GUIDED BY THE SPIRIT OF GOD
METHOD AND OVERVIEW
- Short introduction to the study of a Scripture passage
- Time for personal study with note taking
- Group study and discussion
- What life giving word is for me ?
- How can I be guided by God’s Spirit ?
- We share with Father Bruno who gives us a Gospel Study about the proposed passage. .
- Introduction to the afternoon’s meditation
- Proposition of texts from the Spiritual
- Proposition of a questionnaire for a discussion group at the end of the afternoon.
- Free time about the morning’s meditation and propositions for the afternoon.
STAGES OF THE RETREAT
For those who are going to take vows
Saturday 27th July: “guided by God’s Spirit” in the light of Luke 1 (we can start the meditation and the retreat before Father Bruno arrives)
Sunday 28th July: “guided by God’s Spirit” in the light of Luke 2
Monday July 29th: “guided byGod’s Spirit in the light of Luke 3 and 4
Tuesday July 30th: “ guided by God’s Spirit” in the light of Acts 3 and 4
Wednesday July 31st: “guided by God’s Spirit in the light of Acts 10 and 11
Thursday August 1st: “guided by God’s Spirit in the light of Paul’s experience (Acts 9)
Friday August 2nd: “guided by God’s Spirit” in the light of Paul’s letters.
- GUIDED BY GOD’S SPIRIT IN LUKE’S GOSPEL
The Holy Spirit is explicitly mentioned (or God’s intervention) in the first four chapters of Luke’s Gospel.
- an angel appears to Zachariah to announce the birth of John the Baptist (1,11)
- John the Baptist is filled with the Holy Spirit in his mother’s womb
– Annunciation: “The Holy Spirit will come on you (1,35)
- John the Baptist jumps in Elizabeth’s womb and she is filled with the Spirit (1,41)
- Zachariah is filled with the Holy Spirit: “Let’s praise the Lord …”
- The child grows and develops in body and spirit (1,80)
- Jesus’s birth is announced to the shepherds (2,10)
- Mary remembers all these things and tries to understand their meaning. 2,19)
- Jesus is presented in the Temple: the Spirit rests on Simeon 2,25-27)
- The child grew and was full of God’s wisdom (2,40)
- The Holy Spirit is mentioned by his action (2,52)
- He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit. (3,16)
- Jesus is baptized
- Jesus returns from the Jordan full of the Holy Spirit and is led by the Spirit into the desert where he is tempted by the Devil.
- Jesus returns to Galilee with the power of the Holy Spirit (4,14)
- “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.” In the synagogue (4,18-20)
Then the Spirit is rarely mentioned.
- Jesus is filled with joy because the Father has shown to the unlearned the mysteries of the Kingdom of God. (Luke 10,21)
- Jesus invites us to pray in order to receive the Holy Spirit (Luke 11,13)
- Jesus warns whoever says evil things against the Holy Spirit. (Luke 12,10)
- Jesus promises his disciples that the Holy Spirit will teach them what they will have to say when they are persecuted. (Luke 12,12)
- “Father! In your hands I place my spirit. Luke 23,46)
But Jesus starts his ministry by quoting Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me …” This helps us to understand all his life, everything he does and says as a manifestation of a life according to God’s Spirit. Yet, in the following study, we will mainly use the first 4 chapters.
- The action of the Holy Spirit is totally directed to God’s plan of salvation:
Our Salvation is really the work of the Holy Spirit and not the result of man’s activity. He is part of God’s plan of salvation.
- Our salvation is the work of the Holy Spirit.
When the Holy Spirit’s power comes upon Mary, He is the author of Incarnation.
- The Holy Spirit announces the salvation of mankind.
- to Zachariah: “your wife will bear you a son …” (1,13)
- to Mary (1,30) “God has been gracious to you … you will become pregnant… you will name him Jesus.”
- To the shepherds (2,10) “I am here with good news for you… your Saviour is born.”
- To Simeon (2,26) “The Holy Spirit … had assured him that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s promised Messiah.”
2.3 The Holy Spirit enables someone to point to the Saviour.
- John the Baptist in his mother’s womb. (1,41)
- Elizabeth when she meets Mary (1, 43)
- Zachariah: “He has come to the help of his people.” (1,68)
- The shepherd adore, reveal and praise (2,17)
- Simeon: “Now, Lord, you have kept your promise.” (2,29)
- John the Baptist (3,16) “Someone is coming who is much greater than I am.”
- A voice from Heaven: “You are my own dear Son.” (3,22)
- Luke who writes his Gospel and reveals Jesus to the reader; the reader is like someone who loves God, like Theophilus. (1,4)
The Holy Spirit gives Jesus the comprehension of God’s plan and wants him to be in his Father’s house and busy with his Father’s business (2,47-49)
- Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
- conceived of the Holy Spirit … so holy, God’s Son.
- Filled with the Holy Spirit … but has to grow in wisdom, gaining favour with God and men.
- Comes down upon Jesus in bodily form like a dove.
- Bond of love between the Father and the Son: “You are my own dear Son, today I have become your Father. “
Jesus’s communion with the Father is so strong that when we see Jesus,
- we hear the Father.
- We see the bond of love between the Father and the Son. Jesus is led by the Holy Spirit.
+ when he meets the Father in the desert.
+ when he is tempted by the Devil.
– The Holy Spirit doesn’t exempt us from temptation.
– When he is tempted by the Devil, Jesus is not alone, the Holy Spirit is with him.
+ in his mission which is
– to bring the Good News to the poor.
– to proclaim liberty to the captives
– and announce that the time has come when the Lord will save His people.
- What can we say about the Holy Spirit :
4.1 The Holy Spirit is at work within the limits of time
- In the past: for example Simeon says: “With my own eyes I have seen your salvation which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples.” (2,30)
- In the present: “This word has come true today.” (Jesus in the synagogue, 4,21)
– In the future: “The Holy Spirit will come on you.” (1,35)
4.2 The action of the Holy Spirit is not always immediately comprehended. Even Jesus has to grow (2.52)
- Mary treasures all these things in her heart, and tries to understand them.
- Elizabeth (?) and Zachariah find it difficult to believe.
4.3 The action of the Holy Spirit competes with that of Satan
(see Jesus’s temptations)
- He is sent by the Father.
- The Holy Spirit prompts people to move.
– Led by the Holy Spirit, Simeon comes to the Temple (2.27)
- Jesus is led by the Spirit into the desert. (4.1)
- Jesus is led by the Spirit to Galilee. ((4.14)
- 5. A summing up of what “being guided by God’s Spirit” means.
– Entering the history of God’s salvation plan, recognizing the Saviour, his proclamation, the communion between the Father and the Son, the Father and the Son’s love for men.
- Entering what the Spirit does here and now and in the course of time.
- The Spirit rests in a special way on some people for the service of God’s plan for the people:
* through God’s free election, received freely; the Spirit comes unexpectedly as for the shepherds, the choice of women, sterile and ordinary, the choice of elderly people … God gives his grace.
* through work of their own in order to be available: received by righteous people, faithful to their mission, who prayed.
- is not received without a struggle or persecution:
* Zachariah and Elizabeth (?) refuse to believe and are reduced to silence.
* John the Baptist and Mary’s persecution (“a sharp sword will break your own heart”)
- is received through human relationship, church relationship.
+ relationship between persons:
* Mary and Elizabeth.
* Elizabeth and Zachariah
* Mary and Joseph;
* Mary and the shepherds
* Mary, Joseph and Simeon.
*Jesus and his parents
* Jesus and the Jews of the synagogue
* Luke and Theophilus.
– is received through special calls
+ to serve in the Temple
+ to serve as a prophet
+ to be a wife, a mother.
– is received in a particular religion
+ presentation in the Temple
+ reading the Word of God in the synagogue
- is received in a particular society
+ the census
+ working as a soldier, a tax collector, a shepherd;
+ relationship as a disciple
+ relationship as the Son
+ recognizing Christ
+ or refusal
+ obligation to make up one’s mind.
- gives a mission within God’s salvation plan.
– The poor have a special but not exclusive ability to be touched by God’s Spirit: Mary, the shepherds, John the Baptist, those who provoke Jesus’s praise (Matt 10,22)
II GUIDED BY GOD’S SPIRIT IN THE ACTS
- It is by excellence the book of the Holy Spirit
He is mentioned nearly 50 times.
Chapter one, verses 2, 5, 8, 16
Chapter two, verses 4, 5, 33, 38
Chapter four, verses 8, 25, 31
Chapter five, 3, 9, 32
Chapter six, 3, 4, 5, 10
Chapter seven, 51, 55
Chapter eight, 51, 55
Chapter nine, 3, 4, 17, 31
Chapter ten, 15, 19, 34, 44, 45, 46, 47
Chapter eleven, 17, 24
Chapter thirteen, 2, 3, 4, 9, 52
Chapter fifteen, 7, 28
Chapter sixteen, 6
Chapter nineteen, 2, 6, 20, 21
Chapter twenty, 22, 23
Chapter twenty-one, 4, 11
Chapter twenty-eight 25
- The Spirit presides over every aspect of the construction of the Church
The Spirit’s action
- in which Jesus had instructed the apostles (1,2)
- promised to the disciples to be witnesses (1,8; 2,38)
- who speaks in the Scriptures re-read in the Church (1,16; 4;25; 28,25)
- who founds the Church (1,8)
- who witnesses to the death and resurrection of Jesus. (5,32)
- who gives strength to the apostles’ teaching (6,10; 13,9)
- who leads them (7,29; 7,39; I0 and 11; 13,4; 16,6; 20,22; 21,4)
- who produces conversion 9,4)
- who chooses the workers (9,17; 10,19; 10,47; 13,2)
- required to serve meals (6,3)
- who causes the Church to grow (9,31; 19,20)
- who opens new ways of evangelization (see the question of clean and unclean (10, 5)
- who gives strength and assurance and prevents the apostles from keeping silent (4. 8)
- who gives the gifts of tongues and the ability to praise God (2,4; 10,46)
- who reveals the glory of God (7,55)
To be guided by God’s Spirit, some conditions are necessary, discernment is required as we will see in chapters 10 and 11.
- Who receives the Holy Spirit ?
Righteous peopls, but it’s given graciously, even to those who are not Jews.
