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January 9, 1998     The Message
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January 9, 1998
 

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The Message m for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana ..... I m,-1 :J o : :., What can By FATHER RICHARD RICE, S.J. Catholic News Service "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me." So Jesus dramatically begins his inau- gural address in the synagogue of Nazareth. He unrolls the scroll of the prophet Isaiah until he comes to these consoling yet challenging words of Chapter 61. The people initially are pleased at the eloquence of their native son, but quick- ly they begin to realize some of the implications of his choice of texts. How is he going to bring good news to the poor, and how is he intending to free prisoners? Who does he think he is to claim he can heal the blind and call us to forgive all debts? Soon they are rising up against him, but he walks right through the coward- ly crowd and departs. It is only Luke who is inspired to pre- sent this scene, a Gospel that we will hear proclaimed on the third Sunday of this year of Luke's Gospel. Jesuit Father Joseph Fitzmyer, a noted authority on the writings of Luke, calls Luke the "evangelist of the Spirit." In Luke's Gospel and in Acts of the Apostles, the Spirit is always the initia- tive by which God is actively present in a creative and prophetic way. It is so appropriate that Luke's Gospel accompany the church in this year of the Spirit. In his apostolic letter on prepar- ing for the year 2000, Pope John Paul II calls us to dedicate the year 1998 to the Holy Spirit and to the Spirit's presence, which is sanctifying, "within the com- munity of Christ's disciples." The Spirit is the breath of God that joins Father and Son, the breath that overflows in the giftedness of all cre- ation, the breath that accomplishes the incarnation of Jesus Christ, the breath that makes present in the church the "revelation brought by Christ to humanity." about The pope then outlines our tasks for this year of the Spirit, quoting Paul's words to the community of Corinth: "There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit" (1 Cor. 12:4). Our first task is to pray for the courage to claim our giftedness. Hope might be the theological virtue for this year, but fortitude is the moral virtue. It takes great courage to walk between shame and low self-esteem on the one hand and pride on the other hand, and to acknowledge with Mary the truth: "God has done great things in my life." Our second task is to name the specif- ic gifts that God has given us and to con- firm one another's gifts: Is wisdom my gift or is it under- standing? Am I one who knows what is important, and do people come to me for counsel? Am I reverent toward all creation? Am I courageous in what I say and do? w Do I have a solitary fear of giving God less that God deserves? This inventory from Isaiah 11 is a beginning to our task of naming our gifts. Our third task is to enlist our gifts in the mission of the Spirit. Again the pope writes, "It is the Spirit who builds the kingdom of God within the course of history and prepares its full manifesta- tion in Jesus Christ." Our task is to discern where the Spir- it is calling us to serve for the glory of God and the betterment of our sisters and brothers. We sift through the vari- ous movements within ourselves to learn where the Spirit is directing us. The important questions in discern- ment are: What is the more loving choice? What will produce the deeper peace and harmony? m What brings See SPIRIT page 9 "Our... task is to name the specific gifts that God has given Father Richard Rice. "Is wisdom my gift or is it un who knows what is important, and do people come to me I reverent toward all creation? Am I courageous in --CNS photo by S t . Ho trQ doe0000, h5 3ntma By FATHER JOHN J. CASTELOT Catholic News Service Peter and John's cure of a crippled beg- gar drew an astounded crowd. The cured man was known to' every- one who had come to the temple, where he had for a long time sat begging on the steps. They now saw him "walking and jumping and praising God" (Acts 3:8). It was a public spectacle. When they crowded around the disciples in Solomon's Portico, Peter explained that it was by faith in the risen Christ that the man had been "made strong." This alarmed the temple officials, who promptly arrested them and threw them in jail. The next day they were arraigned before the same court that condemned Jesus. Its members now questioned his followers and "Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, answered them." He told them spiritedly that the man had been healed "in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead." "Observing the boldness of Peter and John and perceiving them to be uneducated, ordinary men, they were amazed." So are we! Is this the same Peter who cringed before a young maidservant while Jesus was on trial and swore that he didn't even know the man? How could he now stand up and give fear- less witness before this all-powerful court? The answer is that he was now "filled with the Holy Spirit." Christ told his faithful followers before the Ascension, "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses . . . to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8). This mysterious "Spirit" effects a pro- found change in all who receive it. The astounding change in Peter is just one example. Since the Spirit is a mystery, it defies explanation. We are never told, for instance, how the recipients reacted to it psychologically. That they were aware of the Spirit is clear from the reactions of many who were empowered by it. Gifts of the Spir- it took many forms, and there were some at Corinth who took personal pride in them and even argued about whose power was greater  as if these were not gifts but personal attainments. Paul had to set them straight. In the first place, they were "gifts." In spite of the rich variety of the gifts, they were all manifestations of the same Spir- it (1 Corinthians 12:13). The power of the Spirit alone explains the phenomenal growth of the young Christian community in spite of threats, persecutions, efforts of powerful empires to annihilate it. Every baptized same Spirit. And, "feel" different, we are the Spirit. We just "don't Father Castelot is author, teacher om name the