Thursday, December 18, 2014

MAKE CROOKED ROADS STRAIGHT

Sermon by Rev. John Paul Shea
Second Sunday of Advent, Dec. 7, 2014
Saints Peter and Paul Parish, Tucson, AZ

In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord,  make straight paths for him." (Matt 3:1-3)

A voice cries out! Prepare the way for the Lord! The readings for this Second Sunday of Advent call us to make preparations. 
Today, we hear from the Prophet Isaiah 40:1-5,9-11. He was called to preach about 740 years before the birth of Christ. He lived his ministry during a critical time in Jewish history because Israel and Judah divided into two kingdoms, and both did not have a right relationship with God. Both kingdoms lived in luxury. Many had become rich, and they began to view God as a god indifferent to moral principles. So they  disobeyed the law of the Lord. 
Relationship with God was reduced to prescribed sacrifices. As with other prophets of the Old Testament, Isaiah called the people to repentance of heart. He knew that they were on the verge of self-destruction and needed to turn to God. Yet, they did not listen. So God allowed both kingdoms to suffer at the hands of other nations.
However, in today's readings, we hear that God has a bigger plan. Isaiah proclaims that Jerusalem had suffered enough for its crimes, and God will comfort His people in their  sufferings. But not only that!  Isaiah proclaims a great sign of hope for the future! He proclaims the coming of our savior. He says, “A voice cries out in the desert prepare the way of the LORD! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!”
Isaiah's prophecy is fulfilled in  the ministry of John the Baptist who appears in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance, according to today's Gospel Reading (Mark 1:1-8.)   John the Baptist is the messenger, who prepared the way of our Lord’s first coming. John the Baptist is the last of the prophets before Our Lord’s birth into our world.
Yet today’s readings remind us that our Lord is coming again and that we must prepare! We “must make straight a highway for our God! [For] every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill shall be made low; the rugged land shall be made a plain, the rough country, a broad valley. [It is then] that the glory of the LORD shall be revealed!”
Ever since our Lord was hung on a cross 2000 years ago, we have enjoyed a time of mercy.  “The Lord does not delay [His] promise of [His second coming]." He is patient with us. Our Lord wants to give us time to repent because He does not wish “that any should perish.” (from today's second reading 2 Peter 3:8-14).
Yet, there comes a time when mercy and justice meet. Second Peter reminds us of that accounting when “the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a mighty roar and the elements will be dissolved by fire, and the earth and everything done on it will be found out.”
Fr. John Paul Shea
My brothers and sisters, scriptures teach us that at Our Lord's Second Coming, life on earth is going to radically change. God is going to humble us! But those who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.
We live in a completely different world today than 2000 years ago. Think about it! For the first 1800 years after Our Lord's birth, we did not have electricity. No cars. No airplanes. Life was simple. Now we live in a globalized society with an explosion of technology. We have the internet. We have instant communication, and we can travel anywhere. Yet we are not growing in our relationship with God! In fact, we are creating many dangers. All one has to do is turn on the news to see this.
We live in a very unstable time.  But Our Lord knew about the time in which we would be living today! He knew that immorality, violence and wars would increase
exponentially. He understood the burdens we would place upon ourselves. He knew the corruption of world leaders. He knew that the financial systems would become unstable and  one day fail and collapse. He knew that temptations would increase to the detriment of our souls!  And He therefore knew that the Gospel had to be preached to all nations so that those who listened could be saved.
Our Lord calls us to prepare for His coming! The Israelite nations were given the law, and they failed to follow it. They suffered as a result, but God promised them a savior. We have been given the Gospel, the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ! But as a society, as a nation, and as a world, we are drastically failing to follow God’s laws, and this too will result in unfortunate consequences. 
In this time of upheaval that is coming and is already here, let us pray for a radical conversion of our country and our world. For nothing can save us except a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. John the Baptist calls for us to make straight our paths, especially now when the Lord comes to baptize us with the fire of the Holy Spirit.
May each one of us spiritually prepare for the future that awaits. May each one of us set our hearts on eternal life. For Our Lord Jesus is coming soon!  

"Go up on to a high mountain, cry out at the top of your voice, Jerusalem, herald of good news! Fear not to cry out and say to the cities of Judah: Here is your God! Here comes with power the Lord GOD, who rules by his strong arm; here is his reward with him, 
his recompense before him.

Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom, and leading the ewes with care." 
(Isaiah 40:9-11)
DID YOU ENJOY THIS HOMILY BY FR JOHN PAUL SHEA OF TUCSON, AZ, READ HIS LATEST SERMON FROM THE 3RD SUNDAY IN ADVENT HERE: ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST: He testified to the Light!

Friday, December 5, 2014

BLUES POEM FOR AN AMERICAN LOST

A Tribute to Nina Simone AKA Eunice Waymon, Civil Rights Activist, who wrote and sang "Mississippi Goddam" in 1965

Regarding #Ferguson: 
Forgiveness is one of the most powerful forces in the universe. 
by Susan Fox
Nina, I know you meant every word.
What you endured leaves me aggrieved.
“Goin’ home now,” you sang. Isn’t that na├»ve?
They ripped that word from your bones.

Heart-breaking Tragedy: Medgar Evers widow consoles
her 9-year-old son at her husband's funeral service
Someone assassinated Medgar Evers*
What burns me: the double stunner --
they wouldn’t let him in the hospital because of color.
Took 30 years, but they finally caught that white sand dollar.

That made you so mad you damned Mississippi.
Turned your hometown into the Forbidden City.
Can’t go back. You took a stance.
So you roamed: Liberia, Switzerland, the South of France.
Step-child of Africa, Nina Simone, but it was never home
Did you find a place your heart could own?

You died in France, but sweet Eunice, your lovely face found a home.
Your outrage, your beauteous voice, your grief for our nation:
These things settled here, my dear.
Some of us woke up.
It was just too late.
You couldn’t come home.


*Civil Rights Activist Medgar Evers died at the hospital after he was shot in the back in his driveway in Jackson, Mississippi on June 12, 1963. He originally was refused admittance to the hospital because of his color, but was finally admitted when it was explained who he was (Source: Wikipedia) It took 30 years, but his murderer, Byron De La Beckwith, a fertilizer salesman and a member of the Ku Klux Klan, was convicted and imprisoned in 1994. He died at the age of 80 in prison in 2001. Nina Simone followed him into the next life in 2003. 

