I THOUGHT YOU SHOULD KNOW | The Holy Spirit helps us understand our spiritual poverty

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The readings for the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time blend in a similar way as the figurative yeast from the Gospel parable leavens the whole batch. The Holy Spirit is the leaven that brings these readings to life.

From the Book of Wisdom, the first reading illustrates what the Holy Spirit does in our lives. The Holy Spirit tells us through the prophet: "For your might is the source of justice; your mastery over all things makes you lenient to all."

In other words, God is so great, powerful and mighty that He isn't threatened by our disobedience or defiance. He's so great and merciful that He can afford to be lenient in judging us. Jesus clearly demonstrated this when He walked the face of the earth. He never feared the defiant Pharisees and Sadducees. Even though they hung Him on the cross, He didn't condemn them.

"But though you are master of might, you judge with clemency, and with much lenience you govern us; for power, whenever you will, attends you," the passage states. "And you taught your people, by these deeds, that those who are just must be kind, and you give your children good ground for hope that you would permit repentance for their sins."

How great is our God that He implants in our hearts "good ground for hope" by encouraging repentance for sins. God has given us a way out of the death trap by giving us the opportunity to receive mercy in exchange for sin.

From Paul's letter to the Romans, the second reading gives additional detail of the Holt Spirit's role in vivifying our lives: "The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings."

In other words, humans can't understand what God is doing in our spirit, but the Holy Spirit helps us understand our spiritual poverty, so that before we formulate our desires with words, the Holy Spirit "intercedes with inexpressible groanings." Then, "...the one who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because he intercedes for the holy ones according to God's will."

Such prayer clearly demonstrates that the Holy Spirit does something good that brings light and peace deep within our hearts. We don't understand it, but through the grace of the Holy Spirit, we intuit that it's good, because it brings us God's goodness.

This explanation of the hidden presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives is a fitting preparation for the Gospel parables.

The first parable relates the story of the farmer who sowed good seed in the field but an enemy sowed weeds. Believe it or not, when the weeds compete with the wheat for sunlight, the wheat needs to sink its roots deeper into the soil to gather even more moisture and nutrients for growth, and so the wheat ends up being more fruitful than if it had no competition.

The presence of the multiple temptations in our lives deepens our dependence upon prayer and mercy. Temptations might prevent us from becoming self-sufficient and complacent in our lives. Temptations also drive us closer to the passion of Christ for help. This leads to a deeper union with God.

The parable of the mustard seed opens our eyes to the incredible power of God's word in our lives. The mustard seed is very tiny, but when placed into moist soil, it becomes a giant shrub, growing to a height of 18 feet, loaded with seeds. In addition to the multiplicity of seeds, each seed has a powerful pungency, so that when crushed, it releases a powerful energy that both tastes and smells wonderful. When mixed with food, the mustard seed adds great flavor, enhancing the food's taste.

Our lives change drastically when we welcome the word of God into our hearts through silent prayer. Do this. Take one passage from the Sunday readings and slowly repeat it over and over. Pay attention to what it stirs up inside. Perhaps just sit in silence for 10 or 15 minutes. What is it like to lay aside the plethora of thoughts that rush into your mind the minute you try to become silent?

Gently lay each thought aside, and repeat the original scriptural text over and over, tasting it, feeling it, receiving it as you receive ice cream on your tongue. Relish it. Visualize it changing your thoughts and feelings, so that you actually enjoy the feelings the word of God brings to your heart. These are feelings and inspirations that will stay with you for days. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you how deeply your spirit hungers for the nourishment that this text brings to your heart.

Silence before God is powerful ... transformative. We just sit with the word silently, allowing the Holy Spirit to place that text deep within our subconscious where it begins to work on those hidden motives and compulsions that often drive us. By this practice, you create time for God and rob Satan of time to harass with temptations. This is an enriching experience.

Often, hidden forces beneath the level of our awareness drive us. Through silence, the Holy Spirit enters these hidden areas and claims them with the power of God's word. 


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