From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Spirituality: Little red shack

by Father Michael Savelesky, for the Inland Register

(From the Feb. 8, 2001 edition of the Inland Register)

One of the advantages of growing up in a small city is the opportunity it provides for taking brief excursions into the countryside on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

And so it was that many a time my friends and I would hop on our bikes and make the trek to our favorite little red shack, about a mile from home. It stood silently in the middle of a farmerís field and made for an excellent gathering place for the gang. There we shared many a story and, of course, solved all the problems of the world.

The shack mystified us. It measured only five feet square and was not very tall. No window openings gave us even the slightest glimpse of what was inside and its rusted steel sides clearly if subtly said ďKeep Out!Ē In case marauders like us didnít get the low-key version of the message, those words were also painted on all four sides, in large, scary letters. The door was firmly locked ó with not one, not two, but three large padlocks.

We determined that the building had come from outer space.

Only after some time did we learn from our parents that the mysterious red shack housed the farmerís stockpile of dynamite. Dynamite! After learning that, we certainly quit rattling doors and throwing rocks! In fact, we thereafter made quite deliberate efforts to tip-toe around its perimeter.

Dynamite mystifies us because of its explosive power. Itís dangerous stuff and can get so easily out of hand. Even television cartoons communicate the power of one of those little red sticks.

Dynamite is one of those things that we want to keep far from us unless, of course, we know how to handle it with care and clear purpose. It is a rare moment when we would want that kind of power at our finger-tips.

Isnít it ironic that the word used in the Gospels and letters in the New Testament to describe the action of God in our lives shares linguistic roots with the word dynamite? Itís true. ďPowerĒ is the English translation of the Greek word dunamis ó which is the root of the word ďdynamite.Ē Scripture narrates that the Incarnation happened by the power (dynamite) of Godís Holy Spirit ó the same dynamite that hovered over the chaotic waters at Creation. It is this same dynamite that stood over the head of Jesus at his baptism in the Jordan River. This same dynamite led him thereafter into the dessert where he struggled with the basic temptations of all men and women: to deny responsibility for his own life or to refuse to get his hands dirty with Godís unfolding plan of salvation.

St. Lukeís Gospel narrative, in particular, is anchored in the dynamite of the Holy Spirit as he describes Godís saving hand at work in human history in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.

When Jesus begins his ministry in the synagogue at Nazareth, he intentionally reads from a part of Holy Scripture that captures his religious experience. ďThe Spirit of the Lord is upon me, therefore the Lord has anointed me.Ē Without a doubt Jesus has experienced the explosive power of the Holy Spirit ó an explosion which sends him forth to announce Good News and do all he can do in his personal life to bring about the Kingdom he announces.

After all, was this not his call at the time of his bath of conversion at the hand of his cousin, John, the wild man of the desert? John the Baptist, whose heart also was moved by the same dynamite?

What must certainly strike us about the experience of Jesus is the fact that his mission of preaching, teaching and healing is based neither on his own initiative nor the wisdom of books.

It is not anchored in the comfort of correct catechetical answers and religious ritual. He offers the correct perspective: wisdom, teaching and the practice of oneís faith are the results of Godís explosive love ó not its deceptive substitutes.

Holiness is not born of orthodoxy or faithful participation in religious ritual; rather, it is born of the dynamite of the Holy Spirit. The rest comes as expression, not cause.

In reflecting on the power of Godís Spirit at work in the life of Jesus, it must strike us Christians, disciples of Jesus, that often we may operate from a misconception of Godís ways. We can do so many things on our own power, as it were. In the end we find ourselves on our own, trying to do our own thing, gathering for security in groups of like-minded people ó all without the genuine power of the Spirit.

It is a great privilege to be a disciple of Jesus. He entrusts us with dynamite! Yet how easy it is to tip-toe around Godís power, which stirs at the center of our lives. Perhaps our hesitation comes from knowing that if we handle Godís dynamite, explosive things could happen. Literally, the face of the earth would change ó not from angry destruction, but as the result of Godís transforming power.

Baptism into Christ Jesus has placed in our hands the dynamite of Godís love. The heart of the Christian walk is our response to this power which has been entrusted to us. What we do with it is our responsibility.

Jesus is the norm for our journey of faith. The same Spirit which exploded in him is the very Spirit which convicts our hearts, too. Struggling to be faithful to Jesus and his way, the power that burned in his heart and moved him to action is the same for us. His passion, death and Resurrection have ushered in the era of the Spirit.

But ďSpiritĒ does not translate into abstract thoughts or safe practices which distance us from the Source of all life and holiness. Unlike our little gangís experience of the little red shack, we Christians are blessed with full measure of what lies inside the heart of God ó and itís dynamite!

(Father Savelesky is pastor of St. Patrick and St. Francis of Assisi parishes in Walla Walla. His latest book, Catholics Believe, has been released by Harcourt Religion Publishers.) (Download an order form in pdf format to print)

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