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Bible Reflections View Comments

The Spirit Is Real in Our Lives
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, May 5, 2013
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John’s Gospel explores complex and spiritual ideas, far different from the earthy parables of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Sometimes we might think these philosophical discussions have little to do with our daily lives. But again and again Jesus returns to words we know very well: love, peace, joy, freedom from fear.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus promises to send the Holy Spirit to remind the disciples of all that he has told them. This same Spirit moves in us when we face difficult situations. The Spirit gives us the words we need to bring peace to a tense meeting or a hurtful relationship. The Spirit that soothes us to sleep in the middle of a stressful night. The Spirit that reminds us of the good within ourselves and people we love.

Sometimes we forget what we know in the pressures and tensions of our everyday lives. Family, work, the unsettled state of the world, press in on us and in the clamor we can forget our focus, our purpose, our need to surrender to the Spirit. Sometimes all it takes is a little nudge, a reminder that we know that there’s a better way, the way of Jesus, the way of the Spirit.

The Spirit’s nudging reminders keep us focused on the things that matter: peace in our hearts and in our world, love for ourselves, one another and our God, the faith that’s rooted in our baptism and grows and strengthens as we face life’s challenges.

That same Spirit moves through our Church as well. The Acts of the Apostles reminds us that while the Spirit moved in wondrous ways to encourage the growth of the new community, people still had to resolve serious conflicts among themselves. In their day, no less than in ours, the community struggled with the question of rules and laws, of who’s in and who’s out, of what was essential and what was human tradition.

The strong leadership and dedication of people like Paul and Barnabas helped cut through the controversies of the day and reminded the new Christians of the man and the faith they hold dear. We see that same spirit in the best of our leaders today.

The second reading from the Book of Revelation seems a good counterpoint to the controversies in Acts. Human institutions, no matter how lofty their intentions, can become mired in human misunderstanding and sin; in God’s kingdom those failings will be transcended.

As we move through these days between Easter and Pentecost, our readings remind us to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to guide us, to speak to us and for us, to draw us ever more deeply into the love of God. While we never lose sight of the human ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, we know that the resurrection means that we are called into something even greater than this life here on earth. All that we do here, serving our brothers and sisters, should reflect and point to that eternal reality.

The readings from the Gospel of John during these final weeks of Easter often seem to repeat the same things over and over again. But, like a favorite melody that runs through our minds, the words of Jesus in John’s Gospel can soothe and calm us, can move us forward, can give us the peace and courage that are the truly the gifts of the Spirit.


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Monica: The circumstances of St. Monica’s life could have made her a nagging wife, a bitter daughter-in-law and a despairing parent, yet she did not give way to any of these temptations. Although she was a Christian, her parents gave her in marriage to a pagan, Patricius, who lived in her hometown of Tagaste in North Africa. Patricius had some redeeming features, but he had a violent temper and was licentious. Monica also had to bear with a cantankerous mother-in-law who lived in her home. Patricius criticized his wife because of her charity and piety, but always respected her. Monica’s prayers and example finally won her husband and mother-in-law to Christianity. Her husband died in 371, one year after his baptism. 
<p>Monica had at least three children who survived infancy. The oldest, Augustine (August 28) , is the most famous. At the time of his father’s death, Augustine was 17 and a rhetoric student in Carthage. Monica was distressed to learn that her son had accepted the Manichean heresy (all flesh is evil)  and was living an immoral life. For a while, she refused to let him eat or sleep in her house. Then one night she had a vision that assured her Augustine would return to the faith. From that time on, she stayed close to her son, praying and fasting for him. In fact, she often stayed much closer than Augustine wanted. </p><p>When he was 29, Augustine decided to go to Rome to teach rhetoric. Monica was determined to go along. One night he told his mother that he was going to the dock to say goodbye to a friend. Instead, he set sail for Rome. Monica was heartbroken when she learned of Augustine’s trick, but she still followed him. She arrived in Rome only to find that he had left for Milan. Although travel was difficult, Monica pursued him to Milan. </p><p>In Milan, Augustine came under the influence of the bishop, St. Ambrose, who also became Monica’s spiritual director. She accepted his advice in everything and had the humility to give up some practices that had become second nature to her (see Quote, below). Monica became a leader of the devout women in Milan as she had been in Tagaste. </p><p>She continued her prayers for Augustine during his years of instruction. At Easter, 387, St. Ambrose baptized Augustine and several of his friends. Soon after, his party left for Africa. Although no one else was aware of it, Monica knew her life was near the end. She told Augustine, “Son, nothing in this world now affords me delight. I do not know what there is now left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled.” She became ill shortly after and suffered severely for nine days before her death. </p><p>Almost all we know about St. Monica is in the writings of St. Augustine, especially his <i>Confessions</i>.</p> American Catholic Blog Heavenly Father, I am sure there are frequently tiny miracles where you protect us and are present to us although you always remain anonymous. Help me appreciate how carefully you watch over me and my loved ones all day long, and be sensitive enough to stay close to you. I ask this in Jesus's name. Amen.

 
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