– righteous people, seekers of God, but their search is reoriented, sometimes upset (see Paul)
– the gift of the Holy Spirit is linked to faith in Christ (11,17);
It is received through the laying on of hands and prayer, but God’s action precedes the laying on of hands.
It is also received when re-reading an event in the light of God’s Word and in prayer.
(4,31, 7,15-17; 10,44; 11,16)
– conversion and obedience are required (2,38; 5,32)
– the gravity of the sin against the Spirit is stressed (5,3; 5,9; 6,51)
– the clear signs of the presence of the Holy Spirit are: strength, wisdom, the gift of tongues, joy.
III. GUIDED BY GOD’S SPIRIT IN ACTS 3 AND 4 AND IN THE LIGHT OF FATHER CHEVRIER’S SPIRITUALITY
This passage is a key moment to understand what “guided by God’s Spirit” means. Peter and John have just received the Holy Spirit on Pentecost day. In the Acts, it’s the first time they
go out after that important event and the healing fo the lame man ends with a second Pentecost. So, it’s interesting to try to understand how they were guided by God’s Spirit.
- Seeing Christ in ourselves … we must become new Christ …
When I arrived in my first parish, we had started a recollection for young people with a free hour about Acts 3 and 4. They were not used to such an exercise and when a seventeen year old girl arrived at the share group, she was angry and in a state of psychololgical block:
- “I didn’t understand anything, I haven’t found the “life giving words”.
- “nothing at all ?”
- “nothing at all.”
- “Nothing. Not even a verse that you can share with us.”
- “Yes, maybe one. I may be wrong, but when Peter says: “Look at us!” doesn’t he mean: ‘Look at Christ in us’?”
Behind that apparent revolt, that girl had been touched by the Holy Spirit but she wasn’t aware of what was happening in her heart. Following that word, she was put in charge of 100 thirteen year olds and of their team organizers. It was a decisive moment in her life and every time I read this passage, I think of her.
What she said reminds me of Father Chevrier when he says we must try to become new Christ.
This is probably a first key: “Guided by God’s Spirit” means that we must induce others to see ‘new Christ’ in us.
- Guided by God’s Spirit means that we believe that Jesus lives, is at work, speaks today and we adjust us to the new that Jesus do by his Holy Spirit today, now
What enabled Peter and John to dare adressing the lame man the way they did, was their belief that Jesus had really risen from the dead, that his Name, his Spirit continue to be at work today and guides us.
- Faith enables Peter and John to tell the lame man to get up and walk.
“I have no money at all, but I give you what I have: in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, I order you to get up and walk.” (3,6)
- Awareness of Jesus’s action today.
“It was the power of his name that gave strength to this lame man. What you see and know was done by faith in his name; it was faith in Jesus that has made him well, as you can all see.” (3,16)
“If we are being questioned today about the good deed done to the lame man and how he was healed, then you should all know, that this man stands here before you completely well through the power of the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth – whom you crucified and whom God raised from death.” (4, 9-10)
2.3 This awareness that Jesus is alive and active today, is also manifested in the final prayer: “And now Lord, take notice of the threats they have made, and allow us your servants to speak your message with all boldness. Stretch out your hands to heal, and grant that wonders and miracles may be performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” (4, 29-30)
2.4 Assurance that even in that deadly situation which has been lasting for 40 years, Jesus can make life spring up. (4, 22)
- Being guided by the Holy Spirit means living in the intimacy of Jesus.
Peter and John’s intimacy with Jesus is expressed in what the members of the Sanhedrin say: “They realised then that they had been companions of Jesus.” (4.13)
- Peter’s intimacy with the Word of God – we can see it in his speeches – enables him to speak in the name of Jesus.
- Peter’s intimacy with Jesus in the ritual prayer in the temple, spontaneous prayer when he heals the lame man, prayer with the community at the end.
- Being guided by the Holy Spirit means following him at the manger, on the cross, at the tabernacle.
- Peter and John are aware that announcing Jesus means making the same gestures and letting him be at work within us: “Do this in memory of me”, “I have set an example for you, so that you will do just what I have done for you.” (Jn 13,15) This word which is written on top of the walls of the Tableau of Saint Fons, is a call not only to live the washing of the feet, but also to consider all Jesus’s life like a way for us to follow.
- The way of poverty, of the poor and of the manger
- What would have happened if Peter and John had had money ? They would have built a home for handicapped people, given a pension, but they would not have entered that fundamental relationship: meeting a lame man in the name of Jesus to the point of saving him, healing him, revealing the risen Christ, opening to God’s praise.
- Peter and John are not only financially poor, but they are ordinary men and unlearned men who have been chosen by God: “They were amazed to see how bold Peter and John were and to learn that they were ordinary men of no education. They realized then that they were companions of Jesus. But there was nothing that they could say because they saw the man who had been healed standing there with them.” (4, 13-14)
What would have happened if they had not stopped to meet that poor man ? The lame man would not have been healed, the Good News would not have been announced, Peter and John would not have experienced the truth of the word they announced,, the community would not have been able to proclaim the Good News alive today.
4.2 The Way of the Cross
What would have happened if they had been impressed by the members of the Council and had stopped proclaiming the Good News through fear of the cross ?
4.3 The way of the Eucharist
What would have happened if they had not believed in the Resurrection, in the fact that Jesus is alive and at work today in them and in the lame man, if they had not been prepared to offer their lives ?
How do we let the Holy Spirit print the Tableau of Saint Fons in our hearts ?
- Becoming another Christ and not thinking we are Christ …
Working to become a new Christ doesn’t mean that we think we are Christ; it means letting Jesus be at work in us, “let God be at work in us” forget self, our own mind, to let him be at work.
“Fellow-Isrealites, why are you surprised at this, and why do you stare at us ? Do you think that it was by means of our own power and holiness that we made this man walk ? The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our ancestors, has given divine glory to his Servant Jesus (…) It was the power of his name that gave strength to this lame man. What you see and know was done by faith in his name; it was faith in Jesus that made him well, as you can all see. “(3, 12-16)
“Then you should all know, and all the people of Israel should know that this man stands here before you completely well through the power of the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified and whom God raised from the dead.” (3.10)
- Being led by the Holy Spirit through the events of our lives.
Being guided by the Holy Spirit means letting the events of our lives lead us and witness to Jesus’s action through those events. Peter and John have not planned to meet the lame man, neither to heal him, nor the reaction of the crowd and of the members of the Council. They let the Holy Spirit guide them through those events. As and when things happen, Peter re-reads and comments in the light of the Word of God.
- We can’t separate prayer, teaching and charity
– The fact that Peter and John were men of prayer may have helped them to see the lame man, instead of walking past him, and enabled them to heal him by the strength of the Holy Spirit.
– In the same way, if they had not seen that man, if they had not felt compassion for him, they would not have met Jesus and would not have been in communion with him as they have been; their prayer and their teaching would not have been fed by that encounter.
– Without that prayer and that compassion in acts, they would not have been prompted to teach and their teaching would have been without strength.
- Living Isaiah’s prophecy as we follow Jesus, with Jesus
Jesus sent his apostles to preach, heal, announce his resurrection in words and in acts. The apostles live out Isaiah’s prophecy that Jesus reads in the synagogue of Nazareth at the beginning of his ministry: bring Good News to the poor, heal, proclaim liberty to the captives, drive out demons, forgive, baptize, be at work, through the strength of the Holy Spirit. (see Luke, 4, 18-20; Matt 10,1; Mk 6,6-13; Mk 6,15-20; Luke 9, 1-2)
In our communities, how do try not only to speak, pray, but also to act and bring freedom ? Where do we see the gestures of salvation, of liberation to be commented, and make them conspicuous. How do we help fellow christians to commit themselves in social, political life, and how do we help them to find a link betwenn that and their faith ?
Peter and John not only improve the lame man’s situation and call him to a better life. They proclaim clearly: “Jesus whom you crucified, God has raised him from death.” (4;10)
How do we go as far as explicitely announcing Jesus’s resurrection and how do we call people to receive the sacraments ?
“We cannot stop speaking of what we ourselves have seen and heard.” (4, 20) What they have seen and heard is not only Jesus’s resurrection but also the healing of the lame man through the power of the Holy Spirit.
- The work of the Holy Spirit needs man’s participation
The salvation of that man will be achieved through various actions of the Holy Spirit.
+ The Holy Spirit is at work through Peter who is able to see, pray, call men, take the lame man by his right hand (which reminds us of the action of the Creator)
+ The Holy Spirit is at work in the heart of the lame man who believes in Peter’s word, stands up, jumps up, praises the Lord and follows the apostles into the temple.
+ The Holy Spirit makes his feet and ankles become strong. (3.7)
-That scene is an extraordinary image of what true help to development must be: the person who received help is also an actor of his or her development. He stands up by himself or herself and becomes a witness. The one who offers help also receives help.
- The salvation of that man is not only only an outside assistance; it means a new life for that man, reintroduction into the community; he’s allowed to enter the temple; as a lame man, he was regarded as unclean and could not enter the temple. From now on, he doesn’t need to beg; he can have a job.
That healing is a sign for the whole people, for the whole christian community, including those who do not believe and want the apostles to die. They can’t deny that the lame man has been healed; they can also let the Good News change their lives.
- Proclaiming Christ’s resurrection and calling to conversion
The mission doesn’t consist only in transmitting a moral code; it’s also liberation and opening to the meeting of the risen Christ.
Meeting Christ means conversion:“Repent then and turn to God, so that he will forgive your sins.” (3.19)
- Acting with the Church
Peter doesn’t act alone but with John.
The re-reading within the community is essential, not only to know whether we have done well or not, but to contemplate, celebrate, discern God’s work and his calls to go on
- Being guided by the Holy Spirit makes re-reading important.
Peter and John re-read the healing in their prayer, in the light of the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection (3, 12-16 ; 4, 8-12) and of the Word of God (3, 17-24; 4, 24-28) at various moments.
- in the temple, in front of the crowd, immediately after the healing of the lame man.
- In front of the Sanhedrin.
- In the community of the assembled disciples.
How much time do we spend in our teams of priests, sisters, with the christians of our communities, re-reading our lives, in the light of the word of God, trying to contemplate, discern, celebrate, Christ’s action, and not only whether it has worked or not ?
- Obeying God and accepting the Way of the Cross.