Did you enjoy this poem? Susan Fox has written a new one: RED and GREEN: A Poem About Temptation


The name of this tune is Mississippi Goddam
And I mean every word of it

Alabama's gotten me so upset
Tennessee made me lose my rest
And everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam

Alabama's gotten me so upset
Tennessee made me lose my rest
And everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam

Can't you see it? Can't you feel it?
It's all in the air
I can't stand the pressure much longer
Somebody say a prayer

Alabama's gotten me so upset
Tennessee made me lose my rest
And everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam

This is a show tune
But the show hasn't been written for it, yet

Hound dogs on my trail
School children sitting in jail
Black cat cross my path
I think everyday's gonna be my last

Lord, have mercy on this land of mine
We all gonna get it in due time
I don't belong here, I don't belong there
I've even stopped believing in prayer

Don't tell me, I tell you
Me and my people just about due
I've been there so I know
They keep on saying, "Go slow!"

But that's just the trouble, do it slow
Washing the windows, do it slow
Picking the cotton, do it slow
You're just plain rotten, do it slow

You're too damn lazy, do it slow
The thinking's crazy, do it slow
Where am I going? What am I doing?
I don't know, I don't know

Just try to do your very best
Stand up be counted with all the rest
For everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam

I bet you thought I was kiddin'

Picket lines, school boy cots
They try to say it's a communist plot
All I want is equality
For my sister, my brother, my people and me

Yes, you lied to me all these years
You told me to wash and clean my ears
And talk real fine just like a lady
And you'd stop calling me Sister Sadie

Oh, but this whole country is full of lies
You're all gonna die and die like flies
I don't trust you any more
You keep on saying, "Go slow! Go slow!"

But that's just the trouble, do it slow
Desegregation, do it slow
Mass participation, do it slow
Reunification, do it slow

Do things gradually, do it slow
But bring more tragedy, do it slow
Why don't you see it? Why don't you feel it?
I don't know, I don't know

You don't have to live next to me
Just give me my equality
Everybody knows about Mississippi
Everybody knows about Alabama
Everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam

That's it!


Nina Simone


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

#PrayForFerguson




Almighty Father, we ask you to bring peace upon the United States of America especially Ferguson, Missouri.  There is much anger over the many unarmed young lives being taken by those who are sworn to protect. We understand the need for self preservation but also hold that life is precious and sacred.  Help our communities learn to coexist and set aside suspicion and prejudice.  Protect our law enforcers and give them guidance when they are in a situation where they fear for their lives.  Calm protesters who feel betrayed.  Bring humility to governments who try to oppress their people.  Bring upon us love for one another so that we may not see just colors, but your image in others.  Help our young people avoid the temptation of engaging in criminal activity.  Bring peace to our communities, especially to our hearts.   We ask this through Christ our Lord.   Amen

Saturday, November 22, 2014

CORPUS CHRISTI

(The Eucharist is the re-presentation of Christ’s Passion on the Cross in an un-bloody manner.  Because God is outside time, and time is a creature of God, I like to tell people the Consecration is a time machine that returns you to the original moment of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ. To witness daily His ascent at the intersection of time and eternity is to go to daily Mass.)

by Susan Fox

“Lord, here are two swords,”
we cried, as youth will cry
in pity and in ignorance;
Peter draws his sword at the arrest of Jesus

But we divided,
you, weeping with intellectual fervor
for the very stones He tread upon;

And I
in smiling sorrow
dancing to my death
at a bright intersection.

Still
We are guilty of the resurrection:
we have eaten at the wrong table,
letting the spiteful words spill like cancer.

And once we both fell asleep
under the ghastly stare of an empty sky
leaving the Man alone to die.

“Rescue the Corpse,” you said,
but the dawn made us clumsy;
the blind hush of His ascent
drove us back from the murdered tomb.

And now
we lay the crusade aside:
you
weeping with intellectual fervor
and I
in smiling sorrow
witness daily His ascent
at the intersection

of time and eternity.


Did you enjoy this poem? Here's another by the same author: NO DEATH RITUALS: Miscarriage has no Funeral

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Prayer For the Dead

Prayer for the Poor Souls in Purgatory

English
V. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord.
R. And let the perpetual light shine upon them.
And may the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
Latine
V. Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine.
R. Et lux perpetua luceat eis.
Fidelium animae, per misericordiam Dei, requiescant in pace. Amen.


