Tuesday, June 14, 2016

How to live in communion with God the Father in the Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ the Lord

In the "New Covenant" made by our Creator God with humanity (Jeremiah 31:31-34) every person can know God from within - because the Holy Spirit is revealing our Creator to all who are willing to know the Lord and trust in Him. We can still help each other along the way; so may you be pleased to find here a variety of helps to the life of faith in God through Jesus Christ. G.S.

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How to live in communion with God the Father in the Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ the Lord

By Fr. Gilles A. Surprenant, Poustinik, Associate of MHA, Archdiocese of Montréal QC

The Big Picture – Present, Past, and Future – Human history in light of the existence of God


When looking back at our human history through the lens of anthropology and palaeontology we see human beings emerging through a long process of evolution and development going back as much as a few million years with spikes in development much more recently. Scientists trace the daily usage of fire to 300,000 years ago, the appearance of Homo sapiens to 200,000 years ago, and the cognitive revolution – the appearance of complex language – to 70,000 years ago. Scientists are constantly adjusting these estimates; yet we see that our development emerged out of the mists of time into the light of a higher level of existence such as we now know and enjoy. When looking back at our human history through the lens of divine revelation, the Word of God as contained in the divinely inspired Sacred Scriptures, both the Jewish sacred writings or Old Testament and the Christian sacred writings or New Testament, we see human beings emerging from a similar darkness.

God created human beings to enjoy an intimate relationship of friendship with Him. The beginning of the Book of Genesis describes an image of man walking with God in the Garden of Eden. This primordial relationship appears as our original innocence. God created us with free will. It stands to reason that sooner or later this free will would come up against a test which would require us to make a free decision whether to continue putting our trust in God or instead to set out on a new direction by deciding to trust first of all in ourselves. This is the meaning and significance of the serpent’s temptation of Eve at the beginning of Genesis.

She is lured to do something contrary to what she knew from Adam God had originally told him. The serpent insinuated that God was not worthy of trust but was a stingy old bugger. It was a mistake to wait for God to give them all good things and they had better grab all that they could while they had the chance. The lie was that by exercising their free will to do evil they would enjoy complete freedom and come to be like gods.

This choice by Eve and then by Adam to do differently than what God had instructed them to do is the original sin. When they broke their trust in God, separation and darkness alienated them from God, from each other, and from nature or the environment. We will continue to endure these tragic consequences until the end of time. This original breakdown in ourselves and our relationships is the cause of all the trouble in the world.

We have violated God’s trust in us by withdrawing our trust from him, we have violated each other by putting our own self ahead of the good of the other, and we continue to exploit the Earth in destructive ways without any respect or appreciation for the riches or complexity of nature or the well being of other living creatures. The ensuing mess is so great that we don’t have the power to extricate ourselves from such widespread trouble but stand in need of the saving action of the only One who is greater than we are, God our Creator.

In time the first humans and their descendants lost all memory of God and of what it was like to be close to Him. Human beings descended into a deep darkness of spirit and God needed to seek them out all over again, not by shows of power, but through appeals to our free will. God inspired the Jewish Sacred Scriptures in order to teach us about these origins of ours and reveal Himself to us again. From the time of Noah these people saw God as a single divine being whom they knew as “the Most High”, “the Creator”, “the Lord”.

God offered friendship to Abraham, Moses, the prophets, and other select individuals. Jesus of Nazareth, who came to be known as the Christ and Lord, revealed that God is one divine being yet a trinity of divine persons; the only true and self-sustaining life-giving being that lives from all eternity long before the universe began.

It is Jesus who with the Father pours into human beings who believe in Him and put their trust in Him the Holy Spirit as a source of living waters. There is much imagery regarding the Holy Spirit in the Gospels and other New Testament writings. We were filled with the Holy Spirit at Baptism and again at Confirmation and we need to go on being filled with the Holy Spirit again and again until the final consummation of all things when the Lord returns in glory. Here is a prayer common in the Eastern Christian Liturgy you may find helpful.

