The readings for today’s mass, and the promises they make should transform our lives. What if we were to really believe and accept that simple statement from Ezekiel, “I will put my Spirit in you that you may live.” Or the teaching of St. Paul from the epistle to the Romans, “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh. On the contrary you are in the spirit if only the spirit of God dwells in you.” And finally Jesus’s words from St. John’s Gospel, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me even if he dies will live.”
So if we believe in the words of the Scriptures, we are not in the flesh but the Spirit of Goddwells in us that we may live and we do this through Jesus who is our promise of resurrection and life.
I remember very early in my monastic life being told that we must work as though everything depends upon us and pray as though everything depends upon God but then I also remember being told that we could do nothing without God. We could not even exist if God were not holding us in being. Then to further complicate things I was told that we had to have faith that the spirit was dwelling in us and that Jesus was our promise of resurrection and life. But to make things even worse I was told that you could not have faith unless the living spirit of Jesus dwells in us and gave us that faith.
Now that I am old and wise I don’t get embroiled in these complications anymore but I simply pray to the Lord in the words of the centurion, “Lord I believe help thou mine unbelief.” This seems to cover all the bases.
There is one other thing that I find very helpful and that I would like to share with you in terms of embracing the words of Scripture with a real, sincere and faith filled conviction. We are told that “The word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.” Doctrinally speaking this is what we call the inspiration of the Scriptures. In the tradition of the church this has been looked at in several different ways. We are just emerging from, centuries in length, in which we looked at inspiration from the point of view of how the Holy Spirit influenced the various writers of the different books of the Bible. Did God simply dictate the actual words to the writer? Did he simply inform the writer of the truth he wished to communicate and then allowed him to express it according to his own ability? Or did he just allow the writer to express whatever he wished but somehow or other guided him to speak only the truth?
This notion of inspiration has a certain technical or theoretical value to it but is far from the true meaning of inspiration. The fact of the matter is that we owe the restoration of the real meaning of inspiration to Martin Luther. For him, and hopefully for us today, the inspiration, that is, the power of the Holy Spirit acting in the Scripture is manifested in a manner far beyond a remote and tenuous effect on the writer. Rather inspiration is more authentically realized in the power of the Holy Spirit touching the hearts of the readers or listeners of the Scriptures.
Jesus who promised that he would not leave us orphans but would send us the Spirit as a comforter and a reminder of all that he taught us, speaks to our hearts and minds through the Scripture readings just as personally and intimately as he spoke to the crowds who set at his feet on the hillside in Galilee or as he spoke to his disciples in the intimate ,friendly , privacy of Peter’s home.
There is yet a further, even deeper realization of the inspiration coming from the Holy Spirit as a result of this promise that Jesus made. The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, is with us today, here, tomorrow and in every detail of our daily lives comforting us and reminding us of what it means to follow Jesus, to see him in one another and to minister to him in all the physical and spiritual needs of our neighbors and even of our very self.
we are, if you will, living Bibles. As I mentioned in the beginning of this homily, inspiration includes the work of the Holy Spirit influencing the writer. We can see this very clearly in the four Gospels. These gospels are not, as is sometimes commonly believed, different biographies of Jesus. This idea can lead to disastrous results in comparing the Gospels. Rather the Spirit inspired the Gospels as interpretations of Christ for different people in different circumstances. Mark, the first gospel, is an interpretation of the teachings of the person of Christ given to persecuted Christians in Rome to encourage them. Matthew, written about 10 years later, is an interpretation of Christ written specifically for Jewish converts to Christianity. Luke, written about the same time, is an interpretation of Christ oriented toward the understanding of a pagan who is becoming a Christian and John’s Gospel, written perhaps 30 years later is a specific interpretation of the Christ event for those Christian communities founded by the apostle John and his followers.
But the work of the Holy Spirit did not end with the writing of St. John’s Gospel because Jesus has sent him to us as a comforter and teacher. The Holy Spirit is with us always even unto the end of time and is inspiring us to be an interpretation of Christ in the particular, unique, and special circumstances of our own lives. We are called, each one of us, to write our own Gospels. Our individual lives are called to be unique, intimate, divinely inspired interpretations of the teachings and the person of Christ as only you and I can do it. We are writing the fifth gospel. We are interpreting Christ for ourselves, those around us and even for the whole world. Because of the power of the Holy Spirit who is given to us we are called to be a living testimony that Jesus is alive and well and living in Colorado.