Source:  https://www.ewtn.com/faith/teachings/purgb3.htm

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Litany of the Saints




Lord, have mercy on us.
CHRIST, have mercy on us.
LORD, have mercy on us.
CHRIST, hear us.
CHRIST, graciously hear us.
GOD, THE FATHER OF HEAVEN, have mercy on us.
GOD THE SON, REDEEMER OF THE WORLD, have mercy on us.
GOD THE HOLY GHOST, have mercy on us.
HOLY TRINITY, ONE GOD, have mercy on us.
HOLY MARY, pray for us.
HOLY MOTHER OF GOD, pray for us.
HOLY VIRGIN OF VIRGINS, pray for us.
ST. MICHAEL, pray for us.
ST. GABRIEL, pray for us.
ST. RAPHAEL, pray for us.
ALL YE HOLY ANGELS AND ARCHANGELS, pray for us.
ALL YE HOLY ORDERS OF BLESSED SPIRITS, pray for us.
ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST, pray for us. ST. JOSEPH, pray for us.
ALL YE HOLY PATRIARCHS AND PROPHETS, pray for us.
ST. PETER, pray for us.
ST. PAUL, pray for us.
ST. ANDREW, pray for us.
ST. JAMES, pray for us.
ST. JOHN, pray for us.
ST. THOMAS, pray for us.
ST. JAMES, pray for us.
ST. PHILIP, pray for us.
ST. BARTHOLOMEW, pray for us.
ST. MATTHEW, pray for us.
ST. SIMON, pray for us.
ST. THADDEUS, pray for us.
ST. BARNABAS, pray for us.
ST. LUKE, pray for us.
ST. MARK, pray for us.
ALL YE HOLY APOSTLES AND EVANGELIST, pray for us.
ALL YE HOLY DISCIPLES OF OUR LORD, pray for us.
ALL YE HOLY INNOCENTS, pray for us.
ST. STEPHEN, pray for us.
ST. LAWRENCE, pray for us.
ST. VINCENT, pray for us.
SS. FABIAN AND SEBASTIAN, pray for us.
SS. JOHN AND PAUL, pray for us.
SS. COSMOS AND DAMIAN, pray for us.
SS. GERVASE AND PROTASE, pray for us.
ALL YE HOLY MARTYRS, pray for us.
ST. SYLVESTER, pray for us.
ST. GREGORY, pray for us.
ST. AMBROSE, pray for us.
ST. AUGUSTINE, pray for us.
ST. JEROME, pray for us.
ST. MARTIN, pray for us.
ST. NICHOLAS, pray for us.
ALL YE HOLY BISHOPS AND CONFESSORS, pray for us.
ALL YE HOLY DOCTORS, pray for us.
ST. ANTHONY, pray for us.
ST. BENEDICT, pray for us.
ST. BERNARD, pray for us.
ST. DOMINIC, pray for us.
ST. FRANCIS, pray for us.
ALL YE HOLY PRIEST AND LEVITES, pray for us.
ALL YE HOLY MONKS AND HERMITS, pray for us.
ST. MARY MAGDALEN, pray for us.
ST. AGATHA, pray for us.
ST. LUCY, pray for us.
ST. AGNES, pray for us.
ST. CECILIA, pray for us.
ST. CATHERINE, pray for us.
ST. ANASTASIA, pray for us.
ALL YE HOLY VIRGINS AND WIDOWS, pray for us.
ALL YE MEN AND WOMEN, SAINTS OF GOD, make intercession for us.
BE MERCIFUL, spare us, O Lord!
BE MERCIFUL, graciously hear us, O Lord!
FROM ALL EVIL, O Lord, deliver us.
FROM ALL SIN, O Lord, deliver us.
FROM THY WRATH, O Lord, deliver us.
FROM A SUDDEN AND UNPROVIDED DEATH, O Lord, deliver us.
FROM THE DECEITS OF THE DEVIL, O Lord, deliver us.
FROM ANGER, HATRED, AND ALL ILL WILL, O Lord, deliver us.
FROM THE SPIRIT OF FORNICATION, O Lord, deliver us.
FROM LIGHTNING AND TEMPEST, O Lord, deliver us.
FROM THE SCOURGE OF EARTHQUAKE, O Lord, deliver us.
FROM PESTILENCE, FAMINE, AND WAR, O Lord, deliver us.
FROM EVERLASTING DEATH, O Lord, deliver us.
THROUGH THE MYSTERY OF THY HOLY INCARNATION, O Lord, Deliver us.
THROUGH THY COMING, O Lord, deliver us.
THROUGH THY NATIVITY, O Lord, deliver us.
THROUGH THY BAPTISM AND HOLY FASTING, O Lord, deliver us.
THROUGH THY CROSS AND PASSION, O Lord, deliver us.
THROUGH THY DEATH AND BURIAL, O Lord, deliver us.
THROUGH THY HOLY RESURRECTION, O Lord, deliver us.
THROUGH THINE ADMIRABLE ASCENSION, O Lord, deliver us.
THROUGH THE COMING OF THE HOLY GHOST, THE PARACLETE, O Lord, deliver us.
IN THE DAY OF JUDGMENT, We Sinners beseech Thee, hear us.
THAT THOU WOULDST SPARE US, We beseech Thee, hear us.
THAT THOU WOULDST PARDON US, We beseech Thee, hear us.
THAT THOU WOULDST VOUCHSAFE TO BRING US TO TRUE PENANCE, We Beseech Thee hear us.
THAT THOU WOULDST VOUCHSAFE TO GOVERN AND PRESERVE THY HOLY CHURCH.... We beseech Thee, hear us.
THAT THOU WOULDST VOUCHSAFE TO PRESERVE OUR APOSTOLIC PRELATE AND ALL ECCLESIASTICAL ORDERS IN HOLY RELIGION. We beseech Thee, hear us.
THAT THOU WOULDST VOUCHSAFE TO HUMBLE THE ENEMIES OF THY HOLY CHURCH, We beseech Thee, hear us.
THAT THOU WOULDST VOUCH SAFE TO GIVE PEACE AND TRUE CONCORD TO CHRISTIAN KINGS AND PRINCES, We beseech Thee, hear us.
THAT THOU WOULDST VOUCHSAFE TO GRANT PEACE AND UNITY TO ALL CHRISTIAN PEOPLE, We beseech Thee, hear us.
THAT THOU WOULDST VOUCHSAFE TO BRING BACK TO THE UNITY OF THE CHURCH ALL THOSE WHO HAVE STRAYED AWAY, AND LEAD TO THE LIGHT OF THE GOSPEL ALL UNBELIEVERS, We beseech Thee, hear us.
THAT THOU WOULDST VOUCHSAFE TO CONFIRM AND PRESERVE US THY HOLY SERVICE, We beseech Thee, hear us.
THAT THOU WOULDST LIFT UP OUR MINDS TO HEAVENLY DESIRES, We beseech Thee, hear us.
THAT THOU WOULDST RENDER ETERNAL BLESSINGS TO ALL OUR BENEFACTORS, We beseech Thee, hear us.
THAT THOU WOULDST DELIVER OUR SOULS AND THOSE OF OUR BRETHREN, RELATIVE, AND BENEFACTORS FROM ETERNAL DAMNATION, We beseech Thee, hear us.
THAT THOU WOULDST VOUCHSAFE TO GIVE AND PRESERVE THE FRUITS OF THE EARTH, We beseech Thee, hear us.
THAT THOU WOULDST VOUCHSAFE TO GIVE ETERNAL REST TO ALL THE FAITHFUL DEPARTED, We beseech Thee, hear us.
THAT THOU WOULDST VOUCHSAFE GRACIOUSLY TO HEAR US, We beseech Thee, hear us.

