Author: FrancisMary

3 Ways You Can Experience the Holy Spirit

3 Ways You Can Experience the Holy Spirit

When it comes to the Holy Spirit, most evangelicals fall into one of two extremes. Some seem obsessed, relating to him in strange, mystical ways.

Other Christians neglect his ministry altogether. They believe in the Holy Spirit, but they relate to him the same way I relate to my pituitary gland: I’m really grateful it’s in there; I know it’s relevance for something; I would never want to lose it . . . but I don’t really interact with it. For these Christians, the Holy Spirit is not a moving, dynamic person. He’s more of a theory.

Yet Jesus made his disciples the most astounding promise about the Holy Spirit, one so astounding I think many of us do not really take it seriously: it was to their advantage, he said, that he return to heaven if it meant they receive the Spirit (John 16:7). If you ask Christians if they would rather have Jesus beside them or the Spirit inside them, which do you think most would select?

Doesn’t that show how far apart we are from grasping what Jesus was offering to us?

The Holy Spirit appears 59 times in the book of Acts, and in 36 of those appearances, he is speaking. “But wait,” some say, “we can’t use Acts as a pattern for our time! The apostles were a unique group.” And I comprehend that Acts shows a special epoch of apostolic history. But you cannot convince me that the only book God gave us instances of how the church walks with the Spirit is filled with stories that have nothing in common with our own. As John Newton put it, “Is it really true that that which the early church so depended on—the leadership of the Spirit—is important to us today?”

How We Experience His Presence

How then do we experience his presence? We probably have seen this question greatly abused. As I noted, many equate his movements with emotional flurries, irrational impressions, or random confluence of events. As I study Scripture, I see three ways we experience his presence: in the gospel,  in our spirit by communion with him in prayer, and through his sovereign control over our circumstances.

1.In the Gospel

For instance, in Ephesians 3:14–18, the apostle prays that the Ephesians would have the strength to understand the love of Christ—its breadth and length and height and depth—so that they may be “filled with all the fullness of God.” According to Paul, those two things—knowing the love of Christ in the gospel and being filled with “all the fullness of God”—are synonymous.

Puritan Thomas Goodwin compared this experience to that of a toddler son when his father swoops him up into his arms, spins him around, and tells him, “You are my son and I love you!” At that moment, the boy has become no more his father’s son, rightly speaking, than he was the time before. But being caught up in his father’s arms he feels his sonship more closely. When God’s Spirit fills us, he sheds abroad God’s love in our heart, making our spirit rise up to say, “Abba, Father” (Rom. 5:5, 8:15)

2. In Our Spirit

From the scripture, we see that God guides his people in a mission by putting special burdens into their spirits. When Nehemiah left for Jerusalem to rebuild its walls, he didn’t have instruction from God. He simply said that God had “put it into his heart” to do it (Neh. 2:12). When Paul came to Athens, Luke records his spirit was “provoked” within him about the idolatry in Athens (Acts 17:16). He evidently took this provocation as a direction to stay and preach the gospel there. Later in his ministry, he would identify a holy “ambition” that God had put in his heart to preach Christ only where he had never been named (Rom. 15:20). Up until then, his ministry had been broad—debate the gospel, build up the churches everywhere—but the Spirit later narrowed the focus of his ministry. Throughout our lives, we (at times) pass through a “holy discontent” about a specific issue or the pressing in of a specific promise of God to our context. This is often the Spirit’s invitation to go for a particular ministry.

3. Through Our Circumstances

Throughout Paul’s life we see him interpret open and closed doors as evidence of the Spirit’s leadership. In his first letter to the Corinthians, he makes it clear he will stay in Ephesus to preach because a “wide door for effective work” has been opened, which he evidently took as the Spirit’s leadership (1 Cor. 16:8). Again, no special prophetic word, no handwriting in the sky, no Virgin Mary in a grilled cheese sandwich—just an open door.

This one can be tricky, because an open door doesn’t always mean something is God’s will. Jonah happened on a ship to Tarshish, but God’s will for him was 180 degrees in the opposite direction. Likewise, a closed door doesn’t always mean something is not God’s will. In Paul’s explanation to the Corinthians of why he would stay in Ephesus (stated above), he notes many difficulties lay ahead of him. He didn’t interpret these hardships as evidence God wanted him to leave, but to stay.

5 Truths You Probably Don’t Know About Purgatory

5 Truths You Probably Don’t Know About Purgatory

1. Purgatory isn’t merely a punishment.

It’s a merciful gift and a testimony to God’s love.

“Sometimes, people hear about the sufferings of the souls in purgatory and they think suffering is the desire of a vindictive God, a God who wants his pound of flesh,” said Robert Corzine, vice president for Programs and Development at the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology.