“They were annoyed because the two apostles were teaching the people that Jesus had risen from death (…) So they had them arrested and put in jail until the next day, since it was already late.” (4, 2-3)
“What shall we do with these men ?” they asked. “Everyone in Jerusalem knows that this extraordinary miracle has been performed by them, and we cannot deny it. But to keep this matter from spreading any further among the people, let us warn these men never again to speak to anyone in the name of Jesus.” (…) So they warned them even more strongly and then set them free. They saw it was impossible to punish them.” 4, 17-18. 20-21)
But Peter and John replied: “You yourselves judge which is right in God’s sight – to obey you or to obey God ? For we cannot stop speaking of what ourselves have seen and heard.” (4, 19)
- GUIDED BY GOD’S SPIRIT IN ACTS 10 AND 11
When we study the working of the Holy Spirit in the Bible, we can find that the Holy Spirit is mentioned several times in the Gospel, particularly in Luke’s Gospel, and more particularly in the chapters about Jesus’s childhood. But the book of Acts is the one where the Holy Spirit is most frequently mentioned. That book is about the beginnings of the Church, what the apostles did after the Ascension and after they received the Holy Spirit.
“When the Holy Spirit comes upon you, you will be filled with power, and you will be witnesses for me in Jerusalem, in all Judaea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (1, 8)
If the Spirit is mentioned many times (about 50 times) in the Acts, his action is described with more details when Peter meets Cornelius (chapter 10) where we can see how an apostle discerns how to be guided by God’s Spirit.
That passage is about an angel, voices, dreams, the Holy Spirit falling on people, speaking in tongues. If we want to understand that text so that it means something for us today, we had better link these extraordinary manifestations with our ordinary lives, provided we pay attention to that. For Luke, those mentions of angels, voices, are a way of talking about strong experiences which he doesn’t know how to explain, but which are not reserved to the Church of 2000 years ago, but strong experiences that we live through today in our own way.
So, let’s look at the elements which enabled Peter to be guided by the Holy Spirit.
1.What Peter wonders about
Peter wonders whether he must go to the Gentiles, whether he must baptize people who are not Jews. He wonders how to live out his mission in a new situation:
- Jesus is not physically present with them.
- Peter is no longer in Nazareth or in Jerusalem among Jews and he wonders how to behave with Gentiles.
The question of going to the Gentiles is going to be posed in a concrete situation: to visit Cornelius or not.
In order to have a better understanding of the difficulty, we need to remember that a Jew is not allowed to associate with Gentiles in order not to lose his difference: believing in one God, refusing to worship idols. He must still less enter their houses. We must not forget that Palestine is occupied by the Romans, and Cornelius is a Roman officer. So he belongs to the occupying forces.
And yet, Peter makes up his mind to visit Cornelius, and even to baptize him because, he says: “God has shown me that I must not consider any person ritually unclean or defiled. (10, 28)
“It is clear that God gave those Gentiles the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I, then, to try to stop God!” (11, 17)
- References to be guided by the Spirit in the school of Peter in Acts 10 and 11
2.1 Being aware that God is at work today.
When Peter says: “God has shown me that … (10, 28) he shows that he is aware that God is at work today, that he has something new and personal to say to him today. This awareness makes him attentive to what God wants to do with him now. Peter realises that he’s like a man who should take over from a God who was at work in the past and is absent today and lets man work alone to continue his work
This is an essential condition to be guided by the Holy Spirit: to believe that Jesus in not only a model, someone who was at work in the past and whom we should imitate today. To believe that he’s at work today in the world and in his Church. Trying to adapt ourselves to the new things he wants to reveal to us, discerning what he expects from us, working with his strength rather than ours.
- Being aware that God makes everything new and expects us to do the same.
Faithfulness to the Holy Spirit means that we should follow whoever makes something new today, because the world is changing, because Christ himself takes us farther away. Being faithful to Jesus Christ doesn’t mean that we do the same things over and over again, the way we have always done them.
Here, Peter takes into account the fact he’s no longer with Jews in Capernaum or in Jerusalem. He takes into account the fact that he’s called to take the Good News to the end of the world, which means that he will have to adapt to new situations, new ways of responding to God’s call.
2.3 A discernment which is part of a history to make something new today.
When Peter says: “God has shown me that …” he accounts for something new which he realises at that very moment. But that newness is part of a history: for a long time, Jesus has prepared Peter to this awareness.
That preparation started with the training he received in his family, which has opened him to.Almighty God, to the expectation of a Messiah but also avoiding uncleanness in order to live his whole life open to the Creator, to the God of the Promise.
That preparation went on with all the time he spent with Jesus, from the call transmitted by Andrew near the Jordan to the gift of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost day, on the way he listened to Jesus’s preaching, he saw the signs which he performed . With the other disciples, Peter had a special training to the parables. (Mark 4, 34)
He found it difficult to understand everything, particularly Jesus’s teaching about what is clean and unclean
(note 9) After the pharisees attack Jesus because his disciples had not washed their hands, Jesus says: “There’s nothing that goes into a person from the outside which can make him ritually unclean.” When they go back into the house, away from the crowd, his disciples ask him about that enigmatic word.
He saw Jesus meet people who were regarded as unclean and stay with them.
(note 10) Zacheus, the Roman centurion, the woman caught in adultery, the persons possessed by the Devil, the Samaritan woman, Mary Magdalene, the leprous, and so many others.
All that route, all that training, have made him mature and helped him to understand that he had to meet Cornelius. “Do not consider unclean what God has declared clean.” (Acts 11, 9)
By re-reading our own life and the life of our church as inhabited by Christ who wants to lead us, train us, we will be able to make something new with the Spirit.
2.4 Being guided by the Holy Spirit is not reserved to extraterrestrial people and champions.
In spite of the fact that Peter had the good fortune to share Jesus’s life, he found if difficult to understand him and follow him; he even denied him. (Mark 11, 66-72) He also experimented Jesus’s prayer so that “when you turn back to me, you must strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22, 32) Being guided by God’s Spirit is not reserved to champions, to perfect people. It is the way offered to anyone who lets Christ come to him in his weakness, who agrees to fall and be set on his feet again. That way is not reserved to privileged people who lived 2000 years ago. For them, the way ws not easy either. That way is proposed to us, apostles of today.
2.5. Trying to get to know Jesus Christ in the Gospel in order to work with his Spirit.
What will enable Peter to understand what God asks him to do when he meets Cornelius, is the strong intimacy he had with Jesus when they travelled together and the knowledge he has of the Bible.
Let’s not dream we can understand someone if we don’t spend time with him to know him. That’s why our bishop asks us to read and re read the Bible.
“Let’s come back to the Gospel, only the Gospel, read, re-read, meditated, prayed with, shared, lived out.. personnaly and together, continually. “ François Fretellière
For the one who wants to be guided by God’s Spirit, this quotation shows how important it is to spend time reading the Gospel, all the importance of Gospel stury groups, in as much as we try to see how the Gospel sheds light on our lives, but also stresses the importance of revision of life groups where time is spent to welcome the Word of God for what it is.
2.6 Being faithful to our mission
When Peter has that vision which will make him say “God has made me understand”, we can see that he is faithful to his mission: go and proclaim everythere that the Messiah was crucified, that God has raised him from death and has made him Lord and Christ. (Acts 2, 23-24). We can see that he doesn’t stay comfortably at home, but is constantly on the move to proclaim the Good News and renew what Jesus used to do. Now, he’s in Joppa, where he was called by christians to raise from death a woman called Tabhitha. (Acts 9,36-43)
Even if we are always surprised by the Holy Spirit, let’s not dream we will perceive his calls if we are not faithful to our mission in the Church and in the world.
2.7 Praying to be open to the Holy Spirit.
Peter is concerned with the mission that Christ has given him.
“Go then to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples: baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you to do.. And I will be with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matt 28, 19-20)
He wonders how to proclaim the Gospel to the Gentiles. He stays with a currier, a leather craftsman whose job is regarded as unclean.
Like Jesus, he takes time to stop, to pray, and while he’s praying he has the vision, the light, that inner conviction, even if he doesn’t really understand its scope.
“So do not consider anything unclean that God has declared clean.” (Acts 10, 15)
- Responding to the call immediately and day after day
“Three men are here looking for you. So get ready and go down, and do not hesitate to go with them for I have sent them.” (Acts 10, 19-20)
Being guided by the Holy Spirit means responding immediately, without any prerequisite.”
Yet, in order to have a better understanding of that indication which may sound unattainable, it’s useful not to confuse the real decision to respond, which can’t suffer any delay, and the way we will bring it into operation, how long it will take to become a reality, to take root and be improved.
In the Gospel we can see that same insistence about the necessity to respond to God’s call immediately. “At once, they left their nets and went with him.” (Mk 1, 18)
It may sound insane and impossible to achieve. But if we have a close look at the Gospel, we can see that the apostles are always with their boat until Jesus’s resurrection, which shows that they haven’t left everything immediately; it would have been irresponsible and disembodied. Yet, when they re-read their lives, they are aware of the fact that they immediately had to make up their minds to follow Christ, because of the way he looked at them and spoke to them.
Being guided by the Spirit of God doesn’t mean that we delay our decision to give a positive response to the calls we have received and try to incarnate that response day after day, in our real lives.
“If anyone wants to come with me, he must forget self, take up his cross every day and follow me. “ (Lk 9, 23)
That verse frightens us… but it may also reassure us: we are not supposed to give out everything immediately; we are supposed to give out a little of ourselves every day … and that is not impossible to achieve.
- Being open to the events of our lives
Now that Peter has walked with Jesus, is living out the mission he has received, is open to the Spirit by prayer, has received a light, he is going to welcome a message from the Spirit in that encounter with Cornelius. As we will see, he doesn’t make that discernment immediately. But he is prepared to open himself to what the Spirit does. When he starts for Caesarea, he doesn’t know what is going to happen, what he’s going to do, but he’s ready to listen to the call of the Spirit.
- Welcoming men as people sent by God
When Peter welcomes Cornelius’s envoys, he doesn’t welcome them as people who disturb him but as people sent by God. He agrees to go with them, to let them lead him, to stay with them.
Yet, he would have good reasons to welcome them as people who disturb him.
