SFX Bulletin, 1 June 2014: Just three or four days ago, we were all at Mass celebrating the Solemnity of the Ascension. Like the apostles gathered in the Upper Room after witnessing Jesus’ Ascension, we, too, in this interim period, are awaiting “what the Father had promised” – to be “baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:4-5).
While all of us are, technically-speaking, already baptized and in-filled with the Holy Spirit, there is no end to growing more Spirit-filled while we are still here on earth. As Church Father, St. Leo the Great (400-461AD) shares with us, it is “...not that the Spirit would only begin to work among men after Jesus had returned to the Father; he had been at work in the world since the dawn of creation. God's people were not to experience a hitherto unknown indwelling of the Holy Spirit, but those who already belonged to him would know a more abundant outpouring, an increase rather than a first reception of his gifts”.
In Jesus’ longest-recorded prayer which we read of in today’s gospel (often referred to as Jesus’ “High-Priestly Prayer”), Jesus articulates what he hopes the Spirit will do for us. He first asks for our growing knowledge of God, “I have made your name known to the men you took from the world to give me…they have kept your word. Now at last they know that all you have given me comes indeed from you; for I have given them the teaching you gave to me” (vv.6-8). The second gift relates to our perseverance in that intimacy with him even when he is no longer visible to us as the historical and human Jesus, “…in them I am glorified. I am not in the world any longer, but they are in the world…” (vv.10-11)
Jesus also asks that we may have joy in the Trinity (v.13), protection from evil (vv.14-17), unity with the God and with each other (vv.20-23) and our eventual return to him, “I wish that where I am- they also may be with me” (vv.24-25).
That God be made known in our lives and then in the lives of others, and that unity with God and between men are among the overarching themes of Jesus’ prayer.
Knowing God is intimately tied to knowing Scripture. St. Jerome avers that “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ”. One cannot say he or she truly “knows” God until one knows what God has revealed of Himself in the Bible. An effective first step to experiencing the treasure of Scripture is to prayerfully study the readings that will be proclaimed each Sunday. Studies have shown that we only retain 20% of what we hear but we retain 90% if multiple senses are engaged. The Deuteronomic author makes it imperative that parents should teach their children, "These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead.… “ (Dt.6:6-8). “To teach is to learn twice”. When we gather as a family to pray and share the Scriptures, articulating and listening to what each other is receiving from the Word of God, everyone is rightly enlightened and edified.
In the time of waiting for the sending of Jesus’ promised Spirit, the disciples and Mary remained prayerful in the Upper Room, “All…joined in continuous prayer..” (Acts.1:14) – their entire being was directed to God. Jesus is always inviting us to an Upper Room – time away from our activity-packed lives to become strong and sure in him. If we have often declined Jesus’ invitation, fearful of having to leave our comfort zones, may Jesus’ earnest prayer - both as high-priest and victim whose blood has been poured out for us - move us to draw close to him today. Close to him, we can only grow in sure knowledge and love for God and each other.
Veni, Sancte Spiritus, Come Holy Spirit