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July 23, 2017
The Sixth Sunday after Trinity
“So, how’s everything going?” the doctor asked his patient, George. “Great,” says George. “I’ve found religion. God knows I have poor eyesight, so he’s fixed it so that when I get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom – poof! – the light goes on, and then – poof! – the light goes off when I am done.
Later that day, the doctor calls George’s wife. “I’m in awe of George’s relationship with God,” he says. “Is it true that when he gets up in the middle of the night – poof! – the light goes on in the bathroom, and then – poof! – the light goes off?” George’s wife sighs. “No,” she says. “It means he’s going in the refrigerator again.”
Now, fortunately, none of us have that problem – at least I hope not. But, isn’t it interesting how faith can build merely over something perceived. I know some of you fall asleep during my sermons, so surely some light comes on for you here! We hear people say they can be filled with God’s presence anywhere. But, can they be filled like they would at Mass?
We heard today some words from St. Paul; “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Then we heard of the story of Christ feeding the 5,000 Men – and that was not counting the women and children – so imagine the number of people that were fed that day, and still 12 baskets of left-overs were collected. I don’t know about all of you, but that is an awful lot of left-overs and we know how some of us feel about eating left-overs!
These two readings that we heard today are really encapsulated in our Mass. We listen to one of our first collects, asking Almighty God to “cleanse our thoughts and our hearts by the inspiration of Thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love Thee, and worthily magnify Thy holy Name.”
If we were to read the book of Revelation we would find that it’s filled with prayers of worship, adoration, and praise. Even in the parts that describe the violent upheavals at the end of the world; the Angels and Saints in heaven are still singing joyful songs of victory and love to Jesus. Somehow, in the midst of a cosmic battle, the citizens of heaven never waver in their confidence. They never fear the final outcome, and they never seem to worry about their fate. They know that they belong to the Lord, and that knowledge fills them with joy.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have that same disposition? What a blessing to never be intimidated by difficult circumstances, but to remain lighthearted in every situation! Of course, this won’t happen fully until we join the Angels and Saints in heaven. But we can taste this heavenly joy and happiness here and now as we ask the Holy Spirit to fill us.
Nowhere is the Spirit more active among us than when we gather for Mass. From the formality of the opening procession to the personal intimacy of Communion, God is there, longing to fill us with His truth, His love, and His power. So how can we experience these blessings?
The first thing we can do is check our mindset. Why are we coming to Mass? To fulfill our obligation? Or to meet Jesus and receive His love? Of course, it’s always good to be at Mass, even if we are not deeply engaged, but imagine how much more we can receive when we go with an open heart and an attentive mind. “I am here because I want the Holy Spirit to fill me with every grace and blessing. I’m here because I believe the Spirit has a message for me. I am here because I want to feel God’s love in the presence of my brothers and sisters in Christ.”
These kinds of statements can help us go with the right mindset. They can put us in the right disposition so that we can experience the Spirit filling us up.
So mindset is important. But how do we take it and apply it in a particular way? Here are some possible suggestions.
First, you can begin the moment you walk into the church; when you bless yourself with holy water, make it a point to recall your baptism. Read the little prayer that I laminated and put above the holy water font. Let both of these remind you that Jesus has washed away original sin. Tell yourself that He can also wash away - right there and then - any distractions, doubts, or fears that might keep you from hearing His voice and worshiping Him.
Secondly, during the Confiteor, offer up to the Lord any sins that might be clouding your spiritual vision. Tell Him you are sorry for the ways you may have hurt Him or the people around you.
Thirdly, as you hear the readings and sermon, imagine that Jesus himself or Isaiah or Moses or Mary is the one proclaiming the word of God. Place yourself in the scene that you are hearing, and expect that the Holy Spirit will help these words come alive in your heart. Imagine what it will be like in heaven, when you finally see your heavenly Father face to face. Every question you have ever had will be answered, and every answer you receive will fill you with wonder at the love your Father has for you.
Fourth, during the Eucharistic prayers, picture yourself right there in the gospel we read today, among the 5,000 that Jesus fed, or among the Apostles and Mary in the upper room, watching Jesus take the traditional Passover prayers and fill them with new meaning. Join Peter and John and James and all the other Apostles and marvel at the miracle unfolding before you; bread and wine are being transformed into the Body and Blood of Jesus. Imagine Him inviting you personally to come to the altar and receive Him - both in your body and in your heart.
