Source Study Leader Guide (English)


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Source looks at the role the Holy Spirit should have in the lives of faithful Catholics and the difference the third person of the Trinity can make. Participants are challenged to live the "life in the Spirit" and, through grace, conquer the desires of the flesh.

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Source Study Leader Guide (English)

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  2. 2. Source Leader Guide Created and published by Catholic Christian Outreach Canada. Copyright © 2011. All rights reserved. Nihil Obstat: Patrick Fletcher Ph.D. Censor Deputatus Imprimatur: +Terrence Prendergast, S.J. Archbishop of Ottawa June 12, 2011 Solemnity of Pentecost No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of Catholic Christian Outreach Canada. 1247 Kilborn Place Ottawa, ON K1H 6K9 Canada Phone: 613-736-1999 Fax: 613-736-1800 Printed in Canada. 3
  3. 3. The cover image for Source depicts the Holy Spirit as the living water inside us. In French, source means "spring of water." In the Gospel of John, Jesus says: ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, “Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.”’ Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive. John 7:37-39 ' whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.' John 4:14 The word source also means starting place, resource or supply. With the Holy Spirit as our helper, we are enabled and empowered to follow God. Image © Tina Renceli 2005 Cover Design © Chris Pecora 2011 4
  4. 4. Excerpts from The Catechism of the Catholic Church, Homily given by Benedict XVI on June 3, 2006, Dominum et Vivificantem and Redemptoris Missio used with permission from Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used with permission. All rights reserved. References from The New Evangelization: Overcoming the Obstacles, edited by Steven Boguslawski, OP and Ralph Martin. Copyright © 2008 by the Sacred Heart Major Seminary of Detroit. Paulist Press, Inc., Mahwah, NJ. Used with permission of Paulist Press, Inc. Fr. Bob Bedard, CC (founder), quoted with permission by the Companions of the Cross. All rights reserved. 5
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  6. 6. To Our Lady who, as a youth, courageously and generously welcomed the Holy Spirit into her life, changing history forever. 7
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  8. 8. Table of Contents Faith Study Objectives 10 Leading a Faith Study 14 Lesson 1 – The Holy Spirit 20 The Person and roles of the Holy Spirit. Lesson 2 – The Battle Within 30 We can fight to overcome our human weaknesses with God’s help. Lesson 3 – Living in the Spirit 41 The Holy Spirit empowers and directs us to follow him daily. Lesson 4 – Barriers to Living in the Spirit 49 There are obstacles that prevent us from being receptive to the Holy Spirit’s influence – knowing them can help us deal with them. Lesson 5 – Docility to the Holy Spirit 56 Mary, our model of docility, entrusted her life completely to the Holy Spirit. Lesson 6 – Gifts and Fruits 67 The gifts and fruits of the Spirit are available to all believers as special helps and signs of the Holy Spirit's activity in our lives. Appendix 79 Source Follow-Up 84 Participants are given an opportunity to open their lives to the Person and presence of the Holy Spirit. Living it Out Cards 91 9
  9. 9. Faith Study Objectives 1. CCO's Mission Proclaim / Equip / Commission. To bring people to Christ, build them up as Catholic Christians, and send them out to reach others. 2. The Objectives of CCO Small Group Faith Studies • For students to hear spiritual truths. • For students to hear the truth about Jesus and be introduced to him. • For students to make Christian friends and be drawn into a Christian community. • To provide a means to get students involved with activities in CCO, their parish, their diocese and the universal Church. • For students to grow in their understanding and love of the Catholic Church, especially the sacraments. • For students to encounter the love, forgiveness and salvation offered in Christ Jesus, and to have a deep and lasting “metanoia” (conversion of heart and life). • For students to learn transferable concepts which enable them to transmit the truths they learn to others. • To equip students for future leadership. 3. Goals of Each Thematic Study CCO has formulated five small group thematic faith studies: Discovery, Source, Growth, Obedience and Commission. These are faith studies, not Bible studies in a pure sense (i.e. the study of long passages of Scripture in their context). CCO studies look at particular Scripture passages and other Church documents as they relate to certain topics or themes (e.g. prayer, the love of God, the Holy Spirit). The studies do not attempt to teach comprehensive theology. They are simply meant to (re)introduce students to the basics of the Catholic faith, challenging them to greater holiness by means of group discussion. Leaders should understand the purpose of the studies: what they teach, how they complement each other, and the objectives of each lesson. Small group sessions should be purposeful (for example, we want to avoid spending hours looking up verses that may quickly be forgotten). Adhering to the objectives of each lesson will help us to successfully pass on their content. Discovery – Evangelization. The first four lessons of this study introduce the basic concepts of Christian faith. In the fifth lesson, participants are invited to make a commitment to Christ. The sixth lesson aims to help them better grasp that commitment. 10
  10. 10. Source – Holy Spirit. This study looks at the Holy Spirit's vital role in our lives, which is to empower and direct us to be holy, and teach us to overcome our sinfulness. Growth – Daily Christian Growth. This study explores the living out of a commitment to Christ. It explains the essential components of the Christian life (prayer, Scripture, sacraments, fellowship, service and witness). Obedience – Lordship. The focus of this study is obedience to the Lord in various aspects of life (speech habits, sexuality, hardships, Church teachings, etc). Commission – Missionary Identity. This study explores the Church’s deepest identity, which is her missionary character. Truths and principles about evangelization and discipleship that CCO has learned over the years are examined. 4. Source Goals The lessons and their goals are listed in the table of contents. The objective of Source is to introduce participants to the person of the Holy Spirit and to unpack how he enables us to follow God faithfully. We cannot live the Christian life on our own! We constantly battle sin, temptation, concupiscence, the influence of the world, the enemy, and our desire to become holy through our own efforts. Our efforts are absolutely necessary, but they cannot bear spiritual fruit without the grace (help) of the Holy Spirit. The “choose and ask" model is key to accomplishing the objectives of this study. We want Source participants to learn that the Holy Spirit is active and available to us moment-by-moment. We need to choose God, to reject wrong thoughts and actions, and to ask for the Holy Spirit's help. He is faithful and he will direct us: he fills us with the power to choose the right thing to do. He is in us — our companion and helper in faith. He helps us in both our ongoing conversion and faithfulness to a Christ-centred relationship. We also hope that, through this study, participants will become more docile to the Holy Spirit, submitting their wills to his prompting and leading. Finally, we desire that Source participants encounter the Holy Spirit. Our desire is that the Holy Spirit would enflame their hearts with God’s love, leading to a greater experience of his gifts and fruits. The Source follow-up is one opportunity to pray for this greater experience of the Holy Spirit in the lives of participants. During this follow-up, they are encouraged to express their desire to give him permission to act in their lives and to receive his gifts that they might better serve the Lord. We are sensitive to the fact that not all participants in Source have necessarily received the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, the 11
  11. 11. sure means by which we receive the Holy Spirit. This does not mean that the Holy Spirit does not act in their lives, for we cannot come to faith at all without him. To be in touch with Christ, we must first have been touched by the Holy Spirit. He comes to meet us and kindles faith in us. CCC 683 Nevertheless, we should gently encourage them to receive the fullness of the Spirit in the sacraments and in union with the Church. We recognize that not all who lead Source are necessarily familiar with all the gifts of the Spirit, or experienced in praying with people to be open to the Holy Spirit. We suggest that they familiarize themselves with the leader guide material, especially Lesson 6 and the Source follow-up. They can also consult CCO missionaries for guidance and advice. Keep in mind that as Source leaders, we are simply inviting and encouraging participants to be open to the Holy Spirit. We present him to them, and we joyfully pray with them, in great faith and hope that he will make himself known to their hearts. 5. Recommended Reading • • • • • The Book of Acts (in its entirety) Your Life in the Holy Spirit, by Alan Schreck In the School of the Holy Spirit, by Jacques Philippe Sober Intoxication of the Spirit, by Raniero Cantalamessa Dominum et Vivificantem, by Pope John Paul II (can be found on the Vatican website at: s/hf_jp-ii_enc_18051986_dominum-et-vivificantem_en.html) 6. Prayer to the Holy Spirit This prayer expresses CCO’s desire for all Source participants. We encourage you to pray it not only for your group members, but also for yourself, that your intimacy with the Holy Spirit would be increased as you lead this faith study. This prayer was written by Désiré-Joseph Cardinal Mercier (18511926). In 1926, while preaching a retreat, he offered a short commentary on it: 12
  12. 12. I am going to reveal to you the secret of sanctity and happiness. Every day for five minutes control your imagination and close your eyes to the things of sense and your ears to all the noises of the world, in order to enter into yourself. Then, in the sanctity of your baptized soul (which is the temple of the Holy Spirit), speak to that Divine Spirit, saying to Him: O Holy Spirit, beloved of my soul, I adore You. Enlighten me, guide me, strengthen me, console me. Tell me what I should do. Give me your orders. I promise to submit myself to all that You desire of me and accept all that You permit to happen to me. Let me only know Your Will. Amen. If you do this, your life will flow along happily, serenely, and full of consolation, even in the midst of trials. Grace will be proportioned to the trial, giving you strength to carry it, and you will arrive at the Gate of Paradise laden with merit. This submission to the Holy Spirit is the secret of sanctity. 13
