The Word Among Us

June 2011 Issue

Believe The Impossible!

The Holy Spirit can show us how.

Believe The Impossible!: The Holy Spirit can show us how.

In Lewis Carroll’s novel "Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland", he tells the story of a young girl who falls down a rabbit hole into a fantasy world.

At one point in the story, Alice says: “There’s no use trying, one can’t believe impossible things.” But the Queen disagrees with Alice, saying: “Sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

How many impossible things have you believed today? Logic tells us that the Trinity is an impossibility—how can there be three distinct persons in one God? Logic tells us that it is impossible for a virgin to conceive a child or for an ordinary piece of bread to become the body of Christ. Logic might even tell us that it is impossible for the eternal, divine, Holy Spirit to live in human hearts.

But all these points only serve to show the limitations of human logic when it comes to the realm of faith. Put simply, sometimes we just have to take Jesus at his word. There are times, in fact, when he wants us to believe the impossible, for “What is impossible for human beings is possible for God” (Luke 18:27).

Thank God for the Sacrament of Confirmation! For confirmation gives us the grace to be more connected to the Holy Spirit. And it’s the Holy Spirit who helps us to grasp and believe truths that are impossible for us to accept on the basis of logic alone.

Demonstrations of Power. In his first Letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul wrote that the gospel is not grounded in persuasive words but in a “demonstration of spirit and power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:4-5).

When we think about demonstrations of the Holy Spirit, we often think of “impossible” things like miracles and extraordinary signs and wonders. But as exciting as these may be, they are not everything that Paul meant by “demonstrations of spirit and power.” For Paul and for all the apostles, every time a person was converted, it was a demonstration of divine power. It was by the working of the Holy Spirit that thieves, prostitutes, and adulterers turned from sin. It was nothing short of miraculous each time a new church was brought into being and people began to live together as brothers and sisters in Christ. When people like Timothy and Priscilla and Aquila gave up their ordinary routines and devoted themselves to serving the Lord, it was because the Holy Spirit was at work. He had given them a new vision for their lives, and they embraced it, with all the challenges it involved.

Brothers and sisters, the Holy Spirit can do in us what he did in the first believers! We can all experience his power—and we can all give the world demonstrations of that power. It happens as we spend time with Jesus and learn to yield to his Spirit. It happens as we let the Spirit change our hearts over time, helping us show his kindness and generosity. It happens every time we treat someone with the love and honor that God has for them. It happens every time we let Jesus use our hands and feet to sow seeds of faith, inspiration, and unity in our church. It happens whenever we welcome the Spirit to be with us as we are praying with someone or encouraging someone to open his or her heart to God.

The Mystery of God’s Wisdom. If we want to see our ordinary acts of kindness and service be turned into demonstrations of God’s power, we will need to be open to what St. Paul calls “God’s wisdom,” which is “mysterious” and “hidden” (1 Corinthians 2:7). As we understand and experience this divine wisdom, we will find ourselves filled with his power. The two go hand in hand.

So what is this mysterious wisdom that the Spirit wants to convey to us? It’s the knowledge that God has something marvelous in store for those who love him (1 Corinthians 2:9). It’s the revelation that God’s plan for our lives includes our being glorified with him in heaven (2:7). According to Paul, this wisdom comes only to those who have the Spirit of God and are open to the Spirit’s revelation. For nonbelievers and Christians who are not seeking the Spirit, this plan is folly. Either it doesn’t make sense, or it seems irrelevant.

Can you see why the Sacrament of Confirmation is so important? It is through the release of the Holy Spirit that we can begin to grasp God’s plans and purposes in our lives. It is also through the gifts of the Spirit that we can take up our role in seeing that glorious plan unfold in our lives. And so the Spirit is constantly urging us to build our relationship with God through prayer and the sacraments. He is constantly urging us—and empowering us—to serve the Lord and build up the church. He is constantly urging us to put off our old self with its moodiness, anger, self-centeredness, and the like and to take up our new self—grounded in love, patience, self—grounded in love, patience, generosity, and understanding (Ephesians 4:22-24; Colossians 3:5- 14; Philippians 3:13-16).

According to St. Paul, “No one knows what pertains to God except the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:11). It may seem that Paul is telling us that we’ll never understand God’s plan—only the Spirit can grasp it. But in the next breath, he tells us that God has poured out the Spirit “so that we may understand the things freely given us by God” (2:12).

So Much More! The Holy Spirit wants to show us! He wants to open our eyes to the mysteries of God— and not just the promise of eternal life. The Holy Spirit wants to give us so much more! He wants to give us everything we need to live a spiritual, godly life every day of our lives, until that final day when our Father welcomes us into the eternal life he has prepared for us from the very start of creation.

So what other things does the Spirit want to do for us? He wants to guide us and teach us (John 14:26). He wants to give us the right words when we try to witness to the Lord (Luke 12:2). He wants to “help us in our weakness” and teach us how to pray. He even wants to pray with us (Romans 8:26)! He wants to show us that God’s covenant with us is everlasting, that it is a covenant based on God’s unconditional love and his boundless mercy (Hebrews 10:15-18).

Best of all, the Holy Spirit wants to tell us that we are children of God. He wants to join with our spirit and cry out: “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:15). Too often we think of God as a harsh and distant judge who looks down from heaven, ready to condemn us for every sin we commit. Too often we see him as a heavenly police officer just waiting for the opportunity to punish us. But that’s not who God is at all. That view of God is completely opposed to the way Jesus spoke about him. It is completely opposed to the way the Holy Spirit has revealed him to men and women throughout time.

Our heavenly Father loves us deeply. In fact, Paul tells us, there is nothing that can separate us from his love (Romans 8:39). Even when we separate ourselves from him through sin, he doesn’t separate himself from us. This is the one thing that the Holy Spirit wants to make perfectly clear each and every day: God loves you! If you remember just one point from this article, remember this: Through the Sacrament of Confirmation, the Holy Spirit affirms in our hearts that God loves us. We are his children. He is always at work for our good.

In Step with the Spirit. Jesus was “full of the Holy Spirit” (Luke 4:1). Likewise, Mary, Peter, Stephen, Barnabas, Paul, and many others were full of the Spirit (Luke 1:35; Acts 4:8; 7:55; 11:24; 13:9). And because of the Sacrament of Confirmation, we can be too. People who are full of the Spirit know the height, width, and depth of God’s love (Ephesians 3:18). They know that God has prepared a place for them in heaven. They know that even now, God is at work helping them through the journey of life. They know all of this because the Holy Spirit has pressed it on their hearts.

It sounds impossible. It sounds incredible. It sounds too good to be true. But this only goes to show how generous and kind our heavenly Father is. St. Paul said it best: “What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him”—This is what “God has revealed to us through the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:9,10).