Readings: Hebrews 3:7-14; Mark 1:40-45
Our First Reading today begins with the marvelous words, The Holy Spirit says…to introduce a long quote from Psalm Ninety-four. I find that a vivid reminder of how intimate and accessible the Holy Spirit is in our lives, and how effective. Saint Anthony of the Egypt certainly realized that when, hearing the Gospel invite the rich young man to forsake all to follow Jesus, he received the passage as his personal invitation to monastic renunciation.
The Church Fathers of the early Councils would quote Chapter Fifteen of the Acts of the Apostles, It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us…to introduce a dogmatic definition. Again, the Spirit is immediate and active in the Church.
At the end of today’s Gospel we find that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly. He remained outside in deserted places because too much notoriety was resulting from his healing work. This, I believe, completes the picture of the Holy Spirit among us. Jesus, remember, had asked the leper he had just cured to show himself to the priest but tell no one about his own part in the healing. Granted, in a sense, the cured leper announced the Good News–or did he just spread rumors of a physical cure? Had he listened to Jesus and said nothing, might he have arrived at an integrated wholeness? By contrast, I think of Mary in Luke’s Gospel who kept these things in her heart and pondered them.
Intimate, accessible, immediate, motivating, the Holy Spirit indeed is, but doesn’t this comforting Visitor also require of us discretion and privacy if we are to be good hosts and frequently welcome those visitations? I must bury a seed in the ground, out of sight, for it to generate new life. If each day I uprooted the seedling to see how much the roots had grown, I’d kill it. Jesus asks that mysteries be kept secret; “unpacking” them may result in a degree of understanding, but only so far. Understanding (necessarily limited) is an abstraction, not an integration of the mystery that does not leave it to do its proper work on us.