The Word Among Us

Easter 2012 Issue

The Story Continues

Everyday, Modern-Day Witnesses to the Spirit

The Story Continues: Everyday, Modern-Day Witnesses to the Spirit

The Book of Acts is filled with stories of miraculous healings, dramatic conversions, and adventurous missionary journeys. People from differ­ent backgrounds were dramatically changed by the Holy Spirit as the apostles preached the good news of Jesus throughout the Roman Empire.

But remarkable stories like these are not just limited to Scripture. They aren’t simply relics of the past that are meant to fill us with nostalgia for a simpler, holier era. They are still happening today!

Below are three modern-day tes­timonies to the power of the Spirit. As you read these stories, let them show you how much the Spirit can do today—not just in these people’s lives but in your own life as well.

A Lawyer Goes to Death Row.

“At one point in my life, I was a very successful corporate lawyer. But twenty-some years ago, something changed in me, and I haven’t been the same since. I was speaking at a business conference in a large city, and as I was walking to my hotel one afternoon, I was confronted by a beg­gar. At first I wanted nothing to do with him; but the Spirit reminded me that Jesus said for us to help. I ended up where I did not belong— lost on back streets in a gang-ridden and deeply impoverished inner-city ghetto.

“Needing to obtain help for this fellow, I wandered with him to clinics, hospitals, even public safety officers. Then, when all the doors had closed, we ended up in a church, praying together. My heart began to well up for him. I felt a powerful sense of compassion for him. Everything that I had built my life upon—career, money, posses­sions, and success—seemed so small at that moment. I began to see that he and I were the same. As fellow human beings, he was just like me. Like him, I desperately needed God’s love. Like me, he was deeply loved by God.

“Back home a few days later, I still couldn’t shake the thoughts about him and all the people like him that had been invisible to me for most of my life. As crazy as it sounds, I began to seriously think about cut­ting back my time as a lawyer so that I could spend time serving the poor. My wife and children felt called for me to do this, too. A few years later, my family asked me to consider let­ting go of my law work completely and allowing my wife to be the sole income earner so that I could leave my job and minister full time to the poor—unpaid.

“After two years of thinking, pray­ing, and talking about it, we decided on a one-year trial period. That year proved to be a great one for our fam­ily, and we decided it was time for me to take on full-time volunteer ministry. For the last thirteen years, my wife has been our primary sup­port, while I have had paid work only a few days a week. This has freed me up to spend most of my time as a Catholic lay chaplain work­ing with death-row inmates. And it all happened because helping a beg­gar got me lost one night—and the Holy Spirit found me.”

Don’t Yell.

“A couple of nights ago, I came home from work really tired and stressed out because of some problems at my job. All I wanted to do was have dinner and sit down in front of the television. But the moment I opened the front door, I could tell it wasn’t going to be a quiet evening.

“Our children were being espe­cially rowdy. They were giving their mother a really hard time. Watching them treat her badly irritates me to no end. Inside, I began to see my temper rising. I was going to explode and when that happens I say and do things that never help the situation.

“Wanting to head off any explo­sion on my part, I went straight into my bedroom to calm down. Then I prayed, “Lord, help me. I don’t have the strength to deal with this.” I took a few deep breaths, sat still for a cou­ple of minutes, and tried to picture Jesus sitting with me as I poured out my frustration to him.

“In the silence of those few moments of prayer, I sensed Jesus telling me: “No matter how the chil­dren act tonight, don’t yell at them.” It was so simple, but so comforting. And that’s how I knew it was the Holy Spirit.

“So for the rest of the evening, I made sure that I kept my voice calm. I hugged each one of my kids and told them that I loved them. Everyone eventually did calm down, and peace was restored to our home. All because I turned to the Spirit and asked for his help.”

I Confess.

“I am what you would call a cradle Catholic, but it didn’t mean all that much to me. I was a typical twenty-eight-year-old man. I had built a successful small business that employed five people. Everything seemed to be going well for me, and I felt as if I had my feet on solid ground.

“Then it happened. A close friend invited me to attend a week­end retreat called Christ Renews His Parish (CRHP). I didn’t want to go at all. Everything in me said that it would be a huge waste of time. But my friend wouldn’t let up. He kept asking and asking. Finally, I gave in and went with him.

“The CRHP retreat was focused on prayer and adoration, testimonies, and a time for confession. We also celebrated the Eucharist together. We read the Bible. The people leading the retreat were sincere and passionate, and I was enjoying myself. But at the same time, I was also counting down the time when it would end and I could get back home.

“Then, something happened to me. One of the testimonies reso­nated with my past life, and I felt as if I had to do something about what I was hearing. That evening, there was an opportunity for confes­sion—something I hadn’t done in years. What’s more, this confession was different. The retreat leaders had handed out a sheet to help us look over our lives so that we could come clean. When my turn came, I was able to confess a few things I had done that I had never spoken about to anyone else. I was also able to let go of some hurts that I had been holding onto.

“That confession changed my life. For the first time in years, I felt truly free. My heart was filled with joy, and I knew God was close to me. I’ll never forget what the Holy Spirit did for me during that weekend. My life came to life. I felt like I was ‘born again.’ ”

Signs of the Spirit.

During the Easter season, the church recalls many of the wonderful miracles that happened as the apostles received the Holy Spirit and went out to preach the gospel. How easy it can be to look at these stories as just his­tory lessons. How easy it can be to think that everything that Peter or Paul touched turned to spiritual gold—and that we could never see anything like this happen in our lives. This kind of thinking can leave us with a romanticized view of the early church, as well as an unrealis­tically pessimistic view of the church in our day.

Yes, these stories from Acts are amazing. Yes, it is very inspiring for us to recall them each year. But the inspiration these stories should give us is the kind that builds our expec­tation for today. For the truth is, the same Holy Spirit who performed miracles in the apostles’ lives wants to do similar things for us. We can see healings and conversions today that are just as amazing as the ones described in Acts. The three stories recounted above testify to that fact.

Just as the first Christians saw God working in their midst, we are seeing signs today. Parents who turn to the Lord are receiving wis­dom to lead their families. People are being drawn to care for the poor and marginalized, even to the point of walking away from high-powered careers. People who have no inten­tion of turning to the Lord are being led to him, sometimes through the persistence of a good friend.

Believe. At the Last Supper, Jesus told his apostles: “Whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12). How can this be? How can we do greater things than Jesus?

The answer is simple. The Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, lives in our hearts. He makes it possible for us to be God’s hands and his feet in this world. So as we spend these fifty days of Easter, let us all rejoice in the way the Holy Spirit is guiding, leading, and pouring out blessings on the church and the world. n