fTHERThe 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.”

PraiseOut 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 way.

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 disciple.

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