Holy Spirit enables us to live in ‘the depths of God’

Gospel for Sunday, February 12, 2017

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

By Glen Argan

We do not make our own salvation; it is God’s gift to us through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit. This is the basic existential truth of Christianity. Salvation is not an achievement, but a gift.

Yet, in recent decades, many who were raised in Christian churches have left in order to find something deeper or more alive in Eastern religions. Through Hindu or Buddhist forms of meditation, they aspire to be unselfed and become one with the cosmos.

The achievement of nirvana is a negative achievement, not in the sense of being bad, but rather that it is a dissolution of self into no-self. This is not salvation but the eradication of all desire and striving.

holy-spirit-doveIt is also evidence that Christian churches have failed to feed their flocks with the milk of the Holy Spirit.

In Sunday’s Second Reading (1 Corinthians 2.6-10), St. Paul says, “The Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.” The Spirit discovers in that searching “what no eye has seen, no ear has heard, nor the human heart conceived.” But because the Spirit dwells within through Baptism, the depths of God are opened to us.

This is the purest form of mysticism. Pure because being led into the depths of trinitarian life is beyond any hope of human achievement; it is the ultimate gift.

The disease of our age is that we have become human doings rather than human beings. We see ourselves as committing the sin of passivity if we are not actively striving to make our world better.

Yet, if we believe in a God who is truly God, rather than some idol we have fashioned, we must know that God holds the world in his hands. The indwelling Spirit does not annihilate our finite selves, but gives us an intimate share in divine life. Our salvation comes from receiving that gift.

How can we receive it if we don’t know even know the gift exists?

Hans Urs von Balthasar says we can only receive it if we move out of a stance above the fray: “Intimacy with the Holy Spirit of truth cancels out the spectator’s uninvolved objectivity, with its external, critical attitude toward the truth, and replaces it with an attitude which can only be described as prayer.

“This prayer is total; it encompasses our beholding and our readiness to be beheld, our receiving and our self-giving, our contemplating and our self-communication, in a single, undivided whole” (Prayer, 79).

Eternal truth should move us to action, but not without first passing through contemplation. We do not seek to abolish the self, but we do need to surrender it. Surrender it so that the Spirit can live within, and we can find the fullness of life.

Christians cannot live a distant religion, one where we uphold the truth of certain propositions, but put that “faith” in a box to be brought out only on special occasions. Truth is participation. We are called to contemplate it in silence so we can live it with all of our hearts and minds.

[Other readings: Sirach 15.15-20; Psalm 119; Matthew 5.17-37]

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