Two Questions about Romans 8:28, and two Gifts of the Holy Spirit

Brothers and sisters: we know that all things work for the good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose. –Romans 8:28.

Two questions about this. The first about our knowledge, the second about God’s purpose. [Spanish]

Question 1:  We “know” that all things work for the good of those who love God.  How do we know it?

Let us freely acknowledge that Romans 8:28 is not self-evident. A lot of people out there disagree. They say they do not know that all things work for the good.

Many of our brothers and sisters in this world look around at the way things work, and they despair. They see nothing but selfishness, or the law of the jungle, or corruption, or the slow arc of inevitable death. Some people have the sense that the higher powers of the universe do not love the human race.

Seven Gifts of the Holy SpiritSo our being able to perceive the sweet hand of divine Providence–that is a spiritual gift, not a purely logical deduction. To know what Romans 8:28 says we know: We call that the Holy Spirit’s gift of knowledge, one of the seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Our interior perception that God is in charge of everything, that there is a reason behind everything.

St. Paul pointed out earlier in his letter to the Romans that God brings good out of evil: From the evil of Satan’s temptation, the Fall of Adam and Eve, and the whole history of human sin, God has brought about the infinitely greater good of the mission of His Son to the earth.

Jesus Christ—who suffered and died unjustly, then rose again—Jesus is the best possible thing that ever could have happened.  His goodness trumps all the evil that has ever been or ever will be; His goodness overcomes it all, and turns all evil into an opportunity for holiness.

So now we can answer our first question easily enough: We know what Romans 8:28 says we know; we know that all things work for the good of those who love God and have been called according to his purpose, because:

God became man, lived for us as a man, died for us as a man, rose again and ascended into heaven as a man. And He pours His Spirit out from heaven into our hearts to give us interior knowledge of Himself.

Now, a second question. Romans 8:28 refers to “God’s purpose.” What is God’s purpose in guiding everything as He does?

St. Paul in Prison by Rembrandt

The answer is simple and obvious on one level and impossible to fathom on another. The Lord Jesus taught us God’s purpose in everything: that we would share the divine glory forever.

Simple enough, on the one hand. On the other hand, though: we do not yet see what this glorious destiny of ours is. The prospect of seeing God and being like Him is so utterly beyond our capacities to feature that for now our destiny must remain an interior mystery of faith. So again, the Holy Spirit comes to our aid with a special gift.

The Lord pours divine wisdom into our souls so that we can savor the sweetness of heaven a little bit, even before we get there. The sweetness we savor is nothing other than the sweetness of true love. God’s purpose is to love, and to love us above all. The Holy Spirit lifts us up towards God so that we can have a little share in the divine point-of-view even now.

This wisdom even allows us to savor God’s sweetness in the midst of severe trials and tribulations. We can savor God’s sweetness even in the face of the evils God allows us to have to endure so that we might grow in holiness and conformity to Christ.

Our pilgrimage is not easy, and we have to fight hard in order to attain the victory over sin. But through it all, by virtue of the Spirit’s gifts, we know that all things are working together for our good; we can even have the wisdom to see the crosses we have to carry as special gifts, as we follow in the footsteps of Christ.


The Gifts of the Spirit, Including Wisdom

Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

We rightly fear the omnipotent One. He made everything out of nothing. His power dwarfs our capacity to conceive it. Everything exists solely by His pleasure. Without His will sustaining us–and sustaining the sky, and the earth, and the air–without His constant gift of existence, everything would crumble, collapse, disintegrate, vanish. [Spanish]

At Sunday Mass, we hear Lord Jesus say, All that you see here–the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone. (Luke 21:6)

The one thing that separates us from chaos and ultimate nothingness is: the divine good pleasure. True wisdom involves acknowledging this. If we find ourselves enjoying good things in life, it’s because God has made them and keeps them in existence, to give as gifts to us.

The wise person fears the awesomeness of this great Giver of all, Who is truly, wonderfully, magnificently good. His power dwarfs us, and so does His goodness. We do not measure up to it. Rather, we receive from His largesse as unworthy beneficiaries. He blesses us so abundantly because His love flows so freely. Not because we have any claim on Him, or any “rights” before Him. He just gives, out of pure generosity.

