With the Spirit, my Comforter
by Fr. Jack McArdle
How do I speak to you in words that you understand? The Father and Jesus sent me to complete the work of salvation, and I can effect that only through you. You are my voice, my hands, my feet. I'm sure you know by now that only God can do God-things. My role is to supply the power, and your role is to allow that power be in you, flow through you, and work through you. You have a beautiful and perfect model in Mary, the Mother of Jesus. She didn't understand everything, no more than you do. She was asked to follow a way of life that seemed impossible for her. When she asked how this could happen, she was told that I would supply everything that was needed for her to do, and to become all that God had in mind for her. That was all she needed to hear. She was profoundly conscious of her lowliness, of her total inability to lift herself above her human condition. Humility, for her, as for everyone else, was nothing more than accepting the facts of life as they are. It is the freedom to accept truth as it really is. Mary had that gift in an extraordinary way. She wouldn't ever dream of being something or someone she was not. Quite often it is easier for you to understand something better by contrasting it with its opposite, e.g., darkness and light, black and white, full or empty. When someone sees herself as little and insignificant as Mary saw herself, then the thought that the power of the Most High would come upon her is something that would open her whole being to the impossible. She was told that "There is nothing impossible with God", and she believed that with all her heart. She is just the most perfect, ideal, and very simple model I can hold up before you, as I share with you how I want to work in your life.
From your earliest days, you were told that "The Blessed Trinity is a mystery, and we can never understand a mystery". In a way, that's true. On the other hand, as a child of God, you are asked to share in mystery, to experience mystery, and to be part of mystery. There is only one God. That's the basic fact. God, however, can express himself in as many ways and in as many expressions as he chooses. If you look at a cup of water, a snowball, and a lump of ice, you know that what you have is water, even if in different forms. From the beginning, it might help you to think of me as the Breath of God, the breath that was breathed into the clay at the beginning of creation. I was the Presence, the Power of God, who hovered over the waters and brought order out of the early creation. I came upon Mary, so that Jesus could take on human nature, and I came upon the Apostles at Pentecost, which was the birth of the Church. I am using this as a simple way to share with you that I have been directly involved in the great significant births in the story of God's people. Although there is but one God, each of us is yet another expression of that simple original fact. The Father is the source of life, the Creator, the one who holds all things in being. The Father is the source of Love and Life, and it might help you to imagine that Jesus and myself are like two giant arms of the Father, reaching out to embrace his children, and bring them safely home to him. Each one of us has a specific role to fulfil, although, because of the unity that comes from love, no one Person of the Trinity would act indepentently of the other. Jesus said that he never said anything unless the Father told him. He also said that I would come to remind you of all that he had told you, and that I would have nothing further to add to what was already said. Just as I was breathed into the clay(another way of saying this is to speak of the clay being inspired), as I brought order out of the chaos of creation, so I continue to clarify, to inspire, to enthuse, to bring order. Think of me as the Power and Breath of God. Jesus is the one who joined the human race, so that, by taking creation, with all its brokeness back to the Father, everything could be recreated and renewed again. Jesus was sent by the Father to proclaim that the Kingdom of God had come on earth. Jesus would be Lord in that kingdom, and his kingdom would never end. Once again, I was directly involved in this process, by inspiring the human clay that Jesus assumed, by leading him as the Father wanted him to go, and by being ready to take over, and complete the work, once Jesus had fulfilled his mandate. All of this activity, of creation to re-creation and completion, is the work of the one God, expressed in different ways. For example, let us look at Jesus for a moment. He compared himself to a vine, and his followers to branches. A vine and its branches are of the same genes. For example, I couldn't graft a branch of an oak tree onto an apple tree, and expect it to grow apples! If Jesus had not become exactly like you, then you could never be grafted onto him. While still accepting the reality of mystery, I'm sure you'll concede that it may not be so mysterious after all!
I mentioned Mary earlier on. In simple language, Mary didn't actually do anything. She allowed me effect in her all that the Father wanted. Let me explain it to you this way. You are probably fairly familiar with Religion. It means being bound by rules that determine behaviour, according to certain norms. It is something external, it is something you do, and it has to do with a certain level of control. Mary was not a religious person, like the Pharisees or the Scribes. With the best of intentions, they were totally committed to what they were doing, and to doing it their way. People like this, however good, easily come to believe that there is no other way, and nothing could or should change, even if God said so! I'm sure you're familiar with the problems Jesus came up against when he tried to deal with such people! Mary, on the other hand, had but one simple belief: I cannot possibly know what is best, I cannot possibly know the mind of God, I can do nothing more than listen, and let God tell me what to do. In simple language, she knew her place, and she let God take care of all the God-things. That is what happened when Gabriel came to her with the message that is called the Annunciation. Once she established that God wanted her to do something, and that he would provide all that was needed to bring that about, she had no hesitation whatever in saying a clear, a simple, and a very definite YES. That is why I hold her up to you as a model, when I speak to you of my love, my plans, and my hopes for you.