  13. 13. Leading a Faith Study A. Qualities of a Faith Study Leader Faith study leaders should be: F A C T (Faithful, Available, Contagious and Teachable). They agree to chaste conduct, daily prayer, committed attendance at their parish and dedication to whatever their primary vocation is. (For example, students should be diligent in their academics). They must be: a) Faithful: • To the Lord • To personal holiness (prayer, Mass, discipleship, etc.) • To Church teachings • To a parish – faithfully attending Mass every Sunday • To the call of evangelization b) Available: • Diligently prepare each lesson • Spend time with group members c) Contagious: • Welcoming, affirming • Authentic witness of a vibrant relationship with God • Strive to identify with those to whom they minister • Enjoy and delight in each group member d) Teachable: • In the areas of personal holiness, ministry, character, involvement • Willing to grow in faith (prayer, reading, conferences, retreats) • Able to accept constructive criticism B. How to Lead a Faith Study 1. Phone Contact • As you are dialling, say a brief prayer for each person. • Identify yourself and how you know the person, or received their contact information. • Confirm the time and place of the small group meeting. • Make sure each person knows where to find the meeting room, or... • Plan somewhere obvious to meet so that you can lead your group to the meeting room. • Let them know that every week they should bring a Bible to the group, preferably with an Old Testament. If anyone doesn't have a Bible, ask a CCO staff member if there are extra Bibles available for small groups. 14
  14. 14. 2. Preparation a) Personal Prayer • Leaders should have a consistent personal prayer life (with daily prayer time). • Leaders should be reading Scripture on a regular or daily basis. • Leaders should faithfully attend Mass every Sunday. b) Intercession • Intercede specifically for each participant. • Pray for one student each day. • Ask the Holy Spirit to open the hearts and minds of the participants. • Pray the rosary, offering a decade or a Hail Mary for each member. c) Prepare • Review the faith study as a whole and the lesson to be led. • Have The Catechism of the Catholic Church handy for reference, as per preparation notes. The index in the back of the CCC is the best way to search for information. • Call a CCO staff member or student leader for guidance if necessary. • Note which part(s) of the study are most important and which could be covered more quickly. • The answers provided are intended as a guide and sometimes contain more information than is required. Use as needed. • These studies are tools that you use, not just studies that you lead. Make the content your own. Share your relationship with God and your personal faith journey. 3. Logistics for Your First Meeting • Meet your group members but do not wait too long — 10 minutes after the starting time, go to the study location. • Have everyone introduce themselves, then hand out the studies and go over logistics. • You will need to collect money from each small group member to cover study guide costs. Please forward this money to CCO student executive members (as applies). • Give participants your phone number. • Explain that you are committed to this study time and ask the group to make the same commitment for the semester. This commitment is important because the lessons build on one another. Ask them to let you know if they cannot make it to a meeting. 15
  15. 15. 4. Components of a Faith Study a) Casual sharing • Start the small group meeting in an atmosphere of fun and sharing. • Discuss how the group implemented the study challenges that week. b) Announcements • Make announcements at the beginning of each lesson. If you only make announcements at the end of the lesson, many will be rushing off to class and will not take proper note of the upcoming events. c) Prayer • Open the faith study with prayer. d) Recap last week’s study e) Overview of this week’s study • This helps participants focus on the topic. f) Go through the study material • Summarize each section as you go, so participants understand the direction of the lesson. This avoids a verse-by-verse checklist approach. g) Closing comments • Summarize clearly and concisely the points the group has discovered. • Go over the challenge/homework. h) Closing prayer • Add any special intentions that have come up during the study. • Time permitting, you could close with 10 minutes of small group prayer. Have each person share a need and pray for the person next to him/her. 5. Helpful Tips a) Set the tone • Be on time for the meeting (arrive early when possible). This sets a good example and shows your commitment to the group. • Greet each member by name. Vary comments, but let each know they are welcome. The sooner you remember their names, the sooner they will feel comfortable with the group. b) Facilitate discussion • A circle without barriers is best for group discussion. If anyone comes in late, make sure he/she is brought into the circle. • Your group may be quiet because they may be concerned that the answers are really "deep" ones. They might not want to give the ‘obvious’ answer for fear that it is too simple to be true. For the most part, the answers are very straightforward. Remind the group of this. 16
  16. 16. • Give people time to think after you have asked a question or invited sharing (wait 2-5 seconds before speaking again). Relax. Don't fear silence. • Avoid answering your own questions. Re-word a question if it is unclear. • Sometimes you may want to expand on someone's answer by asking, "What else do you see?" or "What other ways are there?" or "Does anyone else have anything to add?" • Do not struggle to get participants to say exactly what you think is the right answer. Better to let a few questionable responses go by than to discourage people from talking. However, if it is a matter of basic truth or the answer is wide of your aim, say something like, "That's an interesting point of view. Does anyone else have a thought about this?" To avoid confusion sum up briefly, "I appreciate your sharing. I guess my thoughts are... because..." • Acknowledge each person's answer. Let him/her know (verbally and non-verbally) that you are listening and that you appreciate the contribution. If necessary, ask questions like "could you explain more?" Be natural in your response. If someone brings up something new to you, say so ("I hadn't seen that before. Thanks for pointing that out."). • If someone talks too much, try saying, "Let's hear from someone who hasn't had a chance to comment yet." • If someone is barely talking in the study, ask him/her to read aloud certain sections of the faith study or Scriptures so that he/she can participate verbally in the group. • Direct a question at an individual to draw out timid participants. It is a good idea to direct easy questions their way to build their confidence in speaking out. • You can also use this technique (of asking specific people to answer questions) to allow other voices to join in when there are individuals monopolizing the discussion. • Keep the sharing current and personal. Encourage people to share things God has done in their lives that week or during the meeting. • Please be sensitive and welcoming if you have non-Catholics in the group. It would be considerate to prepare them before the study begins, in case they do not want to be in a Catholic program. Assure them that they are most welcome in the group, and that it is in fact an honour to have them join. Be sure they understand that the content will be very Catholic, with quotes from Scripture, popes, saints, and The Catechism of the Catholic Church. Although the material has been written to communicate the Catholic Church's teaching, non-Catholics will probably be pleasantly surprised at how understandable it is. Assure them that you will be sensitive to their situation in the small group discussions. Let them know they can approach you if they have questions. 17
  17. 17. c) Pace the study within the time limit • Know the objective of each lesson and communicate it clearly to ensure that people stay on track and do not go off topic. Do not get bogged down in unimportant details; keep the discussion moving. • Be mindful of how much time is left and of how quickly you are progressing through the material. d) Leader's role • The onus is not on the leader to convert the hearts of the students — that job is for the Holy Spirit. The leader’s role is to present the material in an enthusiastic way and to facilitate discussion. Most of the speaking should come from the students. • The leader intercedes quietly in and beyond the study, staying closely connected to the Holy Spirit. The leader recognizes that: No one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:3b Those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 1 Corinthians 2:14 We are not to be concerned with being effective. We are to be faithful, faithful simply to what the Lord has called us to be. What he may want to accomplish through us is his business and known only to him. Father Bob Bedard, CC 6. During the Semester • Plan a social or meal as a celebration/reunion of your study group. • Remember: you are encouraged to book a one-on-one follow-up appointment with each participant after the last lesson, to pray with them for greater openness to the Holy Spirit. 18
  18. 18. Source Small Group Information: Time: Place: Leader: Phone Number: Email: Participants: 19
  19. 19. Lesson 1 Preparation Notes “The Holy Spirit” In Brief: The Person of the Holy Spirit and his roles. Key elements: • In this lesson, we want to unveil the beauty of the “forgotten” third Person of the Trinity. • Catholics receive the Holy Spirit at Baptism and Confirmation. The anointing with sacred chrism, perfumed oil consecrated by the bishop, signifies the gift of the Holy Spirit to the newly baptized, who has become a Christian, that is, one “anointed” by the Holy Spirit, incorporated into Christ who is anointed priest, prophet, and king. CCC 1241 Confirmation perfects Baptismal grace; it is the sacrament which gives the Holy Spirit in order to root us more deeply in the divine filiation, incorporate us more firmly into Christ, strengthen our bond with the Church, associate us more closely with her mission, and help us bear witness to the Christian faith in words accompanied by deeds. CCC 1316 • The chocolate milk analogy illustrates why we need to continually give the Holy Spirit permission to be active in our lives. There will be a difference in our lives when he is allowed to act (this is explored in Lessons 4 and 6). There are limitations to this analogy that should be clarified. It could make the Sacrament of Baptism seem inadequate (it needs to be stirred up). But it is not inadequate for our salvation. We can avoid this potential misunderstanding by stating more explicitly that often we neglect the gift of the Holy Spirit received in Baptism, and that gift does not permeate our lives. We need to open ourselves to become permeated by the gift that we have already received. • We then look at the Person of the Holy Spirit, how he is described in the Word of God, and his particular role. • This lesson lays the foundation for participants to establish a personal relationship with the Holy Spirit. 20
  20. 20. Recommended Reading: • Background for this lesson (and the entire study) is chiefly found in The Catechism of the Catholic Church, articles: 683-701 and 731741. It is very important for you to read it in preparation for the lesson. To find other related passages, consult the CCC index under 'Holy Spirit'. 21
