The Two Sons

Reflection for the 17th Sunday after Trinity

Matthew 21,28-32

The parable of the two sons in today’s Gospel reading was addressed to the chief priests and elders of the people. Its purpose is to defend Jesus’ invitation to sinners and outcasts to the Kingdom, in the face of the sneers of the religious establishment.  Of course, the parable outraged the religious leaders. The first son represents sinners. Like him, they originally chose to go their own way but repented and followed Gods way and so gained entry into the Kingdom. The second son represents the chief priests and elders. Like him, they promised to work for God but failed to do so and so excluded themselves from the Kingdom. The parable echoes a favourite theme of Matthew, the split in the religious person between ‘saying’ and ‘doing’. Hence it is relevant for ‘religious’ people of every age.

Saint Augustinus by Pedro Berruguete,
15th century, Public domain.

Many of the greatest saints in history were sinners who originally said ‘no’ to God and who later had a change of heart and said ‘yes’. St. Augustine is one of the best examples and there are many others.

A change of mind may lead to a change in some aspect of a person’s life, but a change of heart, a ‘metanoia’ is a conversion at the deepest possible level. The conversion which Jesus sought to bring about in people was a change of heart. Many sinners heeded his call to conversion of heart, changed their lives and made their way into the Kingdom. But many of the religious people stubbornly resisted his call to a conversion of heart, refused to change their lives, and so excluded themselves from the Kingdom.

I am reminded of the story of an Afro-American who was standing outside an evangelical church in one of the southern states in the US. It was many years ago and the Church was for whites only. Just then, Jesus came along and asked the man what he was doing there. The man told him that he loved listening to the singing and that was why he was standing outside the door listening. He went on to explain that because of his colour, he could not enter the Church. Jesus smiled and said, ‘I know how you feel. I myself have been trying to get into that church since it was opened’. In other words they needed a change of heart.

In reflecting on the two sons in today’s Gospel story, it is worth asking, how I see myself in relation to each of them. To be honest, I may find a little bit of each in me, and that is not necessarily bad. However, the aim and the ideal is that I continue to renew my commitment to Jesus, and I continue to open my heart to the fullness of his message.

Fr. Pol Andrew

“It’s not fair!”

Reflection for the 16th Sunday after Trinity

Matthew 20,1-16

“It’s not fair!” How often one has heard that complaint from children of all ages? Matthew tells us that the discontented labourers in the vineyard complained because the Owner paid all of them the same amount, regardless of whether they had worked one or ten hours.

Etching by Jan Luyken illustrating Matthew 20:1-15 in the Bowyer Bible, Bolton, England. Free Art Licence, via Wikimedia Commons

No doubt their case today would be taken up by the National Union of Vineyard Workers, and their grievance negotiated with their Employer: and whatever the verdict, some at least of them would still complain of being treated “unfairly”. Often the best way to see how we’ve ‘got something wrong’ – whether it’s about ‘fairness’, money, our golf-swing, [or our ideas about God] – is to look at our mistakes, in ‘slow motion’.

This is what the Parable describes if we look at it one step at a time:

  • A Vineyard-owner or Manager went out early to hire labourers to work on his estate.
  • They agreed to accept what was, in those days a “Living Wage”. They went to work. If they’d been looking for more pay, they would, no doubt, have been advised to look elsewhere.
  • Every three hours the Manager took on other unemployed workers. To them he specifically offered to “pay whatever is right”.
  • But, at one hour before closing-time, he took on others; he made no promise of reward, but offered them the opportunity to do some work, rather than standing idle all day.
  • However, at closing-time he told his cashier to pay all those workers the same amount– regardless of how long or short a time they’d worked.
  • But then “all Hell was let loose”. Although the earlier workers had agreed to be paid the “whatever is right” – which meant (in today’s terms) -a living wage – they were all paid exactly the same amount. The early workers complained: not because they’d received less than they’d been promised, but because the latecomers were paid more than they had expected. So all received that “living wage”.

