Holiness: Being and apprentice of Jesus

Apprentice

Last week Fr. BE said that the ascension of Jesus and the coming of the Holy Spirit ushered in a whole new age. And so it did. When you read the Old Testament you see the Holy Spirit given to certain select people in order to accomplish a particular work in the world, but you do not see Him promised to all people. But when the Holy Spirit fell upon all of the disciples at Pentecost, and people saw this miracle, they asked what they must do to be a part of it. St. Peter said, “Repent and be baptized for the remission of your sins and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” In this new age the Holy Spirit is God’s promised gift not just to prophets and priests and kings but to all who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. He will be God’s gift to John Henry today at his baptism.

What is grievous concerning the Holy Spirit are the many bizarre things attributed to Him. A televangelist waves his jacket over a group of people, who fall down like so many dominoes, and this is said to be a work of the Spirit. The so-called “Toronto Blessing” where people laugh and shake uncontrollably and some even bark like dogs. And this is said to the a work of the Spirit. A friend told of being in a worship meeting where people claimed that the fillings in their teeth were turned to gold by the Holy Spirit. One would think if the Holy Spirit was going to go to that much trouble that He would just make the tooth whole.

Anyway given Jesus’ stern warning about blaspheming the Holy Spirit it is critical that we are clear about who or what the Holy Spirit is, why He was sent, and what our role is in receiving and walking in the Spirit.

First let’s clarify who or what the Spirit is. It cannot be overemphasized that the Spirit is a Who and not a what. He is the third Person of the Blessed Trinity. He is more than simply a source of power. He has Personhood. We heard from St. Paul, referring to spiritual gifts, All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as He wills.”“As He wills?” Energy does not have a will. A Person has a will. So please please never refer to the Holy Spirit as “it”. Follow Jesus example and call the Spirit “He” as in “For He dwells with you and will be with you.”

What is His Personhood like? Jesus was so attuned to the Father that He proclaimed to know Him was to know the Father. It is the same for the Spirit. He is so attuned to the Son that you can know what the Spirit is like by looking at Jesus. Jesus gives us a new commandment that we are to love one another. What is the first fruit of the Spirit? Love. Jesus says if we love Him we will keep His commandments. Then Jesus promises that the Spirit will bring back to the disciples remembrance all that He said. Thus helping them and us to obey. Jesus promises to be with us always, to the end of the ages. And we just heard Jesus say, “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth…”We must be clear. The Son and the Spirit are separate and distinct Persons. Jesus said that He had to ascend to heaven in order to send the Holy Spirit. And yet they are so united that the Holy Spirit is referred to as the “Spirit of Christ” and the “Spirit of Jesus” a number of times in the New Testament. So if you love Jesus you will love the Spirit.

Why was He sent to us? First, as just mentioned, He is the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise to be with us always, even to the end of the ages. And He is not just a passive presence. St. Paul says that we don’t really know how to pray so the Spirit is interceding for us. I agree with the first part and take great comfort in the second part.

St. Peter takes it a step further in his second Epistle and helps us to better understand why the Holy Spirit is given to us. He saysHis divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to] his own glory and excellence] by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature…” The Holy Spirit is the agent by whom we become partakers of the divine nature. Or to put it another way, the Holy Spirit is given to us to make us holy.

Now I will be the first to admit that the concept of holiness can be a wee bit daunting and even frightening. First some have the kneejerk response, “Me be holy? Maybe St. Francis or Mother Theresa but me?”

Then when we ask ourselves how we go about being holy I imagine that most folks immediately go to the rules. That has certainly been the tactic of most holiness movements throughout the history of the Church. One group breaks from another group because the former group has become too worldly. So they establish a bunch of rules to keep from being worldly. But over time they get a little lax and so a third group breaks from that second group because the former are not holy enough. And on and on it goes.

What is shocking is that often we are talking about rules that go well beyond smoking, dancing and drinking. There have been divisions in the Church over whether or not it is vanity to wear a wedding ring or if women should be allowed to have a feather in their hat. And you folks with tattoos….well you had better get used to the heat!

And yet if we look back at Jesus’ earthly ministry this is precisely the kind of legalism that He continually opposed. So rules following cannot be the form of holiness that His Spirit fosters. Why? Because man looks at the outward person and so outward things become paramount. They think that holiness is a bee hive hairdo, a long denim skirt and white tennis shoes.

But God looks at the heart and so the real work of the Spirit’s work is there. When God saved me He forgave me for being a liar. But then He sends the Holy Spirit to take lying out of my heart and replace it with the truth. When God saved me He forgave me for my hatred. But He sends the Holy Spirit to change my heart of stone into a heart of flesh so that I can learn how to love. When God saved me he forgave my idolatry. But then He sends the Holy Spirit to enthrone Jesus in my heart so that I have only one Lord. And it must be added that NONE of this is an instant work. It is why we are now, and always will be, a work in progress, until we are perfected in God’s presence. So don’t be put off by the call to holiness by thinking it is a call to follow a list of rules. Holiness is simply a call to be an apprentice of Jesus so that you become more and more like Him and that is a joyful and wondrous call.

