If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?” (Luke 11:13).
And do not get drunk on wine, in which lies debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18).
Seraphim of Sarov, an eighteenth-century Russian Orthodox saint, was fond of saying that the whole goal of the Christian life is to “acquire the Holy Spirit.” Of course, the Spirit is a free gift from God, not some commodity we can go out and get on our own, like cable TV. And through Baptism and faith in Jesus Christ, we have already received that Spirit. But just like the Christmas presents that people have returned to the stores, this gift does us no good if we don’t unwrap it and use it. That’s why “being filled” the Holy Spirit really is our life’s work and highest goal.
How important is being filled with the Spirit? Let’s look at some men and women who played important roles in the birth of Jesus. The angel of the Lord told Zechariah that John the Baptist “will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth” (Luke 1:15). When Mary visited Elizabeth, we are told: “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit” (1:41). At the circumcision of John the Baptist, “His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied” (1:67). St. Luke tells us of Simian that before he prophesied over the infant Jesus: “It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Messiah of the Lord. He came in the Spirit into the temple” (2:26-27).
Stephen is another New Testament hero who acquired the Spirit. As any Christian does, he grew by being faithful to the day-to-day basics of life in Christ: the apostles’ teaching, fellowship with other Christians, the Eucharist, and prayer (Acts 2:42). Over time, he radiated the love of Christ more and more.
Not just once but twice, Luke emphasizes this by stating that Stephen was “filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 6:5; 7:55). The first time is in connection with Stephen’s humble service as the church’s first deacon. The second time refers to the way the Spirit led Stephen to a dramatic public role of healing and preaching, and then empowered him to face death joyfully as the church’s first martyr.
What an encouragement Stephen is! If you’re in an “ordinary” season of life, he reminds you that the Spirit fills and forms us through humble tasks and everyday faithfulness. If you’re in an “extraordinary” season of exceptional calling or crisis, Stephen urges you to know that God is with you to strengthen you-even with a dramatic “jolt” of the Spirit if necessary!
As we begin this New Year, set aside some time to reflect on this gift of the Spirit. One thing is sure: Your Heavenly Father wants to give you more of the Holy Spirit (see Luke 11:13)! Ask what you can do to take hold of it all, to “acquire” it. Even a small change in your ordinary life-like a short but regular prayer time-can make all the difference.
May we never settle for less than our full share of God’s gift!
“Holy Spirit, I want more of you! Fill me anew today. Teach and form me; lead and equip me. I surrender myself to you.”
Maurice Blumberg was the founding Executive Director of the National Fellowship of Catholic Men (http://www.nfcmusa.org/), and is currently a Trustee. He is also the Director of Partner Relations for Partners in Evangelism, (http://www2.wau.org/partners/), a Ministry to the Military and Prisoners for The Word Among Us. Maurice can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
[Many thanks to The Word Among Us (http://www.wau.org/) for allowing me to adapt some material from daily meditations in their monthly devotional magazine. Used with permission.]
Questions for Reflection/Discussion by Catholic Men
1. Take a few minutes to meditate on the Scriptures from St. Luke’s Gospel and Ephesians at the beginning of this article. What do you think they tell you about the importance of “acquiring” or being “filled” with the Holy Spirit?
2. As the article notes, the Scriptures are full of examples of men and women who were filled with the Holy Spirit, including the John the Baptist, Elizabeth, Zechariah, Simeon, and Stephen. What do you think it means to be “filled with the Holy Spirit”? How would you characterize the impact being filled with the Spirit had on each of them?
3. Why is it just as important for you and I to be filled with the Spirit as it was for those New Testament men and women mentioned in the article?
4. How have you experienced the work of and power of the Holy Spirit in your life? Share some examples. Do you believe you need more of the power of the Holy Spirit in your life? In what areas?
5. The article ends with these words: “As we begin this New Year, set aside some time to reflect on this gift of the Spirit. One thing is sure: Your Heavenly Father wants to give you more of the Holy Spirit (see Luke 11:13)! Ask what you can do to take hold of it all, to “acquire” it. Even a small change in your ordinary life-like a short but regular prayer time-can make all the difference.” What “small change” are you willing to make in 2010 to experience a deeper infilling of the Holy Spirit?
6. If you are in a men’s group, take some time at the end of your meeting to pray for one another for a fresh (and deeper) infilling of the Holy Spirit? Use the prayer at the end of the article as a starting point.