If Jesus had meant that parable to be a lecture on ‘How to Make Your Vineyard Pay’ his listeners would have had good reason to grumble. But that was not His intention!

He used this parable (like many other ones) to describe the Kingdom of God – and explain, whether they liked it or not, there is (literally) a world of difference between God’s idea for His Kingdom, and our idea of what we think God’s idea ought to be.

About God’s Kingdom, Jesus said things like “The first shall be last, and the last first” and “How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom” and “Let him who would be first among you be servant of all” and demonstrated it at the Last Supper despite Peter’s protests by washing the Apostles feet.

If we want to become part of God’s Kingdom, we must prepare ourselves for a number of surprises, many of which will, at first sight not be to our liking.
For example, the way we think about ‘fairness’ and ‘justice, compared with the way God sees and administers them in His Kingdom – may require nothing less than a complete transformation of how we think! If that being true distresses us, it can only mean one thing: we have chosen to worship the wrong god, and to believe in the wrong faith; so, like those grumbling vineyard workers, and plaintive children, we shall find ourselves spending Eternity in a state of permanent discontent!

Fr. Francis Gardom


Reflection for the 15th Sunday after Trinity

Matthew 18,21-35

Today’s Gospel reading speaks to us about the need to offer forgiveness, to our brother or neighbour who has caused offence. In our experience, it is not easy to forgive the person who offends because rancour, bitterness, and grief burn within our hearts. Indeed, people say “I forgive, but do not forget!” We hold resentment in our hearts, whereas Jesus is looking for unconditional love.

It is a fact that tension, rancour, provocations, and in general bad behaviour – all render the act of forgiveness difficult at best, and even possibly worthless. Such breakdown of relationships, lead to the hardening of hearts and rejection of God’s grace.  This is the cause of so much misery in the world, and Schisms in the Church.

Jesus spoke of the need to forgive seventy seven times. His teaching is revolutionary. [Mt 18:21-22]  He taught that forgiveness was important to reconcile people in the Christian Community. Why seventy seven times? The number seven indicates perfection, and Jesus goes far beyond Peter’s proposal. Forgiveness is always available to a person who has sorrow for their sins. This is much more than weeping a few tears, but an accountability for the wrong done, a heartfelt desire to put things right. We call this contrition and amendment of purpose.

The expression seventy seven times is a clear reference to the words of La’mech who said “I have slain a man for wounding me, a young man for striking me. If Cain is avenged sevenfold, truly La’mech seventy-seven fold”. [Gen 4:23b-24] Jesus inverts the spiral of violence which entered the world following the original disobedience of Adam and Eve, because of the killing of Abel by Cain, and for the vengeance of La’mech.

In the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant [Mt 18:23-35], Ten thousand talents donates a sum beyond human comprehension. Perhaps like those elusive Euro Millions? It is beyond our ability to comprehend the capacity of God’s gracious generosity. There is no limit to the depth of his loving kindness and forgiveness.

Although it can be difficult to forgive a person who has wronged us, our forgiveness supported by prayer, opens the way for a great showering of grace. If God so abundantly forgives our transgressions, then we are duty bound to forgive our brother. The Our Father, the prayer Our Lord gave us, which we recite at every Mass says, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”. In the early years of the Christian Church, it was remarked that Christians were known by their love for each other.

The Christian Community today offers an alternative life style to the “dog eat dog” culture of self sufficiency and greed that surrounds us. Our hope is in a living God, who calls us into relationship through his Son, through faith and grace, with the assurance of sins forgiven and the promise of eternal life. So let us continue to build a community upon the love of Jesus, and just as our forefathers did, challenge the corrupt society around us with the words of the Gospel. 

Fr. Nathan Williams

Discipline in the Church

Reflection for the 14th Sunday after Trinity

Matthew 18,15-20

Jesus said, “If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone” (Matthew 18,15).