  21. 21. Lesson 1 The Holy Spirit As Catholics, we are filled and sealed with the Holy Spirit at Baptism and Confirmation. This is a tremendous gift: the Third Person of the Trinity, alive within us. Despite his presence, however, we may not have really noticed that the Holy Spirit has taken up residence in our souls! How can we get to know the Holy Spirit and experience him? The Chocolate Milk Analogy Suppose we consider all human beings as glasses of milk, and the Holy Spirit as chocolate syrup. Let's say that Christian glasses of milk receive a squirt of chocolate syrup when they are baptized. Note: all analogies have their limitations. To be clear, the Holy Spirit is not some kind of stuff that gets poured into us. He is a divine Person! 1. How does the chocolate milk analogy relate to the spiritual life? If the chocolate syrup is not stirred, it will settle at the bottom of the glass and the milk will not taste chocolaty. Similarly, if the Holy Spirit is not stirred up in us, we will not take on his flavour — it will not be evident in our lives that we have received this tremendous gift. We will become ineffective Christians if we do not continue to let the Holy Spirit fill us. Leaders: Ask “How does our milk get stirred?” We stir our milk by letting the Holy Spirit act within us. Or, more correctly, God stirs the milk when we let him. The whole point of this “stirring” action is that the Holy Spirit would more fully permeate every aspect of our existence. If this has not happened, it is not because the Holy Spirit needs stirring — the HS always wants to lead us to God, and is willing to take any chance he can get. He is active when we let him. It is WE who have fallen into inaction, into torpor, into lethargy. 22
  22. 22. We can open ourselves to the action of the Spirit in many ways, especially through frequenting the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist, and by asking the Holy Spirit to act in us (empowering and helping us in the Christian life). Our situation could be compared to someone who has a highend computer equipped with all the latest technology, but who only uses it to type out an occasional letter. What a waste! There is so much more that could be experienced, accomplished and accessed with this computer! The same is true for us in encountering the Holy Spirit. There is so much more to him than we realize. The purpose of Source is to encounter the Person of the Holy Spirit so that we can experience his joy, love, power, help and freedom in our lives. In today's lesson we begin by looking at who he is and what he does. Who is the Holy Spirit? Leaders: This lesson is a review of what is taught in Confirmation preparation classes. The Holy Spirit is the Third Person of the Trinity who proceeds from the intimate and infinite love of the Father and the Son. In fact, the Church teaches that the Holy Spirit is the love of the Father and the Son. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets. The Nicene Creed Not only is He the direct witness of their mutual love from which creation derives, but he himself is this love. He himself, as love, is the eternal uncreated gift. Dominum et Vivificantem, 34 God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. Romans 5:5 23
  23. 23. It may seem that the Holy Spirit is not often spoken of in the Bible. His most dramatic appearance seems to occur only at Pentecost, after the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ. This is not, however, his first manifestation. He is described repeatedly in the Old Testament through the use of images and symbols. 2. What biblical images of the Holy Spirit are familiar to you? These answers are summarized from The Catechism of the Catholic Church (694-701). Be sure to read the entire section. The references indicate where these images can be found in Scripture. • • • • • • • • water (John 7:38) anointing (Luke 4:18-19) fire (Acts 2:3-4) dove (Matt 3:16) seal (Eph 1:13-14) hand (Acts 8:17-19) finger (Exodus 31:18) cloud and light (Exodus 40:34-38) Another particularly powerful image is “river”. St. Ambrose elaborates on this image found in Ezekiel 47:1-12. The river flowed out from under the temple and grew deeper and deeper to bring flourishing growth to its banks. The Holy Spirit accomplishes similar growth in our souls. The Hebrew word for Spirit is “ruah”, which means wind, breath or air. This is probably the strongest image used to describe the Holy Spirit. And the word spirit comes from the Latin “spiritus” which also means breath. The Holy Spirit is the breath of the Father. When God created Adam and Eve, he breathed into them and gave them life. Breathing indicates life. John 6:63 tells us that “It is the spirit that gives life.” The Spirit breathes life into the sacraments, Scripture, Church teachings, and into our very selves! 2 Timothy 3:16 says that all Scripture is inspired by God. Inspired literally means “breathed into" so you could say God breathed into the Scripture. 24
  24. 24. What Does the Holy Spirit Do? Leaders: Some participants may be confused about the different works of the Persons of the Trinity (“Who is doing what? Is God not doing everything? How can one be doing something without the others?”). The following explanation may help to answer these questions. Although all three Persons of the Trinity accomplish all that is done by the divine nature, certain works are more appropriately attributed to the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit. For example, the work of creation is attributed to the Father, and the Son is seen as Saviour. 3. The Holy Spirit’s role can seem more obscure. What do you know about what the Holy Spirit does? To begin learning about the specific work and actions of the Holy Spirit, we will look at some Scripture passages which identify his active role in our lives. Leaders: Give everyone in your group one or two verses from this section to look up. You may decide to choose someone else to answer the question after the verse has been read, so that everyone will listen intently to all the Scripture excerpts. 4. Read Romans 8:26-27. How does the Holy Spirit help us in prayer? Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. The Holy Spirit reminds us to pray, perhaps by bringing people or situations to mind, and by giving us the wisdom to know how to pray for the situation. The Holy Spirit also prays in us according to God’s will. We can ask the Holy Spirit to unite our prayers and desires to his prayers, since we know he understands what is best for each situation. 25
  25. 25. 5. Read John 16:8 and 1 Corinthians 12:3. Why is humanity in desperate need of the Holy Spirit? And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment. Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says “Let Jesus be cursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit. The world is blind to its sin — people often do not realize what is disordered in their lives, nor how damaging sin is to themselves and others. For example, a compulsive gambler is often unaware of the seriousness of his condition and the ramifications of his lifestyle on his family and those around him. The Holy Spirit makes us aware of what is sinful. We should ask the Holy Spirit to reveal Jesus to people and to heal their spiritual blindness, so that they may come to a realization of their need for God. We can pray this same prayer for ourselves too. Leaders: Dominum et Vivificantem, 31-32 is an excellent resource on this topic. 6. Read John 16:13-15. How does the Holy Spirit glorify Jesus? When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. The Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus by revealing the truth of Jesus’ mission: the Father’s plan to send him as a perfect sacrifice for our salvation. The Holy Spirit also enlightens our minds, helping us to understand the truths in Scripture and Church teaching. This also gives glory to God. Leaders: The next passage further expands this theme of “understanding the truth”. 7. Read 1 Corinthians 2:10-16. Why should we never take pride in our spiritual understanding? The ability to understand the things of God is a gift which we receive through God’s indwelling Spirit — which is not something we achieve on our own. If we are to understand spiritual things, they must be revealed to us by the Holy Spirit. Through the Spirit, we are transformed and renewed and given the mind of Christ — to think, discern and understand not as the world does, but as God does. 26
  26. 26. Leaders: You may also want to refer to Romans 12:2 and CCC 152. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. One cannot believe in Jesus Christ without sharing in his Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who reveals to men who is Jesus. For "no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord‘, except by the Holy Spirit"[1 Corinthians 12:3] CCC 152 This ability to understand spiritual things relates to the gift of understanding from the seven-fold gifts of the Spirit. These gifts will be discussed later in the study (wait to address them at that point). 8. Read Acts 1:4, 5, 8. Why do you think Jesus told the disciples to wait for the Holy Spirit? While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. The disciples needed to be filled with supernatural power. On their own, they would never have been able to carry out their mission. We have already seen how the disciples fled in fear at the passion of Jesus. They would not have had the courage to face the crowds, the authorities, the persecution, and the martyrdom to come without supernatural power and an inner transformation. Leaders: Have participants glance at Acts 2. Ask if they are familiar with the story of Pentecost. The descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost marks the beginning of the Church. The call to mission and evangelization is the focus of Commission. More About the Holy Spirit We have seen that the Holy Spirit helps us to pray, makes us aware of sin, glorifies Jesus, enlightens our minds to understand spiritual truths, and sends us out to be witnesses of the Gospel. Some other important roles of the Holy Spirit include: 27
  27. 27. • inspiring the authors of Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16) All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. • guiding the Tradition of the Church (teachings passed on from one generation to the next) (1 Thessalonians 2:13) We also constantly give thanks to God for this, that when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God’s word, which is also at work in you believers. • assisting the leadership and discernment of the pope and the bishops (also called the Magisterium — the teaching office of the Church) (Acts 15) For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us… Acts 15 is the account of the “Council of Jerusalem,” where the apostles discerned, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, whether Jewish laws should apply to nonJewish Christians. • acting directly in the sacraments, bringing us into union with God. (1 Corinthians 12:13) For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body. 9. What did you learn about the Holy Spirit in today's lesson? Summary Through the Holy Spirit we are restored to paradise, led back to the Kingdom of heaven and adopted as children, given confidence to call God “Father” and to share in Christ's grace, called children of light and given a share in eternal glory. St. Basil, De Spiritu Sancto, as quoted in CCC 736) The Holy Spirit is the sometimes forgotten Third Person of the Trinity. However, when we recognize his activity in the world, in salvation history, in the Church, and in our own spiritual lives, we see how truly powerful he is. How could we ever forget him again? 28
