Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

Getting it all so wrong!

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

John 1:29-34 “Look, there is the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.”

The primary purpose of the church is to provide access to Jesus Christ.

That Jesus may be born in individual hearts and from individual hearts have his way in human affairs.

After that the purpose of the church is not to be a moral compass 🧭 although many people think it is.

Rather, it is to say to the world as the Gospel says to us today: Look 👀, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.

Did you catch that? He seeks to take away the sins of the world.

The world wants to nail you to your sins. Nail me to my sins. Nail everybody. You must be held accountable.

But not Jesus. Jesus doesn’t want this to happen because accountability in eternity is too severe!

So out of love and to save us, Jesus seeks to be nailed for your sins, my sins, our sins.

Do you see it? Accountability doesn’t disappear 🫥

He seeks to take responsibility, to be held accountable on your behalf. What love is this?

“I did not die on the Cross for you to bear the burden of your sins.”

And once he takes responsibility, you’re set free, cleansed, washed clean in the blood of Christ, redeemed.

And when he does this for you he acquires you…

And when this really happens for you… you’ll love ❤️ him to bits!

The mission of the church is not primarily about being a moral compass. It’s about salvation.

It’s about saving us all from God’s Justice.

Confirmation Session 3.2: Prayer 🙏 and the Holy Spirit

Caution ⚠️ from here on I may be describing spiritual experience that goes over lots of heads!

Please don’t let this put you off… instead treat it as a map of the path to intimacy with God.

The Spirit has only one purpose – to bring you with her… to bring you back into the Holy Trinity (God is three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit = Trinity)

In fact, the Spirit can’t do anything else but return to the Father and the Son. She’s come to you, started the process of making you hers, but she will want to go back to the Father and to the Son, back home so to speak, it’s where she belongs, and since you now merit her presence she’ll bring you with Her – like being collected by a parent to bring you home!

When this happens it feels like you’re still on earth but with your heart ❤️ and more besides already in Heaven.

For the spiritually advanced this half on earth half in Heaven heart and mind space, this soul space, is quite painful. It’s a longing that the soul realizes can’t be truly fulfilled in this life.

Overall this is how we become God’s possession.

Bear in mind though that at any point along the way you can drive the Spirit away from you (traditionally known as the effect of mortal sin)

Once we’ve made it possible for the Holy Spirit to breach our personal space and provided we remain faithful to the four essentials she begins to melt us and mould us and a new person is formed – St. Paul’s new man or woman – and this new man or woman will always manifest clearly identifiable qualities, characteristics, traits… which are in fact the gifts and the fruits of the Holy Spirit fully developed.

But God won’t leave it there. No, there’ll be other gifts bestowed which will be given primarily to help the recipient bring others to Jesus.

To give some idea of the breath of gifts that God might bestow it is necessary to look to the lives of the saints.

So, as an essential part of preparation for Confirmation I recommend reading at least one of the many written accounts of the life of Padre Pio.

You don’t have to do this now, or pre Confirmation, but at some point in the coming months.

Confirmation Session 3: Prayer – convincing God we’re serious

Prayer is the use of our freedom to invite God to breach our personal space.

It’s our consent, our permission given to God. Such is God’s respect for human freedom that without this invitation… this consent… this permission… God will not enter our personal space.

So without prayer God remains outside… distant… remote… little more than a thought or a possibility!

Prayer is vital…

Without it… nothing!

Prayer must become an essential part of the rhythm of our lives… as important as our food or our nights rest.

It must become a daily activity, twice daily, three times a day, over years… and more years!

It will require its own uninterrupted time and space.

The only difference between you (or me) and Padre Pio is the amount of time spent in prayer and the quality of that prayer. The only difference between the many who are called and the few who are chosen is the amount of time spent in prayer and the quality of that prayer.

If you’re ready to develop this level of commitment…

Start by asking God to create in your very self a real hunger and thirst for Him.

Without a hunger and a thirst for God you’re not likely to even start this journey.

Sometimes, the hunger and desire for God is created out of real human need… a crisis… the feeling that there’s nowhere else to go…

Often though, we need to create it ourselves by simply asking for it over time.

At the same time ask the Holy Spirit to come and make her home in you. Invite the Holy Spirit to begin breaching your personal space and to take you into God.

In the next session we’ll look at how we might pray, how we might make these requests.

Every ‘problem’ calls us to spiritual growth – the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

‘Spirit’ Confirmation Programme 1.

Learning about the Gifts of the Holy Spirit!

Learning about the Gifts of the Holy Spirit!