- he’s praying;
- it is nearly dinner time
- they are foreigners, sent by on officer of the occupying forces, a Gentile. –
– they are not part of his agenda; they do not come for a meeting to which they have been invited or for a usual service: they have the nerve to ask him to follow them for a two days’ walk.
And yet Peter welcomes them, follows them, lets them guide him, goes and stays at Cornelius’s house. Once there, he listens to Cornelius telling him his story, God’s story with him.
Welcoming someone else as sent by God, taking the risk of following him in everything, welcoming him not from his limits but from his quest for God, welcoming him even when his quest is not part of our own criteria, which doesn’t mean that we will respond to his call without the necessary discernment. In other words, being guided by God’s Spirit and letting the novelty of what God wants us to discover .
- Re-reading and discerning
After that vision, after he has agreed to follow the people Cornelius had sent him and listened to his story, his demand, in the light of what he knows about Jesus, about his message, Peter re-reads that event, interprets it and makes up his mind:
“I now realize that it is true that God treats everyone on the same basis. Whoever worships him and does what is right, is acceptable to him.” ‘Acts 10, 34-35
What is surprising is the way Peter re-reads that encounter in the light of the Word that inhabits him. We can see here how important it is to study the Gospel regularly and not only for a particular question, if we want to be guided by God’s Spirit. We can also notice that Peter’s way of understanding that event, that encounter, is to set it within God’s plan of salvation. Being guided by God’s Spirit means to set ourselves continually in relation with God’s plan of salvation, with what he did in the past, with what he does today, with what he will do in the future when he takes us with him in his kingdom.
When we see the inner conflict which animates Peter, when we read again what he reports to the christian community, let’s not forget the conflicts of the first community at the meeting in Jerusalem to discuss the way Paul evangelizes, we can see clearly that “being guided by God’s Spirit doesn’t mean that we work without a framework ignoring religious rules. Let’s not forget that those rules have an essential and positive goal: enabling the community of believers not to lose its faith in the midst of pagan gods. Peter makes up his mind because he’s pushed by the event, but he doesn’t forget the spirit of those rules, in the light of the Word of Jesus and his choice is discerned by the Church.
- Discerning while taking into account human feelings
In the elements which help Peter to discern, his inner feelings are mentioned several times:
- “Go down and do not hesitate.” (10, 20))
- “I came without any objection.” (10, 29)
- The Holy Spirit falling on the assembly makes us think of a physical and psychological experience. Our feelings are similar to those of the disciples of Emmaus in whose heart a fire wass burning.
Being aware of our own feelings is an important element of this discernment if we want to be guided by the Spirit of God, provided we don’t forget more objective elements that we mentioned before.
- We must not think the Spirit belongs to us.
Because he’s guided by the Spirit of God, Peter realizes that the Holy Spirit doesn’t belong to him, that he precedes him and is at work outside the christian community.
“Those people have received the Holy Spirit just as we also have. Can anyone then stop them from being baptized ?” (10, 47)
- Discerning with the Church
Peter has made up his mind. All chapter 11 tells us how that decision is verified by the Church. We notice that complicated theories don’t enable the community to agree with what happened but the fact that he simply reports what happened and places the brothers in front of what God has done and the fact that he accounts for his own way of conversion. And they all start praising God.
This shows us how important it is to re-read with the Church when everyone says how he understands the work of God and accounts for the conversions that were brought about in himself.
Being guided by the Spirit of God … a never ending fight.
The tension is permanent, knowing that the Spirit of God doesn’t belong to us, that we are sinners, and are not always faithful to his guidance.
“What we see now is like a dim image in a mirrot; then we shall see face to face.” ‘I Co 13, 12)
Being guided by the Holy Spirit is a never ending fight. If Peter has found out that God doesn’t make differences between men, that he’s the God of all humanity, we will see later that he draws back and is sharply questioned by Paul because locks up the gift of God and refuses to eat with the Gentiles ( Gal. 2, 11-14)
“Being guided by the Spirit of God” is not a ready made recipe. It’s not enough to make up our minds once to go beyond the prescriptions of the law in a particular situation and simply reproduce that decision elsewhere. In every new situation we will have to try to discern God’s will, maybe in a different way. Thus Paul, who was always in favour of a great liberty regarding the prescriptions of the law, will ask the Corinthians to abstain from food offered to idols in order not to make those who are weak in the faith fall into sin. (I Co 8, 9)
4.A very important concern: believing that God is at work and not trying to prevent him
“It is clear that God gave those Gentiles the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ; who was I then, to try to stop God.” (Acts 11, 17)
Being guided by the Holy Spirit is the result of a long process, something that is never completely achieved, and whose decisive criteria is to desire not to prevent God from acting. It’s about the orientation of a whole life. A lot of work is necessary to let the Holy Spirit train us and to be ready to let him act.
- MEETING THE RISEN LORD LIKE PAUL
- Being guided by the Spirit of God like Paul means letting the Risen Lord come and meet us.
The central point of all Paul’s message is his experience of meeting the Risen Lord. He witnesses to that encounter as a real event and not as a theory.
When Paul’s encounter with the Risen Lord is evoked, we immedistely think of what happened on the road to Damascus. A closer look at Paul’s story shows that he had other encounters with the Risen Lord.
That reminds us of our own experience as believers: being invited to re-read our lives and to remember our own encounters with the Risen Lord which led us to believe in him, means to be looking forward to future encounters, in order to be continually guided until the last encounter.
Our encounter with the Risen Lord doesn’t belong only to the past, it means looking forward to the future and living in the present.
If Paul’s experience is somewhat unique, we had better not regard him as an extra-terrestrial and make a link between his experience and our own experiences in our ordinary lives. That way of looking at Paul’s experience will help us to understand something of our encounters with the Risen Lord in our own lives, something of those moments when there was a fire in our hearts, when our lives were turned to someone else’s call.
- On the road to Damascus (Acts 9, 1-19)
(note 29) Luke relates this encounter from Paul’s own account in front of the Jews in Acts 22, 1-21, and in front of king Agrippa, Bernice and Festus (Acts 26; 1-32) Paul often mentions it in his letters, particularly when he is in trouble. See paragraph about the introduction of Paul’s route : “Paul by himself.”
2.1 An unexpected event but for a man who was prepared.
(Note 29) 2That encounter is reported by Luke in Paul’s speech in front of the Jews in Jerusalem (Acts 22, 1-21), in front of king Agrippa, Bernice and Festus in Acts 26, 1-32. Paul often mentions it in his letters, particularly when he has problems. See paragraph about Paul’s itinerary: “Paul by himself.
Isn’t it strange that God chose the very man who persecuted christians ? We can notice that Paul was not only a persecutor: he was a God seeker. As for everyone of us, the best part of him was that search for God, tainted by the most radical sin, the refusal of Christ, the refusal to be guided, to come into the light.
2.2 A conversion
2.2.1. Paul before his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus.
First of all, Paul witnesses Stephen’s martyrdom (Acts 7,58)) which he approves of (Acts 8,1) He will become a persecution leader.
He asks to be sent to Damascus. His power comes from men and he relies on an armed escort. On that road of hatred, self-assurance. He is his own boss.
His mission consists in arresting Jews who have embraced what he regards as a heresy. Paul knows exactly what true religion is. He is sure of himself. He knows who God is and who he is not. He enforces his vision of things forcefully.
He breathes out threats and murder against Christ’s disciples.
2.2.2. When he encounters with Christ on the road to Damascus and when Ananias lays his hands on him:
On that road of hatred and certaintly , he will be baffled, he will lose his control of events. Later on, he will witness to what a life with the Spirit of God is like; it has nothing to do with hatred; it’s love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, benevolence, faith, humility, self control (Gal. 5, 22-23)
Paul meets Christ at the most unexpected moment. He faces a light which doesn’t come from himself but from heaven. He is completely surrounded with a light from heaven which reminds us of the cloud of light in the book of Exodus. Meeting the Risen Lord already means moving from our own light to the light of God, letting that light encompass us completely.
He falls to the ground. He finds himself as someone who doesn’t know, as someone who will never be able to answer that question which is the same for all those who believe.
(note 33) “What we see is like a dim image in a mirror; what I know now is partial; then it will be complete – as complete as God’s knowledge of me.” (I Co 13, 12)
“Who are you, Lord ?”
He realises that instead of serving God, he was persecuting him!
“I am Jesus whom you persecute.”
He doesn’t see a thing. He has to be guided by the hand, like a child. He faces a prayer experience.
What he’s living through is not only an experience of resurrection, but an encounter with the Risen Lord as we can see in the phrases: “get up” (that verb in Greek is used to talk about resurrection) “three days in the dark, without eating or drinking anything.” (Jesus spends three days in the tomb before he rises from the dead)
This question is a personal one: how can I meet the Risen Christ without falling and not being able to stand on my feet again ?
Paul experiences being illuminated, becoming blind and needing to recover his eyesight.
He needs Ananias, a man who doesn’t accept his mission easily, in order to see again. His encounter with the Risen Christ will be based on the experience of Ananias.
“Ananias had a vision: “Ananias!” – “Here I am, Lord!” (Acts 9, 10)
Our encounters with the Risen Christ answer each other and feed on each other between believers, as the Emmaus disciples who tell each other: “Wasn’t it like a fire burning in us?” (Lk 24) and they run back to Jerusalem to share with the apostles.
In all accounts of vocations we find this “Here I am!” of Ananias which opens the door to what is going to happen. Then Ananias will express his surprise about God’s choice and will obey. (Acts 9, 1-17)
We notice how God insists: Not only he appears to Paul on the road, he appears again to him in a vision as he’s praying in the dark. (Acts 9,12) He opens himself again to the Lord’s light when Ananias lays his hand on him. Something like fish scales fall from his eyes, like an onion whose layers are taken off one by one, as if we had never finished taking off layers in order to see clearly.
Paul receives a new mission which he has not required, which doesn’t come from men, which seems to contradict his former behaviour, which is not only for the Jews but for all nations.
That mission has nothing to do with his birth or his obedience of the law; it originates in his personal encounter with Christ, the gift of baptism, his immersion into the death and resurrection of Christ, in the fact that he has been chosen, and needs someone else help him up after he had fallen.
