Powered by the Spirit
There have not been too many positives aspects from the stay-in-place COVID-19 quarantine life of the last few months, but for me, one bright spot has been getting to tune into Mass from various places around the country. In addition to Masses from a number of parishes in our diocese, I have enjoyed Masses from Word on Fire with Bishop Barron and Fr. Steve Grunow. I also tuned into Fr. Mike Schmitz from the Diocese of Duluth, Minn. One extra special treat has been virtually attending Mass with Fr. Brian Park, a former youth group member from when I was the Coordinator of Youth Ministry at St. Bartholomew Parish in Fort Worth and who is now serving the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis.
Along the way I heard some really inspiring and sometimes challenging homilies. Once such message came from Fr. Steve Grunow, CEO of Word on Fire. The crux of his message was: “Being filled with the Holy Spirit doesn’t mean you are just supercharged with piety and enthusiasm. Rather, being filled with the Holy Spirit means you become a route of access to the love of God in Christ.”
First off, let’s take a look at what he is saying being filled with the Holy Spirit is not. The Third Person of the Holy Trinity does not dwell within us to make us mini superheroes of the faith that simply pray a lot and stand on the sidelines and cheer for the coming of the Kingdom of God. Also, it is not focused on our particular religious practices. These, of course, are important, but they are not the central purpose of the in-dwelling of the Spirit.
The second part of what Fr. Steve’s homily brought to light is that we, filled with the Holy Spirit, are to be “a route of access to the love of God in Christ.” Fr. Steve draws our attention to the mission-forward aspect of our faith for which the Holy Spirit empowers us. The Catechism puts it this way: The Holy Spirit is the protagonist, "the principal agent of the whole of the Church's mission." It is He who leads the Church on her missionary paths (Catechism of the Catholic Church 852).
This mission is not only for those we might consider really holy or super devout. This is an undertaking for all of us. Think about all the people who played a hand in your journey of faith. Whether it be your parents, siblings, friends, priests, or various lay ministers, many people helped your faith grow to the place it is now.
What Fr. Steve is saying is that we need to be one of the people others mention when they tell the story of their faith. This is not about strong-arming unwitting co-workers or children who have drifted away or random people at the supermarket. It is much simpler than that. We are all to be kind of like Google maps. There are a lot of routes from Fort Worth to San Antonio. Some are direct, some are more scenic, some meander through out-of-the-way small towns. It’s possible to even detour through places like El Paso, New York, or even Australia.
The point is that we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to be a part of one of the routes that guide people we know into the embrace of the Father’s love that is found in the person of Jesus. How do we do this? It’s as simple as surrendering to the will of God in our life and as complicated as the people we walk alongside.
The dominant characteristic of the Holy Spirit is power, but for us to tap into that power we have to plug in to all the avenues of grace offered to us: Mass and the sacraments, prayer and Scripture, and most importantly surrendering our life and will over to God. We become a route of access by being a willing participant. God’s love takes it from there.