Sunday, May 15, 2016

You Will Live

I preached this without a text today, so these are some reconstructed notes...

   Pentecost   C 

"For if you live according to the flesh, you will die, but if by the will live." (Romans 8:13)

What's the difference between someone who's dead and someone who's alive?
It's not that their heart has stopped.  (Many hearts stop and start up again.)
It's not that they have stopped breathing.  (Anybody can hold their breath for awhile.)
It's that their soul has been separated from their body.
We are a union of the two: body and soul.
The soul is the life of the body.
And what is the life of the soul? The Holy Spirit.

Have you noticed the popularity of zombies lately?
Maybe it's because many of us feel like "the living dead."
We're living, but not fully alive.
We're busier than ever, but we're bored.
We've got everything we need, and most of what we want, yet we're still not satisfied.
It feels like our lives are living us, instead of vice versa.
We're basically content, but not really happy.
We're spiritual zombies.

And yet we read the lives of there prophets and Apostles in the Bible, 
we hear about the lives of the Saints, and we think, "Wow!  
They're so full of joy and zeal!  They're so full of life!
They're not zombies at all.
How come my life isn't like that?
How can my live be like theirs?"

What's the secret to having a full, fulfilling life?
Having a deep and true relationship with the Holy Spirit.

Notice what Jesus does on that first Easter night: he breathes on his disciples.
That's not normal behavior!
Generally, we'd consider it quite rude.
He breathes on them and says, "Receive the Holy Spirit."  (John 20:22)
Recall the first chapters of the Bible, when God creates Adam.
The Lord fashions him from the dust of the earth.
How does he bring man to life? God breathes into him. (Genesis 2:7)
In Hebrew, one and the same word means "breath" and "wind" and "spirit."
God put his own Spirit into us; he breathes his own life into us.
What God first did at creation he does anew at our re-creation.
When the world had grown old because of sin, God gave us new life by his Spirit.
The sound the Apostles hear on Pentecost?  It's the wind!  (Acts 2:2)
God's breathing new life into our souls.

On the day of our Baptism, we were given a most amazing gift.
As we were adopted as God's sons and daughters, he put his Spirit within us.
Unfortunately, for many, it's a gift that's remained unopened and unused.
It's still in the pretty packaging, pushed to the back of the closet.
The secret to a full, fulfilling life is releasing this gift of the Holy Spirit.

How can we have this relationship with the Spirit?
How do we stir up not flame the gift we've been given?

(1) Believe.
We must do more than just intellectually affirm that God exists.
(Even the devil does that.)
We must have faith that God came and died and rose.
We must believe in his undying love for us.
We must put all our trust in him.

(2) Repent.
We are all "living in sin" in one way or another.
But the sins to which we cling are roadblocks to the Holy Spirit.
Christ entrusted his gift of forgiveness to his Church and her priests.  (John 20:23)
We must acknowledge our sin for what it is and turn away from it.
We must allow Jesus to remove all barriers to the Spirit's work.

(3) Obey.
This is hard for us Americans as "rugged individualists."
We think we know best for ourselves...even if the evidence is otherwise.
God is not prone to giving us suggestions.
They're not the 10 Helpful Hints, but the 10 Commandments.
God's not looking to be our chief Advisor; he's our Father, and he expects us to obey.
Obeying God may mean losing some independence, but it'll bring you freedom like never before.
The Holy Spirit is given to provide sure direction for our lives.
He'll never force it, but what God wants from us is obedience.

(4) Ask.
This is a gift that is ours simply for the asking.
In the words of the monk, St. Peter Damian (1007-1072), from a homily he gave just after Pentecost:
          As the soul is the life of the body,
          so the Holy Spirit is the life of our souls.
          And as the body collapses if the soul departs,
          so if the life-giving Spirit leaves our souls they too must die….
          Our souls then must seek this Spirit without ceasing;
          by his quickening they live, by his light they see,
          by his teaching they know, by his leadership they their native country.
          Let us then ask of our God,
          not as the poor entreat the rich of this world, for money, or food, or clothing…
          but let us implore him to give us
          that which we need more than anything else,
          and which it most delights him to give
          to those who ask for it.  (Sermon on the Holy Spirit and his Grace)
Sometimes this gift is given swiftly in answer to our prayers.
Sometimes we need to persist in asking
not because God needs to be worn down, but because we do.

If all we have to do is ask, then what are we waiting for?
But I warn you: if you ask, God will certainly awaken his Spirit in you 
and your life will never be the same again.

"For if you live according to the flesh, you will die, but if by the will live." (Romans 8:13)

Do you want to lead a full, fulfilling life?

Let us pray:
          O Holy Spirit, beloved of my soul, I adore you.
          Enlighten me, guide me, strengthen me, console me.
          Tell me what I should do.
          Give me your orders.
          I promise to submit myself to all that you desire of me
          and accept all that you permit to happen to me.
          Let me only know your will. Amen.  (Cardinal Désiré-Joseph Mercier, 1851-1926)

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