Briefly, we’ll look at just two of the seven gifts of the Spirit – it’ll give us an idea of how important they are.

Perhaps during the week the parents – teachers too – might adapt or simplify my words and engage the children with the ideas I’m presenting.

Firstly, Wisdom; what’s that? Firstly, it’s a gift of the Holy Spirit. Therefore it doesn’t belong naturally to human nature. It’s a gift given by the Holy Spirit and when we receive it, we know (instinctive-like) that it’s in the spiritual life and not in health and wealth that we find lasting security. Those who don’t have the gift will naturally look for their security in everything from health to wealth.

Secondly, Understanding; what’s that? When we receive the gift of understanding we penetrate the truths of our faith. As we receive it we move from faith into certainty. Those who do not have the gift are always unsure, wobbly, blown this way and that, they lack conviction about God.

The gifts make a big, big difference. They’re synonymous with the spiritual journey into God (synonymous = equivalent in meaning, expressing the same idea). The gifts of the Spirit are the road into God.

Now, tell me, how many of you guys just want to get this part (Mass) over with?

Well, to be honest I was like that when I was your age. And I stayed like that through most of my teenage years.

Until one day in 1983, the 19th of July – I will never forget the day – I was at home with my father. There was a fire and tragically later that day my father died.

Now apart from the grief, something else happened. I started to ask serious questions about the meaning of life. That one event, and the questions it surfaced within me, changed the whole course of my life.

I believe we’re offering you answers to questions that most of you haven’t even started to ask. (I’m in favour of Confirmation at a later age!)

So the ‘Spirit’ team has produced a programme to give you a good experience of Confirmation in the hope that when (and if!) you do begin to ask the deeper questions, you might remember this positive experience of Confirmation and return to look in more detail.

Meanwhile, some things I’d like you to know and remember. I would like you to know that it’s in the spiritual life – the spiritual life is our life with God – that you will find true and lasting security.

If I could I’d love to spare you the futile effort of trying to find lasting security in this world, in just about everything from health to wealth.

I would like you to know that there’s no difficulty in life that can’t be overcome by spiritual growth.

I would like you to know that every challenge, every difficulty – even if it looks like there’s no way out – every suffering, every sickness is a call to spiritual growth; that it doesn’t have to end in meaningless despair.

Even if you make a complete mess of your life, I want you to know that the mess is nothing more than God’s way of calling you to spiritual growth, to do things differently, to do things his way.

No matter how many times you fall, no matter how many times you fail, remember, every fall, every failure, is God’s call to spiritual growth.

Finally, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, like Confirmation itself, like all the sacraments, belong to the spiritual life and it’s there – and only there – that we receive them.

So, do you have a spiritual life? Yes? No? No! I’m going to be really cruel to you; then what are you doing here?

Click the video links below for a summary of Pope Francis’ catecheses on the gifts of Wisdom and Understanding. (Credit: Rome Reports)



Our actions will always harmonize with what’s inside us.

‘Spirit’ Confirmation Programme 2.

We’re asking you today to witness to the Spirit. Actually, that’s not right. You’ve chosen this, didn’t you? So you’re telling us that you’re going to witness to the Spirit.

'Spirit' Workshop No. 2. Candidates for Confirmation viewing video footage of how people witness to the Spirit.

‘Spirit’ Workshop No. 2. Candidates for Confirmation viewing video footage on an iPad of how people witness to the Spirit.

The visit of Annette McCarthy to the school on Friday together with the workshop this morning will have given you real examples of witnessing to the Spirit.

Here’s another way that you might witness. Sometimes as people get older they can become invisible. People don’t see them any more. So, here’s what I want you to do. You can make older people visible – all through your life – by just smiling and saying ‘hello’.

Still, I do not want you to get the idea that witnessing to the Spirit is just about being a ‘good’ person or a ‘nice’ person. Sometimes even our goodness is a witness to ourselves rather than God, my spirit rather than God’s Spirit, and merely carries the mask of witnessing to God. This – reducing Christianity to being a ‘nice’ person – is something we’ve been doing within Catholicism for most of my lifetime, and it’s directly related to the slow decline of Catholicism.

Catholicism is first and foremost a well-trodden path to a real and ongoing encounter with God. This ongoing encounter with God is what gives our lives joyful and lasting security. This is basic Jesus-speak! He never tires of telling us things like “…a man’s life is not made secure by what he owns even when he has more than he needs” and “Fool! This very night the demand will be made for your soul; and this hoard of yours, whose will it be then?” (Luke 12:15, 12:20)

There’s a desperate human need portrayed in today’s First Reading (Job 7:1-4,6-7), the kind that must surely precede suicide. There’s similar human need portrayed in today’s Gospel (Mark 1:29-39) but in the Gospel the need encounters Jesus Christ and is transformed. I heard an elderly man say recently – a man who’d lost both his wife and his son – “Life? It’s nothing in the end!” He’s right. Without Jesus Christ, it comes down to nothing in the end. It’s the encounter with God that causes us to witness. Witness is not a dry demand!