  28. 28. Living It Out Challenge: Read some of the Book of Acts to re-live the adventures of the apostles at the coming of the Spirit. Here are some recommendations: • Chapters 1 & 2 – Pentecost • Chapters 3 & 4 – Peter and John: signs and wonders • Chapter 8 – Philip: supernatural experiences • Chapters 9 &10 – Saul’s Conversion • Chapter 12 – Peter imprisoned • Chapters 19-28 – Paul’s voyages and adventures Memorize Romans 5:5: God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. 29
  29. 29. Lesson 2 Preparation Notes “The Battle Within” In Brief: We can fight to overcome our inherent human weaknesses with the help of the Holy Spirit. Key Elements: • We begin this lesson by assuring participants that human weakness, sin and struggles are part of the spiritual life. We can expect to encounter these obstacles. Through the Spirit alive in us, we have supernatural help to persevere and fight through these challenges. • We will reaffirm what it means to be in a Christ-centred relationship, despite our weaknesses and lack of perfection. This is an important follow-up to what was taught in Discovery. • The term "sanctifying grace" used early on in the lesson, means: "the gratuitous gift of his life that God makes to us; it is infused by the Holy Spirit into the soul to heal it of sin and to sanctify it." CCC 2023. In other words, it is the gift of God's life and salvation in our soul. • Paul's witness in Romans 7 and 8 is key to this lesson. It is real and honest: he desires to do good but finds himself doing what he does not want to do. Living in the Spirit gives us hope as we face this interior battle. God has not abandoned us in our efforts to follow his will. He has given us his very self: the Spirit who dwells in us. • Take time to prayerfully prepare reflections on Romans 7 and 8. Share these reflections with your group during the lesson. • This week’s challenge is to receive the sacrament of Reconciliation. Through this sacrament, the Holy Spirit fills us with grace to fight sin and temptation. Think about how, when and where you can encourage your group to go to Confession. Perhaps you can suggest parishes where they can receive the sacraments at regularly scheduled times. Also, draw their attention to the guide to making a good confession, which appears in the appendix of their study booklets. This may be the first time some participants will have received this sacrament in a very long time — be very gentle as you lead and encourage them to go. 30
  30. 30. Lesson 2 The Battle Within 1. Last week’s challenge was to read from the Book of Acts. Share which sections you read and what inspired you most. Hopefully since last week's lesson we are more interested in experiencing the Holy Spirit in our lives. He is so much more than we realize or understand. We touched on a variety of ways in which the Holy Spirit helps us grow in our relationship with God. He is truly the source and strength of our spiritual life. The chocolate milk analogy emphasized the importance of inviting the Holy Spirit to be active and to influence our lives on a regular basis. Despite genuine desires and attempts to follow God, deep down we really aren't sure how good we are at it. We don't seem to be able to be as spiritual as we think we should be. Perhaps we struggle with discouragement, feeling defeated, or lack of motivation. Today's lesson aims to expose this 'battle within' and assure us that it is quite normal and, frankly, to be expected. It is precisely when we realize our weakness and inability to master the Christian life on our own strength that we realize our need for God's grace and help. This we receive in the Person and presence of the Holy Spirit. 2. What are some obvious obstacles that might cause someone to struggle to be faithful to God? There are certainly obvious ways we struggle spiritually: any variety of serious sins, influence of media and society drawing us away from faith, addictions, laziness — not making an effort to put God first. 31
  31. 31. 3. What are more subtle obstacles or battles a person might encounter in their faith life? Some subtle ways we can become discouraged or feel defeated in our faith life include: • being lukewarm • sitting on the fence, • being guilt-motivated • feeling weak • having inconsistent prayer times • inconsistent church attendance/Christian fellowship • lacking trust in God's plan or his goodness • lacking joy • not bearing fruit • not having a spiritual impact on other people's lives • basing faith on emotions Make sure participants understand that to have ups and downs on your faith journey is not necessarily a “defeated spiritual life”, it is a normal life. In a defeated Christian life, there is no progress forward. Think of the Christian life/growth as climbing a mountain. You will slip and lose some ground, but you should always be getting further up before you slip again; at least you should not be slipping as much or in the same way (e.g. learning to avoid same pitfalls, or understanding how to handle them better). 4. What helps you make a spiritual turn-around? Struggles and Our Relationship with God 5. If you were struggling spiritually, which image would best represent your relationship with God? Leaders: This question sets up the following section, which should be read as a group. Either have one participant read the whole section, or switch readers with each paragraph. 32
  32. 32. Most will say the second image. Tell them to "hold that thought" as you read through the next section. 6. Underline what stands out for you in this section. We may feel that if we are struggling, we are best represented by the middle image even though we have invited Jesus into our lives. We choose the middle one because we think we are not faithful enough to be in the third one. We must remember that these images represent the kinds of commitments we make, not levels of perfection. If we have sanctifying grace in our souls through Baptism, repent of our failures, live a sacramental life in the Church, and choose to follow, love and honour God, we are living a Christ-centred relationship. If this is how we live, we can be confident that God’s love and commitment to us is unchanging. Our struggles may occur because other concerns or interests are usurping God’s rightful place in our lives, or are leading us into sin. When these sins are venial (not of a serious nature) we need not worry that we have lost our secure relationship with God. Certainly, we need to repent, change and mature. Our relationship with God is continually growing and, just as in marriage, we have to work through the daily struggles. God is not surprised by our weakness, nor is he anxious to leave or drop us whenever we fail or disappoint him. It would be ridiculous if a married couple found themselves sometimes married or sometimes single several times throughout the week, depending on how good a spouse each partner was. The same is true in our relationship with God: our commitment is not severed by day-to-day failures and weaknesses. While venial sin does not sever our relationship with God, mortal sin can. Avoiding mortal sin (serious sin that is wilfully 33
  33. 33. committed with full knowledge of its gravity) is crucial to the integrity of our relationship. Mortal sin separates us from the protection of God’s saving grace; committing a sin of this nature means that we have rejected God from our lives. He is not in the centre, and our relationship becomes represented by the first or second image. However, even if we sin mortally, we can still be reconciled with God. His mercy is endless. Our loving Father longs to restore us to a right relationship with himself. Through our true contrition (sincere sorrow), confession to a priest in the sacrament of Reconciliation, and works of penance, we can respond to his invitation to begin again. As we strive to live out this Christ-centred relationship, we have not been left alone to carry it out on our own devices. We have been given the help of the Holy Spirit, who lives in us and empowers us. 7. Does this explanation change the way you would answer ‘Which image best represents your relationship with God?’ Why? Leaders: If some participants seem uncomfortable about offering an answer aloud, be respectful of that silence and do not dig for answers. They may be recognizing mortal sin in their lives. Once responses have been shared, gently suggest to your group that if they feel compelled to partake in the sacrament of Reconciliation for mortal or venial sins, they should follow God’s prompting in their hearts. Mention that you are available after the study if they need help finding a priest for Confession. We are bound to encounter challenges along with successes in our relationship with God. Even with sanctifying grace in our souls, we still have to struggle with our personal weaknesses and temptations. In his letter to the church in Rome, Paul shares his own struggles with the ups and downs of the spiritual life. 34
  34. 34. Paul’s Struggle 8. Read Romans 7:18-25. What problem is Paul experiencing? Can you relate to his struggle? How? 9. What do you think Paul means by “the flesh”? The Church teaches that the struggle with what Paul calls “the flesh” or "the old man" (in the Greek, “sarx”), is not due to any sort of wickedness in our human bodies, but to our innate tendency to be selfish and rebel against God. “Sarx” can be translated as “disorderly desires” or “disorderly inclination”. Our desires, emotions and actions are essentially good when they are used for the glory and love of God. When we use them for selfish ends, however, they are considered ‘fleshly’. For example, taste and enjoyment of food is a natural, Godgiven desire — when we abuse that desire, it becomes gluttony. Another example is the desire for sexual intimacy. It is a natural, God-given desire to be fulfilled in a God-given context (marriage), but when that passion is used for selfish gain or inordinate pleasure outside of God’s design it is lust. Leaders: Some participants may be reading from a Protestant translation of the Scriptures. If so, they will find sarx sometimes translated as ‘sinful nature’ or ‘human nature’. Catholic Scripture scholars would not translate sarx as sinful/human nature because Catholics have never accepted the Protestant notion that human nature was entirely corrupted by sin. Sin wounded our nature, but did not corrupt it completely. Our humanity (our human nature) is not opposed to divinity either – this is illustrated by the fact that Christ was both God and man. Sarx simply refers to our tendency towards evil, something we have all inherited due to original sin. 10. How can Paul’s experience give us hope? Paul struggled with sin, but was able to overcome it with God’s help. Although he was not perfect, he still lived a life of holiness. His example shows that there is hope for us too! The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that Paul’s struggle (and ours) is due to concupiscence: 35
