In today’s Gospel Jesus reveals one of the great treasures of Christianity. When we were baptized, God himself, the Blessed Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, came into our souls and took up residence. “We will come to him and make our dwelling with him,” as our Lord tells us. Our Lord dwells body and soul in heaven, but at the same time He can be present to each one of us at all times, through the Holy Spirit, dwelling deeply within our soul.
Since the three Persons of the Trinity share the same nature, where one is, all three are. And for the sake of our understanding, the Church has long attributed God’s presence within our soul especially to the Holy Spirit, the most hidden of the three Persons of the Trinity. Tradition calls the Holy Spirit the “sweet guest of the soul”. He is the Gift that brings all gifts. The Holy Spirit is like our own personal trainer, he hones our capacity to love like Christ, and he hones our virtue and holiness. “The Holy Spirit,” Jesus reminds us, “…will teach you everything.”
In seminary I had a teacher by the name of Fr. Moriarty. He told us often that we are saved by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit; where faith is the condition and good works are the fruit.
I have a story; Mariano Soldevila was born in 1897 in Tarragona, Spain. He was the 6th of 7th children born into a very devout Catholic family. Mariano was a very smart man and he earned his medical degree at the age of 24. He married the following year and set up practice in the town of Arbeca. In addition to his office practice Dr. Mariano also made house calls to the poor families in the surrounding areas. He never charged them for his services. And he made sure they got three things: the medicine they needed, food for their pantry, and a priest who would visit to give them the sacraments. He looked out for both the body and the soul of his patients.
Dr. Mariano and his wife Dolors had five daughters. He was also elected mayor of Arbeca. While he was mayor, a transformation took place in that town. The Sacred Heart of Jesus was given a place of honor at city hall. The clergy and the Church were defended by the mayor’s administration. The Catholic faith was always evident in the doctor’s actions, words, and behavior. You could not miss the fact that he was a faithful Catholic.
The Second Spanish Republic came into power in 1931 and revolution spread across Spain. Within two years churches and other religious places were being burned and destroyed. Priests, religious, and lay faithful were also being killed. The government soldiers arrived in Arbeca in August of 1936.
Dr. Mariano was urged several times to save himself by leaving the country. He always refused. He believed that he was meant to carry on his medical mission for the needy. Always telling them, “he was needed where he was.”
On August 13th the militiamen came to Dr. Mariano’s home and dragged him away. He was put into the back of a truck with other prominent Catholics. As the truck bounced over the rough road, a woman ran out and had them strop. She told the driver that her son was ill and asked if the doctor could help him. Surprisingly they agreed and she brought the child to the doctor. He examined the child and prescribed some medication. He assured the woman her boy would be fine.
Before getting on their way the doctor noticed a wound on one of the militiamen; he asked if he could look at it. The soldier showed him a deep cut in his leg and the doctor bandaged it and told him how to treat it. Dr. Mariano’s last patient was one of his executioners.
A witness told Dr. Mariano’s wife that his last words were, “Father into your hands I commend my spirit.”
We are saved by an indwelling of the Holy Spirit where faith is the condition and good works are the fruit. But sometimes we forget and that forgetfulness puts up a blockade to God’s power in our lives.
The Holy Spirit is polite. He respects our freedom. He chooses to be a guest within our soul and not a dictator. He resides within our souls, loving us, eagerly waiting for us to put away our distractions, our cell phones, to shut down our computers, and pay attention to him, to listen to him, to ask him for guidance and strength. And whenever we do, he is able to increase what is good in us and cleanse what is bad.
So why don’t we pay attention more often? Is his voice really that hard to hear? If it’s hard to hear, that’s not his fault. He knows how to speak in the depths of our hearts, beyond the need for words. He speaks by inspiring us to choose what is right and good for ourselves and for those around us.
We all hear those good inspirations. We know we do. The problem is, they usually demand some self-sacrifice. They demand following Christ on the way of the Cross in order to have a bigger share in his resurrection. And so we pretend not to hear. But today the Church reminds us that the peace, meaning, and fruitfulness that we long for, search for, and try to manufacture in a hundred different ways – can only come from following Christ: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you,” Jesus tells us. “Not as the world gives do I give it to you.” God dwells in our souls, eager to guide us to that peace. Will we trust him? Will we be open and docile to his inspirations? To that inspiration he has been insisting on right now within your soul?
Every baptized Christian soul is a Temple where God truly dwells. There is a story about a Roman soldier from the first centuries of Christianity. He went off on a long military campaign, leaving behind his pregnant wife. While he was gone, she gave birth. Soon thereafter, she converted to Christianity, was baptized, and had her child baptized as well. Meanwhile, the soldier also met some Christians and heard their explanations of what it meant to be baptized into this new faith. But he was not able to receive baptism before the campaign ended. When he returned home his wife was overjoyed to see him, but nervous about what his reaction would be to her baptism. She decided to break the news gradually. First she showed him their child, mentioning in an offhand way that he had been baptized as a Christian. The husband looked shocked and became quiet. He looked again at the child, thoughtfully, then knelt down beside the crib. He bowed his head, closed his eyes, and, silently, began to pray. His wife was puzzled. She knelt next to him and asked what he was doing. He looked at her and said, “I am praying to the one, true God, for if our son has been baptized, he has himself become a holy place. Christ the Lord, his Father the Creator of all, and the living Holy Spirit has made their home in his heart, so we can pray to God there.”
We are saved by an indwelling of the Holy Spirit where faith is the condition and good works are the fruit. Every baptized Christian soul is a temple, where God truly dwells, don’t forget, and don’t let forgetfulness become a blockade to growing in holiness.
You are a marvel of creation you possess God deep within your soul, you are a marvel!
Let us become great Saints,
Fr. Christopher J. Ankley