Galatians 5 v 16-26
There was a woman one time was a very good housekeeper and whose children lived in the same city as herself. Children were grown up and have their own families. However, they .. visited their mothers except for special occasions.
They did not visit so frequently because when they were children their mother was such a busy housekeeper that she constantly follow them and made them keep their rooms and house very clean. She made them pick up coats, to put their books in order, to put the chairs in the right place, to clean up every inch of the house. Concentrate as children they found that she, though a good was so interested in the house that they felt that they were intruding. Now they did not visit their mother except when necessary because their children of their own.
They knew their children would not be tidy and so it would give trouble to their mother.
Here is a woman who was in a way a good mother and housekeeper. Yet she did not convince the children of her love for them. They knew that they were many laws in the house and so to please her they kept away from her.
We have to ask ourselves if the church has become a legal system. Have we priests and do we priests turn our parishes into whole serious legal requirements.
In good homes there is no constitution or set of laws written on the living room. And yet we keep the laws of our homes because we love our homes we love our parents, we love our brothers and sisters. And so without any necessity of legal …we are able to live in order and with law. But the law of our homes is a law of freedom, a law that comes from love a law that guides us in how to respond to a loving situation.
It should be like this in the church. If we really love Christ, If we really love the community, if we really love our people then we would be happy to live whether the laws and guide lines of the church. We will do so because we love our church. We do so because we were free. And the church is a place of freedom.
I am not saying that laws are not important. In any society laws are very important. But if the laws are seen as in positions from outside we do not make them our own, if we do not respond the situations out of love but out of compulsion then we will not love that situation. This was pause argument with the Jews. They had to put all the emphasis on the law. But Paul saw that in Jesus God had loved us even unto death. And so he invited people to respond out of total love …Jesus who sacrifices himself for us and not because we were being compelled to do so.
We can even say that this … between Jesus and Pharisees was based on the same difficulty. As the Pharisees emphasize the law for the law sake. Jesus emphasize God as a loving Father and our proper response to him out of love. So the bases of Christian life and our parish and community is love which leads to freedom.
This gift of love is from the holy spirit. We priest need a personal because we lack the intimacy of a married life. And so without love without sharing we often feel overburdened.
The scriptures on the line again and again the power, the energy and the reality of the Holy Spirit.
In Chapter one of Genesis it is the spirit who hovers the water and brings order and peace.
It is the spirit who inspires the prophets and the writers of the scripture. The word inspiration means ……..
Jesus himself is led by the Holy Spirit to the Jordan river and into the desert. Jesus promised his disciples in John 14 just before he died that he would not leave them orphans but he would send the holy spirit to be their councilor and comforter. The Acts of the Apostles is sometimes called the Gospel of the Holy spirit. It begins with the Apostles , afraid, hiding and waiting for the promised Holy Spirit. Then in Chapter 2 we have the coming of the Holy spirit at Pentecost. Immediately we see men who are totally changed. Peter who denied Jesus just two months before immediately returns to the city of Jerusalem and begins to preach. Pilot , high priest and all the enemies of Jesus are still there. But this time Peter is the new man filled with the power of holy spirit. And he begins to preach God’s word.
We remember in chapter 6 Steven was chosen by the Holy spirit and empowered by the holy spirit so that he died as a witness of the word.
Philip was sent to the Ethiopia by the holy spirit in chapter 8.
Peter baptizes the first gentiles on the inspiration of the Holy spirit in chapter 10.
Paul and Barnabas set aside by Holy Spirit to continue the work of the church. The first council of the church in Acts 15 is guided by the Holy Spirit and its decision is made on the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Paul Barnabas were sent to Europe to begin the confession of that continent by Holy Spirit.
These people suffered, they were persecuted , they were driven from city to city, and yet they had courage and yet they had love and yet they have joy and peace and ultimately victory. By the power of the spirit they realize that in spite of all the dangers they will loved by God.
For this is the task of the Holy Spirit above all to help us understand that God loves us.
Yes, the love of God is something we must begin to experience. I knew a teacher who lived in Sharpville many years ago. He really loved his wife and his five children. He was faithful to them he thought about them, he spent his time with them. That is why she got very ill and no cure could be found for her. He was told that perhaps if he is centered to united states, there there was a medicine that would help her. It cost a lot of money and a teachers wages worse more. But he borrowed money from banks fellow teachers and family and sent his wife to the States.
He knew that it will be a tremendous financial burden on him for many years. He loved his wife and he thought of the sadness of his children if they lost their mother. She had to remain in the State for three months. All his money was spent and caring for her. But it was spent with love.
She wrote that she was getting better and would be home by Christmas.
Because of his debts he now has to work as a teacher during the day and as a taxi driver at night. In the mean time he must look after children.
The man worked very hard. But he looked forward with joy to the return of his wife.