  35. 35. Concupiscence stems from the disobedience of the first sin. It unsettles man's moral faculties and, without being in itself an offence, inclines man to commit sins. Because man is a composite being, spirit and body, there already exists a certain tension in him; a certain struggle of tendencies between "spirit" and "flesh" develops. But in fact this struggle belongs to the heritage of sin. It is a consequence of sin and at the same time a confirmation of it. It is part of the daily experience of the spiritual battle. CCC 2515-2516 Paul’s Solution 11. Read Romans 8:1-17. Identify (by colour coding, circling, etc.) what Paul says pertains to the flesh, and what pertains to the Spirit. Leaders: Paul's writing can be challenging to read. Marking the text can help participants grasp its meaning. First, have them circle the key words in this passage: Spirit and flesh. They could, for example, circle every instance of the word “Spirit” in yellow and “flesh” in blue. Then have them underline related words or ideas in the appropriate colour (i.e. everything that relates to “Spirit” is underlined in yellow). If they cannot mark up their Bible, have them make a chart with Spirit and flesh in two separate columns. 12. We are no longer condemned to hopeless despair as slaves to sin. How were we freed from slavery to the law of sin and death? (especially in vv. 1-4) There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. • (V. 1) Recognize that because of Jesus, we are no longer condemned. • (V. 3) Jesus took our sins upon himself and dealt with them on the cross. This is the message of Discovery! Before Jesus, we were condemned to death and separated from God by the requirements of the law (which are unattainable, and which we are incapable of fulfilling). 36
  36. 36. 13. How does Paul counsel us to live in this truth and fight “the flesh” from ruling our lives? a) vv. 5-8 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. We need to change the way we think — change our mindset from the flesh (worldly mindset, or relying on ourselves instead of on God's grace) to the Spirit. Leaders: Follow up by asking, “How can we do that? What kinds of things affect how we think and what we think about? We have to watch what goes into our minds. We need to dwell on what is good, such as Scripture, spiritual reading, prayer, Mass and lives of the saints. We have to minimize our interaction with things that can lead us to sin: certain media choices, events or even unhealthy relationships that lead us away from God. A mindset of pride, mediocrity, complacency or self-satisfaction can also lead us away from a Christcentred relationship b) vv. 12-13 So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. We need to avoid acting according to the flesh and to choose godly behaviours instead. (V. 12) We are called to live according to the Spirit and not according to our disordered desires. We have an obligation to live this way — to will to put to death/reject that which is not of the Spirit. We are called to choose to live a moral life — the moral life must be a life in the Spirit, and a life in the Spirit must be a moral life. The phrase “putting to death" means denying or stopping wrong and harmful activities. It can also mean putting an end to wrong beliefs (self-reliance, denial of salvation through Jesus). It implies the development of godly habits as opposed to falling back into our sinful habits. This will be addressed again in Lesson 3 with the "choose and ask" model. 37
  37. 37. c) v. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. We must be led by the Spirit in order to live in the Spirit and be children of God. We need to look to the Holy Spirit for help, to let our lives be influenced by the Spirit. This small phrase is very important to understanding the solution to our struggle with sin. This will be addressed again in Lesson 3 with the "choose and ask" model. d) vv. 15-17 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. We need to recognize our dignity and true identity, and remember it always. (In Disney's movie The Lion King, Mufasa speaks to Simba from the heavens, saying, “Remember who you are” — the Holy Spirit whispers the same words to us.) We are the sons and daughters of God (v. 15) and heirs to his kingdom (v. 17)! Therefore, we need not live in despair and hopelessness because of our sinful condition: we have been freed from slavery and condemnation. The Spirit of God lives in us (v. 9) — we are true temples of the Holy Spirit (more on this in Lesson 5)! 14. What have you learned from this lesson and from reflecting on Romans 7 and 8? 38
  38. 38. Summary The spiritual life is a battle — we must constantly struggle to overcome our sinful tendencies. This battle is not only experienced by those who are far from God — even saints like Paul had to fight to stay faithful. Thankfully, in the midst of our struggles, God is our great encourager. Through Jesus we have been set free from slavery to sin and, through the Holy Spirit, we are given the means to live a life pleasing to God. Living It Out Challenge: Partake of the sacrament of Reconciliation. It is a sure means of grace when fighting sinful tendencies. Memorize Romans 8:1-2: There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 39
  39. 39. Lesson 3 Preparation Notes “Living in the Spirit” In Brief: The Holy Spirit empowers and directs us to follow him daily. Key elements: • In this lesson, we focus on the title “paraclete” — the Holy Spirit as our help. He makes our faithfulness possible. • “The Zigzag Illustration” and “Live by the Spirit” are the two key sections of this lesson. • The zigzag illustration shows the up-and-down pattern of the spiritual life experienced by most Christians — a pattern which sometimes includes dramatic or lengthy backsliding. A life in the Spirit is not immune to weaknesses and falls, but it generally sees smaller falls and shorter recovery times (i.e. turning to God for forgiveness and healing is considerably quicker). • The Holy Spirit as Paraclete helps us to be faithful to God and to stay in a Christ-centred relationship. We need to experience ongoing conversion after we first put Christ at the centre of our lives. This is our journey of faith, and we are not able to do it on our own strength. • The "choose and ask" model is a way to help us understand how to live by the Spirit at all times, and to live that ongoing conversion through keeping Jesus at the centre of our lives. We choose to orient our lives with Christ at the centre. We choose to reject temptation and wrong thoughts and actions. We ask through prayer, in faith, for the Holy Spirit to help us, empower us and direct us to follow God. 40
  40. 40. Lesson 3 Living in the Spirit 1. How has your understanding of the Holy Spirit deepened so far in this study? Leaders: The opening question is not related to last week’s challenge, to respect the privacy of those who went or did not go to the sacrament of Reconciliation. We are not alone in our spiritual battles — Jesus promised that the Father would send us the Holy Spirit. He specifically referred to the Spirit as the Paraclete or Advocate, which literally means, “he who is called to one’s side”. This Greek word derives from legal terminology for a defence attorney, but can also mean spokesperson, mediator, consoler, helper and comforter. All these meanings paint a fuller picture of the way the Holy Spirit helps us in our spiritual growth. The theme of this lesson, “Living in the Spirit,” is about living the Christian life daily and consistently, assisted and empowered by the Paraclete — the Holy Spirit. Our Helper 2. Read Galatians 5:16-25. What is happening in Galatians 5:16-17? Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. There is a struggle within ourselves to not give in to our selfish desires and weaknesses, but to please God in all that we do. Leaders: Ask your group, “What does this passage remind you of?” It may remind them of Romans 7 and 8 from last week. 41
  41. 41. 3. Look carefully at how Paul speaks about the Holy Spirit. What phrases help us understand how the Holy Spirit acts and helps us? This passage emphasizes that the only way to live a life pleasing to God is by living in the Spirit. Leaders: Point out where Paul refers to the Spirit — live by the Spirit, (be) guided by the Spirit, follow the Spirit. You could also have participants look at how these phrases are translated in their Bible. Some translations read: walk in the Spirit, keep in step with the Spirit. Ask your group, “How do these different expressions give us extra insight into what Paul is saying?” They inform the reader that living in the Spirit is a constant, ongoing, moment-by-moment reality. It is not just something that happens once in a while, like on Sundays, or at our Baptism and Confirmation. It is meant to be a way of life in which we are guided by and follow the Holy Spirit. Grace is the theological word for supernatural help. The Catechism of The Catholic Church (articles 1996-2005) describes grace and the various ways this supernatural help is offered to us through the Holy Spirit. For example: • Sanctifying grace (the gift of our salvation and the grace to be faithful in following God) (CCC 1999-2000) • Actual grace (special interventions and helps from the Spirit) (CCC 2000) • sacramental graces (CCC 2003) • charisms and gifts of the Spirit (CCC 2003) • graces of state – roles/vocation in the body of Christ (CCC • 2004) The Zigzag Illustration The zigzag illustration is a visual representation of the spiritual life. It can be used as an image of what we have read in Galatians. The vertical side of the graph shows the degree to which our lives are in conformity to the will of God. This axis points toward a spiritual lifestyle of growing in intimacy with the Lord. By moving down the graph, we progressively distance ourselves from God, and fall into sin. The horizontal axis indicates the time it takes to move between the two lifestyles. 42
  42. 42. 4. What kind of spiritual journey does this first zigzag represent? This zigzag could represent two kinds of spiritual experiences. Example 1 – This person could be a fairly faithful, average Christian who experiences growth as well as struggles, temptations and sin in his life. He continues to stay in a relationship with Christ because he does not commit serious mortal sin. However, he gives in, maybe regularly, to a variety of venial sins (e.g. gossip, crude language, critical attitude, lack of prayer and Scripture reading, selfishness, envious thoughts, overlooking people who need him). He may not even be aware of how much venial sin is in his life because of sloth (spiritual laziness). Example 2 - This person’s spiritual life is often shifting from spiritual highs to lows, perhaps resulting in serious backsliding or mortal sin. Applied to either example, this first graph shows that it takes the person a significant amount of time to rekindle his intimacy with God and continue his spiritual growth. He might slip spiritually and not get back on track until he attends a conference or retreat. Guilt or ignorance of how to remedy the problem may keep him away from God for long periods of time. For person 1, this “getting back on track” may come about through motivation at a retreat or in prayer, to be more diligent in following the Lord and to repent and change his actions and attitudes. For person 2, this “getting back on track” will likely be a bigger, more momentous repentance and conversion because of how far and for how long he has fallen away from the Lord. He sincerely repents and, of course, goes to the sacrament of Reconciliation to make a fresh start. Both these cases represent spiritual lives full of struggles that might be avoided by a change of lifestyle. Remind them that the person in example 1 is still in a Christ-centred relationship because sanctifying grace has not been lost from the soul. The person in example 2, however, has cut himself off from sanctifying grace due to rebellion and mortal sin and has put God outside 43
