Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
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
Read the last chapter
by Father Michael Savelesky, for the Inland Register
(From the May 1, 2008 edition of the Inland Register)
Hereís a simple enough challenge: Which Christian among us could not narrate from memory the major moments in the life of Jesus of Nazareth.? Letís test our recall:
Mary is asked by the Holy Spirit to become the mother of Jesus. She and Joseph trek off to Bethlehem to register. While there she gives birth to baby Jesus. With fear for his life they flee to Egypt until it is safe to return to Nazareth. Jesus grows up there as part of the Holy Family (and somewhere along the line gets lost in the temple). After 30 thirty years of hidden life, Jesus begins his public ministry after his baptism in the Jordan. His preaching and teaching about the Kingdom of God is marked with a stunning display of wisdom and the miraculous, but some people are not convinced. Quite the contrary, they oppose him and finally put him to death on a cross. God raises Jesus from the dead, however, and, after appearing to the disciples, Jesus returns in glory to his heavenly Father. The end.
There. Howís that for capturing in one paragraph the entire story? Thereís nothing fundamental left out. Right?
Wrong! And thatís the point of this reflection. In our familiarity with the Gospel we assume we know the complete story but, in fact, our rush to conclusion has made us forgetful of the ďlast chapter.Ē The Gospel Ė the good news of our salvation Ė does not end with the Resurrection and Ascension of our Lord. There is more. Something more which is critically important for our walk of authentic discipleship with Jesus, the Risen Lord.
We cannot forget the gift of the Holy Spirit! Itís right there in the story of the life and ministry of Jesus. It is not hidden between words or mentioned only in a footnote. The gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church is the last chapter, as it were, of Godís saving work in Jesus. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on all creation is the hallmark of Godís Final Day of Salvation, the fulfillment of his promise to the Chosen People and a completely free gift to us Gentiles. Without recognition of the real presence of the Holy Spirit among us, the People of God, there is something radically missing in the Gospel story. This last chapter makes all the difference in the world since more is involved here than narrating an image of Jesus riding off into the sunset in a blaze of glory, job well done. Quite the contrary; the saving work of God in Jesus continues until the end of time by the gift of the Holy Spirit.
It is not without reason that our prayer as Christians is addressed to God in the name of Jesus in union with the Holy Spirit. Without the indwelling of Godís Holy Spirit we would be left with a mere memory. We would have been orphaned in world history to fend for ourselves until we arrive (we hope) at the pearly gates.
The gift of the Holy Spirit is vital to our Christian spiritual journey. To know that we are not alone and that Godís Spirit moves within us is critically important. The gift of that Spirit Ė whose fullness in our lives has been celebrated in our Baptism Ė transforms the passage of daily life into the arena of Godís saving work. Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus the Risen Lord is with us Ė in our work, in our play, in our joys and in our sorrows. If Godís Holy Spirit can raise Jesus from the dead, what remains that this same Spirit cannot do in and with us!?
The gift of the Holy Spirit changes our discipleship from a mere following of the rules and regulations of religion into a partnership in the work of salvation. Jesusí life, death, Resurrection, Ascension and the gift of the Holy Spirit fully manifest Godís plan of salvation for the world and include us in the story. We become the last chapter, which continues until the end of time. In Scriptural terms, we are living in those last days. But the completion of these last days which are blessed with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is guided neither by terror nor by fear of an avenging God. They are guided by a loving and saving God whose plan may well be that this last chapter continues for a hundred more millennia.
When the book closes is known only to God, as Jesus clearly has advised us. Our responsibility is to not become distracted by guessing when and where the end may come. Discipleship is not characterized by the curiosity, but by commitment Ė by a willingness to take the gift of the Spirit seriously. The true disciple of Jesus recognizes that we do not know the whole story of salvation history until we experience it in our personal lives and quite literally become a part of it.
(Father Savelesky is the diocese's Director of Deacon Formation and pastor of Assumption Parish in Spokane.)
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