Imagine that you sense that the spirit of the Lord God is upon me. … Re-read these italicized words and pause to internalize them: the spirit of the Lord God is upon me. These words open the Old Testament reading for the third Sunday of Advent (Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11)
That experience of the Spirit of the Lord would be like no other. New insights might permit you to understand events and relationships in a more profound way. You might also be aware of a warm sensation throughout your whole body. Isaiah says, I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my whole being shall exult in my God. Surely, you could think of nothing else but God and his wonders. The intensity of the feeling of, the focus on, and the familiarity with the Spirit would illuminate you to others. You would shine.
Perhaps that sense of God’s Spirit upon you had grown over a period of time. Now it had reached a point when it was too much for one person. The awareness of your mission had come to a boil and was now about bubble over to others. It had to be shared: he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed.
Your Spirit-inspired purpose would be:
to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
to provide for those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning.
Your words and mission would be to restore and renew broken relationships, eliminate restrictions of freedoms and the sense of loss. This good newswould repair spiritual damage. Beyond your words your God-graced presence would infuse situations with peace, calm, joy and liberation.
The gift of the Spirit’s presence would come with a price. You would ache for the sorrows people experienced and feel compelled to address them. You would share their pain in a very real way…and heal it.
These gifts would extend to all nations: As the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.
You would tell the peoples that righteousness describes right relationship not only between individuals but also between nations and, above all, with respect to God.
The gospel for the Third Sunday of Advent, (John 1:6-8, 19-28) is about a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.
The Spirit impelled John forward. He must have shone through his words, his lifestyle and his message to ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,'” as the prophet Isaiah said….and as we heard in last week’s first reading.
The Spirit of the Lord upon you is not reserved just for prophets or saints of Jesus’ day. As the opening lines of this reflection suggest, the Spirit beacons each of us to represent God in our world and to bandage the wounds we see. The same Spirit lights each of us and invites us to reflect that Spirit into our world in the way we live.
Being graced by the Spirit will have its costs. Compassion will cause you to suffer with those you come to heal. And frustration will be a constant companion as people ignore or reject what you tell them. But it will be a small price, because you know that Isaiah, John the Baptist, Jesus, himself, experienced the same.
· When have you experienced the Spirit upon you…even for a brief period? What was it like?
· As part of Advent, invite the Spirit to come upon you as he came to Isaiah and to Mary at the Annunciation…“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. (Luke 1:35)… so that God will be ‘born’ within you.
· The Holy Spirit gifts each of us to act in a way that is true to our self…and to God’s desire for us. For some this will mean praying for people. For others it will mean working to free individuals from the captivity of addiction or despair. Still others will console the brokenhearted with their words and care. To what does the Spirit call you?