His mission doesn’t come from men, but God’s call comes through men and through sacraments: the men travelling with him who guide him, Ananias who welcomes and baptizes him, Barnabas who introduces him to the apostles, the apostles who agree to let him go with them, the brothers who take him to Caesarea for him to escape persecution, the gift ot baptism, the laying on of hands and the gift of the Spirit.
Later on, he will receive letters of recommendation from the Spirit of God written in the hearts of men entrusted to him. (2 Co 3, 1-4)
He must enter God’s choice:“Go because I have chosen him to serve me, to make my name knows to Gentiles and kings and to the people of Israel. And I myself will show him all he must suffer for my sake.” Acts 9, 15-16)
He was persecuting, he will be persecuted, he will have to suffer for the name of Jesus. (Acts 9, 3-19) He was fighting, he will have to use new weapons. (2 Co 10, 3-4; Eph 6, 10-20)
His experience will have a universal range (it’s for the salvation of all nations), and it is stange: on the road to Damascus, he’s called by his first name in a dialogue with God to which the men who were travelling with him did not take part.
His identification with the person of Christ is significant. He falls to the ground before rising again, he’s in the dark for three days before seeing again when Ananias lays his hands on him and baptizes him. He will be persecuted. Before long, he will have to escape the Jews’plan to kill him. (Acts 9, 23-25) This identification is significant when he goes up to Jerusalem. His death is announced, those he has evangelized refuse to let him go as Jesus making up his mind to set out on his way to Jerusalem. (Lk 9, 51) “What are you doing, crying like this and breaking my heart ? I am ready not only to be tied up in Jerusalem but even to die for the sake of the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 21,13) The crowd will scream: “Kill him!” (Acts 21, 36)
We find similarities with all disciples who have to agree to be chosen, to be guided by someone else (Jean 21, 15-19) to take care of the sheep, to enter a complete loving relationship with the Master, to follow him to the cross.
What shows that the community believes that he really believes, is on the one hand the call which Ananias receives, on the other hand Paul’s boldness to speak of Jesus as the Messiah.(Acts, 9,22 and 27)
Later on he will be able to proclaim: “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.” (Gal. 2,20)
2.2.3. Paul after his encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus.
He’s at the same time complely different (Christ’s disciple, persecuted, he gives his life to proclaim Christ’s resurrection) and the same (his character, his qualities, his capacities, have not really changed; everything is reoriented)
He’s still a sinner (the sting in the flesh, his quarrel with Barnabas. He does not do the things he wants to do; instead he does the evil he doesn’t want to do) and he’s aware that Christ lives in him. “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. “ (Gal. 2,20)
He seems to be sure of himself, and he sometimes has his doubts, even to have a death sentence in himself, to be exhausted … and he feels that his strength comes from someone else.
2.2.4. What happened really ?
We notice that he finds it difficult to give an account of his experience. This is an invitation not to imagine too clearly the miraculous events related in the Bible, particularly the apparitions.
One thing is certain: something real happened and it was so strong that his life was upset. Before that, he persecuted Jesus; afterwards he’s persecuted by Jesus. But he is unable to say what happened exactly. We can give an account of what that experience has changed in the person, but not of the real experience.
“I will now talk about visions and revelations given me by the Lord. I know a certain Christian man who, fourteen years ago, was snatched up to the highest heaven ( I do not know whether this actually happened or whether he had a vision – only God knows. I repeat I know that this man was snatched to Paradise and there he heard things which cannot be put into words.” (2 Co 12, 1-4)
This difficulty to give an objective account of what happened is also to be found in the contradiction between the various accounts of his conversion: in Acts 9 we read that the men who were travelling with him on the road to Damascus hear the voice but do not see anyone. (Acts 9,16) whereas in Paul’s account in front of the Sanhedrin of Jerusalem , he says his companions see the light but did not hear the voice of the man who was speaking to him. (Acts 22,9)
3.Other encounters with the Risen Christ in Paul’s life:
During the first apparition, Jesus promises him that there will be other encounters:
“But get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as my servant. You are to tell others what you have seen of me today and what I will show you in the future.” (Acts 22,16)
We can see here the way other believers encountered with the Lord and the first of them, Abraham: “Leave your country, your relatives and your father’s home, and go to a land that I am going to show you.” (Gen 12,1)
It means that after the first encounter you must look forward to future encounters, being careful to let the Lord guide you. It means that you are walking in front of the Lord who is still at work, that you listen to his Word, to what he shows you. You must go on, always ready to welcome the newness of what he does.
It is not easy to make a distinction between the experience of the Risen Lord and that of experiencing the intervention of the Holy Spirit or of a messenger sent by God. Below we’ll see the various encounters of the Risen Lord or the divine interventions mentioned by Paul.
3.1 Vision to leave Jerusalem (Acts 22,17) and to go to Tarsus
Paul’s first encounter with the Risen Lord after his conversion, happens in Jerusalem:
“I went back to Jerusalem, and while I was preaching in the Temple, I had a vision in which I saw the Lord, as he said to me: ‘Hurry and leave Jerusalem quickly, because the people here will not accept your witness about me.’ ‘Lord’ I answered ‘they know very well that I went to the synagogues and arrested and beat those who believed in you. And when your witness Stephen was put to death, I myself was there approving of his murder and taking care of the cloaks of his murderers.’ ‘Go’ said the Lord to me, ‘for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’ (Acts 22, 17-21)
The first part of this vision in the Temple reminds us of Isaiah 6, the second part to Jeremiah 1. This apparition of our Lord is rarely mentioned; yet it’s very meaningful and shows Paul’s call as a synthesis of that of the two prophets and which happens to Paul in the Temple where Christ is seated as the true God.
3.2 In Antioch, the community prays and fasts and Paul and Barnabas are sent off by the Risen Lord.
“While they were serving the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said to them, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul to do the work for which I have called them. They fasted and prayed, placed their hands on them, and sent them off. Having been sent by the Holy Spirit, Barnabas and Saul went to Seleucia and sailed from there to the island of Cyprus.” (Acts 13, 2-4)
3.3 In Asia, in Bithynia, the Holy Spirit prevents them from going to some places. (Acts 16,6 -7)
3.4 In Troas, Paul has the vision of a Macedonian calling for help.
“That night, Paul had a vision in which he saw a Macedonian standing and begging him: ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us!’ As soon as Paul had this vision, we got ready to leave for Macedonia, because we decided that God had called us to preach the Good News to the people there.” (Acts, 16, 9-10
3.5 In Philippi, Paul is set free by an earthquake. (Acts 16, 25-26)
3.6 In Corinth, Paul is encouraged to keep on speaking by a vision:
“One night, Paul had a vision in which the Lord said to him: ‘Do not be afraid but keep on speaking and do not give up, for I am with you. No one will be able to harm you, for many in this city are my people.” (Acts 18, 9-11)
3.7 In Miletus, Paul’s farewell speech to the Elders of Ephesus:
“And now, in obedience to the Holy Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit has warned me that prison and troubles wait for me. But I reckon my own life to be worth nothing to me; I only want to complete my mission and finish the work that the Lord Jesus gave me to do, which is to declare the Good News about the grace of God.” (Acts 20, 22-24)
3.8 In Jerusalem, after Paul has witnessed to his faith in resurrection before the Sanhedrin, the Lord encourages him:
“Don’t be afraid Paul; you must stand before the Emperor. And God in his goodness to you has spared the lives of those who are sailing with you. So take heart, men! For I trust in God that it will be just as I was told.” (Acts 27, 23-25)
3.10 The sting in the flesh is an opening
“Don’t be afraid! You have given your witness for me here in Jerusalem, and you must also do the same in Rome.” (Acts 23, 11)
3.9 On the ship, an angel appears to him during the storm, and tells him:
to the Risen Lord.
“But to keep me from being puffed up with pride because of the many wonderful things I saw, I was given a painful physical ailment, which acts as Satan’s messenger to beat me and keep me from being proud. Three times I prayed to the Lord about this and asked him to take it away. But his answer was: ‘My grace is all you need for my power is greatest when you are weak.’ I am most happy then, to be proud of my weaknesses, in order to feel the protection of Christ’s power over me.” (2 Co 12, 7-9)
- Being guided by the Spirit of God through Paul’s example.
4.1 A strong awarenss that he has been chosen.
Paul is very much aware that God has chosen him, that he has called him, that he is not his own boss, that the Spirit is with him and that faith is a gift following a choice, a revelation from God.
All his letters, except Philippians, Thessalonicians and Titus, start with a clear mention of God’s choice. This awareness reaches its peak in the hymn of Ephesians:
“Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me ?” …”Get up and go into the city, where you will be told what you must do. “ (Acts 9, 4-5)
“I have chosen this man to serve me, to make my name known to Gentiles and kings and to the people of Israel. “ (Acts 9, 15-16)
“Paul, a servant of Christ, called by God to preach his Good News… Through him God gave me the priviledge of being an apostle for the sake of Christ, in order to lead people of all nations to believe and obey. This also includes you who are in Rome whom God loves and has called to be his own people. May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.” (Rm 1,1 and 5-7)
“Paul, who was called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ …to all who are called to be God’s holy people, who belong to him in union with Christ Jesus, their Lord and ours.” (I Co, 1, 1-2)
“And now I want to remind you, my brothers, of the Good News which I preached to you, which you received, and on which your faith stands firm. That is the gospel, the message that I preached to you. You are saved by the gospel if you hold firmly to it – unless it was for nothing that you believed. I passed on to you what I received, which is of the greatest importance: that Christ died for our sins, …that he was raised to life, … appeared to all twelve apostles …Last of
all, he appeared also to me – even though I am like someone whose birth was abnormal… I do not deserve to be called an apostle because I persecuted God’s Church. But by God’s grace, I am what I am.” (I Co 15,1-10)
“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by God’s will….” (2 Co 1,1)
“Does this sound as if we were again boasting about ourselves ? Could it be that, like some other people, we need letters of recommendation to you or from you ? You yourselves are the letter we have, written on our hearts for everyone to know and read. It is clear that Christ himself wrote this letter and sent it by us. It is written not with ink but with the Spirit of the Living God, and not on stone tablets but on human hearts. We say this because we have confidence in God through Christ. There is nothing in us that allows us to claim that we are capable of doing this work. The capacity we have comes from God; it is He who made us capable of serving the new covenant which consists not of a written law but of the Spirit; the written law brings death, but the Spirit gives life.” (2 Co 3, 1-6)
special gift, “God in his mercy has given us this work to do, and so we are not discouraged.” (2 Co 4,1)
“Of course we would not dare to classify ourselves or compare ourselves with those who rate themselvels so highly. How stupid they are ! They make up their own standards to measure themselves by, and they judge themselves by their own standards.?” (2 Co 10,12)
“For it is when the Lord thinks well of a person that he is really approved, and not when he thinks well of himself.” (2 Co 10,18)
“Paul, whose call to be an apostle did not come from man or by means of man, but from Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised him from death.” (Gal 1,1)
“The gospel I preach is not of human origin. I did not receive it from any man, not did anyone teach it to me. It was Jesus Christ himself who revealed it to me. You have been told how I used to live when I was devoted to the Jewish religion, how I persecuted without mercy the Church of God and did my best to destroy it. I was ahead of most fellow Jews of my age in my practice of the Jewish religion, and was much more devoted to the traditions of our ancestors. But God, in his grace, chose me even before I was born, and called me to serve him. And when he decided to reveal his Son to me, so that I might preach the Good News about him to the Gentiles…” (Gal 1, 11-16)
“Paul, who by God’s will is an apostle of Christ Jesus.” (Eph 1,1) We should quote the whole hymn: “Even before the world was made, God had already chosen us to be his, through our union with Christ.”