As long as civilisation exists, as long as there is human life on this earth, there will always be the need for on-going re-creation, salvation, and redemption. When Jesus did what he came to do, he returned in triumph to the Father. It is important to remember, of course, that the body he had while he walked this earth, also returned with him. And this is where you come in. The task is completed, but it has to be proclaimed, it has to be lived, it has to be witnessed to. I will continue to provide all that is needed, but I need witnesses. I will provide the gifts, but I need someone to carry those gifts, and give them to others. I will provide the power, but I need someone to say the words. I will provide the wisdom, but I need someone to listen with love. If I am to live in your heart, it is because I want to touch the hearts of others through the words you say, the prayers you pray, the life you live, or the very person that you are. If, like Mary, you make yourself available to me, I will supply all you need to know, to do, and to say the things that will complete the building of the Kingdom that Jesus brought on earth. My role is to complete that work, and to bring you the fulness of grace. Grace is but another word for gift, and the opposite to sin is grace, and not virtue. In other words, the results are not your responsibility, or the fruits of your own personal endeavour. To put it another way, I want you to be willing to change from Religion to Spirituality. Spirituality is what I do in you, it is internal, and it is about surrender. This is a fundamental change of heart, a complete conversion of spirit. I'm sure you heard what happened to the Apostles when I came upon them that first Pentecost. Nothing could or would ever be the same again. They were on fire, as it were, and this is the fire that Jesus said he came to bring on this earth.
When Jesus spoke about me, he compared me to a fountain of living water that rises up from within a person. Beneath the driest desert in the world, there is plenty of water. An oasis is a place in the desert where that water has risen to the surface, and it is a source of real life and growth. I want you to be such an oasis in the desert of life. I want you to be someone who is bubbling with inner life and enthusiasm. I want you to be a light in the darkness of this world, to be a resource person who is being lead, and, therefore, able to be a leader for others. I want to lead you to live and to walk with my power, to be someone in whom Incarnation is continuous and on-going, to be someone who is evolving into the image of Jesus, and, therefore, someone who can sincerely call God Abba, Daddy, Father. I want to inspire everything you do, just as I was breathed into the clay at the beginning. It would be good if you took some time out to reflect on the many things Jesus said about me, the night before he died. He called me the Comforter, the Advocate. A comforter is someone who reassures, who allays fear, who accompanies. You may hear it used in connection with babies, where a comforter can be anything from a dummy, to a blanket, to a teddy. An advocate is someone who speaks or pleads for another. It is important that you grasp this concept, because it has a great deal to do with prayer. There is a vast difference between praying, and simply saying prayers. It would be possible to teach a parrot to say a prayer, but it would be impossible to teach a parrot to pray! Does it surprise you to hear that I pray for you all the time, within your heart? If you include me in your words and thoughts, then you are praying. Prayer is a God-thing. How many times have you read in the Gospels that one of the prophets, or Zechariah, Mary, Jesus, etc., "were filled with the Holy Spirit", and they poured their hearts out in prayer? When I am in your words, then you can be certain that you are praying. Otherwise you might only be saying prayers, and, really there is nothing happening. I am always on standby, waiting to be part of everything you do, of every word you say. I cannot enter where I am not invited.
Jesus said that I would teach you, that I would remind you, that I would lead you into truth. This is very central to what I want to do in, through, and for you. The original sin was brought about by the father of lies; therefore, Jesus spoke of me as the Spirit of Truth, as someone who would lead you back from the domain of darkness and deceit, into the kingdom of light and truth. He said that what he had to say would be too much to grasp at any one time, and could only be acquired through an on-going process of revelation. This revelation is a journey of enlightenment, teaching, and leading. That is exactly what I want to effect in you. You know only too well how easy it for you to forget things that are important in your life. That is why Jesus said that I would remind you; I would recall to your mind the things you need to know and to remember. My work in you is continuous, day and night, day in day out. The only condition on your side is to be open to my presence. I love when you turn to me, and include me, in everything you do, whether that be praying, writing a letter, or answering a telephone. You are my touch-person in the lives of others. Once you make yourself available to me, then I take full responsibility for everything you need to carry out my work. The gifts that are needed go with the task in hand. In other words, they are not something that is part of your personal possessions. If you are making a decision or advising another, I will supply the gifts of wisdom, discernment, and knowledge for that specific task In other words, the gifts are made available only when they are needed to carry out my work. If you make yourself available to be my spokesperson, then, be assured, that your words will be anointed with power. Because the words come from your heart, where I dwell, you can be sure they will enter the hearts of those who hear the words.