SON OF GOD, We beseech Thee, hear us.
LAMB OF GOD, WHO TAKEST AWAY THE SINS OF THE WORLD, Spare us, O Lord.
LAMB OF GOD, WHO TAKEST AWAY THE SINS OF THE WORLD, Graciously hear us, O Lord.
LAMB OF GOD, WHO TAKEST AWAY THE SINS OF THE WORLD, Have mercy on us.
CHRIST, HEAR US.......
CHRIST, GRACIOUSLY HEAR US.......
LORD, HAVE MERCY ON US.......
CHRIST, HAVE MERCY ON US.......
LORD, HAVE MERCY ON US.......

Our Father, etc, (In Secret.)
V- And Lead Us Not Into Temptation.
R- But Deliver Us From Evil.

Psalm LXIX

Incline unto my aid, O God.
O Lord, make haste to help me.
Let them be confounded and ashamed that seek my soul.
Let them be turned backward and blush for shame that desire evils to me.
Let them be presently turned away blushing for shame that say to me, "Tis well, 'tis well."
Let all that seek Thee rejoice and be glad in Thee; and let such as love Thy salvation say always, The Lord be magnified. But I am needy and poor: O God, help me.
Thou art my helper and my deliverer; O Lord, make no delay.

Glory Be To The Father, etc.
V- Save Thy servants.
R- Trusting in Thee, O my God.
V- Be unto us, O Lord, a tower a strength.
R- From the face of the enemy.
V- Let not the enemy prevail against us.
R- Nor the son of iniquity have power to hurt us.
V- O Lord, do not deal with us according to our sins.
R- Neither reward us according to our iniquities.
V- Let us pray for our chief bishop: (name)
R- The Lord preserve him, and give him life, and make him blessed upon the earth, and deliver him not up to the will of his enemies.
V- Let us pray for our benefactors.
R- Vouchsafe, O Lord, for Thy name's sake, to reward with eternal life all those who do us good.
V- Let us pray for the faithful departed.
R- Eternal rest give unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.
V- May they rest in peace.
R- Amen.
V- For our absent brethren.
R- Save Thy servants who hope in Thee, O my God.
V- Send them help, O Lord, from Thy holy place.
R- And from Sion protect them.
V- O Lord, hear my prayer.
R- And let my cry come unto Thee.

LET US PRAY:
O God, Whose property is always to have mercy and to spare, receive our petition, that we and all Thy servants who are bound by the chain of sin, may, by the compassion of Thy goodness, mercifully be absolved.

Hear, we beseech Thee, O Lord, the prayers of Thy supplicants, and pardon the sins of those who confess to Thee, that, in Thy bounty, Thou mayest grant us both pardon and peace.

In Thy clemency, O Lord, show Thy unspeakable mercy to us, that so Thou mayest both loose us from all our sins and deliver us from the punishments which we deserve for them.

O God, who by sin art offended and by penance pacified, mercifully regard the prayers of Thy people, who make supplication to Thee, and turn away the scourges of Thine anger, which we deserve for our sins.

O almighty and eternal God, have mercy on Thy servant (N)., our chief bishop, and direct him according to Thy clemency, in the way of everlasting salvation, that, by Thy grace, he may desire the things that are pleasing to Thee, and perform them with all his strength.

O God, from Whom are all holy desires, righteous counsels, and just works, give to Thy servants that peace which the world cannot give; that, our hearts being disposed to keep Thy commandments, and the fear of enemies taken away, the times, by Thy protection, may be peaceful.

Inflame, O Lord, our reins and hearts with the fire of the Holy Spirit; that we may serve Thee with a chaste body, and please Thee with a clean heart.

O God, the Creator and Redeemer of all the faithful, give to the souls of Thy servants departed the remission of all their sins, that through pious supplications they may obtain the pardon they have always desired.

Direct, we beseech Thee, O Lord, our actions by Thy holy inspirations, and carry them on by Thy gracious assistance; that every prayer and work of ours may always begin from Thee, and through Thee be happily ended.

O almighty and eternal God, Who hast dominion over the living and the dead, and art merciful to all who Thou foreknowest will be Thine by faith and good works: we humbly beseech Thee that they for whom we have purposed to offer our prayers, whether this present world still detains them in the flesh or the next world hath already received them divested of their bodies, may, by the intercession of Thy saints and the clemency of Thy goodness, obtain pardon and full remission of all their sins. Through Our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end.
R- Amen.
V- O Lord, hear my prayer.
R- And let my cry come unto Thee.
V- May the almighty and merciful Lord graciously hear us.
R- Amen.
V- And my the souls of the faithful departed throught the mercy of God, rest in peace.
R- Amen.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

LAMENT for Western Humanity

In Memory of James Foley
American Catholic Journalist, who prayed the Rosary, died to expose the suffering of the people of the Middle East and was  beheaded by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria ISIS)
By Lawrence Fox


“He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; 
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.
By a perversion of justice he was taken away. Who could have imagined his future?
For he was cut off from the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people.”(Isaiah 53:7,8)

Messenger, your passion was for gathering, and war;
your empathy stirred, inevitably marching you toward peril -- both subtle and blatant.
Little did we appreciate the witness of your herald.
Valor impressed you, made you a magnet for dark ritual obsession.
Carnage, barbarity -- you relayed and became the story for our digestion.

Little did we grasp the deceit -- both subtle and blatant:
“It is a Religion of Peace!”
Colleagues, Citizens, and Politicians, so you persist at the gathering,
enthralled in a post-modern trance, digesting the horror
       without understanding the Islamist ritual context.

“Certainly theirs is not madness,” we pretend;
taking the Progressive Stance:
“Terror gestates only within the heart of heroic men --
seeking to redress injustices performed!”
But by whom and for what, and God knows when?

So, James, we rationalize the murderous atrocity,
missing what the merest Medieval knight understood:
Wrong reigns in a misguided Seventh Century religiosity.

Colleagues, Citizens, and Politicians alike ingest your ritual slaughter,
Frozen within a post-modern trance
(POTUS knew since January; CIA favored the Caliphate.)
No one admitting such butchery exceeds
Hammurabi’s eye-for-eye nor Shylock’s “pound of flesh.”
Your death is the natural conclusion of the Quran
Lies never subtle, always malevolently blatant.

Centuries ago in desert lands, James, your end was “divinely” ordained.
It is promoted and enshrined by the Prophet’s sirens;
never ending until the Truth is finally spoon-fed to their yawning hearts.

