Pope Francis and the Christian as a Spiritual Man (or Woman)

During this week’s General Audience in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis spoke about the approach of Pentecost and the Holy Spirit as the “inexhaustible source of God’s life in us.” He spoke of the Spirit’s impact on our lives, explaining that he is the gift given to us by the Risen Christ, a gift who dwells in us, cleanses us, enlightens us, renews us, and transforms us.

It’s good to keep the Holy Father’s words in mind as we celebrate the Ascension. Christ promised the disciples that, after he rose, the Paraclete would come. In fact, Jesus told them that, if he did not go, the Holy Spirit would not come.

“But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” (Jn 16:7)

Usually, the Ascension is a sad day for me, especially when I think about the Apostles. Look at all they went through. They saw their Lord, best friend, confidante, and mentor suffer torture, crucifixion and death. The buried him with the understanding that it was all over, that all had been lost. After three miserable day, they were reunited with their Risen Savior and had the exuberant joy of his presence among them. Then, forty days later, he…disappears. He rises again to his Father in heaven, leaving them behind once again.

I know that the Ascension wasn’t as bleak as I paint it for myself. I know what it really meant for the Apostles, the Church, and the world.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says about the Ascension:

“‘Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.’ Christ’s Ascension into heaven signifies his participation, in his humanity, in God’s power and authority. Jesus Christ is Lord: he possesses all power in heaven and on earth. He is ‘far above all rule and authority and power and dominion’, for the Father ‘has put all things under his feet.’ Christ is Lord of the cosmos and of history. In him human history and indeed all creation are ‘set forth’ and transcendently fulfilled. (CCC 668)

The Ascension is a glorious event; it’s just the thought of yet another goodbye for the Apostles that makes me melancholy. However, there’s a line from Pope Francis’ General Audience address that helps me quite a bit. It’s a reminder to me of how a post-Ascension Christian should conduct his (or her) life.

“When we say that a Christian is a spiritual man, this is what we mean: a Christian is a person who thinks and acts according to God, according to the Holy Spirit,” the Holy Father said.

That points me in a positive, forward direction as I strive to live my life with the guidance of the Holy Spirit – the same Spirit who could come only after the Ascension.

Here, for your personal meditation, is the full text of the Holy Father’s address:

“Dear Brothers and Sisters, good day.

The season of Easter that we are living with joy, guided by the liturgy of the Church, is par excellence the time of the Holy Spirit, given to us ‘not by measure’ (cf. John 3:34) by the crucified and risen Jesus. This time of grace ends with the feast of Pentecost, when the Church relives the outpouring of the Spirit upon Mary and the Apostles gathered in prayer in the Upper Room.

But who is the Holy Spirit? In the Creed we profess with faith: ‘I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life.’ The first truth to which we adhere in the Creed is that the Holy Spirit is Kyrios, Lord. This means that He is truly God as are the Father and the Son, on our part object of the same act of worship and glorification that we direct to the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit, in fact, is the third Person of the Blessed Trinity; the Holy Spirit is the great gift of the Risen Christ who opens our minds and our hearts to faith in Jesus as the Son sent by the Father, and who leads us to friendship, to communion with God.

But I would like to focus on the fact that the Holy Spirit is the inexhaustible source of God’s life in us. In all times and in all places man has yearned for a full and beautiful life, a just and good one, a life that is not threatened by death, but that can mature and grow to its fullest. Man is like a traveler who, crossing the deserts of life, has a thirst for living water, gushing and fresh, capable of quenching his deep desire for light, love, beauty, and peace. We all feel this desire! And Jesus gives us this living water: it is the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father and who Jesus pours into our hearts. Jesus tells us that ‘I came that they may have life and have it more abundantly’ (John 10, 10).

Jesus promised the Samaritan woman that he would donate an eternally abundant ‘living water’ to all those who recognize him as the Son sent by the Father to save us (John 4: 5-26; 3:17). Jesus came to give us this ‘living water’ that is the Holy Spirit, so that our life may be guided by God, may be animated by God, may be nourished by God. When we say that a Christian is a spiritual man, this is what we mean: a Christian is a person who thinks and acts according to God, according to the Holy Spirit. And do we believe in God? Do we act according to God? Or do we let ourselves be guided by so many other things that are not God?

At this point we can ask ourselves: how can this water quench our deep thirst? We know that water is essential for life; without water we die; it quenches our thirst, it cleanses, it renders the earth fertile. In the Epistle to the Romans we find this sentence: ‘God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us’ (5:5). The ‘living water,’ the Holy Spirit, the Gift of the Risen One who comes to dwell in us, cleanses us, enlightens us, renews us, transforms us because rendering us partakers of the very life of God who is Love. This is why the Apostle Paul says that the Christian’s life is animated by the Spirit and by its fruits, which are ‘love, joy, peace, generosity, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control’ (Gal 5:22 -23). The Holy Spirit leads us to divine life as ‘children of the Only Son.’ In another passage from the Letter to the Romans, which we have mentioned several times, St. Paul sums it up in these words: ‘All who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. And you… have you received the Spirit who renders us adoptive children, and thanks to whom we cry out, “Abba! Father.” The Spirit itself, together with our own spirit, attests that we are children of God. And if we are His children, we are also His heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we take part in his suffering so we can participate in his glory’ (8, 14-17). This is the precious gift that the Holy Spirit brings into our hearts: the very life of God, the life of true children, a relationship of familiarity, freedom, and trust in the love and mercy of God, which as an effect has also a new vision of others, near and far, seen always as brothers and sisters in Jesus to be respected and loved. The Holy Spirit teaches us to look with the eyes of Christ, to live life as Christ lived, to understand life as Christ did. That’s why the living water that is the Holy Spirit quenches our lives because it tells us that we are loved by God as His children, that we can love God as his children, and that by his grace we can live as children of God, as did Jesus. And us? Do we listen to the Holy Spirit who tells us: God loves you? Do we really love God and others as Jesus did?”

Source: Vatican Radio

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