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Adjusting Our Spiritual Sails


“If you don’t know where you’re going, you might wind up someplace else.” ~ Yogi Berra

“The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” These are Jesus’ closing words in today’s Gospel (John 3:1-8) on the heels of what appeared to be a very confusing conversation for the Pharisee that our Savior encountered on this particular day, a man named Nicodemus

Jesus’ teaching in today’s Gospel is a nod to the Holy Spirit, portrayed oftentimes as being metaphorically analogous to the wind, with today’s passage perhaps serving as the most well known example of such in Scripture. There are however a handful of what I can only call Pre-Pentecostal foreshadowings of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament; Ezekiel 37:7-10 comes to mind. In this passage, we read about the bones of a body coming together without any breath or life in them. Then the Lord causes the four winds to breathe life into the dead body. Here the four winds bring about the “breath of life” in this dead body. The same word in both Hebrew and Greek can mean either “wind,” “spirit,” or “breath” depending upon the context. Wind, or breath, speaks of life.

In any event, today’s Gospel affords us the opportunity to ask ourselves what does it mean, and what does it take, to be a full participant in this “born from above” life in the Spirit. Over the next few weeks, the passages chosen from the Acts of the Apostles will chronicle the early days of Christianity. In fact the very word Christian, chosen to describe this early community of believers, begins to emerge and grow in prominence as a result of this prolific undertaking that was penned by Luke. In tomorrow’s 1st Reading for instance (Acts 4:32-37), we will be introduced to Barnabas, who generously sold a piece of property that he owned and promptly gave the proceeds to the Apostles to disperse to whomever amongst them in this burgeoning community of believers was in need. Possessions, wealth, prestige, and power were of no consequence or interest to these men. Proclaiming the resurrected Jesus was their mission, their desire.

It’s important to point out that this fledgling community of believers was far from monolithic in its makeup. To the contrary, it was a diverse group made up of many different people from various backgrounds, united in love. This was only made possible by the working of the Holy Spirit, the divine wind of change that would usher in this very new and exciting time in our Church’s history. United in the spirit, united in one body ~ the mystical body of Christ ~ and united in heart and mind. The Resurrection of Jesus was slowly transforming the whole world. It continues to do so today.

A life rooted in the spirit is an entirely new way of life. But just like the wind that it emulates, the Holy Spirit oftentimes takes us to unpredictable and even uncomfortable places. But if we accept the movement of the Spirit within us, this temporary discomfort gives way to life altering growth and transformation.

So many these days are wedded to what I can only call the “spirit of today.” Entertainment overload, religion of convenience, Twitterized politics, keyboard combat ~ with friends, family, enemies and strangers alike ~ and celebrity worship. Many have walked away from the church, even more it would seem are quick to tell you that they’re “spiritual but not religious,” an impossibility for anyone who’s referring to the Spirit, the Holy Spirit. Separating the religious from the spiritual would be akin to separating heat from boiling hot water. It cannot be done.

The Catholic tradition is broader and richer than the spirit of today, or yesterday, or tomorrow. It is broader, deeper, fuller and richer than any other tradition on earth. It is a fact that can be confirmed; if you try to find something else comparable, you won’t. Saint John Paul II, a man of whom noted Catholic Radio Personality and founder of Acts 29 Father John Riccardo said was easily one of the ten greatest people to walk the Earth, so famously had this to say about Jesus, he whose death and resurrection is the cornerstone of our Catholic Church:

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“It is Jesus that you seek when you dream of happiness; He is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; He is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is He who provoked you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is He who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is He who reads in your heart your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle. It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be ground down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal.”

In reality, it’s a willingness to allow the wind of the Spirit to take us where it will. It’s about having blind faith in that third member of the Trinity that it will take us precisely where God the Father wants and needs us, knowing that Jesus will walk with us even when it gets tough. Especially when it gets tough. It’s about holding out for something far bigger and better than that which the world can offer us by way of its fleeting promises and pleasures in a world that teaches us that instant gratification is our birth right. And the cross? Well, we’ll talk about that tomorrow.

American writer William Arthur Ward once said “The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” I would add that those who are reborn in the Spirit emulate the realist, nimbly adjusting the sails of their souls so as to be in perfect harmony with the winds of the Holy Spirit. For it is the wind of the Spirit, and the wind of the Spirit alone, that will safely and lovingly guide us to the only place worth going to; The Eternal Heavenly Kingdom.

Holy Spirit, our Living Hope, we long for Your glory and power. Our hearts long to be overcome by Your presence. Like a mighty rushing wind, fill this place. Baptize us with Your fire. Spirit of truth, teach us all things and bring to remembrance the words of Jesus. Guide us into all truth. Give us power in our weakness to speak the Word of God with boldness. ~ Amen.

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