s divine life, which is the relationship—the interaction—that makes the Three Persons who they are. And it is our relationship with the Three Persons that makes us who we are (see John 14:20; 17:21). It all comes through our relationship with Jesus Christ.

So why should we respond to Pope Francis’ invitation “to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ”? It is because relationship with Jesus gives us the Holy Spirit. And it is the “breathe of the Spirit” within us that gives the “breath of life” to everything else we do.

Do I choose to let Jesus give Spirit and Life to everything I do?

Pray: “Lord, send forth your Spirit, and our hearts will be regenerated.”

Practice: Be aware of what you are saying at Mass.

Discuss: Is any physical action “intrinsically evil”; that is, good or bad “by nature”?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please leave your comments!