"Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father." (From Saturday's Gospel reading)
Reflection for Saturday: What is life without the Spirit?
I grew up without the Holy Spirit. The Third Person of the Trinity was a stranger to me, a ghost, too ethereal for a personal relationship. Jesus was my 'best friend' as far back as I can remember. But I lost him when I explored the occult in search of the supernatural. During my childhood, I wanted to know if the supernatural stuff I read about in the Bible still happens today. I was told, "No, that was only for back then, to get the Church started."
Not satisfied with that answer, I began to look for evidence of the miraculous. I thought I finally found it when a Ouija board spelled out answers that my younger sister and I did not know. I was 12. At age 14, I took an active interest in ghosts and haunted houses. I formed a "Psychic Society" with friends and began to hold regular seances. From there, other forms of the occult became very appealing. By the time I was 20 and newly married, I lost interest in going to church and reading anything Christian. I no longer believed that I needed Jesus.
Jesus rescued me from that when I was 22 years old. He sent to our home for a Florida vacation a Catholic friend who had become a priest. I noticed that he had something I didn't, so I followed him to an interdenominational Charismatic Conference (Kansas City, 1977) where I met the Holy Spirit on a close, personal friendship level.
Finally! I learned that miracles were not just for Biblical days! The supernatural event on the altar where bread and wine become the actual body and blood of Jesus was very appealing. The Holy Spirit gave me an instant assurance that this was very genuine. I witnessed healings and other miracles, too. And because the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth, God showed me that the occult is a different sort of supernatural power. One by one, the Spirit of Truth convicted me of all the deceptions of the occult. One by one, my Protestant misconceptions about Catholicism were replaced by understanding.
Today, whenever I feel dismayed over the increased secularization and immorality in my culture and in the world, as I ask Jesus, "What are You going to do about this? What do You want me to do about it?" he always replies, "Evangelize not only about having a personal relationship with Me; evangelize about having a personal relationship with the Holy Spirit, because it is the Holy Spirit who changes hearts and minds."
We produced three Paracletia video courses about the Holy Spirit, because life in the Holy Spirit is how we come fully alive in Christ. We have also gathered a selection of WordBytes about the Holy Spirit. And today I'd like to share with you how one member of Good News Ministries, Kay Sommer, experiences life in the Holy Spirit.
Finding "undiscovered" gifts
By Kay Sommer, GNM member
About 4 and 1/2 years ago, I took part in the Ignatian Retreat in Daily Life. During that 9 months, I became more open to spiritual and emotional changes in my life. Also during that period, I attended a two-day workshop for potentially "undiscovered" gifts and talents. I wanted to know if possibly I might have been given graces and charisms to serve the Lord that I was not yet aware of.
Afterward, I began to try and implement these charisms/gifts in my service as a facilitator for RCIA and Intentional Disciples in my parish. During my second year of Spiritual Direction, we had a speaker present a class on dreams and visions. It was the first time that I understood that visions and dreams were not to be feared, but instead, to be accepted as God's guidance. Once I learned to be open to what was sent to me by him and to share what I learned with others without fear of ridicule or scorn, I was able to begin helping others by interpreting what they told me. When they feel skeptical about it, I remind them that dreams and visions and their interpretation are common throughout the scriptures in both the Old and New Testament.
I have helped friends who have lost loved ones, I've warned a friend of danger at a new job, I've counseled some who were afraid of recurring dreams so that they could better understand that God was talking to them. I do not seek visions and dreams, but I do try to be open and receptive to them whenever the Lord sends them. I believe he has given me this gift in order to better allow the Holy Spirit to use me as his messenger. There are many blessings and much peace that come from knowing he has used me to comfort and help protect his children.
I've been asked how I discern, each time I receive a vision, dream or interpretation, whether the guidance I receive is from the Lord or the occult, the evil one. I use three processes. The first and most important to me is requesting the presence and guidance of the Holy Spirit.