Just a few days before her return some gangstars got into his taxi one evening and they killed him. His wife came home for his funeral. Here is a man gave his life out of love for his wife and children. This man did not know he would die eventually. But Jesus knew, as you read in Luke Chapter 9, he tells us three times that he would die in Jerusalem. Jesus died for us out of love for us. Let us remember the example of the teacher because it might help us to have a realistic understanding of how God loves us.
If we fail to appreciate this love of God which the holy spirit communicates to us then we are building our religious life and our Ministry …
Between Ladysmith and Newcastle there is a place called ‘Fault mistake’. This is built on amount …to guard the pass and to control the movement of the people there. As the British army built this … they realize that there is no water within it…
They realize that their enemy had only to blockade them and they will then eventually have to surrender. So half way through the building of this fault they stopped. It was never completed. It was called a fault mistake. To try and live our priestly life without a non going contact with the love of God is building on a sand it is fault mistake.
When the holy spirit is present then the church is not an institution but a community and family of love. When the holy spirit is present we see the sacraments not as things and rituals but as the release of God’s power now in my life. When the holy spirit is present then the incarnation of Jesus is not just a fact of history but a principle of God’s working with us now. When the Holy spirit is present the resurrection is not just a proof , is not just the end of the story of Jesus it is actually the beginning of the life and presence Jesus among us.
When we have the holy spirit God is seen not as above looking down upon us but as within us and within the world where we are. The holy spirit, though transparent, makes God alive in our lives.
The holy spirit is the source of our saints. Saint Theresa of Lisieux is someone who allowed holy spirit the holy spirit to penetrate her lives. And so with St Francis, St Padre Pio, St Ignatius and all the saints. The sacraments are real meeting with God through the action of the holy spirit. The catechism of the catholic church called the Holy Spirit, the artisam of God’s master pieces, the sacraments.
When we read the holy Bible with faith then do not read it alone. There is somebody with us. That somebody is the holy spirit and he makes these words a line for me now. And when we recall our own vocation journey, then we are recalling the finger of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
In the acts of the Apostles in a special way we see the power of the Holy Spirit. The three fruits of the Holy spirit that we can underline in the Acts of the Apostles are courage, witnesses of the Gospel, and love of the poor.
Courage: Peter we saw return to Jerusalem empowered by the spirit. A man of courage a man who was a coward. We see the same courage in the Uganda Martyrs, they knew that they would die. And yet they were willing to die because they believed by the spirit that what they were doing was done for the real God.
We need courage today. Johannesburg is a melting port of human society. Everywhere the media is dominated by a secular way of thinking. The catholic church is attacked because we do not accept homo sexuality, abortion, contraception, divorce. The medium points that we are authoritarian and against freedom. We are attacked by women’s groups who have new ideas. We can say that anti catholicism is the last acceptable prejudice. Not racism, not familism, not against the Jews but against Catholics. We therefore need courage. But we must remember that the words do not fear appear more than a thousand times in the scriptures.
Abraham was told not to be afraid, ..Joshua in chapter one of his book. Moses was told not to be afraid, David the young man was encouraged by the word of God not to be afraid. Jeremiah without the use of … was told that he must not be afraid. And this is what Jesus told the disciples. “Little flock do not fear”.
Another fruit of the Holy Spirit which we see in Acts is their witnesses of the Gospel. They are engaged in evangelization.
It is true that their difficulties among themselves, it is true that they had the battle they must become aware of God’s will in many difficult new situations. They were persecuted by the Jews, they were persecuted by the Greeks, they were persecuted by Romans, they were martyred in great numbers. And yet the power of the spirit they continued to bare witness.
Today we have to form witnesses for the church like those first generation. People have to re discover the meaning of baptism now and the vocation of the laity.
We must teach the people their faith, I remember the program ‘Echoing the Word’. We need formation for adults and to point out to them the joy of Christian living. The faith element must be emphasized in the sodalities.
We must find another meaning in the prayers and celebrations that are involved there.
Education for life is the program presented to teachers and allow them for the first time to understand what religion was about. It is produced by the Catholic Institute of Education.
We must have sodalities for all our children so that they utilize on holiday time. And then we form them and make them belong to the church. We do not have catholic schools so our children must have an external visible way of belonging.
We must get the children not only to pray but also to do for the sake of the church.
The Acts of the Apostles shows us a church that cared for the poor. Everywhere they share what they had, nobody went need, they met their priority to care for the poor as we read in Acts 15.
And so the church today in our parishes must animate the care and concern for the poor. Many time we priests seem to be satisfied just to do some duties around the sacristy of the church. And yet all around us there is a terrible need as people die, as orphans live alone , as people are unemployed , hungry going to bad. They were many wonderful groups like home based care which we must motivate. Education for life.
Many of our women are generous, willing to reach out to their neighbors. But are unless that the priest animate them, then little will be done. We have to be serious about our call as priest.