Ps 34:2, 9, 17-20 (with 7a)
USCCB Podcast of the Readings:
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to John.
The one who comes from above is above all.
The one who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of earthly things.
But the one who comes from heaven is above all.
He testifies to what he has seen and heard,
but no one accepts his testimony.
Whoever does accept his testimony certifies that God is trustworthy.
For the one whom God sent speaks the words of God.
He does not ration his gift of the Spirit.
The Father loves the Son and has given everything over to him.
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life,
but whoever disobeys the Son will not see life,
but the wrath of God remains upon him.
Good News Reflection: Earthly or heavenly?
In today’s first reading, Peter and the Apostles declare that the Holy Spirit testifies to the truth about Jesus. Then they really begin to shake things up, infuriating the disobedient priests and Pharisees by boldly proclaiming that this Holy Spirit is only given to those who obey God.
We harm our relationship with the Holy Spirit whenever we disregard the truth. When I was a kid, Jesus was my best friend and the Father was the highest authority in my life, but I thought of the Holy Spirit only as an impersonal ghostly image of God. I wanted to experience the miraculous power of God that I had read about in Bible stories, but because I didn’t understand the role of the Holy Spirit, I disobeyed God by seeking his power in the only place left to explore: the occult.
Seven years of this totally destroyed my relationship with God; my eternal soul was in grave danger. (The full story is in my book, “Overcoming the Power of the Occult” – see gnm.org/book-overcomingtheoccult/.)
When I repented, it was because I finally met the Holy Spirit. The fact that I can write these Good News Reflections and touch so many unknown people’s lives with just the right words at just the right time gives testimony to this.
The Gospel reading today speaks of the consequences of disobedience: “Whoever disobeys the Son will not see life.” In the Creed, we proclaim that the Holy Spirit is the “Giver of Life.” We do not have the supernatural and eternal life of the Spirit of God while we’re in a state of disobedience.
We don’t really want to be disobedient. We dodesire to be “above all” that is earthly, but we play games in our consciences and pretend that disobedience either doesn’t matter or is not really disobedience. We don’t intend to disobey God, but we choose disobedience because obedience seems somehow more unpleasant, as if it’s not good for us.
Learning to obey for the sake of avoiding punishment is not true obedience. It’s just another game, a child’s game, meant to protect ourselves because we are too immature to understand the love behind the commandments that God has given us in scripture and in Catholic Church teachings. But we are called to live as mature, fully loving Christians.
If we’re lustful, for example, and “obey” God by refusing to look at someone lustfully, but we still have lust in our hearts, we are disconnected from God’s Spirit. True obedience means our hearts are so strongly set on the love that comes from above, that we’re repulsed by the feeling of lust (or by whatever tempts us).
When our spirits long only for what is heavenly, we are fully alive in the Holy Spirit.
Jesus says that “he does not ration his gift of the Spirit.” All of his own holiness is fully available to us. How much we receive is up to us. The more we dislike what is not of God, the more freely God’s holy power fills our lives, and the more we have his holiness, the more we dislike what is not holy.
Holy Spirit, forgive me, please, for the times I saddened You by disobeying Your promptings and commands. Help me to grow in my relationship with You. Grant me the grace of obedience. Amen.
© 2018 by Terry A. Modica