Led by the Spirit

(Homily for Pentecost)

Message: Daily prayer allows the Spirit to lead and prevents complexity from overwhelming. Then comes simple discipleship.

Today we celebrate Pentecost - the sending of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit makes possible the Christian life, that is, our relationship to God and our following of Jesus.

St. Paul tells us that those led by the Spirit are sons of God. Yes, but how does someone know he is led by the Spirit? Well, it's both complex and simple.

To illustrate the complexity and simplicity of following the Spirit's lead, I would like to share a book I read in preparation for World Youth Day. I've been trying to learn about the Catholic Church during and after World War II. I found an eye-opening book titled, "Church of Spies." Based on recently opened archives, it tells about Pope Pius XII's role in the efforts to assassinate Hitler.

This might surprise you, but the Catholic Church has taught that in certain circumstances it can be legitimate to kill a tyrant. I encourage you to read the book yourself, but suffice it to say that the pope's role involved some delicate and difficult decisions. The pope of course wasn't personally going to poison Hitler. However, after careful prayer, Pius decided to not only encourage the plotters, but offered to take a role as a trusted adviser and communications channel, for example, to help arrange negotiations between the plotters and the Allied governments, particularly Great Britain. The books shows some of the complexities involved in following the lead of the Holy Spirit.

In the midst of this complexity, a lovely simplicity emerged. One of the plotters against Hitler was a man named Josef Muller - a stocky, cigar smoking, beer drinking South German Catholic who people called "Ochsensepp - Joey Ox." He won the trust of Pope Pius XII and became a vital member of the plot against Hitler. When the 1943 assassination attempt failed, the Nazis arrested Muller and sent him to Flossenburg Concentration Camp. Subjected to many cruelties he evaded execution by what seems like a miracle.

Liberated by Americans, "Joey Ox" asked if he could meet with Pius XII. The pope welcomed him warmly and they had a three hour conversation. The pope said that he had heard about Muller's ordeal and that he felt as if his own son had returned from terrible danger. Putting his arms around Muller's shoulder he asked how he survived. "Muller said frankly that 'Catholic theology hadn't helped him because it had too many options. 'Instead I relied on the prayers I learned as a boy.' Hearing this Pius 'smiled and squeezed my hand heartily.'"

So, yes, we need to pray daily to discern God's will, to allow the Spirit to lead in complex situations. But when tribulations arrive - and they inevitably will - we need a simple response, "Jesus, I trust in you." Or, like Joey Ox, to say those prayers we learned as children.

Like Pope Pius - and Joey Ox - we live a complex world. Joey Ox said the pope reminded him that good and evil live and work in every human being. For sure some such as the Nazis are deeply immersed in indecency. Nevertheless none of us is purely good or purely evil. A spiritual battle goes on in every human heart. We are in a complex world where we have to discern what it means to follow the Spirit's lead.

As Christians we have the advantage of 2000 years of reflection and discernment in a variety of circumstance. Today we face a very different world that what confronted Pius XII and Joey Ox. But we can learn from them.

The bottom line is: Daily prayer allows the Spirit to lead and prevents complexity from overwhelming. Then comes simple discipleship: Jesus, I trust in you.

Please join me in lifting up Jesus: Jesus, I trust in you. Led by the Spirit can you join me in saying that? Jesus, I trust in you. Jesus, I trust in you. Amen.


Spanish Version

From the Archives (Pentecost Sunday):

2017: Life in Christ Week 8: Source of Power
2016: Led by the Spirit
2015: Disciple Makers Week 8: Holy Spirit Make It Possible
2014: Practical Sign of Hope
2013: Even Greater Things
2012: Our First, Most Cherished Liberty
2011: It Was the Holy Ghost
2010: The Power of the Holy Spirit
2009: The Soul's Most Welcome Guest
2008: Double Gift
2007: With You Always
2006: He Testifies to the Truth
2005: The Greatest Unused Power
2004: A Man Open to the Holy Spirit
2003: To Drink of One Spirit
2002: Healing of Memories
2001: Hateful Comparisons & Precious Gifts
2000: The Spirit & The Flesh
1999: Each in His Native Language
1998: Empty Rites?

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