Jules & Jenny from Lincoln, UK / CC BY (

It is a grievous matter when human families fall apart, and it should be treated equally seriously if Christians fall out as well. We are brothers and sisters in Christ, we are his family. How awful it would be if Christ were to say to you or to me “You are no longer a member of my family, you are not welcome”. But he won’t – that’s the Gospel message, and the assurance of his love for us should – no must, shape all our dealings with other members of this family. And then that little word sin, which actually refers to any kind of behaviour that is displeasing to God, and which at one level is very complicated – there used to be published little manuals for devout Christians, carrying long lists of sins – but at another level is very simple, because any thought or word or deed that does not reflect the kind of love that Our Lord taught and lived is sin.

……..”And point out the fault when the two of you are alone.” No public bawling out, no public humiliation, no point scoring in front of witnesses. And why? Firstly because to act like that is an offence against love and therefore sinful in itself. Secondly, because within the Church family, the aim of challenging the wrong doer must be repentance and reconciliation, not punishment and humiliation. Only if this doesn’t work are others to be involved, and then not people from outside the Christian family, but other members of the household of faith. And if that doesn’t work, then the whole church is to be told, and the offender is to be treated as an outcast. Goodness: you’d have to be careful about that, wouldn’t you! These days you could land up in court charged with defamation of character and who knows what else. But that simply serves to underline the seriousness with which sin is to be dealt with within the Church. Which begs the question – do we, or do we keep silence?

Discipline is a dirty word today. We have a live-and-let-live attitude that is uncomfortable with the idea that anyone has a right – much less a responsibility – to discipline anyone else. Parents are made to feel that they should be encouragers rather than rebukers. Teachers dare not any longer discipline their students. Many years ago when I was a teacher, if you sent a boy to the Head Teacher he would be caned; if you sent him to the Deputy, he would get a half hour lecture: guess which the boys preferred! Children without discipline not only fail to reach their potential but also become dangerous to themselves and others. If we were all angels, discipline would be unnecessary – but we are not angels. Even that mighty Christian St Paul confessed that he often found himself doing what he knew to be wrong and failing to do what he knew to be right. The challenge is, that to ignore sinful behaviour can itself become sinful, for whatever undermines the well being of the church is offensive to God. God grant that none of us is ever put in the position where we have to draw the attention of a brother or sister Christian to wrong behaviour, but should it happen we must follow the teaching Our Lord sets before us.

Fr. Edward Bryant

The Foolishness of the Cross

Reflection for the 13th Sunday after Trinity

Matthew 16,21-28

Just as Simon Peter had made his great confession of faith and promise of loyalty to Jesus the Son of the living God, the narrow way opens up like a sink hole in front of him. On the way from Caesarea Philippi to Jerusalem, the Lord begins to prepare his friends for what they would see him undergo as the suffering servant of God that Isaiah had predicted. Peter reacted with the mindset of a typical Jew of his time and all the Messianic expectations that went with that. The way ahead for the disciples would still require a major transfiguring of their minds. The foolishness of the cross and passion that loomed before him would be an exceptional brand of life with a new concept of love and loyalty, of holiness through sacrifice rather than ritual religion. “To love your enemies and do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who persecute you”. [Luke 6; 27] To do all this with the certain knowledge that it would bring conflict and make enemies. Jesus would follow his own teaching to the letter, ultimately to the world’s lowest place, the cross. No wonder Simon Peter protests, and for a brief moment acts as a stumbling block and the easy agent of Satan. “You are thinking not as God does but as human beings do” says the Lord to him.

El Greco: Christ carrying the cross -1580 (Public Domain)

The new brand of life the Lord brings was not as C.S. Lewis said, “to make better people, mere improvements, but to change us into a new humanity”. Thirty years later Peter would get it! He wrote to his own converts “for this you were called, because Christ suffered for us as an example to follow in his steps”. [1 Peter 2; 21] The first step to this new humanity is the realisation that a change is needed. Truly that step is especially difficult for us today in our religion less pagan religious world. We inhabit a culture preoccupied with the goal of happiness. But Jesus never promised his followers happiness, rather he proclaims the giving up on self interest and the surrender of personal contentment. These are goals right outside contemporary culture, which is often described as “sanctified hedonism”.