“For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles, pray to God. Surely you have heard that God in his grace has given me this work to do for your good. God revealed his secret plan and made it known to me. (I have written briefly about this, and if you will read what I have written, you can learn about my understaning of the secret of Christ.) In past times, mankind was not told this secret, but God has revealed it now by the Spirit to his holy apostles and prophets. The secret is that by means of the gospel, the Gentiles have a part with the Jews in God’s blessings; they are members of the same body and share in the promise that God made through Christ Jesus. I was made a servant of the gospel by God’s which he gave me through the working of his power. I am less than the least of all God’s people; yet God gave me this privilege of taking to the Gentiles the Good News about the infinite riches of Christ.” (Eph 3, 1-8)
“I keep striving to win the prize for which Christ Jesus has already won me.” (Phil. 3,12)
“Paul, who by God’s will is an apostle of Christ himself.” (Col 1,1)
“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by order of God our Saviour and Christ Jesus our hope.” (1 Tim 1,1)
“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by God’s will, sent to proclaim the promised life which we have in union with Christ Jesus.” (2 Tim 1,1)
“Paul, prisoner for the sake of Christ Jesus.” (Philemon 1,1)
4.2 Awareness of God’s choice and of his own weakness
Paul is very much aware that being chosen by God makes us aware of our own weakness and that what is weak in us is a gift, so that we should not be proud and should find our salvation in Jesus Christ:
– First of all, what happens on the way to Damascus, when he finds himself on the ground, blind, compelled to be guided by someone else, unable to know who God is, completely bewildered in his projects, compelled to admit that he was persecuting God, welcome with coldness by the apostles, compelled to rely on others to make himself known. (Acts 9, 1-30)
-“Now remember what you were, my brothers, when God called you. From the human point of view, few of you were wise or powerful or of high social standing. God purposely chose what the world considers weak in order to shame the powerful. He chose what the world looks down on and despises, and thinks is nothing, in order to destroy what the world thinks is important. This means that no one can boast in God’s presence. But God has brought you into union with Christ Jesus, and has made Christ to be our wisdom. By him we are put right with God; we become God’s holy people and we are set free.” 1 Co 1, 26-30
-“For it is not ourselves that we preach; we preach Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’s sake. The God who said: ‘Out of darkness the light shall shine!’ is the same God who made his light shine in our hearts, to bring us to the knowledge of God’s glory shining in the face of Christ. Yet we who have this spiritual treasure are like common clay pots, in order to show that the supreme power belongs to God, not to us.” (2 Co 4, 5-7)
-“Someone will say, ‘Paul’s letters are severe and strong, but when he is with us in person, he is weak and his words are nothing.” (2 Co 10,10)
– “Perhaps I am amateur in speaking, but certainly not in knowledge.” (2 Co 11,6)
– Paul is such a poor speaker that in Troas a young man called Eutype falls asleep and falls from the window. (Acts 20,9)
“But his answer- But to keep me from being puffed up with pride because of the many wonderful things I saw, I was given a painful physical ailment, which acts as Satan’s messenger to beat me and keep me from being proud. Three times I prayed to the Lord about this and asked him to take it away. was: “My grace is all you need, for my power is greatest when you are weak. I am most happy then to be proud of my weaknesses, in order to feel the protection of Christ’s power over me.” (2 Co 12, 7-9)
4.3 Everything starts from a contemplation of salvation in Jesus Christ:
For Paul, everything starts from a meditation of God’s salvation plan which reaches its peak in Jesus Christ, all along his ministry. He will never stop re-reading the mystery of God’s salvation from Abraham, via Moses and the prophets until Jesus who dies and rises again. That’s why he addresses:
– the inhabitants of Antioch in Pisidia (Acts 13, 16-41) where some people welcome their message but it provokes persecution from other people, Jews and Gentiles.
– The Athenians with whom he starts from the Greeks’ philisophical research and is not more successful. (Acts 17, 16-34)
In all his letters (see particularly Romans and Ephesians 1-2), he re-reads that salvation plan for men who are unable to welcome it. First of all, he remarks that all of them, Jews and Gentiles alike, are under the power of sin. (Rm 3, 9). The Gentiles have replaced the glory of the incorruptible God by images; they have worshipped and served the creature instead of the Creator even though they could know God through his creation. (Rm 1,16 to 2, 16) The Jews have attached themselves to the circonsision of the flesh, the one that can be seen, and not to that of the Spirit. (Rm 2, 29 and 2, 17-29)
If they can’t be saved by the practice of the law, all of them, Jews and Gentiles, are deprived of glory because of sin, and put right by the free gift of God’s grace, “through Christ Jesus who sets them free.” (Rm 3, 22-24) That salvation does not come from the practice of the law but from the faith in Jesus Christ. (Gal. 3, 2; 3 ,26-29; 5, 5-6; Eph 2, 8-9)
To support that statement, Paul re-reads the story of Abraham. (Rm 5, 14-21) He specifies Jesus’s identity from Adam and Moses (Rm 5, 12-21) “Just as all people were made sinners as the result of the disobedience of one man, in the same way, they will all be put right with God as the result of the obdience of the one man. The law was introduced in order to increase wrongdoing; but where sin increased, God’s grace increased much more.”(Rm 5, 19-20)
Paul reflects about the real lineage of Abraham: not that of the flesh, but that of the promise. (Rm 9, 8) Paul sadly remarks that his Jewish brothers have abandoned God. After the meditation about Adam and Eve, he reflects about Jacob and Esau, then about Moses, what happened at the time of prophets Hosea and Isaiah. (Rm 9) For him, thanks to their sin, the Gentiles could have easy access to salvation to arouse Israel’s jealousy and because of the stubbornness of the people of Israel, the Gentiles could have time to have easy access to conversion (Rm 11, 25) and Paul ends up his reflection with words of thanksgiving which extend and at the same time relativize his theological reflection:
“How great are God’s riches! How deep are his wisdon and knowledge! Who can explain his decisions ? Who can understand his ways ? As the Scripture says: ‘Who knows the mind of the Lord ? Who is able to give him advice ? Who has ever given him anything , so that he had to pay it back ? For all things were created by him, and all things exist through him and for him. To God be the glory for ever! Amen” (Rm 11, 25)
4.4 Saved through the death and resurrection of Christ.
“Christ did not send me to baptize. He sent me to tell the Good News, and to tell it without using the language of wisdom, in order to make sure that Christ’s death on the cross is not robbed of its power. For the message of Christ’s death on the cross is nonsense to those who are being lost; but for us who are being saved, it is God’s power (…) Jews want miracles for proof, and Greeks look for wisdom. As for us, we proclaim the crucified Christ, a message that is offensive to the Jews and nonsense to the Gentiles; but for those whom he has called, both Jews and Gentiles, this message is Christ, who is the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Co 1, 17-18 ; 22-24)
“And now I want to remind you, my brothers, of the Good News that I preached to you which you received, and on which your faith stands firm. That is the Gospel, the message that I preached to you. You are saved by the Gospel if you hold firmly to it – unless it was for nothing that you believed. (…) Christ died … he was raised to life… he appeared.” (I Co 15, 1… 5)
“I am surprised at you! In no time at all you are deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ, and are accepting another Gospel.” (Gal 1, 6)
“As for me, however, I will boast only about the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ; for by means of his cross, the world is dead to me , and I am dead to the world.” (Gal 6, 14)
- Offering ourselves to God.
The life in the Spirit, based on a meditation about the free salvation of man by God through Jesus Christ, calls for life requirements: offering ourselves to God as an offering.
From this meditation about God’s salvation in Jesus Christ which is freely given to every man, Paul draws consequences for the life of the believer.
“So then my brothers, because of God’s great mercy to us I appeal to you: offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer. Do not conform youselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God – what is good and is pleasing to him and is perfect.” (Rm 12, 12-13)
Only one thing is important: living for the Lord …
“None of us lives for himself only. If we live, it is for the Lord that we live, and if we die, it is for the Lord that we die. So whether we live or die, it is for the Lord.” (Rm 14, 7-8)
As we can notice, there are levels in that life according to the Spirit:
– what is good,
– what is pleasing to him,
– what is perfect
– This life in the Spirit is always based on the imitation of Jesus Christ,
(note 108) “Since you are God’s dear children, you must try to be like him; your life must be controlled by love, just as Christ loved us and gave his life for us as a sweet-smelling offering and sacrifice that pleases God.” (Eph 5, 1)
, a meditation of God’s gift.