So we rightly stand in awe of this infinitely powerful and infinitely gracious God. Nonetheless, He makes friendly and intimate promises to us. “Fear nothing,” He says, “because I myself will give you wisdom.”

El Greco Pentecost

The God we rightly fear does not choose to tower above us. Rather, in the midst of all the great flux of events over which He exercises sovereign control, He moves toward us and embraces us. By uniting Himself with us in Christ, God Almighty has Personally entered into His own creation, fragile as it all is. He meets us right here, and clasps us to His bosom. He makes us His friends, the friends of the King.

By the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, we participate interiorly in God’s sovereignty over all things. We share His permanent solidity, His serene transcendence.

Material things pass. We human beings are material things that naturally pass, too—at least our bodies are. But, by His grace, God has joined us to His permanent Self. So we do not pass, but rather we endure forever, with Him.

We perceive all this by the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ Himself was the first to have these gifts, in full. He perceived in His human mind the infinite extent of the divine love of the heavenly Father.

Thus the Lord Jesus feared God, in the sense that He would not deviate from the will of His Father. He submitted Himself completely to the mission the Father had entrusted to Him. Christ embraced that mission completely, with tender piety, and with unswerving bravery. Christ understood everything that the prophets had written. He taught the eternal law, to love God and neighbor, and thereby fulfill all human knowledge of created things. Jesus perceived the fundamental cause of creation, and of all the events of history: namely that God would receive the glory of His Christ, crucified and risen. Jesus’ divine wisdom involved His perception of how He would glorify the Father—in Himself, and in all the members of His mystical Body.

Our Lord pours these interior gifts into our souls when we commune honestly with Him. The Gifts of the Holy Spirit move us to repent of our sins, and they heal us interiorly, through God’s mercy.

american-flagWe live in tough times. The last time we heard the same Sunday readings—three years ago—something pretty stunning had just happened. A certain gentleman had just been elected President of the United States. Now these readings come around again, and we as a nation face a painful impeachment process.

We need the supernatural point-of-view, the point-of-view of Jesus Christ Himself. The Gifts of the Holy Spirit give us that perspective. We need communion with the divine love of Jesus Christ. He offers us sobriety, patience, and confidence in the ultimate triumph of the right.

The Senate will get to judge the impeachment case, if it goes that far. And it appears that it will go that far.

But Christ the Lord will judge the judges. He will judge the judges of this case, and of every case. And, unlike human verdicts, which involve some degree of error, even in the best circumstances; unlike verdicts here below, Jesus Christ’s final verdict will reflect every aspect of the truth.

So help us, dear Lord, to see, live, and love by the Your Holy Spirit. We entrust ourselves completely to Your guidance, through thick and thin. Give us our share in Your all-encompassing wisdom.

“We Have the Mind of Christ”

Who has known the mind of the Lord, so as to counsel Him?

The prophet Isaiah posed this rhetorical question.  “Whom did God consult to gain knowledge?  Who taught Him the path of judgment or showed Him the way of understanding?” (Isaiah 40:13-14)

King Solomon posed the same rhetorical question, as we will read in our first reading at Holy Mass this coming Sunday.  “Who knows God’s counsel, or who can conceive what the Lord intends?” (Wisdom 9:13)

St. Paul in Prison by Rembrandt

Rhetorical questions.  God possesses unfathomable wisdom; we cannot plumb its depths.  To imagine that we know better?  Laughable human presumption.

Our ‘spirit’—our own proper intellectual capacity to reach God—it gets there only by faith.  We believe what we do not perceive, because we trust the authority of the source of the information.

But: the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are real.  That’s what St. Paul was saying when he wrote to the Corinthians:  “We have the mind of Christ.” (I Corinthians 2:16)

St. Paul wrote I Corinthians because of divisions among the people.  He diagnosed the cause of those divisions:  worldliness, imperfect faith, reliance on human approval.

So his letter clarifies the Gospel beautifully.  The unity of the Church consists in Christ Himself, present in the Blessed Sacrament, Who fills us with His supernatural, divine love, and Who directs us spiritually towards the true goal, which is to share in His resurrected, immortal life.

