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home : bishop : columns

1/12/2017 9:00:00 AM
Trust in the Holy Spirit
BISHOP SCHARFENBERGER INVITES confirmation candidates at St. Patrick's parishes in Athens and Catskill to renew their baptismal promises as he celebrates the sacrament Jan. 7.
BISHOP SCHARFENBERGER INVITES confirmation candidates at St. Patrick's parishes in Athens and Catskill to renew their baptismal promises as he celebrates the sacrament Jan. 7.

Last weekend, I had the joy and pleasure to confirm 13 young disciples from the Catholic community of St. Patrick's parishes in Athens and Catskill.

It was the feast of the epiphany, a date that at first might seem an unusual one for a celebration of the sacrament of confirmation. In fact, it had originally been planned for November; the good parishioners accommodated a change in my own schedule.

The Gospel, of course, narrated the journey of the magi, astrologers who represented all people who seek to find the truth as their best skills and knowledge might lead them.

What is significant here is that these seekers -- almost certainly not schooled in the Hebrew Scriptures, nor familiar with Israel's traditions -- came to the place where the Jewish Messiah was born, thus revealing Christ as the Savior of all humankind, of people near and far.

I have come to the conviction that the Holy Spirit was their true guide, working (as is often the case) "behind the scenes," but building on human nature when it is open to God's inspiring and transforming grace.

That star, though a force of nature, was loaded with grace, using their natural scientific curiosity to seek a deeper meaning or purpose in their lives. The magi trusted their hearts that were yearning to find their true king.

Needless to say, I encouraged the confirmandi to let Jesus be the king of their hearts, like the magi found Him to be, and to reject the false gods of power, wealth and sensuality which Herod, who was called a king, was so corrupted by. The mere presence of the child of Bethlehem threatened Herod to the core. St. Matthew tells us the whole story of his violent rage, which led to the slaughter of the innocents and the need for the magi to flee to their land by another route.

This week, the Holy Spirit is also at the center of the Gospel narrative. As St. John is baptizing, he recognizes Jesus as the Lamb of God. John admits that the whole purpose of his existence was to announce the Messiah, yet he did not know who He was -- that is, not until the Holy Spirit pointed Him out.

Again, we see the Holy Spirit as the one who teaches and reminds us of why we are here and what we are called to do.

You may be familiar with the image of Mary as the "Untier of Knots." In the spring, when you make a visit in to the Shrine of the North American Martyrs in Auriesville, you can see this intriguing image in the small chapel in the visitors' center.

I had a small "epiphany" myself recently when it began to dawn on me that it is probably the Holy Spirit, dwelling within Mary, who is the One working through Mary's hands, untying the knots in the lives of all who seek to have sinful patterns broken, destructively dependent relationships untangled and harmful memories healed.

Whatever is tying us up in knots, the Holy Spirit, living in Mary, is there to unwind our anxieties, obsessions and fears, opening up to us the path of light and peace.

How fitting, as we begin the new liturgical cycle of Ordinary Time this week, to place our trust completely in the Holy Spirit, just as Mary always did. If, like John the Baptist, we might sense a call to "take the next step" in our life or we need a renewal of purpose in an already existing vocation or state in life, the Holy Spirit will help us find that new energy or direction.

If, like the magi, we might feel there is something more we need in our lives, we might accept that invitation to "come and see," which Jesus always offers His disciples.

As I reminded the young people being confirmed, the Holy Spirit is not one to let us rest on our accomplishments, as if God is ever finished with us. We are always works in progress.

With a brand-new year "Year of Grace" before us, why not renew our trust in the Holy Spirit now and every day, saying together: "Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And you shall renew the face of the Earth."

(Follow the Bishop at www.facebook.com/AlbanyBishopEd and on Twitter @AlbBishopEd.)

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