  43. 43. his life. He needs to restore his relationship with God. Emphasize to your participants that no matter how unfaithful we are, God is always faithful to us and will forgive us if we turn back to him with true contrition. 5. What is the advantage of the spiritual experience demonstrated by the second zigzag? In contrast, the second zigzag shows that this person may still fall, but the time it takes to return to the Lord is shorter. This person is not falling as far away from God (i.e. not as much or as serious sin has built up in his life). The second zigzag models what we should strive for in our faith journey: to keep our growth constant and steady. Consistency The quicker we repent and turn to the Holy Spirit for help, the less difficult it will be to continue moving forward in our spiritual growth. The grace we receive empowers us to live according to the Spirit. 6. Galatians 5:25 tells us, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.” The word “live” implies walking in the Spirit in an on-going and consistent way. Why do you think this is an important principle? The Christian life is a journey. There is no magic wand and instant transformation. It is a journey that presents challenges, rewards, difficulties and even temptations to turn back. Perseverance and faithfulness will win the day. In any great story, such as The Lord of the Rings, the heroes complete their journey by faithfully pressing on. The Christian life can be incredibly frustrating and unfulfilling when our commitment level is anything less than 100%. However, when we give our lives fully to God as best we can, consistently and faithfully following him, we experience his abundant love, peace and joy. We need to invest in our 44
  44. 44. relationship with God in order to experience this real and vital intimacy with him. The abundant Christian life is not without struggles, trials or even dry times — these are to be expected, like the seasons of nature that come and go. In the midst of these challenges, however, we can still find refuge in the deep inner joy, peace, and love we receive from God. Consider these Scripture verses: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10) ...and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:19) Leaders: If you feel it is appropriate, you could discuss how the following question could detract from our spiritual progress: “Can’t we just stay the way we are?” (i.e. apathetic, lazy or complacent). Of course, you can stay the way you are — your level of commitment to the spiritual life is up to you. There is, however, a danger involved: we need a healthy concern about not losing our faith altogether. Scripture warns us not to be complacent. For example, Revelation 3:15-16 warns us about being lukewarm, and Philippians 2:12 instructs us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. Matthew 7:21 says “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” 7. Read Luke 11:13. How do we know we can ask for the Holy Spirit’s help on a moment’s notice? If you, with all your sins, know how to give your children good things, how much more will the heavenly Father give the holy Spirit to those who ask him? The Holy Spirit is a gift that God the Father will not deny us; in fact, he delights in giving us his Holy Spirit. Leaders: Ask, “Can it be hard to believe in this kind of goodness?” 45
  45. 45. Live by the Spirit Let's pull together the points developed in the past two lessons. In our attempts to follow God, we can encounter a variety of setbacks, where our weaknesses and sin lead us to do things we regret and we feel distanced from God. This up-and-down spiritual life is not uncommon and underscores our constant need for God's help. The Holy Spirit, as the Paraclete, assists, comforts and comes alongside us as we strive to follow God. In Scripture, this life in the Spirit is described as walking in the Spirit and being guided by the Spirit, implying an ongoing and consistent life with him. It is the Holy Spirit who works out, in us, our ongoing conversion and helps us to keep Jesus at the centre of our lives. Two key words will help us to stay in a Christ-centred relationship and live by the Spirit: choose and ask. 8. How does the word "choose" apply to our ongoing conversion and life in the Spirit? "Choosing", simply put, is to choose God first. It is reasserting our decision to put Christ at the centre of our lives. It is choosing even in day-to-day living to orient our lives (the various aspects, activities, thoughts) to Jesus' lordship. We will quickly discover that we can never do this on our own strength and good intentions - that is why the next point, "ask," brings us to the Holy Spirit for grace. We will get more into that in the next question. Some other aspects of choosing: • We choose in two ways: positively and negatively, an agreement and a refusal, a turning to and a turning away from. We agree by choosing to follow God and we make a refusal in turning away from that which leads us away from God's love (i.e. sinful choices, behaviours, or environments that not only lead us away from God explicitly, but perhaps which we know will subtly play into weaknesses that, slowly, can lead us away from God). • Another way of saying it is that we are choosing what we promised in our baptismal vows: to reject sin/Satan, and to believe in God (and everything else we proclaim in the creed). 46
  46. 46. • When dealing with specific struggles (e.g. low self-esteem, despair about a situation, discouragement about something, loneliness), we need to choose to believe the truth we find in Scripture and Church teaching (e.g. I am a beloved child of God, God will never leave me or forsake me, I am the temple of the Holy Spirit, God will work all things together for the good, God is my shield and protector). • In facing these specific struggles we can also "choose to refuse"; that is, choose to reject those lies, doubts, temptations that come at us, and to replace them with God's truth (e.g. I am not a "lost cause", God has a wonderful plan in mind for me, or I refuse to believe that I am not worthy of love, God loves me, Jesus died for me, nothing can separate us from his love (Romans 8:31-39). A very concrete way we choose a Christ-centred life and reject sinful actions and weaknesses is through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Leaders: You could direct participants to look back at Galatians 5:16-25 as this passage speaks about this choosing to follow God and turning away from the desires of the flesh. 9. How does the word "ask" apply to our ongoing conversion and life in the Spirit? "Ask" means that we pray to the Holy Spirit and, in faith, ask for his help. As was just read in Luke 11:13 - it is a prayer we can have confidence that God will answer. We can ask for his help anytime: in our times of prayer, in the sacraments, at the beginning and end of our day and most certainly in those moments when we recognize we need help immediately. It might be for help with struggles such as: overcoming temptation, weakness, or incorrect thinking. We might need grace to do the good we want to do, or at least know we should do, such as: love someone who is difficult, make time for prayer, do the honest/right thing, be generous. Remember one of the meanings of “Paraclete” is “lawyer.” In this way, we can think of the Holy Spirit as fighting for us to help us overcome difficulties. Leaders, you could ask: "What might be some other specific real-life situations where you could ask for the Holy Spirit's help? 47
  47. 47. Leaders: To help explain the need for both "choose" and "ask" and their relationship to the Holy Spirit's action, you might use the analogy of a boat with sails. “Spirit” comes from the Latin word for breath (wind). The Holy Spirit is the "wind", but the wind keeps the boat moving only if we put up our sails to catch it. It is absolutely essential that we put our sails up: that we choose to follow God, listen to the Holy Spirit and reject sin. Ultimately, though, it is the wind, the Holy Spirit, that provides the power and direction for the boat. Of course, the wind at sea may blow any which way, but the Holy Spirit is a Person and he actually knows the best direction for us to go! Summary The Holy Spirit as Paraclete is our helper. We cannot continue to grow in a Christ-centred relationship without his help. Otherwise, we experience an unfulfilling, frustrating and guiltridden up-and-down spiritual life. We are invited to walk in the Spirit continually, choosing to turn to him for help in any and all circumstances. Living It Out Challenge: This week, remember the "choose and ask" model several times throughout your day to live by the Spirit. Memorize Luke 11:13: “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” 48
  48. 48. Lesson 4 Preparation Notes “Barriers to Living in the Spirit” In Brief: There are obstacles that prevent us from being receptive to the Holy Spirit’s influence — knowing them can help us deal with them. Key elements: • It is important that participants speak about their experiences integrating the "choose and ask" model in their lives. It is a helpful way to remember to establish a habit of ongoing conversion to Jesus and ongoing conversation with the Holy Spirit for help, guidance and empowerment. Make sure participants do not forget about this helpful tool after Lesson 3. • Barriers looked at in this lesson: unconfessed sin, worldly lifestyle, not surrendering everything, difficult circumstances, sloth, and relying solely on self-effort. All of these barriers block the flow of grace to our souls, like logs jamming the flow of water in a stream. • Take time to reflect upon your own experience with these barriers. Share examples of how you overcome barriers through the power of the Holy Spirit. Or perhaps you can share what you would do if you were struggling with certain barriers. You might want to share what you would do now, in retrospect, with particular barriers, in light of what you know now about the Spirit-filled life. • The personal reflection section is very important for participants. Ask for the Holy Spirit's help and rely on his gifts as you offer suggestions and strategies to help participants work through their barriers. • Encourage participants to speak to a confessor or spiritual director, especially if you feel unable to give them suggestions with the personal struggles that come up. Recommended Reading: • Our enemy, the devil, wants to see us defeated in the spiritual life. C.S. Lewis explores this reality in his fictional story The Screwtape Letters. It is an interesting and surprisingly light read (considering the topic), showing various tactics Satan could possibly use to make a believer stumble and give up. 49
  49. 49. Lesson 4 Barriers to Living in the Spirit 1. Did the "choose and ask" model help you turn to the Holy Spirit for help more often last week? How? Share some specific examples. We have learned that the Holy Spirit plays a crucial role in our lives as Christians. Despite the interior battle against sin and temptation, living in the Spirit brings us fulfillment and joy. Occasionally, however, it seems that certain obstacles block the action of the Holy Spirit in our lives, not unlike how clogs in a pipe prevent water from flowing freely into our homes. We realize we are not experiencing the strength, direction or assistance we have been promised. Today's lesson will concretely address typical yet significant barriers that prevent the Holy Spirit from having full influence in our lives. Common Barriers Leaders: Your personal sharing will make the barriers much more concrete and relevant for the participants. Divide the verses. Have the person reading the verse also prepare the answer. Encourage others to relate their experiences as well. Note: some of these barriers are simply implied in the verses and are not spelled out as “this is a barrier because ” 2. Read Hebrews 12:1. What prevents us from running the race Paul describes? Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us. • Sin, especially unconfessed sin, which remains in our souls. • The dirty pipe analogy certainly works well with this barrier. 50