Jesus was leading his followers down a difficult path and the same call is before us, to take up the way of the cross. This call has for a long time fallen on deaf ears and even in apostolic times was “foolishness.” Perhaps we may hope that eyes may soon be open to realise that the pursuit of happiness is frankly impossible, dehumanising and cannot last, and it so often leads to utter loneliness. “What profit is it to a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul”. [Matt. 16; 26]

The way that Jesus was taking his disciples was to give up on the temporal in favour of the eternal. This is why in the divine plan, he became a man and revealed to the rest of humanity a divine purpose and meaning for life. He had to do this within the real world of good and evil, of sublime beauty yet appalling evil. The way through these two poles is so dark and treacherous; men will hesitate, the will need a bright vision to give light to their way. That is why, after leaving Caesarea Philippi, Simon Peter and the inner group immediately go on to experience the transfiguration and glory of Christ the Son of the living God as the next step.

Fr. Geoffrey Neal

Jesus Walks On Water

Reflection for the 10th Sunday after Trinity

Matthew 14,22-33

Peter’s boat on the rough sea is an icon of the Church, symbolising the Christian community’s mission is to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom and a new way of living as God’s people. Despite the many obstacles and struggles, the Lord’s help and protection will never be lacking, and Christ’s Church will never be overcome. We learn to face together the difficulties, united and strengthened by faith in Jesus who sends us into the world.

Walking on the water, Jesus gets close to the disciples; however they did not recognise him. They cried out in fear, thinking that he was a ghost. Jesus calms them down saying: “Take heart, it is I; have no fear” [Mt 14,27]. The words “it is I” reminds us of God overcoming the fear of Moses, who was sent to liberate the people from Egyptian oppression. [Ex 3,14]

For the communities of today as well as for those of yesterday, it was and it is very important to be always open to God’s Word: “Take heart, it is I; have no fear.” Then Peter addressed Jesus as “Lord [Mt 14,28] this indicates the deep trust and respect, disciples have for Christ’s divinity. “Throughout his public life, Jesus demonstrated his sovereignty by works of power over nature, illnesses, demons, death and sin”. From the beginning of the Christian faith [Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church 447-450], the assertion of Christ’s lordship over the world and over history has implicitly recognised that man should not submit his personal freedom in an absolute manner to any earthly power, but only to God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Caesar is not The Lord. No one can say “Jesus is Lord”, except by the Holy Spirit. [1 Cor 12.3] Jesus is the Logos, the Word made flesh, the beginning and the end. Indeed, “At the name of Jesus, every knee should bow”.

Lorenzo Veneziano, Christ rescuing Peter from drowning (1370), Public domain.

Discovering that it is Jesus, Peter asks if he also can walk on the water. He wants to experience the power which dominates the fury of the sea. This is a power which in the Bible belongs only to God. Jesus allows him to participate in this power. But Peter is afraid. He thinks that he will sink and he cries out: “Lord, save me!” Jesus assures him and takes hold of him and reproaches him: “You have so little faith!” In our own weakness and doubt we can be confident that he who overcame death for our sake will empower us for service. By his example, Christ taught his followers the value of personal prayer. He is the model of Christian prayer, because he prays in us and with us, and for us – in our place and on our behalf. All our petitions were gathered up, once for all, in his cry on the Cross, and in his resurrection, heard by the Father.