“But that’s not the case at all,” he continued. “God forgives us instantly when we request. The role of suffering is to remove the damage we’ve done. It’s God the Healer applying the solutions to make us perfect images of Christ.”

And perfect images of Christ is actually what God calls each of us to become.

According to the Catholic doctrine of salvation, God doesn’t simply wish to save us from hell — from a state of eternal separation from him. Most importantly, he wishes to save us from sin, from being anything less than the men and women he created us to be.

“God is like a great heart surgeon, trying to give us the new hearts we need,” Corzine said. “But we keep flopping around on the table, moving away from the knife. Death then is like the anesthetic. In purgatory, we’re no longer able to avoid the healing we need, and he can finish the work he started during our lifetime.”

2. The suffering endured by souls in purgatory isn’t physical pain.

Through the centuries, artists striving to convey the sufferings of purgatory have depicted men and women tormented by a burning fire. But those explanations aren’t a literal representation of the goings-on in the purgative state. They can’t be. In purgatory, the soul remains separated from its body, so it can only suffer spiritually, not physically.

That’s not to say, moreover, that the flames of purgatory aren’t real. They are.

“The fire by which we’re sanctified is an interior burning for the love of God,” expressed Susan Tassone, author of seven books on purgatory, including “Prayers, Promises, and Devotions for Holy Souls in Purgatory”. “Immediately after their death, the souls in purgatory saw God in all his glory. They saw his love, his goodness, and the plans he had for us. And they desire that. They burn for it, with a yearning that exceeds the heat of any earthly fire.”

In other words, the main pain endured by those in purgatory is the loss of the sight of God. They suffer from what Tassone called, “a spiritual fever.”

As that fever rages, it separates the soul from sin, a process almost equally painful.

3. Our prayers for the dead matter eternally.

The souls in purgatory may be bound for glory, but the process of purgation still can be long and painful. Save for humbly submitting to the sanctifying fire of Christ’s love, there’s nothing those souls can do to speed up the process or mitigate the pain.

“We need to be greedy for graces for the souls in purgatory,” said Tassone. “When the soul leaves the body, the time for merit is up. The soul is helpless. That’s why they need our prayers — the Rosary, adoration, the Way of the Cross and, most of all, the Mass. The Masses we have offered for the souls in purgatory are the best thing we can do for our beloved dead. That’s because the Mass is the highest form of worship, the highest form of prayer.”

“It really is one of the most consoling doctrines of the Church,” added Martin. “None of us stands alone. We stand on the shoulders of giants, the foremost giant being Christ. Our sufferings and sacrifices can be parlayed into sincere help for the holy souls because of his suffering and sacrifice.”

In many ways, he continued, our relationship to those in purgatory is simply an extension of “the logic of love,” where “You extend yourself so that another might have an easier time of it. And that principle isn’t bound by death.”

It’s equally not bound by time. The Church admonishes that purgatory operates outside of space and time as we on earth experience it. Which means we should never stop praying for those we’ve lost.

“No prayer is ever wasted,” Tassone said. “The prayers we pray for our loved ones throughout the entirety of our lives play a part in assisting them to go into heaven.

4. The Holy Souls Intercede For Us.

The souls in purgatory can’t do anything for themselves, but the Church has long believed that they can do something for us: They can intercede for us, assisting in obtaining for us the graces we need to follow Christ more perfectly.

“We have such great intercessors in the holy souls,” said Tassone. “They’re interested in our salvation. They want to help ensure that we comprehend the malice of sin and the relevance of conforming our lives to God’s will so that we can go straight to heaven when we die.”

The same is doubly true, she continued, of the souls now in heaven, whom our prayers assisted.

“Those souls become like our second guardian angels, taking us under their wing,” she explained. “That’s because the gift we helped give them was the Beatific Vision, which is the greatest gift of all.”

5. The Church’s teachings on purgatory are rooted in Scripture.

If you’re seeking for scriptural evidence for purgatory, start in the Second Book of Maccabees (12:45), where Judas Maccabee orders prayers and sacrifices for fallen soldiers who committed idolatry shortly before their death.

“Their beseeching shows there is hope even beyond the grave for those who defiled themselves,” Martin said.

In the New Testament, St. Paul likewise hints at the cleansing fires of purgatory when he expresses, “If any man’s work is burned up he will suffer loss though he himself will be saved” (1 Cor 3:12-15). He also seemingly prays for the soul of Onesiphorus in 2 Timothy 1:18.

Moreover, according to Corzine, the existence of purgatory is the only way to make sense of scriptural assertions such as, “No unclean thing will enter [heaven]” (Rv 21:27), as well as commands like “Be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48).

“Logic demands purgatory,” Corzine said. “Without some process of cleansing after death, the census of heaven would be infinitesimally small, comprised of only the few who allow God to perfect them in this life.”

