Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Right Tools for the Job

"It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority.  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." Acts 1: 7-8

Anyone who has ever done any work with tools (which is, more or less, everyone) knows that the first step is to make sure you have all the tools for the job.  Trying to plane wood with a drill or turn a screw with a hammer simply won't get done what you need to get done.  The same is true of us.  When it comes down to it, we are created to "know God, to love him, and to serve him."  To serve him means to allow ourselves to be used as he would use us; in other words, on his terms, not on ours.

Jesus knew that we could not accomplish the work on our own.  We are simply too weak-willed, too stubborn, too selfish, and too fearful to take up the mission that he commanded the Apostles to take up.  That fear started with the Apostles themselves, who first abandoned Jesus in his hour of greatest trial, after the whole ordeal locked themselves in a house for fear of the Jews (cf Jn 20:19), and then after he had ascended and they selected Matthias to replace Judas, they sat in waiting, not really sure what to do or where to go from the whirlwind of the past 50 days in Jerusalem.  I don't blame them; any of us having gone through the same events and now left without our leader, would have been afraid, lost, and confused too.  They were workers, sent out to do a job, but they didn't yet have the right tools.

Today we celebrate the day when Christ fulfilled his first promise, that even as he was leaving to return to the Father, he would remain with us and give us what he knew we would need: his Spirit, with all of his power and authority, to mark us, seal us in faith, and be for us "the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God's own people" (Eph 1:14).  It is easy to forget the fact that this is the same Spirit that brought Christ to earth as a man in the great mystery of the Incarnation, and the Spirit that raised him from the dead back into eternal life and glory, is now ours for the claiming.  That same Spirit comes to us now and gives us the very same power, transforming us from being slaves to our human nature and living in fear of our mortality; it "joins with our spirit to bear witness that we are children of God."

While giving us the ability to look to the Father as Christ did, the Spirit also gives us the "spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline" (2 Tim 1:7) that we need to persevere during our life here on earth. It gives us the gifts that the prophet Isaiah (11:2) foretold would come to rest on Christ and his Church: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord (CCC 1831).  He possesses them in their fullness, and in sending his Spirit now shares them completely and unreservedly with us to join him in loving obedience as sons and daughters of a loving Father; a Father who, as in the story of the Prodigal Son (Lk 15:11-32), sees us from far off, is filled with compassion, and is already preparing a celebration beyond our wildest imagination.

I like receiving gifts, especially tools.  To have been given such a complete "package" of gifts as we are given in the Holy Spirit is beyond any capacity I have to be grateful in return.  The best way to show our gratitude, as with any gift, is to use the gifts as they were intended.  So, let us do that.  Let us live as beloved children, and be "witnesses to the ends of the earth" of his unimaginable love and plans for us.

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