St. Paul reminds you to "learn to live and to walk in the Spirit." Because of your humanity, and the natural tendency to act out of, and to think with the mind-set of humanity, it can take some time to bring about the conversion of heart that Paul speaks about. If you think of a child taking its first faltering steps, mumbling its first meaningless sounds, tackling a task that is far beyond its abilility, then you get some idea of how you should approach this whole thing. This is a whole new way of being for a human person, because it involves letting go of one's own way of doing things, and learning to live with a power other than one's own. The baby has what it takes to walk, talk, and accomplish many tasks. All that is lacking is the development of those skills, and that is a daily routine of practice. You have what it takes to live and to walk with the power of God, because I am living within the temple of your heart. All you need is the constant daily reminder to use that power, and to walk in my ways. I certainly will always be there for you; I will constantly remind you of my presence, and I will be very very patient in awaiting your response.
Holy Spirit, Breath and Power of God, I adore you, I bow down before you, I thank you for making yourself part of who I am, and of including me as part of who you are. Thank you for making your home in my heart, and for making it possible for me to benefit fully from the gifts of salvation, redemption, and Incarnation. For me, you are a go-between God, who makes me part of the life of the Trinity, and there is no honour in heaven or on earth that is greater than that. I am so grateful that I have found you, that I know about you, that I'm coming to know you. Life has afforded me many very definite and clear lessons about the complicities and vagaries of human living, so I don't easily rush in to condemn others for doing something that has often been part of my own actions. I experience a sense of sadness, however, when I see others attempting to do something that only you can do, and that you would willingly do through them. The sadness comes from the fact that I have been there so often myself, and I have tried to push huge boulders up mountains for years, so I can empathise with the frustrations and discouragements of others. I'm not responsible for others, so I'll bring myself back into the centre for the present. It is my honest and sincere desire that I should be totally available to you at all times, so that you can continue the work of Jesus in me, and through me. I am very conscious that all I am offering is my goodwill, and I depend totally on you for everything after that. Even the goodwill is your gift, so there is nothing good that has its origins in me. I keep reminding myself that the spiritual journey is a process, an on-going gestation, an unending evolution. If I didn't remember this, I would often be in the depths of despair, when I experience all those things in me that get in the way of the transformation you are bringing about in me.
In a hymn, we sing to the Father "You are the Potter, we are the clay". I now acknowledge that I am the clay, and that you are the life; you are the very Breath of God within me. The very first thing I did when I arrived in this world was to take a breath into my inner being; and, with one final breath, I will take leave of this world. Jesus said many simple and beautiful things about you, and the one I am thinking of now is that he said you would never leave us. Just as you led Jesus into the desert or into the Temple, I pray that that final breath will mean you leading me back home to the Father. Only then will the work of salvation, redemption, and re-creating, begun in me by Jesus, be brought to its conclusion. If you are to lead me in the present part of the journey, then, surely, I want you to please lead me on that final journey.
In making myself available as an instrument for the building up of the Kingdom of God on earth, I know only too well that I depend totally on you providing the tools, the power, the gifts to do that work. I can provide the readiness, the willingness, and I trust you to provide the gifts. Anything I do or say is nothing more than you working through me. You are part of the Eternal Trinity, the same yesterday, today, and always. Your work is never complete until the kingdom is complete, and the work begun by Jesus is brought to its fulfilment. That, to me, seems to be the will of the Father for his children. I certainly cannot look to myself for any consistency. or with any hope of perseverance in doing good. I can depend on you to keep me in a sense of readiness and availability. Jesus said that you would 'remind us', and I can fully appreciate that, because I can so easily forget. My most immediate prayer and longing is to make you the starting-point of all I say, do, or decide. I often think that the kingdom of God is built by contributions that are both small and hidden. It might only be a word, a smile, or a handshake. What makes it material for Kingdom-building is that you be present in it. In my everyday living, I am quite familiar with the use of speech. If someone asks me how I am, I am very conscious whether the query is coming out of a genuine concern, or is just a form of greeting. I am very familiar with cynicism, sarcasm, criticism, gossip, or lies. Words convey a spirit, even if only a spirit of indifference. I am very conscious that whatever I say, whatever I do, or whatever I decide, is always influenced by some spirit. That is why I really want to learn to live and to walk with you, so that your presence within me might touch the hearts of those I meet, either through the words I say, the prayers I pray, the life I live, or the very person that I am. I remind myself again and again that you are a fountain of living water within, that you are as near and as central as my own heart. I can so easily get lost up in my head, because I cannot always distinguish intelligence from intellectualism, reflection from analysing, or praying from saying prayers. I believe I am being honest when I say that I'm not looking for perfection for myself, and certainly not of myself. My main concern is that you would continue to recall, to remind, to redirect me towards the truth.