Your curdling sounds mixed with praises to the Prophet’s god,
their song – some think it lovely – is  relayed back for our consumption and,
your colleagues, citizens, and politicians persist at the gathering,
buried in a post-modern trance, refusing to grasp,
 “It is NOT a religion of peace.”  



Rest in True Peace beloved James Foley, Angel to Western Humanity, and pray that Rosary for us.

--edited by Susan Fox

To Understand this Poem You Might Enjoy Reading Another  Piece that Lawrence Fox wrote:THE GLORY OF ISLAM: Putting the Beheadings, Rapes and Crucifixions into the Context of the Quran

This is Lawrence Fox's latest piece: THE MIND OF ISLAM: On Family Life, the Messiah and How to Treat Non-Muslims

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Baptism by Water, Fire and Suffering: The Work of The Holy Spirit

By Susan C. Fox
I do a lot of walking in my own neighborhood. In passing my neighbor’s gardens, I have often noticed that God’s plan for
their life is revealed in the way they keep their yard. Some hunger for great perfection, real holiness, and this is revealed
Image of the Holy Trinity 
in the fact that not a blade of grass in their lawn is out of place. There isn’t a single weed. Others may have weeds, but to look on their flowers is to see a riot of color, revealing a love for Beauty that could only be satisfied in seeing the Face of God. Others, like me, plant nothing unless it is fruitful. Beauty is secondary. We plant tomatoes, potatoes, carrots and corn. These gardeners desire great fruitfulness in the Holy Spirit.

But have you ever wondered why people put those wishing wells in their garden? I did. And finally one day, I understood that my neighbors with wishing wells were hungering for goodness -- a goodness from another or a better time. Pure and simple, they were longing for the Goodness of God. Well, I thought, that settles that question.

Walk with God

But God wasn’t done with the garden image yet. Shortly after that, near Christmastime, I was walking past my neighbor’s yard, and I saw that he had displayed a very large Nativity scene in his wishing well. He stood Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus on the well. It was very clear that the goodness that he longed for was the Birth of Christ. But not just the
Birth. The Nativity scene represents the whole longing of humanity for the Incarnation – the Life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. My neighbor had unexpectedly put a face on that longing for Goodness with a capital “G.” He taught me that after the fall of Adam and Eve, the whole of humanity is groaning and searching to recover that beautiful relationship – that real friendship – that we had with God when we walked with Him in the Garden of Eden. Only Baptism in the Holy Spirit through the Birth, Life, Death and Resurrection of the Incarnation will restore us to God’s friendship and make us His children. Here the whole of salvation history was summarized by one family’s decision to put a Nativity Scene atop a wishing well, a decision I may well add, inspired by the Holy Spirit of God. 

The Holy Spirit is First to Welcome Us into the Kingdom of God

 It is interesting to note that the Holy Spirit is the first to bring
us to faith and to give us new life. This new life is to ‘know the Father and one whom He has sent, Jesus Christ.” (John17:3) For this reason, the Church calls the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life. But He is the last Person to be revealed in Scripture, and often the most hidden. It seems like I am always noticing that He was there, not that He is here. I can see His effects, His work, but not His Presence. I was teaching my godson the catechism one day, and he said something so profound I knew the author was the Holy Spirit. 

I wanted to grab the Holy Spirit

I wanted to grab the Holy Spirit on the spot and hold onto Him, but the boy had already spoken, and there was only the echo of His words remaining in my heart. So also in Scripture we see the Author is almost silent about Himself. He reveals God and makes known to us Christ, His living Word, but the Spirit does not speak of Himself. The Spirit who has spoken through the prophets makes us hear the Father’s Word, but we do not hear the Spirit Himself. When the Father sends His Word, he always sends His Breath. The Son and the Holy Spirit are distinct but inseparable in their joint mission of redemption. 

Christ is Visible; The Holy Spirit is Hidden

But in the Gospels, it is Christ who is seen. He is the visible image of the invisible God, but it is the Spirit who reveals Him.       The Holy Spirit, Lord and Giver of Life, is the same spirit of God who moved over the waters at Creation bringing everything into being. He is the Breath of God, breathed into man, making him into the image and likeness of God. And He is the Uncreated Gift, who now offers us the friendship of God through Baptism. 

Heart of Stone changed to Heart of Flesh

Ezekiel prophesized about this future restored friendship with God, when he wrote: “For I will take you away from among the nations, gather you from all foreign lands, and bring you back to your own land. I will sprinkle clean water upon you to cleanse you from your impurities, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances. You shall dwell in the land which I gave to your fathers; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.” (Ezekiel 37:24-28) With the prophets of the Old Testament, we can pray, “Oh Lord and Giver of Life, give me a new heart. Write your law of love upon my heart!” 

The Law of the Holy Spirit

This is the law of the Holy Spirit: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with your whole heart, with your whole mind, with your whole strength and with your whole being. And you will love your neighbor as Christ has loved you.” The Blessed Virgin Mary -- she who was full of the Spirit of God from conception -- had this law written on her heart. Under the influence of the Holy Spirit, she exclaims mightily, “My whole being proclaims the greatness of the Lord.”(Luke 1:46) 

So in the entire Old Testament, the personality of the Holy Spirit is completely hidden. We see the Father clearly, shepherding His people, parting the Red Sea, bringing them out of slavery, meeting Moses in the burning bush. But the Holy Spirit and the Messiah are only hinted at. The biggest hint that both were coming and would have a joint mission of redemption is in Isaiah. Isaiah is sometimes called the Fifth Gospel, or the Gospel of the Old Testament. He wrote: “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. And his delight shall be the fear of the Lord.” (Isaiah 11:1-2) This is a veiled prophecy of the coming of the Messiah, the One who will be anointed by God Himself. 