(note 109)Rm 12,3: “And because of God’s gracious gift to me; 12,5: we are one body in union with Christ; 13, 1: No authority exists withour God’s permission…
In other passages, Paul urges believers to live up to the call they have received, and he insists on the brotherly link as a means of answering our call and a way to welcome faith in the one Lord:
“I urge then to live a life i that measures up to the standard God set when he called you. Be always humble, gentle and patient. Show your love by being patient with one another. Show your love by being tolerant with one another. Do your best to preserve the unity which the Spirit gives by means of the peace that binds you together. There is one body and one Spirit, just as there is one hope to which God has called you. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism; there is one God and the Father of all mankind, who is Lord of all, works through all and lives in all. (Eph 4, 1-6)
It is noticeable that this brotherly bond is bound to be born between people who place themselves in relation with one another, in their relationship to the Master, the Lord. Growing together as a body, with due respect of the gift and rythm of one another, in peace, gentleness, is both a condition for a life in the Spirit, a goal to reach, and a criteria to check the authenticity of that growth. (Eph 4, 11-13)
“So get rid of your old self, which made you live as you used to – the old self that was being destroyed by its deceitful desires. Your hearts and minds must be made completely new, and you must put on the new self which is created in God’s likeness and reveals itself in the true life that is upright and holy.” (Eph 4, 22-24)
That life in the Spirit is called to spread in various fields.
– Having no pretensions beyond what is reasonable, everyone doing according to the level of faith that he has received from God. (Rm 12, 3)
– Doing according to the gift we have received, in due respect of other gifts, all of us members of one body: prophecy, faith, service, teaching, exhortations, gift, presidence, mercy, love. (Rm 12, 4-9, 1,Co !2; 1 Co 14)) The only rule being that everything brings about the edification of all. (1 Co 14, 4)
Having no more knowldge of Christ and men from a human point of view, entering a ministry of reconciliation. (2 Co 5, 16-21)
– Loving one another, both brothers and enemies and those who persecute us, paying attention to those who are the poorest, those who weep, those who are weak. Living in peace with all men, having no legal proceedings between brothers. (Rm 12, 9-11, I Co 6-11; 1 Co 13) Lying no more, forgiving, reconciling with everyone before going to bed. (Eph 4, 26) 4, 26)
– Having no delusions of grandeur, accept humble duties (Rm 12, 16)
– Resisting to evil, conquer evil with good (Rm 12, 21). Refusing to work as equals with unbelievers (2 Co 6, 14). Giving the Devil no chance (Eph 4, 27)
If you fear the Lord, submit yourselves to one another … (Eph 5, 21) women to their husbands children to their parents, everyone to state authorities (Rm 13, 1)
– May joy keep us joyful, being patient with our troubles (Rm 12, 12)
– Praying at all times (Rm 12, 12). “Speak to one another with the words of psalms, hymns, and sacred songs; sing hymns and psalms to the Lord with praise in your hearts. In the name of your Lord Jesus Christ, always give thanks for everything to God the Father.” (Eph 5, 19-21)
– Having sexual ethics (I Co 5, 1-13; Eph 4, 19)
– Avoiding all sort of censure about the management of money and trying to do what is right not only in the sight of the Lord but also in the sight of men. (2 Co 8, 20)
- The fruits of the Spirit:
love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, self-control. (Gal, 5,22)
- Ways of life which are incompatible with a life in the Spirit:
-“ Surely you know that the wicked will not possess God’s wisdom. Do not fool yourselves; people who are immoral or who worship idols, or are adulterers or homosexual perverts or who steal or are greedy or are drunkards or who slander others or are thieves – none of these will possess God’s kingdom.” ( I Co 6, 9-10)
– “What human nature does is quite plain. It shows itself in immoral, filthy, and indecent actions; in worship of idols and witchcraft. People become enemies and they fight. They become jealous, angry and ambitious. They separate into parties and groups; they are envious, get drunk, have orgies, and do other things like these.” (Gal. 5, 20)
– “Get rid of all bitterness, passion and anger. No more shouting or insults, no more hateful feelings of any sort.” ( Eph 4, 31. See also Eph. 5, 1-9)
4.8 A struggle:
That life in the Spirit is a never ending struggle. It’s a struggle, a growing together in order to become mature people
“It was he who gave gifts to mankind; he appointed some to be apostles, others to be prophets, others to be evangelists, others to be pastors or teachers. He did this to prepare all God’s people for the work of christian service in order to build up the body of Christ. And so we shall all come together to that oneness in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God. We shall become mature people, reaching to the very height of Christ’s full stature.” ( Eph 4, 11-13)
4.9 The weapons of the struggle
“Stand ready with truth as a belt tight round your waist, with righteousness as your breastplate Accept salvation as a helmet and the word of God as a sword which the Spirit gives you. Do all this in prayer, asking for God’s help. Pray on every occasion as the Spirit leads.” Eph 6, 13-18 and as your shoes the readiness to announce the Good News of peace. At all times carry faith as a shield; for with it you will be able to put out all the burning arrows shot by the Evil One.
- The Spirit in the letters of St Paul
- The various times the Holy Spirit is mentioned:
Here again, is often mentioned.
The Spirit as the actor of God’s salvation plan
*Jesus established by the Holy Spirit as the Son God (Rm 1, 4)
* who dedicated the Gentiles as an offering acceptable to God. (Rm I5, 16)
*who leads the Gentiles to obedience (Rm 15, 19
* who cleans them, sanctifies them and put them right with the Lord. (I Co 6, 10,22; Gal 5,5)
*who chooses his ministers (2 Co 1, 22)
*who writes on men’s hearts through our ministry. (2 Co 3,3)
*who was promised by God (Gal, 3, 13, 14)
* who makes our mind new, and makes us put on the new self. (Eph. 4, 22, 24)
*who acts beyond our preaching of the Good News (1 Thess 1, 5)
– The Spirit is poured out in our hearts
*who pours out love in our hearts.
*who reveals the grace that God has given us (1Co2,32)
*who makes us become Christ’s coheirs and who cries out in us: Abba, Father (Rm 8, 14-17; Gal. 4-6) ; in him we have access to the Father (Eph. 2.18)
*who opens us to Christ’s mind (I Co, 2,16), binds us to Christ, the only link which matters, enables us to know him (Eph 3,5); 3, 14-21) who makes us reflect Christ’s glory. (I Co 3,18; 2 Co 4 and 10-22)
*through him we cry out to God (Rm 8,15 and 8,26; Eph 6,18)
*we are God’s Temple, and the Holy Spirit dwells in us (1, Co 3,16 and 6,19); ce carry him in common clay pots. (2 Co 4,7); his power is greatest when we are weak. 2 Co 12,7-9)
*which calls for an answer: letting the Spirit direct our lives (Gal 5,16); it is by hope that we are saved (rm 8,22); the Spirit in our hearts is the guarantee of all that he has in store for us (2, Co 1,22 and 5,5); God puts his stamp of ownership on us by giving us the Holy Spirit (Eph 1,13)
* which enlightens our conscience (Rm 9,1; I Co 7,40)
– The Spirit who sets us free from the law
*We serve in the new way of the Spirit and no longer in the old way of a written law (Rm 7,6); the written law brings death, but the Spirit gives life (2 Co 3, 6-18); where the Spirit is present, there is wisdom (2 Co, 3-17)
*The Spirit is given us not because we do what the law requires but because of our faith. (Gal 3, 5)
*means that we let the Spirit lead us (Gal 5,18); that the Spirit gives us life (Gal. 5,25); to live a life that measures up to the standard God set when he called us (Eph. 4,1-7), that we don’t let God’s grace be wasted (2 Co 6,1), that we ged rid of our old self (Eph 4,22), that we don’t restrain the Spirit (1 The 5,19)
– The Spirit is opposed to human nature, to sin and to human wisdom
*The law of the Spirit which brings us life has set us free from the law of sin (Rm 8,2)
*Live as the Spirit tells us to and not as human nature tells us to (Rm 8,9)
*Human wisdom / power of God’s Spirit (I Co 2, 1-5 and 2,10)
*Whoever does not have the Spirit cannot receive the gift that comes from God’s Spirit. (1, Co 2,14)
–The Spirit is recognized by his fruits, and more particularly by his fruit which is love.
*the distinctive signs of the apostle: a lot of patience, miracles and wonders (2 Co, 12,12)
*human nature shows itself in immoral, filthy, and indecent actions; in worship of idols and witchcraft. Jealousy, anger, ambition, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and other things like these. ( Gal, 5, 20)
*On the contrary, the Spirit produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithness, humility and self-control. (Gal 5, 22-23)
Note o in the TOB about verse 22: the fruit of the Spirit which is unique is opposed to what human nature does. It’s love
- Then he gives a list of:
– the signs of the kingdom of love: joy, peace;
– the manifestations of that love: patience, kindness, goodness;
– finally the conditions of its birth and of its opening: faithness, humility, self-control.
Faith is the foundation of love; humility is the quality of those who let our heavenly Father lead them; Jesus has always been very humble (Mt 11,19)
*”whoever sows in the field of his natural desires will gather the harvest of death. Whoever sows in the field of the Spirit will gather the harvest of life” (Gal 6,8)
*”The Spirit that God has given us does not make us timid; instead his Spirit fills us with power, love and self-control (2 Tim 1,7
“Your life with Christ … fellowship with the Spirit …kindness and compassion for one another … have the same thoughts, share the same love; don’t do anything from selfish ambition, or for a cheap desire to boast, but be humble towards one another, always considering others better than yourselves. And look out for one another’s interests, not just your own. The attitude you should have is the one that Christ Jesus had: he always had the nature of God … (from that contemplation of Christ, Paul continues) Keep on working with fear and trembling to complete your salvation, because God is always at work in you to make you willing and able to obey his own purpose. Do everything without complaining or arguing, … you must shine among them like stars lightning up the sky, as you offer them the message of life.” (Phil. 2, 1-16)
- The Spirit as a weapon:
*fight with the love of Our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of the Spirit, with prayer (Rm 15,30)
* in order to be God’s minister in all situations (troubles, difficulties), Paul finds his strength in the Holy Spirit which he links with perseverance, purity, patience, kindness, undisguised love, God’s power, offensive and defensive weapons of righteousness (2 Co 6, 1-13)
* the weapon of the Spirit against reasoning: “”The weapons we use in our fights are not the world’s weapons, but God’s powerful weapons, which we use to destroy strongholds. We destroy false arguments; we pull down every proud obstacles that is raised against the knowledge of God (2 Co 10,4-5)
* to fight against the tricks of the Devil (Eph 6, 11) with the various components of the armour of God: truth as a belt, righteousness as our breastplate, as our shoes readiness to announce the Gospel, faith as a shield to put out all the burning arrows shot by the Evil one, salvation as a helmet, and the word of God as a sword. Prayers in all their forms prompted by the Spirit.
