The Spirit Dwelling Within

We may have heard the phrase that “Christians live in the world, but are not of the world.” While it is true that we are temples of the Holy Spirit and the Spirit of God dwells in each of us, the world is occupied and oftentimes driven by the Evil One, the spirit of darkness and death. We are nevertheless assured of God’s presence in us, however, as John tells us in his letter: “Those who keep [God’s] commandments remain in him, and he in them, and the way we know that he remains in us is from the Spirit whom he gave us. You belong to God, children, and you have conquered [the Evil One], for the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. We belong to God, and anyone who knows God listens to us, while anyone who does not belong to God refuses to hear us. This is how we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of deceit.” (NAB, 1JN 3:24, 4:4, 6)

We have nothing to fear in this world as we are members of the Body of Christ, the same Christ who conquered death and sin. There is nothing in this world that is more powerful than the love and grace of God, and we, as children of the Father, have the freedom to live according to the Law of Love, for we have received by faith, through grace, the indwelling eternal Spirit of God. In the words of the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy Kingdom come … on earth as it is in Heaven.” We bring about the Kingdom of God in this world as we live virtuously, by loving God and our neighbor through the faith we have received and in the hope of eternal life in the perfection of that same Kingdom in Heaven.

When I am frightened or challenged by the spirits of this world, give me confidence and strength to turn to you, Lord, realizing and remembering that you have already defeated the Evil One, his offer of sin, and the consequence of death. I am a child of the Kingdom; I am a child of God, and the Spirit that dwells in me is greater than any spirit in this world. Allow me to be a light in this world of darkness and despair, where sin seems to abound, to make known your love in all that I do. “Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done.”  Amen.

Click for Mass Readings.

The Witness of Stephen

On this Second Day of Christmas in the Book of Acts, we hear about St. Stephen, one of the first seven deacons of the Church, chosen to serve the poor and the widows, and to perform other mistrial needs in the community as determined by the Apostles. As the early church expanded, these First Bishops needed help, so they chose seven men who were “filled with faith and the Holy Spirit” to be appointed, presented, and ordained through the laying on of hands to extend the pastoral care of the Apostles themselves. (cf. NAB, ACTS  6-7)

As he began his ministry, Stephen, filled with wisdom, grace, and power from heaven, saw many come to the faith; he was a great preacher and performed many miracles among the people. His service to Christ eventually led to his being put on trial by the Sanhedrin, where several false witnesses were brought forward to testify against him. Yet even “those who sat in the Sanhedrin looked intently at him and saw that his face was like that of an angel.” (6:15)

Stephen defended himself, preaching intently about Salvation History, demonstrating Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of the prophets and the resistance and opposition of the Israelites. St. Stephen accused the Sanhedrin: “You received the law as transmitted by angels, but you did not observe it.” (7:53) This incensed them, but bolstered Stephen who preached all the more boldly. The accusers rushed Stephen, “threw him out of the city, and began to stone him” to death, a persecution and execution overseen by a young man named Saul (later to be known as Paul, the Apostle). St. Stephen’s last words: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” (7:59-60)

Heavenly Father, St. Stephen, your Deacon and the First Martyr of the Church, was chosen to give up his life for you. Fill me with faith and embolden me with courage to profess Jesus at all times and in all circumstances, the preach your Holy Gospel, the Good News of Salvation to the world in my words and through my actions. And when my time comes to depart from this life, may my lips be filled with love for you as I echo the words of Stephen, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’” Amen.

Click for Mass Readings.

Temple of the Holy Spirit

We are reminded today in Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians (3:16-17) of the inherent goodness and splendor of our bodies: “Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for the temple of God, which you are, is holy.”

Oftentimes we forget how wonderfully and beautifully we are made by our Creator. Our bodies somehow reflect the very nature of God; we are, after all, each created in his image and likeness. St. Paul says that we are “Temples of the Holy Spirit,” that we, our bodies, are holy. We defile God’s temple when we sin against our body: when we over eat, drink too much alcohol, use illicit drugs, sexually objectify ourselves or others, or knowingly deprive ourselves of needed, reasonable care.

We are not empty shells of flesh and bone. Nor are we angels trapped inside until our earthly death. Persons are BOTH soul and body, and our Christian hope of eternal life is driven by a faith and belief that we will be resurrected in body and spirit to live forevermore in love and truth, that mystical reality we call Heaven. Let us be sure today, to commit, or recommit, to caring for our body in some simple, yet meaningful way. Let us be good stewards of the incredible gift God has given us in this life so that we may best prepare for the life hereafter. And let us recognize in others, that they too are temples of the Holy Spirit, and thereby give honor and respect to the beautiful physical creation of God in each person.

Click for Mass Readings.