Lastly, after Communion, kneel quietly in adoration and worship. You are one with Jesus. He is pouring His Spirit into you. His Spirit has a special message for you. He wants to nourish you and heal you and fill you with His grace. For these few brief minutes, you can have a taste of what heaven must be like!
As the next few weeks go by, maybe try a little experiment. Every Sunday at Mass, trying to walk through each part of the liturgy with the mindset I described just now. Take the steps that I outlined, and see what the Holy Spirit does. Welcome the Spirit, and ask Him to raise up your human efforts and fill them with heavenly insight, joy, and strength.
Some amazing things just might happen to you. During the Confiteor, you may actually feel Jesus’ mercy washing your heart clean. You may be filled with a new sense of joy knowing that Jesus is always ready to forgive you.
Maybe a word or phrase from one of the readings may strike you as God’s own personal message to you. Maybe when Jesus tells someone, “Your faith has saved you,” you will feel a sense of assurance and confidence that Jesus sees how much you believe in Him.
During the sermon you might feel the Holy Spirit urging you to take a certain action like reaching out to a friend who is hurting or committing yourself more deeply to daily prayer. Or maybe during the words of the responsorial prayers the words will warm your heart and make you pray in the same way.
Or maybe during the Prayer of Consecration when you hear the words, “we do also call to mind all who in this transitory life are in trouble, sorrow, need, sickness or any other adversity…”, You may be moved to pray for friend or even an enemy with greater urgency.
When we recite “Holy, holy, holy …” you may suddenly have the feeling that you are in heaven with the Saints and Angels. You may find yourself filled with a new joy and wonder in the presence of the Lord.
As you are kneeling during the Eucharistic prayers, you may have a new sense of how great God is and how much He deserves your adoration and worship.
After receiving Communion, you may feel a new sense of joy and peace because you know that Christ is in you. Words of gratitude and praise may well up inside of you, and you will find yourself telling Jesus that you love Him.
Pentecostal moments are not just for those “other churches” – they are for all of us – even here and now!
Each of these ideas could possibly be a sign of the Holy Spirit filling you up. They all point to His desire to declare to us the blessings and grace that flow from His Cross. They point to the Spirit’s desire to convince us that we are children of God.
As you experiment with taking up this hope filled, expectant mindset during Mass, lookout for ways that your disposition might gradually change in the rest of your day and in the week ahead. Consider writing down in a prayer journal maybe, some of the senses you receive at Mass, and glance over them during the week. If you feel the Holy Spirit is asking you to make a small change in your life - like possibly being more consistent in prayer or to try to share a kind word with someone who is hurting - write that down as a way to remind you.
Whatever you decide to do, pay attention to your actions and your disposition. Maybe you will begin to feel more lighthearted or you may find it easier to remain at peace in stressful situations. You may find yourself more willing to forgive or to reach out to someone who seems to need a hand. You may also find yourself stopping a few times during the day to turn your heart back to God. All of these are signs of what St. Paul called “fruit of the Spirit”. They are all signs that the Holy Spirit is filling your heart.
Isn’t it wonderful to know that the Holy Spirit wants to give you a heavenly disposition? Isn’t it encouraging and comforting to know that He wants to fill you up so that you can have the same courage, joy, and freedom that the Angels and Saints in heaven have? And the best part is that He wants to do this for us over and over again, every time we come to Mass with open hearts.
Let us pray.
That the shepherds of the Church will proclaim Christ, admonishing and teaching with all wisdom. We pray to the Lord. (Lord hear our prayer.)
That our brothers and sisters who have strayed from the faith may, through our prayer and witness to the Gospel, rediscover the merciful closeness of the Lord in the beauty of the Christian faith in our small branch of Catholicism. We pray to the Lord.
For an end to terrorism in the world, and for the unification and peace of all peoples. We pray to the Lord.
That all who are sick, that they may find comfort, peace and healing. We pray to the Lord.
For the homeless, for whatever reason they may be in this state, that resources be made available from government entities and that all people may be more compassionate and less judging of those in this state. We pray to the lord.
For those who risk their lives in order to protect the lives of others; that they will be strengthened, shielded, and aided. We pray to the Lord.
For the grace this week to be just and kind to all we meet. We pray to the Lord.
Loving father, guide us in right paths and give us courage to face the challenges of life. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
God Love You. +++
+ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Universal Catholic Church
San Diego, Ca.