Finally Peter was overcome by the waves because of his lack of faith. After Jesus saved him, both of them go into the boat and the wind calms down. The other Disciples, who are in the boat, are astonished and bowed before Jesus, recognizing that he is the Son of God: “Truly, you are the Son of God”. This is the first instance in the Gospel of Matthew that Jesus was addressed as the Son of God by his disciples. The title “Son of God” signifies the unique and eternal relationship of Jesus Christ to God his Father; he is the only Son of the Father. In this way Matthew suggests that it is not only Peter who sustains the faith of the Disciples, but also that the faith of the disciples sustains Peter’s faith. At Caesarea Philippi, Peter will go further and professes Jesus as: “the Christ, the Son of the living God!” Let us then who believe in Jesus the Son of God and worship him, encourage each other in this faith as we face the challenges of life, and faithfully bear witness to the Gospel.

Fr. Nathan Williams

A Tale of Two Parties

Reflection for the 9th Sunday after Trinity

Matthew 14;13-21

In a way, this Sunday’s Gospel (Matthew 14,13-21), together with the preceding verses, could be thus described. The first party is the one that King Herod throws to celebrate his birthday; the second is the impromptu picnic party Jesus throws in the wilderness for a hungry crowd of thousands.

At the first, a young woman dances for the king; captivated, he promises her anything she asks for. So she settles an old score by asking for John the Baptist’s head on a platter. John had committed the fatal error of condemning Herod for marrying his brother’s wife. Criticise the powerful at your peril! 

The second party is very different. Jesus takes a boat to escape from the crowds, but so charismatic is he that they follow him on foot in droves. He cures the sick among them, one by one. Jesus doesn’t turn them away – he puts their needs in front of his own.

Giovanni Lanfranco, Miracle of the bread and fish (1623). Public domain

But all this takes time. The sun begins to set, and the disciples worry. They tell the Lord to send the crowds away to find something to eat for themselves, but Jesus challenges them. “You don’t need to send them packing – you can feed them!” You can almost hear the sharp intake of breath. They are totally out of their depth. But Jesus saves the situation. He takes five loaves and two fish, blesses the loaves, breaks them and gives them to the crowds and there is more than enough for all. And note in passing that there are clear Eucharistic undertones to this, for to take, bless, break and give is precisely what the priest does at every Eucharist.

In these two contrasting parties, we learn more about the pathetic King Herod than we could possibly want to know, but what do we learn about Jesus from his impromptu party in the wilderness? He heals the sick, he feels compassion for hungry crowds. He discerns what can be done for them, and reveals the care and generosity of our loving God. The crowds are given sound reason to believe that God is still at work for good in the world.

Herod’s party becomes a celebration of death, not simply the man dead and decapitated in his prison cell, but the spiritual death of all those complicit in this orgy of self indulgence where life becomes just a commodity to be used or abused or done away with.

But these are not simply past events, they remain options, between which we choose repeatedly. One is the way to death. The other is the way to life. We are welcome at each of them, and the invitations are always there, waiting for an answer. Herod’s party is easy to find; it is the way of the world. The picnic Jesus puts on can be harder to locate; it occurs in an out-of-the-way place, but accept it, find it, and you will not regret the decision.

For all his finery, for all his opulence, Herod shows himself to be a slave to the world. Jesus wears no crown, yet he reigns as king. 

You can tell a lot about people by the kind of parties they throw; you can tell a lot about people by the kind of parties they go to.

Fr. Edward Bryant

Reflections at Olsok – 29th of July 2023

Today at Olsok or «Olaf’s Vigil», the Norwegian King Olaf II Haraldsson who died in the battle at Stiklestad Norway in 1030, is widely celebrated across the Nordic countries with church ceremonies and cultural festivals. It is remarkable that after almost one thousand years major official Olsok celebrations with roots in the middle ages continue thoughout the region. Foremost we have the Olavsvaka in Nidaros (Trondheim), honouring St. Olaf as Rex Perpetuus Norvegiae, and the Ólavsøka in the Faroe Islands celebrating their National Holyday, and in the far east of the Nordic continent, Savonlinna in Finland, where St. Olaf’s Day (Pyhän Olavin Päivä), marks the yearly celebration of the founding of the city.