What is our role with the Holy Spirit? It most certainly is not a passive one. I can point to three principle roles we play with the Holy Spirit. They are invite, cooperate and obey.

While we receive the Spirit at our baptism, the Scriptures call us to be continually filled with the Holy Spirit. So we need to be very intentional about inviting Him into our daily lives. Jesus said, “If you who are evil, know how to give gifts to your children, how much more will your Father give the Holy Spirit to him who asks.” So invite. Invite Him daily and indeed throughout the day. And as Jesus promised He makes His home with us. One of the dad’’s of the parish asked his young daughter where the Holy Spirit lived and she said, “In your shoulders.” When the Dad got a quizzical look in his face she said, as she made the sign of the cross, “You know, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” Maybe she is right. The important thing is that He makes His abode with us so that we become His temple.

Cooperate. I have heard many times the Holy Spirit being described as “a gentleman.” What folks mean by that is He rarely forces Himself into your life. Of course since He is God He can do whatever He likes. But because He is Love His nature is to be gentle. My guess is that is why we are given the image of a dove to represent the Holy Spirit. Thus St. Paul warns us not to grieve or to quench the Holy Spirit. We do that when we insist on doing things our way rather than His way. Thus we are to pray for wisdom to discern what the Spirit is doing and then cooperate with Him in whatever it is that He is doing.

Third, and this flows naturally out of cooperation, we need to obey. We confess each week in the Creed that the Holy Spirit is “Lord and Giver of life.”Well if He is Lord then it means that we ain’t. There will be times when the Holy Spirit will call us to a task that is well beyond our ability, or forbid us to do something that we want with all of our being. At that point it is time to put on the brakes, remind ourselves who is Lord and then obey. But it is not an obedience based in fear as much as it is based in trust and love. If the Spirit wants it for us then by definition it is for our ultimate best. It may even seem horrible for the moment but He is always working all things for our good and so we trust and obey.

I have been talking ABOUT the Holy Spirit but I would like to end by talking TO the Holy Spirit. Let us pray together the Litany of the Holy Spirit. Your responses are in italics.

Litany of the Holy Spirit

 

Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.

Father all-powerful, have mercy on us.                                                                                    Jesus, Eternal Son of the Father, save us.                                                                                 Spirit of the Father and the Son, sanctify us.                                                                            Holy Trinity, hear us.

Holy Spirit, Who proceedest from the Father and the Son, enter our hearts.                                                                                                            Holy Spirit, Who art equal to the Father and the Son, enter our hearts.

Promise of God the Father, have mercy on us.
Ray of heavenly light, have mercy on us.
Author of all good, have mercy on us.
Source of heavenly water, have mercy on us.                                                               Consuming fire, have mercy on us.
Ardent charity, have mercy on us.
Spiritual unction, have mercy on us.
Spirit of love and truth, have mercy on us.
Spirit of wisdom and understanding, have mercy on us.
Spirit of counsel and fortitude, have mercy on us.
Spirit of knowledge and piety, have mercy on us.
Spirit of the fear of the Lord, have mercy on us.
Spirit of grace and prayer, have mercy on us.
Spirit of peace and meekness, have mercy on us.
Spirit of modesty and innocence, have mercy on us.
Holy Spirit, the Comforter, have mercy on us.
Holy Spirit, the Sanctifier, have mercy on us.
Holy Spirit, Who governest the Church, have mercy on us.
Gift of God, the Most High, have mercy on us.
Spirit Who fillest the universe, have mercy on us.
Spirit of the adoption of the children of God, have mercy on us.
Holy Spirit, inspire us with horror of sin.
Holy Spirit, come and renew the face of the earth.
Holy Spirit, shed Thy light in our souls.
Holy Spirit, engrave Thy law in our hearts.
Holy Spirit, inflame us with the flame of Thy love.
Holy Spirit, open to us the treasures of Thy graces.
Holy Spirit, teach us to pray well.
Holy Spirit, enlighten us with Thy heavenly inspirations.
Holy Spirit, lead us in the way of salvation.
Holy Spirit, grant us the only necessary knowledge.
Holy Spirit, inspire in us the practice of good.
Holy Spirit, grant us the merits of all virtues.
Holy Spirit, make us persevere in justice.
Holy Spirit, be Thou our everlasting reward.

Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
send us Thy Holy Spirit.
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
pour down into our souls the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
grant us the Spirit of wisdom and piety.

  1. Come, Holy Spirit! Fill the hearts of Thy faithful,
    R. And enkindle in us the fire of Thy love.

Let us pray. Grant, O merciful Father, that Thy Divine Spirit may enlighten, inflame and purify us, that He may penetrate us with His heavenly dew and make us fruitful in good works, through Our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who with Thee, in the unity of the same Spirit, liveth and reigneth, one God, forever and ever.

  1. Amen.

 

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