I am conscious that I have always had a genuine respect and reverence for honesty, even when my own words or actions were far from being honest. I think of this as a direct result of the fact that you, the Spirit of Truth, are living within my heart, whether I am conscious of that or not, whether I'm faithful to that or not. Life has taught me the wisdom of the words of Jesus, when he says "The truth will set you free". I see you as a direct antidote to the infection of the father of lies, inherited through original sin. It is vitally important for me to think of you, and to consider you as the Spirit of Truth. Because of original sin, I have no reason to trust myself, and to be absolutely sure that I am speaking and living the truth. I live my life in a world of prejudices, bigotry, and intolerance. I was reared on a brand of Religion that can easily lead to self-righteousness, giving me a holier-than-thou attitude towards those who do not act as I think they should. The only guarantee I have that I am living and walking in the truth is when I am being led by you. The only certainty that the words I speak are from God is when they are inspired and empowered by you. I believe and accept that one of the effects of original sin is a form of blindness, deafness, and dumbness, that prevents me hearing what I don't want to hear, to see what I don't want to see, and that causes me to say that which will bring me some personal advantage. I can never even be sure that I am following your promptings. All I can do is turn to you again and again, offer you my goodwill, and trust you to guide my feet into the path of peace.
I can see how prejudices and bigotry can blind others to reality, and I have no reason to consider myself apart from the rest of humanity. I know that I live in the presence of God at every waking or sleeping moment. I know that I can see evidence of that all around me, if I choose to do so. It bothers me at times when I reflect on how asleep I can be, even during my waking moments. I accept the reality that there can be areas of my life that are totally dormant, and that I can sleep-walk through many a day. I am truly grateful for those moments of disclosure when I am fully alert to the beauty of nature, or the life-giving value of love and friendship. It is at such moments that I am reminded of the other times when I take such things for granted, or am totally unaware of reality. Reality is but another form of truth, and I need your guidance to ensure that I live in reality, and not in some sort of day-dream-land.
The Father sent Jesus to invite us to come back to the Garden. That journey is one of ongoing conversion, one of constant change. For such a journey, there is always need for something to be happening, and I don't always need to be aware of that. I think of this as some form of gestation. When you entered the spirit and soul of Mary something began to happen, and continued to happen. I know and believe that she must have been constantly aware of that. I think of her constant yes to such awareness, which would have kept her spirit in a continual attitude of prayer. I reflect on her prayer of the Magnificat as an outpouring of your presence within her. Her heart was surely a Prayer Room, a Temple, an Upper Room, a Pentecost place. In such places there is always something happening, because of the on-going nature of creation, which involves constant change, constant gestation, constant and continuous life. She was declared to be full of grace, and I think of this as being your presence with all of your gifts. She herself was deeply conscious of the fact that all of this was pure gift, and she could rightly sing that "He that is mighty has done great things fo me, and holy is his name". I cannot at all hope to have her profound sense of lowliness, which meant that she was empty of all selfishness, self-seeking, and self-advancement. All I can do is ask you, please, to continue your work in me. I often think of myself as a deep deep well, where you are a gurgling spring of living and life-giving water down at the base of that well. My problem is that life has filled the well with its own wreckage and garbage. I trust you to work in me, so that, one by one, each and every one of those defects and shortcomings may be brought to the surface, and disposed of. I don't honestly expect that this will happen in the time remaining to me on this earth. All I cling to is my hope in the process; in other words, that some of that is happening right at this very moment. I have no options, I have no alternatives. Unless you work in me, I can never be redeemed from the control of the power of darkness, deceit, and death. With all my heart I say yes, yes, yes, again and again, and leave the rest to you. Thank you for being with me, for being in me, for accompanying me on the journey.
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It's Me Again, Lord... copyright © 2004 Fr. Jack McArdle. All rights reserved.