"Heavenly King, Consoler, the Spirit of Truth, present in all places and filling all things, the Treasury of blessings and the Giver of life: come and dwell in us, cleanse us of all stain and save our souls, O Good One!"

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How do we get, reboot, or develop our relationship with the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit?

First, here is an analogy. Our sun is always shining but on Earth we do not see or feel the sun when it is night, when there are clouds, or when we are under cover. While the sun is only a shining celestial object; the Holy Spirit is a divine person and member of the Holy Trinity. We are loved by God, a divine being, three divine Persons in perfect communion of life and love always acting in perfect harmony. Our challenge is to allow ourselves to be drawn into this perfect harmony of life and love in the Holy Trinity. Our constant temptation is to take charge, to want to be in control; yet it is always God who takes the initiative to draw us closer. We need to humbly learn to be attentive and receptive, to be contemplative as well as active.

A practical question might be ‘Where do I go from here?” Once again we can proceed by analogy. When we take a car to the garage with a problem or ourselves to the hospital with a health complaint it is the normal procedure for a diagnostic process to be initiated with the purpose of bringing to light any and all conditions that may be inhibiting the car from functioning properly and, in our case, from fullness of health.

Even atheistic or agnostic scientists, as they push ever further and deeper the limits of science; are theorizing there must be an intelligent and powerful source of all the digital code embedded in and sustaining all life as well as matter and energy in the universe. To translate this into religious terms, without the presence and benevolent divine will at work in us we would not exist. Where we struggle is in our conscious experience and the orientation of our free will. We need a diagnosis of any obstacles preventing us from living in union with the Holy Trinity and a prognosis on what to do to synchronize with God for abundance of life and love in Jesus.

Diagnosis of our condition and prognosis for our life in God

So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.                  NRSV John 10:7-10

Car mechanics and doctors both look for the most obvious and serious signs of trouble. Let’s do the same.


1.     
Jesus taught the importance of the Ten Commandments as minimal requirements for life and love.

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter,[c] not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore, whoever breaks[d] one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.   NRSV Matthew 5:17-20

The Ten Commandments focus on crimes and wrongdoing to be avoided as minimal requirements to live a human life. The first challenge is to accept them as given by God and put faith and trust in God that we are called to be human beings, honest, open, kind, and just to one another – with our parents – and with God.  

      First practical spiritual exercise: What are my attitudes, behaviours, and practices towards authority figures and towards God in particular?    What do I need to change? When will I repent of these things before the Lord? When will I go to confession as Jesus would have me do?

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2.      Jesus raised the Ten Commandments to a higher level, or if you prefer, He raised the bar and taught that the Father makes us capable of much more and so expects us and calls us to a much higher and more demanding level of consciousness and of morality. Jesus affirmed what the people already understood as a summary of the commandments and completed it by adding love of neighbour to love of God.

34 When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, 35 and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 37 He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”       NRSV Matthew 22:34-40

Key elements of life in the commandments concern (1) our debt of gratitude, obedience, and love for God; (2) our debt of respect for our parents, regardless of their quality as human beings or as parents, for giving us life; (3) our treatment of others; (4) our treatment of our own life and (5) our treatment of nature. Any disrespectful treatment of our parents in particular incurs cursed consequences making it impossible for us to live well or long in the land. All the commandments favour life and disobedience brings death.  

      Second practical spiritual exercise: We owe obedience and loyalty to God, respect to our parents living or dead, justice and courtesy to others, care for our own life and self, and care for nature. How am I treating them all in practice? What do I need to change? When will I repent of these things before the Lord? When will I go to confession as Jesus would have me do?  

3.      Jesus gave a new commandment of obedience that restrains the principal urge of our human condition at the heart of the original sin: the inclination to follow no authority but our own.  

15 “If you love me, you will keep[f] my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate,[g] to be with you forever. 17 This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in[h] you.