This encounter with God is not imaginary. Its development is marked by clearly defined stages, every bend on the road to God, every junction, every cul-de-sac, every obstacle, and every contour is documented. Catholicism is first and foremost a ‘how to’ manual, how to encounter God, and for the purists it’s an experiential ‘how to’ manual produced by God. So, before you walk away from Catholicism, read the life of at least one saint. It’s an interesting question to ask those who’ve already abandoned Catholicism: Did you read the life of at least one saint before walking away?

So, I do not want to be asking you to witness to a Spirit that you do not know. That’s to do violence to you. We can only witness to God’s Spirit to the degree that he’s present within us.

When we try to witness to Gods Spirit when he’s not inside us – when he’s not a real living force in our lives or when he’s diminished to the bare minimum for human life – we get fed up, bored, we fall away, and worse, we may even resent this imposition. Religion without the Holy Spirit quickly becomes a burden and even tyranny!

Sooner rather than later, our actions will always harmonize with what’s inside us.

I’ll give you an example using one of the gifts of the Spirit: Piety, or as you’d call it; Reverence.

pope-francis_2541160kPiety (Reverence) is a gift of the Holy Spirit which means that it doesn’t belong naturally to human nature. It’s as it says on the tin – a gift of the Holy Spirit. It’s an instinctive-like affection for God that makes us desire to worship him. Pope Francis described it as indicating “our belonging to God and our profound bond with him, a bond that brings meaning to our lives.” He said this bond is not “a duty or an imposition” but “a living relationship with the heart… our friendship with God, given by Jesus.” (Catholic World News, June 04, 2014). Where it is present religion is never boring, where it’s absent everything about religion is boring!

So, the gift of Piety (Reverence) alone, or its absence, can explain so much about our behaviour around religion, about how we witness, or don’t witness!


Fifth Sunday, B.

Pentecost: Without the Holy Spirit religion easily becomes a kind of tyranny!

IMG_1380Pentecost is important – and with good reason. it’s ranked as a Solemnity.

Indeed, much can be understood in terms of the Holy Spirit’s presence or absence, or perhaps more accurately to the degree that the Holy Spirit is present in a person’s life.

In the First Reading (Acts 2:1-11) the Holy Spirit is portrayed as fire (a heart on fire for the mission of the Church) and wind (a blustery wind for the mission of the Church).

In today’s Gospel (John 20:19-23) the Holy Spirit is portrayed as the breath of the risen Jesus. Think about the meaning of breath – it’s our life. So the breath of the risen Jesus is the very life of God and when he breathes on them he is giving them his own life, the life he shares with God.

The purpose of religion is to reach this point – the point where it’s possible for us to share the Divine Life, the point where God can breathe his supernatural life into our natural life, the Divine into the human. I use supernatural deliberately because we’ve almost lost the experience of grace as a supernatural reality – thus everything’s mundane! The early Church Fathers described this process as Divinization.

Some weeks ago I spotted a number of people towards the back of the Church… they had completely disengaged and were deep in conversation. There’s no great mystery as to why we disengage at Mass or why we’re bored at Mass. It’s because a spirit other than the Holy Spirit dominates our lives – often it’s nothing more than our own spirit.


Hearts on fire for the mission of the Church – Jesus Christ!

Where the Holy Spirit is absent (or just simply in short supply) religion is the most boring thing on earth!

Where the Holy Spirit is absent prayer is boring – worse, it’s sheer torture! A person in whom the Holy Spirit is absent finds prayer torturous, they resist, object; they want to run a mile! And with good reason; one spirit is fighting the other…

Finally, in our time religion is almost a bad word! Religion cut loose from the Holy Spirit causes huge problems (think of Ireland in the past). Religion without the Holy Spirit easily becomes tyranny. If you ask a person in whom the Holy Spirit is absent to practice religion they’ll experience it as a kind of tyranny!

Without the Holy Spirit religion easily becomes a kind of tyranny where there is little or no charity, little or no generosity, no joy, no gentleness, no peace, no faithfulness, no patience, no modesty, no kindness, no self-control, no goodness and no chastity!