St. Olaf was the first saint to be recognised in Scandinavia. His canonisation was performed in Nidaros by the English Bishop Grimketel only a year after his death, and in 1164 the canonisation was confirmed by Pope Alexander III. He is also a canonised saint in Orthodoxy and therefore one of the last famous Western saints before the Great Schism.

St. Olaf Altar Frontal, Nidaros Cathedral,
(Photo Eirik Irgens Johnsen CC BY-SA 4.0, © 2020 Kulturhistorisk museum, UiO)

In the Nordic region, the shrine of St. Olaf in Nidaros was the oldest known and most important destination for pilgrims. Churches were dedicated to his name from Greenland to Constantinople.

The oldest surviving painting of Saint Olaf dating to around 1160 AD, is found on a column in the Nativity Church in Bethlehem. The number of Olaf churches and chapels reminds us that the Saint Olaf tradition once flourished all over Northern Europe. Prior to the Reformation, we know of at least 340 Olaf churches and Olaf chapels of which 288 were outside Norway. In Sweden, more than 75 churches were dedicated to Saint Olaf, in Denmark around 20 and in Finland at least 13.

This saint was equally popular in England, with seven churches dedicated to him in London alone. It is interesting to note that the oldest liturgical texts about St. Olaf were written in England. Typologically, St. Olaf belongs to a group of Royal saints, such as Edward the Confessor.

St. Olaf honoured on his feast day at the West Front of the Nidaros Cathedral.

The complicated personality of the viking king is clearly expressed in the iconography of St. Olaf. His attributes are a crown, an axe and an allegorical creature underneath his feet. The crown places him among Christian kings like Constantine and Charlemagne. The axe expresses on the one hand his authority as lawmaker, but serves also as a reminder that the axe was the instrument of his martyrdom. The dragon under his feet carries a face like his own and is usually interpreted as an allegorical expression of his struggle for a better self. In short, St. Olaf was seen to be a soldier of God protecting laws of society, a royal martyr and a saint who triumphed over evil.

Ora pro nobis, Sancte Olave!
+Roald Nikolai

Is Trinity true?

Trinity Sunday

John 3,1-17

Is it true? Will you find the Trinity mentioned in the Bible, or more specifically, the New Testament? Let me save you the bother of rushing to your Concordance; the word Trinity does not occur in the Bible. However, do not despair. After all, anyone who takes the Bible simply at face value is in a lot of trouble – Holy Scripture deserves more than that of us. The letter kills, the Spirit gives life. If you want to understand the real message of the Bible, you’ve got to be prepared to dig beneath the surface and ask yourself what is the essential message contained in the verses. It can, of course, be threatening. But if we can work that through, and prayerfully bring our brains to bear on the Scriptures, it can be a liberating and enriching experience, far more enriching than mere surface readings of the Scriptures can ever give.

Instead of bewailing the fact that Our Lord and, later, St Paul did not give us a nice tidy explanation of the Trinity, you start asking yourself whether the Trinity is to be found in the New Testament, you begin to find it all over the place. You find it at the accounts of Our Lord’s baptism, you find it at the end of St Matthew’s Gospel, where the Risen Lord tells His followers to go and make disciples, and baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. 

A group of people, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Christian Church didn’t invent the Trinity, nor did God the Father about two thousand years ago say to Himself “I’m feeling lonely I will turn myself into a Trinity.” God has always been Trinity right from the start of time: what has changed is that He has graciously allowed us to understand more of His nature as time has gone on. Non-Christians have falsely claimed that Christians worship three Gods. That old Trinitarian hymn which I used to sing as a boy, and which always used to remind me of a lubricating oil of the same name, three in one and one in three, makes a statement which on the surface is either nonsense or else simply incomprehensible.