Son of God though He is, Jesus lived his human life on Earth in perfect obedience to the Father’s will and He calls all those who would follow Him to do the same. Jesus is the perfect revelation of the Father and his will; so in obeying Christ we obey the Father, and in following the promptings and guidance of the Holy Spirit we in truth also follow and obey Jesus.

      Third practical spiritual exercise: How do I conduct myself towards Jesus? Do I put my faith and trust in Him as Son of God and Lord of the Earth? Do I take to heart Jesus’ example and teaching? What do I need to change? When will I repent of these things before the Lord? When will I go to confession?  

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4.      Jesus added another commandment that restrains another principal urge of our human condition infected as it is with the original sin – the urge to seek revenge and to hate.  

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters,[o] what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.    NRSV Mt 5:43-48

Much of what we see on planet Earth today in the West, the Middle East, the Far East, and Oceania – in daily life as well as in art and popular culture such as in film and video games – is all about power, domination, hate and revenge through the violent imposition of one’s will upon others. Jesus makes it clear that such behaviour belongs to the kingdom of the prince of this world, Satan, and to his culture of death. Jesus has inaugurated the Kingdom of God and a culture of life. This is a crucial test of our willingness to put our faith and trust in God and in his Son Jesus as the Christ, the Lord of our life and of the Universe. Christian martyrs are women, men, youth and children determined to follow Jesus and trust in God alone even to surrendering their life. They know that God will judge humanity and share his glory with them before all the nations on that day.

      Fourth practical spiritual exercise: To what extent do I put my faith and trust in Jesus as my Lord and Saviour? Do I try to conduct myself as Jesus did, even towards those who act as enemies? What steps do I need to take? When will I engage in a deeper life of conversion before the Lord? When will I go to confession to let Jesus strengthen me?

5.      Later Jesus taught a more perfect way for those who want to follow Him more closely as his disciple and live as He himself lived on Earth. The disciple lives in obedience to the Father, to Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command.       NRSV John 15:9-14

The world suffers under the domination of the prince of darkness; such that human affairs either ignore God and moral principles or employ a perversion of religion to practice domination over others. Jesus by his example and teaching introduced the life giving principle called by St Pope John Paul II the “law of the gift”, i.e., making of our life a give of love for others.

      Fifth practical spiritual exercise: As I look back upon my life, have I been primarily preoccupied with seeking my own good or have I also been occupied with serving the good of others? What do I need to change? When will I repent of these things before the Lord? When will I go to confession?

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6.      Jesus taught a simple way to allow receive the abundant life God wants to give in what are called the “Beatitudes”.

When Jesus[a] saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely[b] on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Mt 5:1-12

If we want to enter into fullness of life, as Jesus demonstrated in his own life, we must respond to his call to:

(1)   put all our trust in God rather than in the things of this present life on Earth;

(2)   accept to suffer loss and endure pain rather than seek refuge in ephemeral comforts;

(3)   live in confident expectation of God’s care rather with anxious grasping after good things;

(4)   act out of our appetite for what is right, true, and good rather than cravings of the flesh;

(5)   allow our heart to be moved by the troubles of others and to care for them rather than just our own;

(6)   keep our heart undivided and untroubled by perversions of sexuality or other good things;

(7)   build and maintain peace among people and serve the resolution of conflicts among them;

(8)   endure misunderstanding, ill treatment, and persecution as the throes of people in darkness.

We live in a society and culture that is adulterous and obsessed with sex. Any and all uses we make of sex, or our own body, mind, and spirit, or of other people that is not in accord with God’s design of the human being as an embodied spirit brings harm to the living and opens the door to many shadows of death. Any disordered love of self estranges us from God; while selfless love of neighbour brings us into communion with God the Holy Trinity, which is a communion of divine Persons.

      Sixth practical spiritual exercise: What are my attitudes, practices, and habits touching on sexuality?           What do I need to change? When will I repent of these things before the Lord? When will I go to confession as Jesus would have me do?

How do we go from repairs and maintenance to loving the Father through Jesus in the Holy Spirit?


