The Spirit never leaves

Bittersweet the memories when the silent stillness of their leaving brings an aching and a yearning for yesterday. How the heart weeps as shadows slide across the vacant room, late filled with such sweet laughter.

Spirit of Love

For every parent, childhood’s end inevitably arrives far too soon. We are never fully prepared for the separation; it is never time to say goodbye. Primal feelings, emotions we dare not put to words, of fear, loss, anxiety, and worry rise to torture the heart and torment the soul; for we love, we love the child now grown too soon.

Too fast, the years have flown at breakneck speed; too soon the nestling spreads unproven wings and takes to flight; too quick the nest abandoned for what lies beyond the known. Oh, but for a moment more!

And yet, we forget the spirit. The spirit lives among the remnants of what has been left behind, in stains and scratches, dents and tears, the trail upon the carpet worn by the passage of a thousand-million happy feet; captive memories in photographs and tantalizing smells that linger long; reminders all of what once was, now but emptiness and fond rememberings. The spirit never leaves.

The disciples must have experienced much the same. Their emotions on a roller-coaster ride: from the shock and horror of his crucifixion; the grief and sorrow of his death; the fear of what dire fate awaited them; then the joy of his rising and their fond reunion; and then the darkness of despair at the thought of losing him again.

And yet, they knew not the spirit. Jesus promised he would never leave. “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you.”

A parent’s love for their child is but a poor reflection of the love God has for each of us. Just as we parents promise to always be there for our children if, and when, they need us, so too does God promise each of his. Like us, God wants to hold us close and promise: “There is no darkness my light cannot penetrate. There is nowhere you may go where my spirit will not be with you. There is nothing you can do to drive me away, to stop me from loving you. No matter what, I will never leave you.”

Jesus promised the Spirit, who is always with us, walking beside us, even when we lose our way. It is the promise that no matter what happens in life, no matter how desperate and vulnerable we might feel, we are never truly alone, never, ever, pinky swear.

The Spirit, so also love, resides within us; interior mysteries known only in their palpable expression. Neither owns a physical presence, they are made real in their external manifestations made visible by our responses to God’s love.

Love unexpressed dies a thousand deaths, it is real only when we make it so, through our actions and by our deeds; through our words and how we say them, love is realized. “Children,” Saint John writes, “let us love not in word or speech but in deed and in truth.”1 We often think of love as an emotion or a feeling, of being in love. But while there are feelings associated with love, love is not a feeling. Jesus tells us to love one another, not through our feelings but by our actions and how we live our lives.

Pope Saint John Paul II believed that love was expressed in seeing the good in others, doing good for others, and allowing others to love you.2 We cannot love another without seeing the good in them. And although it is difficult at times to find the good in others, we must remember first and foremost that God created us, each and every one. We are his children so it is always possible to find some good. After all, God does. We just have to see them as God sees them.

In order for us to love others, we must do good for them, and to do good for them we must become the servant and not the master. Such love demands vulnerability and self-sacrifice, it requires us to place ourselves at the mercy of others, to give ourselves over to God.

Love demands an openness to being loved. This requires making ourselves vulnerable and for many that is often difficult. Love is seldom easy. We cannot love alone; we cannot love without opening ourselves to God’s love.

Love is not just for lovers, it is not only Eros. Love is for friends as well. Love such as this is too seldom expressed, yet, friends should never be ashamed or reluctant to express their love for one another. Being loved is redemptive, it lifts the soul out of darkness and despair; it allows one to feel appreciated and wanted.

Jesus knew that love was much more than mere words; by his actions he changed the world. He loved so much he died for us. His love was demonstrably real, expressed through his ultimate sacrifice on the cross.

