Clothed from on High

Thoughts and memories of our Dad, Prof Courtenay Bartholomew
May 19, 2021
Thursday May 20th: May they all be one
May 20, 2021

Clothed from on High

Q: Archbishop J, the Paschal mystery: how does it relate to family life? (Pt 8)

Handing on the faith to the next generation is one of the great challenges of our time. It is a complex and difficult challenge.

Think of your family, your brothers and sisters, your extended family, your cousins, do they still practise the faith? If you are a grandparent, think of the grandchildren. This is a really vexing challenge that we face in our time. But one we need to become expert in.

We cannot make anyone believe in Jesus. The best we can do is to witness to the truth by our words and actions.

Here is the great challenge. Many times, we are not good witnesses to our families. They know our faults and see our deficient discipleship. They see where we fall short of the high moral ground that we promote and posture.

Christianity is not about a group of heroes and heroines: we are weak, fallen, and flawed, a people redeemed by the grace of Jesus Christ. We are an unfinished work, a transformation in progress.

Speaking to this St Paul said: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Cor 4:7). We are jars of clay, fragile and deficient. It is just that we have been redeemed by Christ. That is the great treasure! In the family we need to begin living a Christianity that is real. Not a show or pretence.

We need God’s mercy every moment of every day. We need to own our weakness and apologise for it, asking forgiveness. This is not what we too often do; we cover over the failing, hide it, and work hard at making others believe we have it all together.

That may work for people outside of the family, but not for those on the inside. In our family they know, they see, and they are hurt by our lack of inner transformation—our lack of integrity and witness.

Thus, St Paul concludes: “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Rom 7:24)

 

The Holy Spirit and mission

The early Church, too, faced this challenge between the Resurrection and Pentecost. Even after the Resurrection of Jesus and His several appearances, the disciples were timid and afraid of the dominant culture and its threat of death and expulsion. They were incapable of witnessing in word and action.

The last action of Jesus on earth was to tell the apostles to wait in Jerusalem! These are His final instructions, “Wait!”. They needed to wait because they were lacking a necessity for mission. He went on to say: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

In the Gospel of Luke, the text reads slightly differently: “but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high” (Lk 24:49). It is the Holy Spirit that prepares the Church for mission. Without it we are naked!

Being “clothed with power from on high” means being wrapped and immersed in God the Holy Spirit.

There are four New Testament texts that speak to the clothing of the Christian: putting on Christ (Gal 3:27), putting on the armour of light (Rom 13:12), putting on the armour of God (Eph 6:10–18) and being clothed with God’s power (Lk 24:49).

 

God’s Power

The most common error of our time is the thinking that we need to fix humanity. This is not only a lie, it is a heresy. We cannot fix it! It was broken before we existed, and it was redeemed by the high cost of the cross of Jesus. Without God there is no fix!

This is the heresy of Pelagianism, that through our own efforts we can achieve sanctity. It is at the core of our self-help literature which blinds us to God and our desperate need.

We are called to bend our hearts to God’s will. In bending to His will, things get redeemed. St Monica prayed for 16 years for a wayward son Augustine. In the process both became saints. What changed?

Well maybe God changed Monica’s heart and made her really open to God. Then maybe through the prayer—as she became a purer conduit of God’s love and grace—she was a better instrument in God’s hands to reach her son.

It is the Holy Spirit that makes us truly humble and available to God. It is the Holy Spirit that makes us great instruments in God’s hands. It is when we are clothed by the power of the Holy Spirit that we can be His witnesses—in our families, our communities, in the Church and to the ends of the world.

 

Let us pray together as families:

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful.

And kindle in them the fire of your love.

Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.

And you will renew the face of the earth.

Lord,

by the light of the Holy Spirit

you have taught the hearts of your faithful.

In the same Spirit

help us to relish what is right

and always rejoice in your consolation.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

 

Key Message:

We need God’s Holy Spirit to become better persons and to be equipped to hand on the faith to our families.

Action Step:

Obtain a copy of the Holy Spirit Novena from the Family Life Commission and do the action every day in your family. Also, pray the Holy Spirit prayer, above.

Scripture Reading:

Acts 1:1–11

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