The Anointed One

Jesus “is the Anointed One in the sense that he possesses the fullness of the Spirit of God.” (Dominum et Vivificantem by Pope John Paul II) The Spirit is the Anointing. The Father
does the anointing. And Jesus Himself will be the mediator in granting this Spirit, this Uncreated Anointing, to the whole People of God. That is why when Jesus was given the job of reading in the synagogue in Nazareth, he opened the book of Isaiah, and read, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good tidings to the afflicted; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19) He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant. All eyes were fixed on the Lord, and then He said to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 

Aha! He was telling them He was the Messiah, God’s Anointed One, the one in Whom the Holy Spirit dwells as the gift of God Himself, the one who marks the new beginning of the gift of life, which God makes to humanity in the Spirit. Later on Palm Sunday, the crowd would cry, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” (Luke 19:38) The Pharisees recognized that this came from Psalm 118, which refers to the kingship of the Messiah. And they urged Jesus to silence his disciples. 

And Jesus answered that if they are silent, the very stones would cry out. What would the stones say? “Jesus is the Christ! He is the kingly Messiah! He is God’s Anointed One.”
The very stones would cry out!
And who would cause the stones to cry out? The Holy Spirit. It is His job to reveal the Messiah. St. Gregory of Nyssa said that the notion of anointing suggests that there is no distance between the Son and the Spirit. “Indeed, just as between the surface of the body and the anointing with oil neither reason nor sensation recognizes any intermediary, so the contact of the Son with the Spirit is immediate, so that anyone who would make contact with the Son by faith must first encounter the oil by contact. In fact there is no part that is not covered by the Holy Spirit. That is why the confession of the Son’s Lordship is made in the Holy Spirit by those who receive him, the Spirit coming from all sides to those who approach the Son in faith.” (De Spiritu Sancto) 

So my neighbor with the Nativity scene in his wishing well was wishing and hoping for the coming of the Messiah and His Holy Spirit. When the infant Christ was presented at the temple, the Holy Spirit drew the righteous and devout Simeon to the side of Mary and Joseph. St. Luke tells us Simeon was looking for the “consolation of Israel.” That’s an Old Testament code word for the Holy Spirit. The Catholic Catechism tells us: "Two prophetic lines developed in the Old Testament, one leading to the expectation of the Messiah, and the other pointing to the announcement of a new spirit. These converge on a small Remnant of the Jews, the poor people of Israel who return from the Exile and await in hope “the consolation of Israel” and the “redemption of Jerusalem.” (Paragraph #711) 

My Eyes have seen Your Salvation

The Holy Spirit had revealed to Simeon that he would not see death until he saw the Christ, God’s Anointed One. So with the Holy Spirit upon him, Simeon took the baby into his arms, and said, “Lord, now let your servant depart in peace, for my eyes have seen your salvation.”(Luke 2:29-30) 

Many signs accompanied the Birth of the Incarnation, and the beginning of his public ministry. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, St. 
St John Baptist
 John the Baptist foretold the mission of the Incarnation when he said, “I baptize you with water; he who is mightier than I is coming, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” (Luke 3:16-17) In the Old Testament, God led his people at night as a pillar of fire. He appeared to Moses as a burning bush. On one occasion, the prayer of the prophet, Elijah, brought down fire from heaven on the sacrifice of Mount Carmel. The Catholic Catechism tells us that this event was a “figure” of the fire of the Holy Spirit, who transforms
what He touches. And finally, when Jesus came he said, “I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled.” (Luke 12:49) He refers to the purifying fire of the Holy Spirit, which will burn and consume us until we are transformed through a new birth in Baptism into a new creation, remade in the image and likeness of Jesus Christ.

Transforming Suffering into Redemptive Love

And now we get to the heart of the Holy Spirit’s work in the crucifixion. For when we are baptized, we are baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection. We are made priest, prophet and king. A priest is a sacrifice. So the next time they hold up one of those cute little babies at Mass and pray that he or she be made a priest, prophet and king, remember you are asking that the child be martyred. I don’t think most parents know that. In his encyclical on the Holy Spirit in the Life of the Church and the World (Dominum et Vivificantem), Pope Saint John Paul II speaks of the Holy Spirit’s work in the crucifixion, a work of transforming suffering into salvific love. The pope says, “In the sacrifice of the Son of Man, the Holy Spirit is present and active just as he acted in Jesus’ conception, in his coming into the world, in his hidden life and in his public ministry.” He cites the letter to Hebrews, where the author after recalling the sacrifices of the Old Covenant in which the “blood of goats and bulls” purifies man from sin, adds, “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:13) 

Specifically, in the fervent prayer of His Passion, Christ enabled the Holy Spirit to transform his suffering into redemptive love. There is a paradox at work here. We cannot say that the instruments of torture, the cross, the nails, the whips, etc. are the work of the Holy Spirit. These are a work of the devil. Sin has caused the suffering of Christ. In Christ crucified, there suffers a God who has been rejected by His own people. On the eve of His Passion, Christ speaks of the sin of those who do not believe in Him. He complains, “They do not believe.” (John 16:9) It is a distant echo of that earlier sin of man’s first parents, who through disobedience turned away from the truth contained in the Word of the Father. But from the depth of God’s suffering, His rejection by his creature, the Holy Spirit draws a blessing. 

In the Cross, Love is at Work

In the depth of the mystery of the Cross, love is at work. Love brings man back again to share in the life of God Himself. For, that is the gift that is restored to us through the cross. The Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, takes the suffering of God and restores God’s Life in us through Baptism. St. Paul said, “The Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” Think of the freedom of the Immaculate Conception, who – without any sin or blemish – was free to say, “Yes!” when the angel invited her to be Mother of God. The Holy Spirit, through St. Elizabeth, cried out, “Blessed is she who believed that God’s promises to her would be fulfilled!”(Luke 1:45) Blessed is she who believed.

Jesus complains about the sin of those who don’t believe, but Mary, the new Eve, is the one who believed, and in the freedom of her faith, said “Yes!” Baptism is the means by which the Lord and Giver of Life restores to us the freedom of sons and daughters of God. Without it, Jesus said, we cannot enter heaven. “Truly, Truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the spirit is spirit. The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know when it comes or whether it goes; so it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3:5-8) 

That is what is meant when we pray, “Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created, and you shall renew the face of the earth.” Our new birth occurs when God the Father “sends the Spirit of His Son into our hearts.” Then we receive a spirit of adopted sons by which we cry, “Abba, Father!” (Galatians 4:6) Therefore, this new birth in Baptism, this divine sonship planted in the human soul through sanctifying grace is the work of the Holy Spirit. In Baptism, the Spirit, who gives life to man and the whole universe – visible and invisible – now renews the life of man through the mystery of the Incarnation. 