How superficial and unrealistic is our concept of love. We see love as soft, dreamy, and cheap, a momentary passion. We equate love with vulgarity, with lust, with fornication, and little more. Jesus showed us real love: love that is strong, concrete, self-sacrificial, and very, very real. Love is action; love is a way of living; love is an attitude toward others that expresses God’s attitude toward others. “Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”

It is the Holy Spirit, consubstantial with the Father and the Son, who resides within each of us. The Spirit lives within our hearts and within our souls, animating, vivifying, and inspiring us. “Through the power of the Holy Spirit we take part in Christ’s Passion by dying to sin, and in his Resurrection by being born to a new life; we are members of his Body which is the Church, branches grafted onto the vine which is himself.”3

[God] gave himself to us through his Spirit. By the participation of the Spirit, we become communicants in the divine nature. … For this reason, those in whom the Spirit dwells are divinized.”4

The Holy Spirit lives and breathes within our souls. The Holy Spirit manifests himself in our actions and in the actions of others.

We often hear of the Holy Spirit as the Paraclete, a Greek term meaning “to be beside one,” an apt name for the one who is called by God the Father to be our Advocate, our Counselor, and our Guide.

The Holy Spirit vivifies us and animates us, that is to say He enlivens us; He gives us a sharing in God’s life. He is beside us to defend us when we are depressed. When the sacraments of the devil beset us the Holy Spirit is our Advocate, our Counsel in order that we might defend ourselves.

And what are those sacraments of the devil? Well, they all begin with “d’s”, just as does the word devil. His sacraments (and there are seven of them) are doubt, disillusionment, discouragement, depression, defeat, despair and death. We need our Advocate, our Consoler, our Defender, our Paraclete, the ‘one called to be beside us’ when we face doubt, disillusionment, discouragement, depression, defeat, despair and death, those works of the devil.5

Firm is my belief in the power of the Holy Spirit, for I have too often been the beneficiary of the Spirit’s counsel, too often have I felt his presence beside me. One brief example to illustrate his presence:

As a writer, I have, on more than one occasion, experienced what is known as “writer’s block,” a complete loss for words. Invariably, when the mind refuses to engage, the devil’s sacraments of doubt, discouragement, and despair weigh heavy on the mind; all thought coated with a kind of mental sludge which muddles and sloughs the brain.

It is in those moments when the Spirit comes to my defense. While the devil may clog the neurons, the Holy Spirit moves the fingers; and in my befuddled state the Spirit would well express what the devil had precluded me. It matters not what others may say to this, I know it was the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

Homily #123
The Sixth Sunday of Easter (A)
Acts 8:5-8, 14-17
1 Peter 3:15-18
John 14:15-21


1 1 John 3:18.
2 Karol Wojtyla (Pope Saint John Paul II), Love and Responsibility, (Ignatius Press, 1993).
3 Catechism of the Catholic Church, § 1988.
4 Saint Athanasius, Ep. Serap. 1, 24; PG 26, 585 and 588.
5 Father Charles Irwin, Senior Priest, Diocese of Lansing, Homily for the Six Sunday of Easter, Big C Catholics.

Deacon Chuck

About the author: Deacon Chuck

Deacon Chuck was ordained into the permanent diaconate on September 17, 2011, in the ministry of service to the Diocese of Reno and assigned to St. Albert the Great Catholic Community. He currently serves as the parish bulletin editor and website administrator. Deacon Chuck continues to serve the parish of Saint Albert the Great Catholic Community of the Diocese of Reno, Nevada. He is the Director of Adult Faith Formation and Homebound Ministries for the parish, conducts frequent adult faith formation workshops, and is a regular homilist. He currently serves as the bulletin editor for the parish bulletin. He writes a weekly column intended to encompass a broad landscape of thoughts and ideas on matters of theology, faith, morals, teachings of the magisterium and the Catholic Church; they are meant to illuminate, illustrate, and catechize the readers and now number more than 230 articles. His latest endeavor is "Colloqui: A journal for restless minds", a weekly journal of about 8 pages similar in content to bulletin reflections. All his reflections, homilies, commentaries, and Colloqui are posted and can be found on his website: http://deaconscorner.org. Comments are always welcome and appreciated. He is the author of two books: "The Voices of God: hearing God in the silence" which offers the reader insights into how to hear God’s voice through all of the noise that surrounds us; and "Echoes of Love: Effervescent Memories" which through a combination of prose and verse provides the reader with a wonderful journey on the way to discovering forever love. He regularly speaks to groups of all ages and size and would welcome the opportunity to speak to your group.

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