7.      The very last instruction and command that Jesus gave to his apostles and disciples was to go out and continue the mission He had begun. First they were to remain in Jerusalem and prayerfully await power from on high, the Holy Spirit, who would fill them with God’s own Spirit, as Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit and united to his Father, and enable them to conduct themselves as Jesus had done.

After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” 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.”    NRSV Acts 1:3-5, 8

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”    NRSV Matthew 28:16-20

14 Later he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were sitting at the table; and he upbraided them for their lack of faith and stubbornness, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen15 And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. 16 The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up snakes in their hands and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”    NRSV Mark 16:14-18

Jesus lived a hidden life until the age of 30 when He began his public ministry. All during that time Jesus lived in communion with the Father and followed the guidance of the Holy Spirit. He took the time to grow in grace and wisdom as a human being even though He felt the call to make his Father known from the tender age of 12 when He remained in the temple discussing with the doctors of the Jewish Law. There is no other example for us to follow than that of Jesus. We too must grow in grace and wisdom and learn to discern and to follow the guidance and promptings of the Holy Spirit. Jesus prayed several times a day, as devout Jews do, but was in constant communion with the Father in the Holy Spirit. He went to Synagogue every Sabbath and went to the temple in Jerusalem for the solemn religious festivals. As Catholic Christians we can live as Jesus did.

Roman Catholic Christian practices and devotions

1.      Personal prayer – Whether as children or later in life, in accord with our personal history, we learn to pray individually and personally to God. Memorized prayers, such as the “Lord’s Prayer” given to us by Jesus, help us to enter easily into the presence of God, to rest in his love, and to pay attention. As we open our minds, hearts, souls, and lives to God we enter into the “school of Jesus” and the “school of Nazareth” in which we become part of the Holy Family and, with Mary and Joseph as teachers and guides, we grow to learn the “ways of the Lord”, to allow God to take the initiative, and to respond with trust and generosity.

2.      Public worship – Recent popes have reminded us that our Sunday participation in the Holy Eucharist puts us at the “source and summit” of our faith and of the life of the Church, the living body of all the people who are baptized into Christ. Here in the Sunday Eucharistic Assembly we give glory to God by being there with all the others gathered in his Name, by listening to his life-giving Word, and by feeding on Jesus, our Bread of Life. The Holy Spirit prompts us through the prayers to offer to the Father with Jesus our lives and efforts to live as He did. From there we are ever sent to “Go in peace glorifying the Lord by our lives”.

3.      Works of mercy – The only true measure of our love for God is the love with which we love our neighbour. In 1 John 4:16-21 we learn that we cannot love the God we cannot see if we do not love the brother we can see. Jesus went about doing good not in order to eliminate poverty or illness or suffering, but to love all whom He met in the present moment. Jesus healed to demonstrate God’s love but as a first priority Jesus forgave sins and delivered those held captive by sin and evil spirits to restore their freedom.

4.      Devotion to the Word of God – A prominent effect of the grace of God, or the influence of God’s love, or the guidance of the Holy Spirit within us is to attract us to listen to the Word of God, to read the Word of God, to open the Bible on a daily basis as part of our prayerful time visiting with the Holy Trinity. It will be pure joy to do so when we are carried by grace, like the person in the “Footprints” poem, while at other times God lets us stand on our own feel and mobilize our own will to take the time to open the Bible.

5.      Contemplating the light shining on the face of Jesus – In 2002 in his apostolic letter on the Rosary Pope St. John Paul II described praying with Rosary beads “contemplating with Mary the light shining on the face of Jesus” through the Mysteries of the Holy Rosary. Fingering the beads helps focus the body and reciting the prayers helps to focus and still the mind; while the heart and soul remain free to be led by the Holy Spirit and influenced by the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus, through the communion of saints.

