Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Tuesday in the 6th Week of Easter
Signs and Wonders

Readings: Acts 16:22-34; Psalm 138:1-2ab, 2cde-3, 7c-8; John 16:5-11

Two days before the feast of the Ascension of our Lord, and two Sundays from the feast of Pentecost, we find Jesus promising to send the Advocate, the Holy Spirit. And when he comes, he will show the world how wrong it was… Jesus’ description of the work of the Holy Spirit is perhaps not all that easy to follow. There is mention of right and wrong, of judgment and sin, of belief and unbelief. It all sounds pretty abstract. What does all this mean in our own lives? The amazing story in the first reading helps us to understand.

For some, the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit is associated with great signs and wonders. And we see this to be the case in the first reading too. After Paul and Silas have prayed and sung the praises of God in jail, there is suddenly an earthquake, and all the prisoners are freed from their chains. A mighty and wondrous sign from God? Perhaps. Yet, aren’t there even more powerful works, even mightier signs of the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit to be witnessed in the story? Isn’t it wonderful, for example, that after having received many lashes and then thrown into prison, Paul and Silas can still be in the mood to pray and sing God’s praises? Isn’t it amazing that even after the earthquake had broken their bonds, Paul and Silas continued to remain in their cell? In any other prison, we might perhaps have heard of the inmates going on a riotous rampage in retaliation against their captors, or at the very least, quickly making good their escape. But to continue to sit quietly in one’s cell? And to even be concerned for the wellbeing of the jailer, the very one who had thrown them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks? What sort of wonder is this if not the work of the Holy Spirit?

And it is precisely through these wondrous works of the Spirit manifested in the conduct of Paul and Silas that the world – represented by the jailer and his household – is made to see how wrong it was, to accept baptism, and to joyously celebrate its conversion to belief in God. Here we find the truth of the response to today’s psalm: You stretch out your hand and save me, O Lord. Indeed, the Lord saves not just Paul and Silas, but more importantly, the jailer and his whole household. These are the saving effects of the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit. These are the great signs and wonders worked by the Advocate through those with open minds and hearts.

And, of course, this presence and activity continues among us today. In a world of violence, where many give in to retaliation and despair, there continue to be those who choose the way of peace and of hope. In a world which often seems only to delight in pandering to the cravings of the rich, there continue to be those who expend their energies in championing and satisfying the needs of the poor.

Where is the presence and activity of the Advocate to be found in your life today?

1 comment:

  1. Sometimes, we can be forgiven when we yearn for the spectacular, breath-taking signs and wonders that "authenticate" the presence of God in our lives. We marvel at all the stories of incredible happenings before, during and after the apparations of Our Lady in modern times; how the Blessed Eucharist changes to organic flesh when received by a certain Korean woman .. etcetera, etcetera. I guess as human beings, we need to be re-assured that this unseen, almighty Power is for real and very much interested in us.

    Fr Chris points out the other wondrous happenings to Paul and Silas (and the jailer and his family) that elude mortal eyes. I too am learning to "see" those signs and wonders worked quietly in our midst. There is member of my neighborhood group who is today a living testimony of the sign and wonder of the Holy Spirit: from an indifferent Catholic to one who is now active in many ministries within the Parish and Archdiocese. Another couple, not in my neighborhood group but within the Parish take it on themselves to be especially welcoming to singles; an agony aunt and uncle if you like. You see, the REAL signs and wonders are those that are best seen thru the eyes of faith.

    Hands up those who say God is absent in the world!