In the prologue of the Gospel of John, the Evangelist explains that the True Light, Jesus Christ, came into the world through the Incarnation. “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” (John 1:14) But “He was in the world that had its being through Him, and the world did not know him. He came to his own domain and his own people did not accept him. But to all who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, children who were born not out of human stock or urge of the flesh or will of man but of God himself.” (John 1:10-13) That is the effect of Baptism in Christ Jesus. We have a new birth! We are purified, given a clean heart! Never let anyone tell you that the Sacrament of Baptism is not important. 

Never leave anyone with the impression that it is okay to let your children chose or reject Baptism when they grow up. Baptism is the seed of eternal life. It is the spring of living water welling up in your hearts unto eternal life. And God went to an awful lot of trouble to bring you Baptism. Remember Jesus said, “I am the vine. You are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you. By this my father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples. . . If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:5-13)

Love as Christ has Loved

Notice that Jesus does not say, love your neighbor as yourself. Now that you know Christ, now that you are baptized into his love, you must love as Christ has loved. You must have total self-consuming love that will even give its life for a friend. You must follow Him to the cross. This kind of branch is full of lots of green sap. Implicitly, the Holy Spirit is the sap of the Father’s vine, which bears fruit on its branches. The Father is the vinedresser. Every branch that bears fruit, he prunes so it might bear more fruit. The Holy Spirit is the sap bearing fruit on the vine, and Jesus is the vine. St. Stephen, one of the first seven deacons of the Church, like all the martyrs of the Catholic Church, bore this kind of sap within him. 

The Acts of the Apostles describes Stephen as “full of grace and power” with a face shining like an angel. Despite the threat of stoning, he did not hesitate to tell the truth, to
declare to the Israelite people their whole salvation history, how they rejected the prophets and finally the Christ, the Righteous One, the Lamb of God sent to them to save them from their sins. This last One, the Messiah, they betrayed and murdered. You stiff-necked people ... you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it,” (Acts 7:51-53) Stephen told them. They ground their teeth when they heard these things. But St. Stephen, “full of the Holy Spirit,” gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:55-56) And they stoned him to death. But as he died, he prayed that God would not hold this sin against them. A man named Saul watched the whole proceedings, and in his heart agreed to the murder of Stephen. But Stephen had prayed for Saul when he asked forgiveness for his persecutors. St. Augustine says that “if Stephen had not prayed to God, the Church would not have had Paul.” Saul became St. Paul and in the end enjoyed the same happiness as Stephen, the happiness of martyrdom for Christ. 

In our own time in China, a young 15-year-old girl named Anna Wang enjoyed a similar martyrdom for the faith. She was offered the chance to repent of her belief in Jesus Christ, or be killed. She refused, even though her step-mother urged her to renounce her faith. So her tormentors cut off her arm, thinking this would deter the girl from persisting in her faith, but still she refused to renounce Christ Jesus. She seems to have had a similar vision to St. Stephen’s for near the end she said, “The gates of heaven are open.” It was almost as if she were telling her tormentors that they, too, could have heaven. They were welcome. And then they killed Anna Wang. 

Precious in the eyes of God is the Death of His Saints

“Precious in the eyes of God is the death of his saints. Victory and power and empire forever have been won by our God and all authority for his Christ, now that the persecutor who accused our brothers day and night before our God has been brought down. They have triumphed over him by the Blood of the Lamb and by the witness of their martyrdom because even in the face of death, they would not cling to life.” (Revelation 12: 10-12) We have all heard there is one Lord and there is one Baptism, and this is the reason that the Catholic Church does not re-baptize Protestants converting to the Catholic faith. But in researching this topic, I actually found that Jesus talks about three kinds of baptisms. 

There is the Baptism of water and the Spirit, which each Christian receives in the Sacrament of Baptism. There is the baptism of fire and the Spirit, which each Catholic receives at Confirmation, and there is the baptism of blood and the Spirit, which the holy martyrs experienced at their death. All are works of the Holy Spirit, and all evolve from the Sacrament of Baptism. Baptism means immersion in Greek. It means to “go under.” The first immersion we experience – most of us were baptized as children – is the immersion in the waters of Baptism. 

Water -- Outward Sign of Inward Grace

The water is an outward sign of an inward grace. Noah and his family escaped through a purifying worldwide flood to begin anew the human race as children of God. At Baptism, He, who is called the Spirit of Adoption, descends on us and makes us sons of God. We who were far away from Him because of sin are reconciled to the Father through the joint mission and work of the Spirit and the Son. This first immersion is the Baptism of water and the Spirit of which Jesus spoke to Nicodemus. Our Protestant brothers and sisters think of this as an emotional experience in which they are “born again” and accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. But it is not an emotional experience; it is a supernatural experience, a sacrament of the Catholic Church, a work of God the Holy Spirit, Lord and Giver of Life. 

This baptism involves a purgation. The Holy Spirit’s job is to convince the world of its sin. This is a necessary step for salvation. If you confess your sin in human society, you are punished. But if you confess your sin to God, you are saved.
On Pentecost, after the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles as tongues of fire, the apostles were confirmed in their faith, and were given the courage to proclaim it. Peter exclaims, “Let the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” (Acts 2:36) The crowds – through the power of the Holy Spirit -- were smitten with remorse, and they asked the apostles, “What shall we do?” And Peter responds, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38) 

You Shall Be My Witnesses

Here we have the crowd on Pentecost invited to both the first and second baptism, and Peter has already received both. The second baptism is into fire and the Spirit. Jesus spoke of this baptism by fire when He said, “I have come to cast fire upon the earth, and how I long that it be enkindled.” And after the Ascension, while staying with the apostles, Jesus charged them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father. “For, John baptized with water, but before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit ... You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:5-8)

It’s interesting, but one of the ways the Holy Spirit works in us is to clarify and prioritize. He calls us to a spirit of repentance and confession of our sins, but he also ends confusion. The miracle of Pentecost is that when the apostles preached, various peoples who spoke a multitude of languages understood them. This is the opposite of what happened when the languages were confused at the Tower of Babel, which was the punishment for man’s pride and infidelity.