6.      Fasting and doing penance for the sake of repentance – Periodic fasting, especially when aligned with a feast or liturgical season, brings the hunger and thirst of the body into sync with the perennial hunger and thirst of the soul for God and his righteousness and mercy. While we are fasting God strengthens our will to discipline the often disorderly appetites and impulses that often disturb our human body and soul. We allow God to reveal to us our need to feed on his living Word, on his love, goodness, truth, and beauty.

7.      Confessing sins for the sake of conversion – The very first words of Jesus as reported by the evangelists were “Repent and believe the good news.” Jesus followed this up by missing no opportunity to forgive sins even when people were not asking for forgiveness but for healing or deliverance instead. On of Jesus very last words while dying on the cross were “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” God has made it abundantly clear that our human condition is a sinful situation of rebellion against God to prefer our own opinions and preferences. God adjusted to us by becoming human in Jesus. If we are to enter into the divine life offered us by the Holy Trinity, it is up to each of us now to adjust ourselves to God.

8.      Seeking to serve, rather than to be served – It is normal for babies to be self-centered but necessary for growth for humans to strive to become more centered on others out of a desire for their good, like Jesus.

After reading these notes, if you experience a desire for more, it is likely that you are experiencing the promptings of the Holy Spirit, who, in communion with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is constantly drawing human beings into the life of the Holy Trinity. As you follow these inner promptings and guidance of the Holy Spirit, He will highlight elements of your life that oppose God or his will. The first step is to accept the truth the Holy Spirit reveals, to admit it to myself, ask forgiveness, and seek his help to go on.

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3 ways to develop a personal relationship with the Holy Spirit           May 12, 2016 by Dave VanVickle

Why aren’t more Christians experiencing the power and grace of the Holy Spirit in their everyday lives? I think it’s easy to keep the Holy Spirit as an abstract reality. We can often see him as a far off and mysterious being. Most of us don’t even understand what it means to have a personal and daily relationship with the Holy Spirit. That is exactly what we Christians need today. We need to have a daily and growing relationship with the third person of the Trinity. Here are three tips to help us experience the power of the Holy Spirit in our life:

1.      First we need to invite Him into our lives. Each and every day we need to pray for the power of the Holy Spirit to guide, protect and empower our daily living. At the beginning of the day and all throughout the day, let us meet each challenge by asking for the Holy Spirit. We will be surprised at how this changes things.

2.      Second we need to learn how to recognize how the Holy Spirit prompts us. We tend to rely completely on ourselves. Our own power, knowledge, and work become our answers to every problem and issue we face daily. This is the worst environment to experience the Spirit’s power. Instead we need to be helpless in the eyes of the Lord. We are helpless beggars with no power of our own, but in God we have access to the real power God’s Spirit provides us.

3.      Third, we need to remember to let the Holy Spirit lead. I think we tend to want to lead and then ask for the power of the Holy Spirit to back us up. This relationship is out of order. We need to learn to hold on to the coattails of the movement of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is working for the sanctification of the world. We need to recognize his movements and let him lead. Then we can make sure our work fits with the will of God and we can be assured of His empowerment.

Invite the Holy Spirit into your life today. Learn to let Him lead and become open to his power and grace. The Holy Spirit will radically change your life.

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In the "New Covenant" made by our Creator God with humanity (Jeremiah 31:31-34) every person can know God from within - because the Holy Spirit is revealing our Creator to all who are willing to know the Lord and trust in Him. We can still help each other along the way; so may you be pleased to find here a variety of helps to the life of faith in God through Jesus Christ. G.S.

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© 2006-2021 All rights reserved Fr. Gilles Surprenant, Associate Priest of Madonna House Apostolate & Poustinik, Montreal  QC
© 2006-2021 Tous droits réservés Abbé Gilles Surprenant, Prêtre Associé de Madonna House Apostolate & Poustinik, Montréal QC
 

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Règles du discernement des esprits de la première semaine - Selon Saint Ignace de Loyola, fondateur de la Société de Jésus au 16e siècle

In the "New Covenant" made by our Creator God with humanity, as reported in Jeremiah 31:31-34, every human being can know God from...