The second way I discern comes from my Ignatian training and, in particular, the "Rules for Discernment of Spirits". From the "First Consideration", Ignatious states that "a consolation that moves one toward God can only come from the Spirit of God" and, "Good spirits are not turbulent, but come so quietly that, instantly, joy and gladness and courage arise in the soul, and the thoughts of the soul remain untroubled and unruffled." Conversely, "evil spirits are full of confusion and come crashing, roaring, shouting".
The third way I use to discern is to listen closely to the response from the person I am ministering to. Their reaction tells me if the Spirit is speaking through me. The most frequent response has been an immediate sense of peace from the respondent.
Tears for Abba
It gives me great joy to announce my newest book, Tears for Abba! In May, I'll be taking time off to write it. Our wonderful team – Graciela and Kathy and Jeremy – will keep Good News Ministries going quite capably while I go on a 4-week sabbatical to renew, pray, and write. It will begin on May 7th with a week on private retreat at the monastery of Sisters of St. Benedict here in Florida.
It is very important that you keep Good News Ministries in prayer while I am gone.
I've been working extra hours for four years since we began the major overhaul and expansions of our website resources, databases, automation of the daily reflections, etc. The Holy Spirit has provided the energy. And I've not burnt out through all of it because of the Lord's guidance for balancing my life.
Lately, the Lord has been instilling in me a calling to take one month away from normal duties. Graciela, the Assistant Director of GNM, has learned how to take care of the ministry whenever I'm absent. She will become the Acting Director during my sabbatical. She will write the Insider's View newsletter. Ralph and I won't make any videos. And I will not be accessible to anyone by email. I will severely limit going online for anything.
Already there is an acquisitions editor who is interested in "Tears for Abba" for her publishing house, and she asked me to submit a proposal. Praise the Lord! Please keep this in prayer, too. Nothing is certain at this early stage of communicating with the publisher.
The book is inspired by the many people I have ministered to who do not have a close relationship with God the Father. First our tears for Abba come from instinctively expecting human parents to be like Abba, but we encounter, instead, disappointment at least and abuse at worst. The father wound is something from which everyone suffers to some degree, because even the best parents are imperfect. Healing from this is needed to become open to feeling the Father's divine love. So is understanding that what we see in Jesus (his compassion, mercy, unconditional love, etc.) is the image of Father God. When we let Jesus lead us to the Father, our tears for Abba become tears of profound joy.
It's also called "Tears for Abba" because fatherhood has been aggressively undermined in our society since TV shows began portraying parents (especially the dads) as buffoons. Separation from fathers by divorce has further undermined the importance of fatherhood, as does abortion. Such undermining, which is demonic at its source, has greatly contributed to the secularization of our society by affecting people's perception of God's fatherhood. By losing respect for human fatherhood, it's easy to lose respect for God's fatherhood.
The book will be written in stages. After working on it in May, we're going to offer an online opportunity for GNM members interact with me on this topic. GNM will host "30 Days to Abba's Heart". My book will have 30 reflections or chapters. (Or 40 if the publisher wants it to be used during Lent.) Those who register for the "30 days" event will be able to participate in a discussion while getting a sneak preview. You will be able to share your stories and questions. This is enough to provide you with some very real, increased intimacy with God the Father. And with your permission, your input might become part of the book during the final stage of the book's development.
Interested? We'll probably begin "30 Days to Abba's Heart" in mid-June. Due to the interactive nature of this event, there will be a suggested donation cost of $5/person. As always, no one who cannot pay will be turned away, but this should be affordable for all but those who have no way to transmit funds to the U.S. Stay tuned to this newsletter to find out when registration opens!
Free ebook with reflections on the Blessed Mother is still available!
Mary cares about you and every person you know. From heaven, she mourns for those who reject her Son, and she laughs for joy with those who delight in the Lord. She is real. Her love for you is real. She very much wants to have a motherly relationship with each of us and to praise the Lord with us. She wants us to sing our own Magnificat with her. This is the basis of our personal relationship with her: "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord...."
Imagine the two of you making this a duet for the Father! "God who is mighty has done great things for us, and holy is his name!" This ebook is a collection of 13 reflections plus my story, plus Q & A about Mary, Q & A about the Rosary, and the Good News Rosary (meditations for all four sets of mysteries, in typical Good News Ministries faith-building style).