The Flame: March/April 2017
Dear Readers of The Flame,
While visiting Arizona, my friend Fr. Ray Ratzenberger
showed me the San Pedro River that passed through
his town of Benson. When I saw “the river” I asked him
what I thought was a very logical question. “Where’s
the water?!” He answered, “Oh, there is only water in it
when it rains.”
Out west they call these rivers and creek basins
“arroyos”. They are troughs that fill up with water when
it rains. Otherwise, they are pretty much dry. Similar
river beds are referred to in the bible. Each would be
called a “wadi”, troughs that fill up with water during
the rainy season and dry up when that season ended.
God’s gift of the Holy Spirit is not like that. While
visiting Niagara Falls, I pondered the gift of the Holy
Spirit. Just as tens of thousands of gallons of water
pour over the falls each minute, so the Holy Spirit is
poured out with abundance on the earth.
However, it seems that many of us only experience a
trickle. Why is that? Going back to the original
Pentecost, St. Peter preached the need for repentance
and faith. In order to experience the Holy Spirit we
must turn from our own agenda to Jesus Christ and his
Here is how St. John Paul II described repentance:
…a complete and sincere adherence to Christ and his
Gospel through faith. Conversion is a gift of God, a
work of the Blessed Trinity. It is the Spirit who opens
people's hearts so that they can believe in Christ and
"confess him'' (cf. 1 Cor 12:3)…it gives rise to a
dynamic and lifelong process which demands a
continual turning away from "life according to the
flesh" to "life according to the Spirit" (cf. Rom 8:3-13).
Conversion means accepting, by a personal decision,
the saving sovereignty of Christ and becoming his
disciple. (Mission of the Redeemer #46) Repentance is
a complete and sincere adherence to Christ. The way
to this goal means accepting, by personal decision, the
saving sovereignty of Christ and becoming his
The beginning of this act and subsequent life of
repentance and faith is often spelled R I S K. It means
stepping out of our comfort zone and trusting that the
promises of Jesus Christ are more certain than what
we see, hear, touch, smell and taste.
I remember the initial moment I turned to Jesus Christ in
this way. I was with a group of people preparing to be
prayed with for the baptism in the Holy Spirit. After
renewing our baptismal vows, I was asked to join in a
prayer that went something like, “Lord Jesus, I give you
my life. Do with me what you want.” I was told to pray
this prayer only if I really meant it. Otherwise, modify the
prayer to make it more honest to God.
That prayer was the one that I had been quietly resisting
for some time. I feared that my life would radically
change and I wasn’t sure I wanted that. Would I have
any friends left? What would my family say? What would
the Lord do with me? However, I prayed the prayer
anyway! Why? Perhaps it was the evident fruit of the
Holy Spirit in the people offering the Life in the Spirit.
Perhaps I simply got tired of running from the Lord. For
sure, I knew in my heart of hearts that the Lord was real.
So I surrendered.
What happened? First, my life did change radically.
However, that was a good thing. Nothing can replace
the love of Jesus Christ. There were other changes.
Some friends were not too interested in my walk in faith.
New friendships developed. I stopped pursuing an
engineering degree and began pursuing the ordained
priesthood. In time my relationships with family
members deepened. In general, repentance and faith
led to a new life in Christ.
We are at the beginning of Lent. During this season, the
Church summons us again to re-center ourselves on the
Lord Jesus and the life-giving waters of the Holy Spirit
the Lord brings us. We need to remember: God’s grace
is not a wadi - sometimes present and sometimes not.
His grace is like Niagara Falls - always flowing. Even
during those seasons of deeper purification, as long as
we are repentant and believing, when the well seems
dry - it isn’t. Trust Him!
Sincerely in Christ,
Fr. Bob Franco
Bishop’s Delegate to Catholic Renewal Ministries