The resurrected, immortal life of Christ:  We believe that He lives that life, and that He shares it with us.  We experience interiorly the reality of that life by His divine inspirations, which He has equipped us to receive, by giving us the seven gifts.

The mind of Christ—it is wisdom, true heavenly wisdom—the savor, the sweetness of being alive, with no fear—no fear of death, no fear of human disapproval, no fear of the future—no fear whatsoever, except the fear of offending our good God.

The Trouble with the World

Do not let your hearts be trouble Passion of the Christ
John 14:1

Let’s thank the good Lord that he kept someone as intelligent and insightful as St. John the Evangelist so close to Himself at the Last Supper. St. John remembered and wrote down some important things that Jesus said that evening.

Our readings from chapter 14 of St. John’s gospel began last Sunday, with the Lord Jesus saying: “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”

Now, the Apostles might reasonably have asked: “Don’t let our hearts be troubled? But you have just told us that you will not be with us much longer, and that we cannot go to the place where you are going. Of course our hearts are troubled!”

And we might reasonably ask also: “Don’t let our hearts be troubled? Lord, You came to reveal the face of the eternal and almighty Father, then you vanished into the heavens. But these days no one seems to care about anything other than internet access and Donald Sterling. The world seems to have closed in on itself completely, and people want immediate satisfaction instead of eternal life. Of course our hearts are troubled!”

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Knowing what Christ the King Knows

Christ is the faithful witness.

Jesus said, ‘For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.’

Christ has born faithful witness to the great and enduring truth. We need to grasp this truth, if we are to make any sense out of our lives. But we could never have figured it out, if Jesus had not born faithful witness to it and testified to it.

Christ bore witness faithfully. In other words, he testified without swerving, without fudging, without prevaricating, without betraying the truth. That Christ bore ‘faithful’ witness does not mean that He testified to His own personal “faith.” He testified to what He knows and has always known, namely God. Christ knows the great, enduring, and transcendent truth. He knows; we believe. We have faith in the knowledge of Christ.

With me? Good. Now, how did Christ bear faithful witness? How did He testify to the mysterious truth of God?

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Evening Homily for Second Advent

This is my prayer, that your love may increase more and more, in knowledge and every kind of perception. –Philippians 1:9

These were St. Paul’s words to the Christians in Philippi, when he wrote to them from prison.

Moses with his "horns"
The church in Philippi was the first that St. Paul founded in Europe. It was the community that was most dear to him. The purpose of his letter was to beg the Philippians to comfort him by persevering in faith and love.

Let’s pay careful attention to what the Apostle wrote: “This is my prayer…that you may increase in knowledge and every kind of perception.”

St. Paul did not write to the Philippians to correct them. They had not abandoned the true faith, nor gotten confused, nor slipped back into paganism or into Judaism. The Philippians were on the right track, and St. Paul rejoiced in it.

But he prayed that they might increase in knowledge and discernment. A few moments ago, we made a similar prayer for ourselves. At the beginning of Mass, we prayed: “Father, let us share the wisdom of Christ.” Let us share the wisdom of Christ.

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Labor of Love

football diagramLet’s say you are a defensive linebacker. Let’s say the other team just scored a touchdown. Then they try a two-point conversion.

Let’s say you intercept a pass on their conversion attempt. You run the ball back to the OTHER end-zone.

How many points does your team get?

Two points, chief. Two points.

Did you know that? I have been a football fan all my life, and I did not know it until yesterday.

john isner
John Isner

Speaking of college football, Florida beat Charleston Southern 62-3.

Impressive victory. But the Gators did not cover the spread, which was 63 points.

Yesterday was quite a day.

I was sorry to see Andy Roddick knocked out of the U.S. Open so quickly. On the other hand, we tall guys have to stick together. (John Isner is 6′ 9″.)

…It’s time for some new Bests.

The overwhelming winner of the First-Anniversary poll was: “This blog is best enjoyed with a cold one.”

…Happy Labor Day! The “labor of love” is your patient indulgence of this tedious blog, written by one of the worst priests ever ordained.

…Here is a mysterious saying of Christ:

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