Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 1453, Spokane WA 99210
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Yes, try this at home
by Father Michael Savelesky, for the Inland Register
(From the May 21, 2015 edition of the Inland Register)
While surfing through the television channels one evening recently, I came across a comedy channel which was running those cartoon features which always preceded the main flick at the local Roxy movie theater when I was a little one. There they were in full living color – and with just as much titillating excitement: Tom, the cat, and Jerry, the mouse, chasing each other over home, hill, and dale. And sure enough, there it was again: the scene where the ever-inventive mouse places a stick of dynamite in a book which Tom picks up to read. Before the explosion, the screen did its usual close-up of the blazing stick of red. “Do not try this at home!” flashed on the screen. My chuckles revealed a heart blessed with many fond memories.
I have long since lost track of how many times I have watched poor Tom fall victim to such pranks. (None of them seem to have done more than blacken Tom’s whiskers; he seemed to be back in full form at the next Saturday matinee.)
A nice trip down memory lane, but the diversion was not wasted. That evening I was working on a set of Ascension-Pentecost homilies. Jerry’s stick of dynamite brought inspiration….
The word used in the New Testament to describe the action of God in our lives has its roots in the word … dynamite?
“Power” is the English translation of the Greek word dunamis – which is the root of the name for the explosive. Scripture narrates that the Incarnation happened by the power (dynamite) of God’s Holy Spirit – the same dynamite that hovered over the chaotic waters at creation. It is this same dynamite that is found 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 God’s unfolding plan of salvation.
This is the same dynamite that the Risen Lord breathes onto his fear-filled disciples (The Gospel According to John) and the same dynamite that falls in tongues on the heads of Our Blessed Mother and the first Apostles (Luke’s Acts of the Apostles).
Dynamite intrigues us because of its explosive power. It is dangerous stuff and its use 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. Yes, for good reason we really should follow the admonition to “Not try this at home.”
St. Luke’s Gospel narrative, in particular, is anchored in the dynamite of the Holy Spirit as he describes God’s 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: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; therefore the Lord has anointed me.” Without a doubt he has experienced the explosive power of the Holy Spirit, 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 – whose heart, too, 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 on 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 one’s faith are the results of God’s explosive love, 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 God’s Spirit at work in the life of Jesus, it must strike us Christians, we disciples of Jesus, that often we may operate from a misconception of God’s 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 – 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 God’s power, which stirs at the center of our lives. Perhaps our hesitation comes from knowing that if we handle the dynamite, explosive things could happen. Literally, the face of the earth would change – not from angry destruction, but as the result of God’s transforming power.
Baptism into Christ Jesus has placed in our hands the dynamite of God’s 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 power for us. His Passion, Death and Resurrection have ushered in the era of the Spirit. But “Spirit” does not translate into abstract thoughts or safe practices which distance us from the Source of all life and holiness. We Christians are blessed with full measure of what lies inside the heart of God – God’s dynamite, the gift of the Spirit. Yes, perhaps we should indeed “try this at home.”
(Father Savelesky is pastor of the parishes in Rosalia and St. John, pastoral administrator of St. Rose in Cheney, and the diocese’s Moderator of the Curia.)
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