Southwestern Indiana's Catholic Community Newspaper

Live In The Spirit

By Joel Padgett
Joel Padgett

Isn’t it amazing how certain phrases have the power to come back to us over and over? I imagine that for St Peter, one of those phrases was Jesus’ command: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” For some people, these words may sound like an old alarm clock whose familiar tone no longer possesses the power to wake them up; but imagine what Peter must have felt when Christ’s voice rang in his memory. Shortly before Jesus’ command, Peter boldly proclaimed, “I will lay down my life for you.” Shortly thereafter, Peter boldly proclaimed, “I do not know the man!” In spite of his sincere desire to lay down his life for his Master, Peter found that, when push came to shove, he was incapable of turning his good intentions into reality.

I think that if we are honest with ourselves, we will find that our own experience isn’t too far from that of Peter. On one hand, we love the Lord, we desire to please him, and we seek to keep his commandments…. On the other hand, we find that we are weak and fall short many times. When we come face to face with our limitations, we may be tempted to feel a bit discouraged. However, Christianity is not a religion of pessimism! There is nothing more optimistic than the hope that Jesus Christ has given us, and he wishes to teach us how to radiate Christian hope, while recognizing our limitations! This is why he promises to send us his Spirit.

God knows that on our own we are not strong enough to keep his commandments. Oftentimes, it is through the experience of our weakness that we come to discover the infinite necessity we have of the Holy Spirit, our Advocate who never ceases to intercede for us. To see ourselves as we are is the first step in opening our eyes to see the wonders that God works –and continues to work– in our lives.

This touches one of the most fascinating aspects of our faith: God has created us for an end that we are incapable of reaching by our own efforts. We arrive at our end, our destination, by keeping God’s commandment, which consists in loving one another as God loves us. But the only way we can love as God loves is if God commits himself to accompany us always, constantly transforming our hearts more and more into the image of his own divine heart… and it is precisely this that God seeks to do in our lives! The craziness of his love for us consists in the fact that he did commit himself to help us. He gives us everything necessary to do that which we could never do alone: love one another as he loves us. Jesus Christ has fulfilled his promise. He has not left us orphans. His Spirit is with us always.

Yet, how does the Spirit act in our lives? A look at his action in the life of Mary is very enlightening. From the very moment when the Spirit came upon her, Mary had a privileged relationship with the Holy Spirit. Even so, it was not always easy for her. Things were not revealed to her all at once. Just like us, she had to walk by faith. There were many times when she did not understand, but she kept all of these things in her heart, reflecting upon them and trusting in God’s Providence. In our lives, the Holy Spirit does not tend to reveal everything to us either. He accompanies us always, but only little by little does he reveal his plan to us. How we would love to know how things would turn out even before they come to pass! How often we worry about the many “unknowns” of life!

At times, we wonder, “Why does God allow us to experience our weaknesses, when all we desire is to love him and to serve him more faithfully?” We must keep in mind that God is capable of turning the experience of our weakness into a catalyst that boosts our unconditional trust in him. He wants us to recognize just how much we need him… that our lives depend upon him. He wants us to know that he will always be here for us. Just like the response Jesus received from Peter, he wishes to receive from us a humble response of love: “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Just like he received from Mary, he longs to receive from us a docile assent to his action in our lives: “May it be done to me according to your word.”

God yearns to live in us through his Holy Spirit, so that we may have life to the full, so that our joy may be complete! If we love him, God will reveal himself to us. Let us permit him to reveal himself to us in the way in which he desires. Let us ask for the grace to experience precisely how much we need him. Let us allow him to teach us how to live in the Spirit!