We find grace for Christian conversion in meeting the Risen Lord and the Holy Spirit

| Fr. Daniel Griffith | May 6, 2013 | 0 Comments

During the Easter Season we read, from the Acts of the Apostles, St. Luke’s account of the early Christian Church. It is a wonderful account of the nascent Church, filled with powerful stories, practical decisions made by the Apostles, and the description of positive characteristics that marked the early Church. In examining the early Christian Church as described in Acts, there are certain characteristics that were integral and intrinsic to the Christian community. As integral, these characteristics are indispensible to Christianity and thus can provide a challenging critique for contemporary Catholics as we can ask a relevant question: is our Catholic Church today marked by the same dynamic characteristics that were manifested by the early Church? If not, perhaps we have some work to do to become more authentic and more faithful to Christ. Pope Francis has been asking similar relevant questions at the start of his Petrine ministry.

In the Acts of the Apostles it is evident that the early Church was marked powerfully by joy, faith, and love. These are the same virtues that our Risen Lord calls forth from Mary Magdalene, Thomas and Peter, respectively, as Christ invites each of them to discover their true selves. Not surprisingly, then, the early Church as depicted in the Acts of the Apostles powerfully witnessed to the world this same trio of virtues: joy, faith, and love. These characteristics were integral to the early Christian Church and thus made the Church more attractive to non-believers and those outside the Christian community. Because Christians were joyful, faithful, and loving, they were able to authentically witness to Christ in a way that soon transformed the Roman Empire, the Mediterranean world….and beyond. Could we aptly describe the contemporary Catholic Church and her members as manifesting vibrant joy, faith, and love in the work we do and the lives we lead? If this description of the Catholic Church is not apt, it means we have room to grow in our faith and must enter into deeper conversion as we seek to more authentically witness to Christ.

Where do we go to find the grace to become more alive in Christ and more authentic in witnessing to Christ in the world? As the post-Resurrection stories of Mary Magdalene, Thomas and Peter attest, we experience conversion and new life through a personal encounter with the Risen Lord. So, the next question might occur to us: where do we go for such an encounter? Unless you have had an extraordinary and supernatural encounter with the Risen Lord recently, the ordinary place where Christians encounter the Risen Christ is through prayer and through the sacramental life of the Church. Do you spend time with the Lord each day in prayer? If not, what about committing 5-10 minutes each day to prayer? Is your heart open to the grace of God that is given in and through the sacraments? Do we approach the Eucharist with the wonder, awe, and reverence that is worthy of such a great gift? Do we regularly practice the Sacrament of Reconciliation, knowing that we need God’s grace and mercy in our lives? All of these are important and relevant questions for our spiritual health and well being.

Another indispensible source of new life and conversion in Christ is the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised his disciples (and us) that he would be with us always. He then gave the Church two gifts that would fulfill his promise: the gift of the Holy Spirit and the gift of the Holy Eucharist. These gifts are intimately related and provide the grace of new life to Christians. It is by the power the Holy Spirit that the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ. During the Easter season, we hear Jesus promise the gift of the Holy Spirit to his disciples, telling them that the Spirit will be an advocate for them and will give them the right words to speak. The history of the Church and our own lives testify to the dynamic power of the Holy Spirit. The power of the Holy Spirit provides life for Christians in the form of important and necessary gifts: unity, peace, courage, and truth. Again, the question must be asked, do we pray to the Holy Spirit to transform our lives and to give us the gifts we need to authentically and effectively live our Christian faith? If not, I would suggest we become more intentional about opening our hearts to the life-giving and life-changing presence of the Holy Spirit.

The early Church in the Acts of the Apostles provides an inspiring model and, at times, a challenging critique to modern Christians and our contemporary Church. Do we manifest the same joy, faith, and love as early Christians? If not, we know that the prescription for our spiritual apathy or desire for conversion can be found in an intimate and prayerful encounter with the Risen Lord and the Holy Spirit.

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Category: The Lesson Plan