*weapon to keep the good things entrusted to us by the Apostles (2 Tim 1,14)
– The gifts of the Spirit are varied:
*”There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit gives them. There are different kinds of serving, but the same Lord is served. There are different abilities to perform service, but the same Lord gives ability to all for their particular service. The Spirit’s presence is shown in some way in each person for the good of all.” (1 Co 12, 4-7)
*The various gifts: wisdom, knowledge, faith, the power to heal, the power to work miracles, the gift of speaking God’s message, discernment of the spirits, the ability to speak in strange tongues, the ability to explain what is said (I Co 12, 8-11); righteousness, peace and joy (Rm 14,17); joy, peace, hope (Rm 15,13)
*The various ministries: in the first place apostles, in the second place prophets, and in the third place teachers; then those who perfom miracles followed by those who are given the power to heal or to help them or to direct them or to speak in strange tongues. (1 Co 12,8)
*”Set your hearts then on the more important gifts. Best of all, however, is the following way.Love (…) meanwhile these three remain: faith, hope and love; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Co 12,31 – 13,13)
– Discernement is necessary to use the gifts:
*“Do not restrain the Holy Spirit … put all things to the test.” 1 Thes 5, 19-21)
* “Since you are God’s dear children, try to be like him. Your life must be controlled by love (..) and try to learn what pleases the Lord.” (Eph 5,1; 5,10)
* “You must try above everything else to make greater use of those which help to build up the Church. ( I Co 14, particularly 14,12)
– Another gift of the Spirit, confessing faith :
*”No one who is led by God’s Spirit can say “Jesus is Lord”, unless he is guided by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Co 12,3)
– The Spirit is a source of communion between the Father, the Son and the Church (2 Co 13,11; Eph 2, 18-22)
THE LETTER TO THE EPHESIANS HELPS US PRAY TO THE SPIRIT AND LIVE WITH THE SPIRIT OF GOD
In verse 3 of chapter one Paul gives thanks for God’s salvation work through Jesus Christ, and the way the persons entrusted to his ministry welcomed faith.. Everything is prayer to open ourselves to a life with the Spirit:
Let us give thanks to the God who saves us in Jesus Christ and has put his stamp of ownership on you by giving you the Holy Spirit (1, 1-14
Let is give thanks to God for your faith and may it be stronger and stronger in him. ((1,15-23)
God’s mercy is so abundant that by his grace he has saved you, through faith and not because of what you have done. Jews and Gentiles he made one new man, all of them integrated in the building up of a dwelling place for God through the Spirit. (2, 1- 22)
“Made minister by the grace of God, I fall on my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth receives its true name; I ask God, from the wealth of his glory to give you power through his Spirit to be strong in your inner selves, and I pray that Christ will make his home in your hearts through faith. I pray that you may have your roots and foundation in love, so that you, together with all Goe’s people, may have the power to understand how broad and long, how high and deep, is Christ’s love – may you know his love, although it can never be fully known – and so be completely filled with the very nature of God.” (3, 14-19)
*“To him who by means of his power working in us is able to do so much more than we can ever ask for, or even think of; to God be the glory, in the Church and in Christ Jesus for all time, for ever and ever. Amen” (3, 20-21)
*“I urge you then … live a life that measures up to the standard God set when he called you … unity …” (4,1)
*“One body in one Spirit ..”.
*“We shall become mature people … then we shall no longer be … carried by the waves and blown about by every shifting wind.” (4, 13-14)
* “Put on the new self …Don’t give the Devil a chance, do not make God’s Holy Spirit sad.”
*Try to be like God …Your life must be controlled by love like Christ …Try to learn what pleases the Lord …be filled with the Holy Spirit …
*Speak to one another with the words of psalms, hymns and sacred songs to the Lord with praise in your hearts
*“In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, always give thanks for everything to God the Father.”
*Have new relationships with one another, in your couple, with your children, in society.
*“Put on the armour of God.”
- Method and overview 1
- Guided by the Spirit of God in Luke’s Gospel 1
- Introduction 1
- The action of the Holy Spirit is totally directed to God’s salvation plan. 2
2.1 Our salvation is the work of the Holy Spirit 2
2.2 The action of the Holy Spirit is not always comprehensible. 2
2.3 The Holy Spirit enables some people to point to the Saviour 3
- Jesus and the Holy Spirit 3
- What can we say about the Holy Spirit ? 3
*4.1 The Spirit is at work within the limits of time 3
*’4.2 The action of the Holy Spirit is not always immediately comprehensible 4
*4.3 The action of the Holy Spirit competes with that of Satan 4
*4.4 He is sent by the Father 4
*4.5 The Holy Spirit prompts people to move. 4
- A summing up of “guided by the Spirit of God “ 5
II Guided by the Spirit of God in the Acts of the Apostles 5
- It’s by excellence the book of the Holy Spirit 5
- The Spirit presides over every aspect of the building up of the Church. 6
3.. Who receives the Holy Spirit ? 6
III. Guided by the Holy Spirit in Acts 3 and 4 in the light of the spirituality of Father Chevrier 7
- See Christ in us … we must become new Christ. 7
- Being guided by the Holy Spirit means that we must believe
Jesus lives, acts, speaks today 7
*2.1 Faith enables Peter and John to tell the lame man to get up 7
*2.2 Awareness of the action of Jesus today 7
* 2.3 This awareness that Jesus is alive and active today is also shown in the last prayer 8
* 2..4 Assurance that even in a deadly situation which has been lasting for more than 40 years. Jesus can make life spring up (4.22) 8
- Being guided by the Holy Spirit means an intimacy with Jesus 8
- Being guided by the Holy Spirit means following him to the cradle, to the cross, to the tabernacle. 8
* 4. 1 The way of poverty, of the poor and of the cradlel 8
* 4.2 The way of the cross 9
* 4.3 The way of the Eucharist 9
* 4.4 Becoming a new Christ, not thinking we are Christ. 9
- Being guided by the Holy Spirit in the events of our life 9
- We can’t separate prayer, teaching and charity 10
- Living out Isaiah’s prophecy by following Jesus, with Jesus. 10
- The work of the Holy Spirit needs man’s participation. 10
- Proclaiming the Risen Christ and calling to conversion 11
- Acting with the Church. 11
- Importance of being guided by the Holy Spirit when we re-read our lives 11
- Obeying God and accepting the Way of the Cross. 11
IV Guided by the Spirit of God in Acts 10 and 11 12
- What Peter is wondering about. 12
- References to be guided by the Spirit of God in the school of Peter
in Acts 10 and 22 13
*2.1 Being aware that God is at work today. 13
*2.2 Being aware that God is making everything new and invites us to do the same 13
*2.3 A discernment which is part of a story to make everything new 14
*2.4 Being guided by the Spirit of God is not reserved to extraterrestrials and champions 14
*2.5 Working to know Jesus-Christ in the Gospel in order to act with his Spirit 14
*2.6 Being faithful to our mission 15
*2.7 Praying to be open to the Holy Spirit 15
*2.8 Responding to the call we have received immediately and day and night 15
*2.9 Being open to the events of our lives 16
*2.10 Welcoming the men God sends him as persons 16
*2.11 Re- reading and discerning 17
*2.12 Discerning while taking into account human feelings 17
*2.13 We must not think the Holy Spirit belongs to us 18
*2.14 Checking up with the Church 18
- Being guided by the Spirit of God … a never ending struggle 18
- A very important concern: believing that God acts and not trying to prevent him 18
- Meeting the Risen Christ following Paul 19
- Being guided by the Holy Spirit following Paul means we let the Risen Christ
meet us 19
- On the way to Damascus (Acts 0, 1-19) 19
*2.1 An unexpected event for a man who is prepared 19
*2.2 A conversion 20
° 2.2.1 Paul before his encounter with Christ on the way to Damascus 20
°2.2.2 Paul when he encounters Christ on the way to Damascus and when Ananias lays
his hands on him 20
° 2.2.3 Paul after his encounter with Christ on the way to Damascus 22
° 2.2.4 What happened really ? 22
- 0ther encounters with the Risen Christ in Paul’s life 23
° 3.1 Vision to leave Jerusalem (22,17) and go to Tarsus 23
° 3.2 In Antioch, he experiences being sent off for his mission by the Risen Lord
while praying and fasting. 24
°3.3 In Asia and Bithynia, the Holy Spirit prevents them to go to certain places 24
° 3.4 In Troas, vision of a Macedonian calling for help 24
° 3.5 In Philippi, an earthquake sets him free from his chains 24
° 3.6 In Corinth, vision and encouragement to go on speaking 24
° 3.7 In Miletus, his farewell speech to the elders of Ephesus 24
° 3.8 In Jerusalemm, after Paul has witnessed to his faith in the resurrection
before the Sanhedrin, the Lord encourages him 25
° 3.9 On the ship, an angel appears to him in the storm and tells him: 25
° 3.10 The sting in the flesh is on opening to the Risen Christ 25
- Guided by the Spirit of God in Paul’s school 25
* 4.1 A strong awareness of God’s choice 26
*4.2 Aware that God’s choice in spite of our weakness 27
*4.3 Everything starts from a contemplation of salvation in Jesus Christ 28
* 4.4 Saved through the death and resurrection of Christ 29
* 4.5 Offering oneself as an offering to God 29
* 4.6 The fruits of the Spirit 30
* 4.7 Ways of life incompatible with a life in the Spirit 30
* 4.8 A struggle 30
* 4.9 The arms of the struggle.
IV The Spirit in Paul’s letters. 32
- The various times the Holy Spirit is mentioned 32
° The Spirit as the actor of God’s salvation plan 32
° The Spirit poured out in our hearts 32
° The Spirit sets us free from the law 33
° The Spirit is opposed to human nature; to sin, and to human
° The Spirit is recognised from his fruits, or more particularly
from his fruit which is love. 33
° The Spirit as a weapon 34
° The fruits of the Spirit are varied 35
° Discernment is necessary to use the gift 35
° Another gift of the Spirit: confessing our faith 35
° The Spirit is the source of communion between the Father the Son Son and in the Church (2 Co 13, 11; Eph 2, 18-22)
2.The letter to the Ephesianss helps us to pray to the Spirit and to live a life
in the Spirit of God 35