Pentecost is the reversal of this confusion of tongues thanks to the clarifying grace of the Holy Spirit. Now this second baptism is given to us in the Sacrament of Confirmation. The Catholic Church teaches that our initiation into the Catholic faith is only completed once one has received this important sacrament, which confirms us in our faith, and gives us the courage to proclaim it. I wondered why it is that when we receive the Sacrament of Confirmation today, many times it seems like nothing. That was my experience. No one sang in tongues, and I felt very uncomfortable through the whole ordeal, and afterwards wondered what had taken place. My husband said the problem is poor catechesis. I think he’s right. People are not properly prepared for the sacrament, so very often the grace of Confirmation is recognized and understood later in life. 

The Baptism of Martyrs

The third form of baptism follows from the second. It is the baptism of blood and the Spirit. Jesus’ apostles were arguing among themselves as to who was greater in the Kingdom of God. James and John asked if one could sit at his right hand and the other at his left hand when He came into his glory. Jesus replied, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” He meant the cross. He was asking, are you willing to give your life? This baptism is the obedience unto death that Christ gave to His Father on the Cross. It is the complete submission of your mind, heart, and will to the Will of God. It is St. Paul saying, “It is no longer I that live, but God that lives in me.”

Out of this kind of immersion in the will of God, the Holy Spirit is revealed and made present as the Love that works in the depths of the Paschal Mystery, as the source of the salvific power of the Cross of Christ, and as the gift of new and eternal life (Pope John Paul II on the Holy Spirit). God offers us, who are less than nothing, the opportunity to associate ourselves with the Paschal Mystery through our death to self.

When Jesus died on Good Friday, it was the day before the Jewish Sabbath. And the Jews requested that the bodies of the three crucified men might be taken down from the crosses that day, so they would not remain up on the high holy day. “So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him.” Breaking their legs insured their swift death due to suffocation. “But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.”

The Birth of the Church

St. Augustine comments that this moment actually represents the birth of the Church, the Bride of Christ, who will be revealed at Pentecost. “Here was opened wide the door of life, from which the sacraments of the Church have flowed out, without which there is no entering in unto life which is true life. . . Here the second Adam with bowed head slept upon the cross, that thence a wife might be formed of him, flowing from His side while he slept. O death, by which the dead come back to life! Is there anything purer than this blood, any wound more healing!” 

This third kind of baptism is closely associated with God’s plan for the life of the witness. St. John the Evangelist identified St. John the Baptist as the “witness to the Light.” Remember St. John was filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb. For when Mary visited Elizabeth, she opened her mouth and spoke, and the babe in Elizabeth’s womb leapt for joy. In the prologue to John’s Gospel, he says John wasn’t the Light, but came to “bear witness” to the Light. And, of course, we know that this witness – like St. Stephen’s – involved giving his life. For St. John the Baptist was beheaded. 

Faithful and True Witness

Jesus, the High Priest in the book of Revelation, is called the Faithful and True Witness, for he gave his life for his friends, all mankind of every generation and nation. And the apostles are called witnesses to Christ’s Resurrection. Most of them were martyred as well. The Church, as bride of Christ, is called to continue to witness to the Resurrection in every generation. “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’” They say, “Come, Lord Jesus.” “And let him who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let him who is thirsty come, let him who desires take the water of life without price.” (Revelation 22:17) This witnessing closely mimics the work of the Holy Spirit. 

For, while John witnessed to the Light, and the apostles to the Resurrection, the Holy Spirit is also called a Witness to Christ. Jesus tells us that many times in the Gospel of John. And in fact that is why it is difficult to get your arms around the Holy Spirit because as soon as you reach for Him, He draws you to Christ and the Father. He is the Uncreated Witness to the Incarnation, which is His greatest work. 

Ironically, his holy spouse, the Blessed Virgin Mary acts in an identical self-effacing way. You say, “Mary.” She says, “Jesus.” St. Louis Marie de Montfort declares that “because Mary remained hidden during her life she is called by the Holy Spirit and the Church, ‘Alma Mater,’ Mother hidden and unknown.”

To encounter the Uncreated Witness to the Incarnation is to go through a purification. This Witness draws us close to God, and on such a journey of longing we must decrease, so He can increase. The Holy Spirit inspired people to repentance at the preaching of John the Baptist, and made them seek baptism in the River Jordan. Going down into that water was a humiliating exercise as it meant that those baptized were admitting they were sinners. Standing in the confession line is the same kind of exercise, and it is the Holy Spirit who draws us to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Let Him draw you often to the waters of Reconciliation. 

That’s what happened to the woman at the well. Christ offered her a spring of water welling up into eternal life. But first she had to confess, “I have no husband.” (John 4:17) In fact, she had five. The Holy Spirit inspired people to repentance at the crucifixion. Jesus in his final baptism of blood, cried out, Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” (Luke 23:46) And after this He breathed his last. When the Roman centurion saw what had taken place, he said, “Surely this was the Son of God.” (Matthew 27:54) And all the multitudes who stood around to see Jesus die, went home beating their breasts, a sign of repentance. On the way up to Calvary, the women wept for Jesus. This was a dangerous thing to do because it was forbidden to cry for a condemned criminal. 

It was the Holy Spirit, speaking through the Apostles, who brought the first converts to baptism on Pentecost. It was the Holy Spirit, who inspired my grandmother to urge my mother to have me baptized when I was an infant. I’m sure if you undertake to read the Gospels with the idea of finding the work of the Holy Spirit, you will be shown where He is hiding Himself. I’m sure if you look at your own life with the idea of finding where the Holy Spirit moved decisively on your behalf, you will also see the effects of his work, and perhaps along the way you will meet the Lord and Giver of Life, recognizing Him, as the disciples met our Lord, Jesus, on the road to Emmaus. 


Susan Fox
The second Vatican Council called for a new study of and devotion to the Holy Spirit as a necessary complement to understand the work of that council, which sought to explain the ever-new, but never-changing faith handed down from the Apostles in a way that the modern world could understand. May the Holy Spirit accompany you in that journey. “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”

Want to learn more about the spiritual formation that led to this piece? Go to Disciples of Jesus and Mary

Enjoy this piece? A New Poem on the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit is available to read at LESSONS THAT LEAD TO GOD
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