  50. 50. 3. Read Romans 12:2. What does Paul warn us to avoid? Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. • Worldly lifestyle. If we are conformed to the world, there will be no noticeable difference between our speech, priorities and activities and those of non-believers. 4. Read Matthew 19:16-22. What does this young man’s response indicate about his relationship with God? Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions. • He is not totally surrendered — sitting on the fence. (In Revelation 3:15-16 it is called lukewarm.) I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth. Leaders: Ask, “Was money really the issue?” Maybe, but it could have been anything taking the place of God in his life. Then ask, “What are some things that can be idols in our lives?” 5. Read Hebrews 6:11-12. What does the author of Hebrews warn the believers to avoid? And we want each one of you to show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope to the very end, so that you may not become sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. • Laziness • Procrastination • Sloth. 6. Read James 1:2-3. What barrier does James address? My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. • Difficult circumstances. Leaders: Ask, “What are some circumstances that might make it difficult to live a spirit-filled life?” (Lesson 3 of Obedience is dedicated to this topic). 7. Are you experiencing any of these barriers? Which one(s)? 51
  51. 51. 8. How can we incorporate what we have learned about the Holy Spirit into our response to these barriers? This teaching, of turning to the Holy Spirit for the help we need in light of the barriers we face in following God, is an important nugget we want Source participants to take with them from this study. The "choose and ask" model is very helpful for overcoming these barriers and turning to the Holy Spirit for help on a daily or even moment-by-moment basis. Since one of the Holy Spirit's actions in our lives is to convince us of our sin, he can help us recognize when we are slipping into these kinds of weaknesses and failures. We can then choose to repent of them, turn to him and ask for the grace to follow his will. Leaders: Remember, this minimizes the up-and-down Christian experience so that it does not take months or years to return to God. This content leads into our discussion about docility next week. Remember that, through this lesson, you are preparing participants to make a decision next week to become docile to the Holy Spirit. The Galatian Trap We will now address what is perhaps the biggest barrier to our Christian walk. Since it is less obvious than the others, it can be more difficult to overcome. It can be called the Galatian Trap. 9. Read Galatians 3:1-3. Why is Paul upset with the Galatians? You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly exhibited as crucified! The only thing I want to learn from you is this: Did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the law or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? Having started with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh? The Christians in Galatia are gentiles, not Jews. Paul is upset because they are listening to other “teachers” who are convincing them to move away from the Gospel and turn instead to the false belief that they can be saved by the Jewish law. 52
  52. 52. 10. By turning to the “law”, who are the Galatians ultimately depending upon? They depend upon themselves/self-effort, and not on the Holy Spirit. 11. What is the “Galatian trap”? Rejecting the Gospel message (that salvation is a gift of grace and mercy freely given from the Father, by the Son, in the Holy Spirit). The Galatians exchanged this truth for a lie. They believed instead that they could please God and earn their salvation on their own by following the law. 12. How can self-effort be a hindrance to the Christian walk? How could it be a help? Relying on our own efforts leads us first to pride and then to failure — we forget about God’s help and then we become frustrated because we cannot achieve the quality of spiritual life we desire. We try to become super-Christians on our own steam but we cannot — this is why we are given the Holy Spirit. The church in Galatia seems to have forgotten this. Nevertheless, though we should not rely solely on our own efforts, we must still actively participate in our own spiritual growth. We must co-operate with God’s grace (put up our sails, from Lesson 3) and do our part under the inspiration and direction of the Holy Spirit. Think of gas in a car: no matter how much I maintain my car, it will not move without fuel. The Holy Spirit is the fuel. Alternatively, I cannot expect fuel alone to get me somewhere. I need to get in the car, turn the key, and drive the car with a full tank. 13. The Galatians were trying to earn salvation through careful observance of the law. How do we fall into this trap today? We might try to please God through our involvement or service without allowing the Holy Spirit to have real leadership in our lives. We might try to win our salvation through good deeds or by impressing God with our spiritual résumé and, in the process, fail to trust him and surrender our lives to him. 53
  53. 53. We might try to please God by ‘acting holy’ (e.g. praying harder, reading Scripture more often). Even though these things are good in themselves, we might be keeping God at arm’s length because we focus too much on our own efforts. As a result, we get discouraged that we are not making much progress and our faith stagnates. Personal Reflection 14. List barriers you are currently facing in your spiritual life and how you can invite the Holy Spirit into these areas. Share your barriers with the group. Together, try to think of more ways to overcome these barriers and find Scripture verses that offer wisdom particular to your situation. Leaders: Give participants 3-5 minutes to fill in the chart on their own. Examples of Scripture verses to address certain needs or concerns are on the following page. Barriers For example: There are certain sinful behaviours in my lifestyle that God is asking me to reject. Strategies • Talk to a trusted friend about it • Go to Confession and receive counselling from the priest • Pray for the courage to change • Reflect on a worship song about surrender • Reflect on Titus 2:6-8. 54
  54. 54. Examples of Scripture verses that address certain needs or concerns: Worried: Needing courage: Depressed: Facing a crisis: Psalm 34, 139 Psalm 121 In doubt: Discouraged: Tempted: Hebrews 11 Psalm 23,42; Isaiah 40 Psalm 1; 1 Corinthians 10 Philippians 4 Joshua 1 In danger or afraid: Psalm 91 Summary Awareness of the barriers to the Spirit-filled life is essential for overcoming them. Equipped with this knowledge, we must turn to the Holy Spirit to empower us and give us the courage to live as children of God. Living It Out Challenge: Put into practice your strategies to overcome one of your personal barriers to living in the Spirit. Memorize Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us. 55
  55. 55. Lesson 5 Preparation Notes “Docility to the Holy Spirit” In Brief: Mary, our model of docility, entrusted her life completely to the Holy Spirit. Key Elements: • This is the key lesson in this study. Everything participants have learned thus far has been intended to prepare them to choose docility to the Holy Spirit. • Read over the whole lesson before leading it (the lesson will take much longer if you are not aware of its progression). • Docility is essential to our growth in holiness. This is how we cooperate with the grace of the Holy Spirit. • Docility is openness. It means being malleable, teachable, willing, and ready to be led and influenced by God through the power of the Holy Spirit. • This teaching will be more challenging for some participants than for others. They may not be ready to give God permission to influence every area of their lives, especially the future. Be patient with them as they absorb this valuable teaching. Present the lesson as an invitation to which they can respond, but do not be pushy. This area of Christian growth is a continual challenge for all of us. • The introduction conveys the idea that if we really knew the Holy Spirit’s goodness, we would not react with such anxiety and fear at the thought of abandoning ourselves to him. • Mary is a model for us to emulate. She was detached from her own plans and abandoned herself to the Holy Spirit. • Although docility is similar to commitment to Christ, it has its own specific meaning. Docility implies a greater abandonment of our plans to God’s sovereignty and a greater willingness to be moulded into the image of God. • This lesson also presents the notion that we are temples of the Holy Spirit. We look first at the Old Testament temple and Holy of Holies, then at how this temple has changed in the New Covenant. Beginning with Mary, we can all become temples of the Holy Spirit. This is an incredible mystery and honour. • The section on Mary does not present exclusively Catholic teaching. It simply looks at the account of the Annunciation in the Bible. All denominations would agree that Mary's fiat, her “yes,” is a model for Christians to imitate. • In the section called “Fiat”, participants will be invited to pray for docility and guidance from the Holy Spirit. Leaders should pray to the Spirit as well, asking him to give participants a sense of freedom 56
  56. 56. in being docile to God. We should also pray against any fears and anxieties with which the enemy may be tempting them. • We have to embody peace in order to demonstrate the freedom and vitality of a life in the Spirit. Don’t try to fake this. Ask the Holy Spirit to manifest this peace within you. • The challenge is small and practical, but requires a huge leap of faith. Participants are to choose one small problem in their lives that they will surrender to God. Encourage them to trust God and to believe that he will act. • Very important: Prepare to share an example of how you entrusted an everyday problem to God, willing to follow with docility what he would tell you to do. Recommended Reading: • More information on Mary: CCC 721-726 (and many more references in the CCC index). • Watch Raiders of the Lost Ark — it's a classic that ties into question 3! 57
  57. 57. Lesson 5 Docility to the Holy Spirit 1. How did the strategies we shared last lesson help you overcome barriers in approaching the Spirit this past week? In the last few weeks, we have discussed who the Holy Spirit is, what role he has in our lives, the struggles we have with sin and temptation, God’s plan for a life in the Spirit, and the barriers that typically impede his activity in our life. This week we will examine how to be led by the Holy Spirit. We read in Romans 5:5 that “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” There is something attractive about a person in love with God who is led by the Holy Spirit and filled with his grace. 2. What characteristics should describe a Spirit-filled person? In the Holy Spirit we experience freedom, vitality, creativity, love, enthusiasm, exuberance, beauty, goodness, peace, safety, confidence, inner joy—things that describe life at its very best: the sense of being loved and in love. This does not mean that the road is always easy, cheery and pleasant but that we experience deep contentment and peace, despite the challenges. Leaders: Ask, “Do some of these characteristics describe your life? Does the life they describe sound desirable to you?” Some participants may feel uncomfortable opening themselves up to the Holy Spirit. Some might expect that opening themselves to the Holy Spirit will have an effect opposite to what is described above. Some may imagine his presence as uncomfortable, weird, boring or oppressive — not a life of freedom, joy, love and confidence. The purpose of this lesson is to introduce participants to the Spirit, who is life and love. 58
