Monday, July 02, 2007

Life in the Spirit

Recently, a blogger wrote, "At some point could you post something on the church's teaching regarding the Trinity. It was a discussion in one of Fr. Mike's classes, and I have a better understanding but still have a point of confusion. I understand that Catholics believe that the Father, the Son, and the Spirit are three divine persons who are one divine being (God). In school I remember being taught to pray to the Father through the Son and in the Holy Spirit. The 'in the Holy Spirit' part is something that causes me pause. I conceptually have a difficult time in understanding the Holy Spirit. I can understand the others, for those roles are familiar- Father and Son. It's something I often think about when making a sign of the cross."

We continue to put our seminarian, Jim, to work. He offers this:

"A quick answer is that the Holy Spirit is the love that flows between the Father and the Son, the love they have for each other. When we 'pray in the Holy Spirit,' we are participating in that same love.

St. Paul, in the letter to the Romans Chapter 8, says 'In the same way, the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings. And the one who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because that intercedes for the holy ones according to God's will.' The Catechism, at number 2736, states 'our Father knows what we need before we ask him, but he awaits our petition because the dignity of his children lies in their freedom. We must pray, then, with his Spirit of freedom, to be able truly to know what he wants.'

Praying in the Spirit in this context means letting the Spirit of God pray to the Father for us, and we join our hearts in that same prayer. Instead of directing the Father to supply our wants, we trust Him to supply our needs, what is truly good for us. And this is accomplished in praying in the Spirit."

Also, we just heard from St. Paul in yesterday's second reading (Gal 5:1, 13-18) about living in the Spirit. He opposes this with living according to the flesh, "for the flesh has desires against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; these are opposed to each other..." In basic terms, to live according to the flesh means to live for the things of this world only; to live in the Spirit is to live for the Kingdom of God. The Spirit not only helps us to pray properly, but also helps us to live out what we pray. We pray and live in the Spirit, and, thus, we enter into God's love.

How do we know if we are living in the Spirit or according to the flesh? In his letter to the Galatians, St. Paul helps us by laying out the works of the flesh as opposed to the fruits of the Spirit in chapter 5, verses 16 through 26.


At 2:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems hard for many to embrace the concept that "I'll not do just what you ask of me, I'll do more." It seems that many of us say, "I'm going to do the least that's expected of me and try and get the most out of it." I think this is often a prevailing mentality that interferes with following and/or allowing oneself to be led. Instead we often decide, I’ll do some good so then, if I do a little that’s bad- it’ll be okay. If we set limits on how and when we will follow, and if we decide some is okay (even though we are told it isn’t), we are not really following at all.

I think we all know when we aren’t following or we wouldn’t experience guilt. I’d often asked if I was following my heart and/or acting in accordance with my conscience- but sometimes I think I’d given my conscience more credit than it deserved. Maybe that nagging sense that I’d feel when I was about to do something I knew to be wrong, or I failed to act when I know I should’ve wasn’t ME at work at all.

At 3:49 PM, Anonymous Mae W. said...


We see quite a bit of reliance on our individual conscious as a rule to go by. It is a left over, I believe, of the ‘60s and ‘70s post V2 “me” mentality that developed amongst the faithful. I remember being taught in college and by those I grew up around that you must follow your ‘informed conscious’ and your ‘informed conscious’ has the moral high ground in all things regardless of the teachings of the Church. This is a concept that is full of bunk. Granted, I don’t always agree with the Church on everything, I have only one sticking point, but have learned to deal with my disagreement and remain a practicing and faithful Catholic. There is a difference between following what we think is an informed conscious and actually having a fully informed and formed conscious. Having a fully informed and formed conscious there is little if anything we will then have true issues or problems.

At 4:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"If we set limits on how and when we will follow, and if we decide some is okay (even though we are told it isn’t), we are not really following at all."

Another way to think of it, conversion and connection with Christ. What comes first? The greater our connection with Christ, the greater our love for Him, the more we are called to conversion in all areas of our lives. That is why I never have gone for the Evangelical Church's - Sinner's prayer - that we are saved in a moment in time. Conversion is a lifelong process.

Another reason the sacraments and prayer life are vitally important. We can not become true followers unless we rely on His graces.

"It seems hard for many to embrace the concept that "I'll not do just what you ask of me, I'll do more."

For me that concept is hard to embrace when I am trying to serve Him in my own strength. Can't do it.

At 7:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yesterday’s homily is a good lead into this topic. I’d often wondered what some meant when they’d say things like they were "compelled by the Spirit." I thought they maybe experienced some kind of overwhelming and irresistible direction. In stark contrast, I seemed so clueless about having any direction in my own life. I didn’t understand that a plan had been laid out for me in the Gospels, and in following that path- I’d have more than enough direction. But still, when I would hear the phrase “follow me,” I was unsure about what exactly to do. I didn’t feel “compelled” to do anything in particular, I was just willing and open to try anything that others, who seemed to be living the way that I wanted to, suggested. Like anything else, reward comes with commitment and sacrifice (and often time). So I think I agree with the anon who said that conversion is a lifelong process.

At 8:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For a long time, I thought I was on my own spiritually. I couldn’t see the Holy Spirit at work in my life. There were many things with which I struggled, and I felt shame about the number of ways I messed up. Eventually, I found strength and courage to get through those times, but I attributed that strength to my own sheer will. The more I have learned to be open to the Spirit in my life, the more I can see He was at work all along. There were (and still are) many people in my life that the Spirit worked through to help me.

One such person is no longer physically present in my life, but is still very much at work in helping me. Several years ago, this friend gave me the journal he kept throughout his addiction recovery process. He knew I needed to speak with someone about what was then going on in my life, and he thought if I read about his experiences, I’d feel open to sharing. It was the first (and still very rare) experience I had with sharing myself in that way. It didn’t offer me absolution but was still healing to actually speak my offenses to another. I very much believe the Spirit was at work through my friend then. When I’m feeling overwhelmed, I’ll read back on his journal. In it, I can see this beautiful, eloquent and wise man emerging from this hellish place, but I’m reminded that we are each only a step away from falling down. Eventually, he fell really hard. Even with the sadness that comes with some memories, I’m so grateful for having known him. I’m certain he was given to me to teach me. From his example, I embraced the idea that recovery (from any and all things) as an unending process. On our own, it’s easy to slip back into old patterns that take us backwards. I now connect reconciliation as a tool in recovery. I’ve come to find that I can give to God what is too heavy for me, and I know that He will carry those burdens. In order to be active in the process of recovery, the Spirit absolutely must be at work in my life. I couldn’t do it all alone- of that, I am now certain.

At 10:04 PM, Anonymous Mae W. said...


I too, for a long time, didn't feel "called" to anything. Sometimes the Spirit smacks you in the head, and sometimes it is a quiet whisper over a length of time.


Post a Comment

<< Home