To explain the Trinity is beyond human wit, so preachers often turn to analogies: the Trinity is like a shamrock perhaps. I prefer the suggestion that it is like looking at the same scene from different angles – one reality, but different ways of perceiving it, and from the different angles you get different views, glimpses of new riches which would otherwise be obscured. But in the end, all analogies break down, and we have to return to the original. So great is our God that He wants us to know Him and love Him as He reveals Himself in these different ways, as the Sovereign Lord of all; as Jesus, the one who saves us from the eternal darkness of separation from God; and as Spirit, the enlivener, or if you prefer, the life giver, the new life giver, the Spirit of Jesus living within us to continue the work of transformation, of making us more Jesus like, but still God in each of these different ways.

The doctrine of the Trinity is the corrective to any false notions that we can put God in a box and keep Him there, because although there is no new truth, although God does not change, neither does His nature, there is yet more to learn of what He is, and it reminds us that at the heart of God there is communion, fellowship, relationship. Maybe you can be a Christian on your own, without ever darkening a church doorstep – God knows, but our life here on earth is meant in some way to reflect the life of God Himself – creating, saving, enlivening others, and doing so in concert with others. Mystery the Trinity certainly is, but great and wonderful truth it is too, and we should be eternally grateful that God has graciously chosen to open the door of heaven in this way to enable us to worship Him, to fall on our knees and join with the cherubim and seraphim in their cry of “Holy, Holy, Holy.”

Fr Edward Bryant

The Spirit and the Church

It is not always so easy to come to terms with the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives, as Christians. Sometimes our understanding seems to be «lofty», to the point of being vague. In the following little meditation I will try to elucidate the role of the Spirit through three questions: Who is the Spirit? What does the Spirit do? What is the relation between the Spirit and the Church?

The Apostle Paul explains how the Spirit «searches everything, even the hidden depths of God’s purpose… only God’s Spirit knows all about God» (1 Cor. 2:10f). The Apostle Peter clarifies this further stating that «God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit» (Acts 10:38). However, in the history of salvation, the presence of the Holy Spirit is depicted, not in a personal way, but with the help of symbolic images. When Jesus was baptized, the Spirit came down like a «dove» (Matt. 3:16, John 1:32). At Pentecost the Spirit was present like a «strong wind» and in form of «tongues of fire» (Acts 2:2f).

EL Greco, Public Domain

What does the Spirit do for us?

These shifting metaphors help us to understand that the Spirit is not acting on its own. The Spirit remains somewhat «anonymous» as he comes to us pointing to Christ as the Saviour of all men. St. John quotes Jesus saying, «He does not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears» (John 16:13). In this way we can tell who the Spirit is by what he does. The Spirit is the light wherein Jesus is seen as the Son of the Father. The Spirit receives from the Father the authority and power to communicate the Son. Therefore, in the economy of salvation, the Spirit is at the same time God’s Spirit and the Spirit of Christ (Rom 8:9).

The Spirit and the Church

Serving our salvation, the Spirit comes to us as our Advocate proving the world wrong about sin and reminding us of what Christ taught the apostles (John 14:26, 16:7f). Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness interceding for us with sighs too deep for words (Rom 8:25). Moreover, the Spirit guides the Church in her ministry to the world (Acts 10:19f, 13:2).

As the Spirit works and prays for us, we are at the same time called to put ourselves in the service of the Spirit. St Paul instructs us bluntly: «Let the Spirit direct your lives» (Gal. 5:16). And elsewhere he admonishes us, that we, filled by the Spirit, are to sing to one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs and offer praise to the Lord (Eph.5:18f). If the «inexpressible groanings» of the Spirit are «too deep for words», he instead inspires us to speak for him. Thus, in her witness and praise the Church shall give voice to the Spirit.

Addressing the Lord

In the final words of the Bible the relationship between the Spirit and the Church is expressed as a dialogue, when the Spirit and the Church jointly address Christ in his glory: «The Spirit and the Bride say, Come» (Rev 22:17). At the end of our time the Spirit speaks words of comfort assuring us: «Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord» (Rev 14:13).

Joyous Pentecost!
+Roald Nikolai

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