The Holy Spirit changes everything. Come, Holy Spirit. Veni, Sancte Spiritus.

The Ascension; the authority of absolute victory.

Ascension imageCan Catholicism ever be a private matter?

Which is to ask can belief in Jesus Christ be a private matter – ever?

Think about it – this figure enters human history and overcomes death. The claims associated with Jesus of Nazareth demand serious investigation by every human being on the planet.

The feasts we celebrate during the Easter season – Resurrection, Ascension and Pentecost – are seismic.

Today we’ve reached Christ’s Ascension which gives purpose and direction to the Resurrection. Otherwise he’d still be roaming the earth in his resurrected body – eternally wandering with no home to go to! Home is important.

There are three parts to the Ascension; firstly the resurrection itself, secondly the power to judge (every man and woman) and thirdly, sitting at Gods right hand in glory.

From his place at God’s right hand he sends the Holy Spirit (Pentecost) thus fulfilling his promise not to leave us orphans but to come back. Unfortunately, many of us experience God as though we are orphans!

Jesus says that this Spirit will lead us to the truth. What is this truth? It’s not truth as facts, or the truth of particular happenings or events but truth as a person, God, who is absolute Truth. So “the truth will set you free” means that God will set you free. Two things happen when we experience the absolute Truth through the gift of the Holy Spirit. Firstly, we understand that we’ve ‘discovered’ the universal meaning and purpose of life – our universal home. Secondly, we see the glories of this world for what they are – trifles!

How do we get to this point?

The answer is in the Gospel; the eleven go to meet him, to the mountain where Jesus had agreed to meet them. The mountain is significant – the road to God is always likened to climbing a mountain.

On the mountain they meet him. Think of the effort involved in climbing a mountain – that’s what practicing the faith is about. When they climb the mountain they see Christ ascending – when we practice the faith properly we should begin to see things too; they fall down, though some hesitated. Some are still not sure, bewildered, and incredulous; it’s too much for them. It is; it’s seismic!

With absolute authority and power the risen Jesus walks up to them and the words that fall from his mouth are sovereign; “all authority in Heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations; baptise them in the name of the Father…” – it’s the authority of absolute victory.

What’s strikingly obvious about this claim – as with all Jesus’ claims – is that there’s no middle ground, it’s absolute. No surprise there because if the figure of Jesus of Nazareth really is the son of God then it cannot be otherwise. There can’t be a middle ground! There’s nowhere else to go and every detail of human life must be built on him, our response to him cannot be a private affair. It just can’t!

If he is who he says he is and we build human life on something else then it seems reasonable to assume that at some point there’ll be an adjustment!

Sixth Sunday of Easter: How terribly discriminatory of Jesus!

Sixth Sunday of Easter Image“In a short time the world will no longer see me…”

The short time is his death (Good Friday), resurrection (Easter Sunday) and ascension (next Sunday).

After these events the “world” no longer sees him but Jesus makes a distinction – those who love him do “see” him.

How terribly discriminatory of Jesus!

So how is it that some “see” him and others don’t?

He promised to come back, to show himself, to enter into our lives and he achieves this through the gift of the Holy Spirit (Pentecost Sunday).

Have you ever noticed how it’s impossible to get inside another person’s life, how the other person is always totally other. This is not so with God, God is Spirit and thus able to enter our bodies and provided we co-operate the Spirit then draws us deeper and deeper into God. “On that day you will understand that I am in my Father and you in me and I in you.”

But we must co-operate. He says there are some, those whom he calls “the world” that can never receive him. Jesus, you’ll get yourself in trouble speaking about secular society like that!

In other words there are conditions attached to receiving Jesus Christ – shock, horror – that’ll send a few over the edge! It troubles me when I hear religious people speak of God’s unconditional love. It indicates they know little about the spiritual life. If by unconditional they mean God’s love is always offered, always available, that’s fine, no problem there. But God’s love is of little use to us if it’s always offered, always available but always out there and remote. We need him within. But if they mean by unconditional that there are no conditions to receiving Jesus Christ, that’s nonsense. Rubbish! Of course there are conditions, otherwise everybody would know Jesus Christ!

Jesus clearly states two such conditions in today’s Gospel. Indeed the whole teaching is prefaced by the conditions.

1. If you love me – for many that means a radical reorientation of life.
2. If you love me you will keep my commandments – the experience of receiving Jesus Christ through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is simultaneously experienced as a call to a moral standard that simply cannot be detached from the person of Jesus Christ.

“If you love me you will keep my commandments, (and then) I shall ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate…”

A word of caution: this is not instant, it requires spiritual growth over many years.