Sunday, May 19, 2013

Pentecost Sunday word, 19 May 2013

Calisthenics of Faith
Pentecost (19 May 2013)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Getting up in the morning; strolling in the zoo; going on vacation; moving to a new home; assuming new responsibilities at school or work; and religious experience: what do they have in common? In all of them we cannot predict everything that will happen. Even when we may come close, surprises await us at every turn in life, including our life in the Spirit, that is, our religious experience.

Yet we readily want to believe that life is predictable, that we can prepare for everything. Even though we have been surprised enough to know that isn’t so, we act differently. When certain areas of our lives make no demands; when we enjoy routine—doing things on a given day, at set times; when weekends are only about us, we may feel supreme. Life in the Spirit, though, is real power. Life in the Spirit registers in ways and manners as various as rushing winds, a whispered breath, bright sunlight, cool water; and at times, even darkness. Ways like those point to our experiences of the Spirit’s power: as strength; gentle quiet; insight; renewal or refreshment, at times as emptiness longing to be filled. Often we exhaust ourselves trying to resist the Spirit’s power. We are surprised and satisfied when we surrender to it. Surrender to Jesus’ Spirit is no giving up and giving in. Surrender registers this way: we reorganize our lives around the power we name Holy Spirit.

The apostles’ fear never to see Jesus again or to be opposed like him may parallel our resistance. Or, our resistance may parallel St. Paul’s fury before he painfully realized he persecuted risen Jesus when he tried to exterminate his followers. In our ways we may prefer darkness rather than light, clouds rather than clarity, counterfeit identity rather than personal truth.

Many are the moves away from personal truth, just as we find many gifts shaping us and leading to God and to be the people God creates. That is the meaning of St. Paul we heard: Brothers and sisters: Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh; on the contrary, you are in the spirit, if only the Spirit of God dwells in you. For Paul flesh did not equal body, nor did spirit equal mind. Flesh included all ways—not only physical ways—all ways closed to or opposed to God and God’s claims on people and the rest of creation. The Spirit of God, who is the Spirit of Messiah Jesus, is no theory or idea; Holy Spirit is power freeing us to be open to God’s life and the ways God in Jesus by their Spirit draws us and invites us to greater freedom and familiarity.
Our Spirit-freedom encourages and empowers us to grow as those God creates each moment. Our familiarity with our Creator and Redeemer is another gift. The Giver of Life dwells in us. Jesus and Paul could not be more intimate! Holy Spirit is no idea but God’s life alive in us. The power of Spirit-life, St. Paul described, adopts us as children of God,…[and] heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so we may also be glorified with him.

Suffering can be persecution afflicted by others. Many Christians suffer that way. Suffering can also be the effort to organize our lives around risen Jesus’ Spirit and to choose and to act more lovingly, more justly and more sincerely. Even Jesus constantly chose ways of living beyond himself for others. That second meaning applies to us here. Our repeated aiming to be whom God creates each moment I call calisthenics of faith. The more we choose to follow the Spirit’ and choose and act more lovingly, more justly and more sincerely, we are more limber Christians, who move through our days more gracefully as Jesus’ friends and witnesses.

Pentecost celebrates the creation of the Church, Jesus’ body in the world. Because we are the Church, Pentecost celebrates our recreation by and in Jesus’ Spirit each moment. Jesus’ Spirit frees us to choose for and with Jesus each moment and witness to the mighty acts God does in us through Jesus by their Spirit.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Pause to feel recreated by our triune God.
  • Ask Mary and the disciples to present you to Jesus.
  • Hear Jesus address you lovingly, saying, “Allow my Spirit to guide you and refashion your heart and your life.”
  • Chat with Jesus: about how you feel his Spirit; tell him your desires, your fears and your hopes.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Each time we pray it we give voice to the heart of Jesus, who desires us to rely on him more and to allow his Spirit in us to guide our choices, words and actions.
Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

Wiki-image by Der wahre Jakob of first lines of Come! Holy Spirit CC BY-SA 3.0. Wiki-image of symbol of Holy Spirit and gifts public domain.

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