4 Things You Probably Don’t Know About The Eucharist

4 Things You Probably Don’t Know About The Eucharist

Probably, there’s so much you know about the Eucharist — the Blessed Sacrament, Holy Communion.

Here are the four things you need to understand about the Eucharist:

1. Feast day

The solemnity of Corpus Christi — the feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ — is a holy day of duty. While it’s prescribed as such in the general law of the Church, it’s not seen as one in the United States. It, along with the Epiphany, is transferred to a Sunday. (Also not observed as holy days of duty in America are the solemnities of St. Joseph, March 19, and Sts. Peter and Paul, June 29).

2. Consecration customs

It was during that period that the priest started elevating the host and chalice at Mass after the purification. Back then, people received Holy Communion inconsistently but at least they could see the host and cup. And, yes, that seems to be when the custom of ringing a bell at the elevation came into practice. At some churches, it was the tower bell that was rung. The use of a handbell actually started in England.

One more item from the 13th century. That was when churches started placing the host in a monstrance to be exposed on the altar. And they started carrying it in a procession in the church or out through the streets as part of the Corpus Christi celebrations.

3. Names

The Eucharist has a lot of other names, too. The breaking of the bread, Eucharistic assembly, memorial of the Lord’s passion and resurrection, Holy Sacrifice, Holy and Divine Liturgy, Holy Mass, Sacred Mysteries, Most Blessed Sacrament and Holy Communion.

And, probably recently in our own parish, we refer to as “the Saturday evening” or “the 9 o’clock.” As in, “This weekend I’m going to … ”

There’s no mention of those in the Catechism.

Nor is there a paragraph about coffee and donuts following in the parish hall.

4. Parts of the prayer

The Mass’ Eucharistic prayer is divided into different parts:

A prayer of thanks, including the preface. The proclamation (the Sanctus; Holy, Holy, Holy). The epiclesis, an invocation of the Holy Spirit. (Here the priest puts his hand over the bread and wine.) The institution narrative and consecration.

The memorial proclamation. (For example, one begins “When we eat this bread …”) The anamnesis, focusing on Christ’s passion, resurrection, and ascension.

The oblation, an offering from us: “Therefore as we celebrate the memorial of his death and resurrection, we offer you, Lord, the bread of life and the chalice of salvation, expressing gratitude that you have held us worthy to be in your presence and minister to you” (Eucharistic Prayer II). Intercessions, when the priest, in our name, prays for and with all the Church.

And the ending doxology (“through him, with him, and in him) to which the audiences reply “Amen.”

Comprehending The Spiritual Works Of Mercy

Comprehending The Spiritual Works Of Mercy

It used to be required that all young Catholics memorize the Works of Mercy as an ever-present mandate for how we are to live. But recently, memorization is forgotten and most people only know a couple of the Corporal Works. Can you recall—feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, bury the dead? Yet, our world is in desperate need of the Spiritual Works of Mercy, so probably we should bring back that memorization practice to our Sunday School programs. Do you accede?

The Corporal Works talks about poverty and the physical needs of our neighbors. But the Spiritual Works of Mercy are equally relevant and these works call us to love souls. They are:

  • Admonish the sinner (Colossians 3:16)
  • Instruct the ignorant (Jude 1:23)
  • Counsel the doubtful
  • Comfort the sorrowful (Isaiah 66:13)
  • Bear wrongs patiently (Colossians 3:12)
  • Forgive all injuries
  • Pray for the living and the dead

Assuredly Jesus instructed, counseled and comforted. He also admonished sinners, calling some “vipers” and telling the woman caught in adultery, “Go and sin no more.”  When Jesus was mocked and tortured, He was forgiving.  And He often withdrew to quiet places for prayer. The Church admonishes that these acts of mercy are partnered with the Corporal Works because these acts steer others toward heaven.

There has been a lot of conversation in Catholic blogging circles about if it is ever right, in the modern world, to “judge” others. The most often quoted Scripture is, “Judge not, lest you be judged.”  But judgment, properly understood and practiced, is an essential part of love and prudence.

Every parent knows it is unloving to let a child have their way at all times. It is not right to allow a teenager to get drunk. It is wrong to smile when one child hits another child.

The same comprehension of love is true in the world. It is unloving to know someone who wants to get an abortion and never to say a thing about “other options.” It is immoral to hear dirty jokes and laugh as if that was just fine. It is unloving to let our entire society slid into immorality without ever raising a cry.

The first three of the Spiritual Works need study and preparation. But first-time parents know the relevance of preparation. They read parenting books and watch how other mothers and fathers give instruction and correction. So why do we as Catholics not do a better job preparing young people for how to live in the world, but not be sucked down by it?

The works of mercy are not optional; they are crucial for a good Christian living.

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