  58. 58. Temple of the Holy Spirit It is a great blessing to know the Holy Spirit. Through Baptism, Confirmation and the other sacraments, we encounter him in a privileged way. However, human beings have not always enjoyed this incredible privilege. In the Old Testament, people had a very different experience of the Spirit of God. As we learned in Discovery, the fall of Man caused by sin created a rift between humanity and God. Isaiah 59:2 tells us that our “sins have hidden his face” — this was the day-to-day experience of the Jewish faithful in the Old Testament. 3. What was the Jewish (Old Testament) understanding of the Spirit of God’s dwelling place? In the Old Testament, the presence and glory of God dwelt in the Holy of Holies, where the Ark of the Covenant was kept. The Ark was the golden chest in which the Ten Commandments were held, and the presence of God was said to dwell there. The Holy of Holies was separated from the rest of the Tabernacle/Temple by a heavily woven veil (more like a tapestry). Exodus 40: 20, 21, 34: He took the covenant and put it into the ark, and put the poles on the ark, and set the mercy-seat above the ark; and he brought the ark into the tabernacle, and set up the curtain for screening, and screened the ark of the covenant; as the Lord had commanded Moses. The cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Only the high priest could enter the Holy of Holies, once a year on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), when the Hebrew people were reconciled with God (see Leviticus 16). In that room, two ten-foot gold-covered angel statues stood with outstretched wings that reached from either side of the north and south walls and met in the middle over the Ark (1 Kings 6:27). During this period in history, the Holy of Holies was hidden, and unapproachable. It was a scandal to even think of an ordinary person approaching the inner rooms of the temple. Leaders: It is essential for participants to understand the Holy of Holies in order to appreciate the profound privilege we now have of carrying God within us as temples of the Holy Spirit. You may also wish to mention the following: There were three things inside the Ark — the staff of Aaron (Moses’ brother and spokesman), the Ten Commandments, and manna (the bread that God sent from heaven to the Israelites while they were in the desert). 59
  59. 59. Have participants think of the scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark when the Nazis open the Ark of the Covenant and their faces melt off. This is clearly Hollywood imagination, but it gives an idea of the awesome ‘not-tobe-messed-with’ power of God’s presence in the Ark. Note: Indiana Jones was in search of the Ark of the Covenant because no one knows where it is anymore. As we know today, God sought to remedy this situation through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Let us look at the direct results of Christ's saving work on Calvary: 4. Read Matthew 27:51 and 1 Corinthians 6:19. How has this event radically changed our relationship to God, especially in the Person of the Holy Spirit? At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split (Matthew 27:51) Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? (1 Corinthians 6:19 When Jesus died on the cross, the temple veil “was torn in two”, ushering in a new era of freedom, redemption and relationship. No longer was there a barrier between God and humanity. Christ broke though the barrier and restored our relationship to the Father. Before Christ, God’s Spirit only dwelt in a particular, inaccessible spot. Now he dwells in us. The temple is us! Our God has done everything he possibly could to be close to us! How incredible and powerful it is to know that, in this age, the Holy Spirit dwells within us! Mary as our Model We will now look at Mary. This Jewish teenager experienced the profound mystery of receiving God into her person in an unprecedented way. Her story will teach us what it means to become a temple of the Holy Spirit. 5. Read Luke 1:26-38. In the Annunciation of the Lord, we witness Mary’s response to the Holy Spirit. Discuss what it must have been like for Mary to experience this event. She would have been very young (14-16 years old), and yet still responded with openness and abandonment to God’s plan for her life. She was about to be married and probably 60
  60. 60. had hopes and dreams for her future — this message from God changed everything. She must have been shocked and overwhelmed to be chosen to bear the long-awaited Messiah. For centuries, her people had been longing and crying out to God for him to come. Mary may also have been amazed to learn that Elizabeth was with child in her old age. Moreover, she was puzzled by Gabriel's greeting — she would never have imagined that God’s messenger would call her “highly favoured.” 6. Read verses 35-38 again. What interaction is Mary about to have with the Holy Spirit? She is to be overshadowed — the Holy Spirit will come upon her. By the power of by the Holy Spirit, she conceives the Christ child. 7. Mary is sometimes called the “Ark of the New Covenant”. Given the account of the Annunciation, why would the Church give her this title? The Ark, as mentioned above, was the place where God resided. Mary becomes the new Ark of the Covenant because she carried Jesus inside her in order that he might be brought into the world as a human being. On a more profound level, Mary herself is the prototype of the New Covenant — a sign of the unity that God wishes to have with his people. She is the first person to receive the Holy Spirit within her. Leaders: You can refer to CCC 2676: Mary, in whom the Lord himself has just made his dwelling, is...the ark of the covenant, the place where the glory of the Lord dwells. She is “the dwelling of God...with men.” Full of grace, Mary is wholly given over to him who has come to dwell in her and whom she is about to give to the world. Ask, “What made it possible for the Holy Spirit to enter into Mary?” The answer is her “fiat” (let it be done) — her “yes” to God. 61
  61. 61. Fiat Mary, through her “fiat” (or “yes”), allowed the Holy Spirit to overshadow her and conceive Jesus in her womb. This attitude of “let it be done to me according to your word” can be summed up in a single word: docility. The Virgin Mary most perfectly embodies the obedience of faith. By faith Mary welcomes the tidings and promise brought by the angel Gabriel, believing that "with God nothing will be impossible" and so giving her assent: "Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be [done] to me according to your word." Elizabeth greeted her: "Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord." It is for this faith that all generations have called Mary blessed. CCC 148 Mary was the first to receive the Holy Spirit through her “fiat” — she was not meant to be the last. 8. What does it mean to be called to docility, as Mary was? Docility means giving God permission to lead your life. It is an attitude of openness and receptivity to God who, by forming and correcting us, teaches us to be more like him. It is like being clay in God’s hands. We must ask ourselves, are we malleable, or resistant to the working of the potter? Leaders: Some participants may be uncomfortable with the implications of docility. Always remember to be gentle, striving to identify with the situation of each person. Present the teaching and invite participants to respond, but do not be pushy. This is a challenging area for all of us. As Mary experienced, God’s call in our lives can sometimes seem intimidating, perhaps unbelievable. We can ask ourselves, “Who am I that God would want to do great things through me?” We may be excited about how God will use us, but we may also be tempted to count the cost of saying “yes”, fearful of how this could change our lives. 62
  62. 62. 9. In what areas is it difficult to be docile to the Holy Spirit? Future plans, relationships, finances, etc. (remind participants of some of the barriers encountered in Lesson 4). Usually, there is some kind of fear or insecurity involved. Leaders: After allowing time for participants to name some examples, ask, “Where do our fears and insecurities come from?” If they are at a loss, ask them “Why did Adam and Eve eat the apple?” Our first parents decided to disobey God’s commands because they doubted in God’s goodness. Fear comes from the false sense that we are alone — that God does not care about us, and that we need to “get what’s ours” before someone else gets there first. This can be our mindset with our time, money, plans and energy. This aspect of the human condition leads to the battle between the spirit and the flesh, and contributes to our insecurities. We are afraid of being alone and of having to deal with the problems of life on our own. 10. What happened when Mary said “yes” to God? How is this different than the decision of our first parents? Leaders: The purpose of this question is to bring participants out of the “bad news” of how hard docility is, into the “good news” of how beautiful it can be. Mary's "yes" was a yes to life: the life of this child in her womb, the life of God in her, and most especially a yes to eternal life for all. She co-operated with God's plan for our salvation. In her body, God became flesh. Jesus' life, death, and resurrection fulfilled God's plan to save us from slavery to sin, eternal death and separation from God. Her "yes" opened the door for humanity to be reconciled to God. Mary's "yes" was literally a "yes" to the Holy Spirit. As we have learned, he is the source of life and love and he does not leave us alone. He will work in us to become docile, if this is our desire. Adam and Eve did not fully believe what God had told them. Mary, however, whole-heartedly believed and accepted what had been spoken to her. Mary’s trust in God’s goodness was so great that she was willing to embrace an unknown and potentially dangerous calling. Adam and Eve were afraid that God was holding out on them, so they decided to take matters in their own hands. As a result of their choice, Adam 63
  63. 63. and Eve were separated from God. Mary’s choice led her to experience a profound and deeply fulfilling union with God — a union that would impact not only her own life, but the life of the whole world. 11. How does docility make you feel? Leaders: Participants may experience an interior battle as they come to terms with the concept of docility. We pray that the Spirit will use this study to strengthen their desire for unity with God and to remind them of their aching need to be back in communion with him. Despite this need, however, our fallen nature still fears a loss of safety and security in the face of the unknown. The Spirit is a great unknown when we first encounter him. Some may be thinking, “Mary’s trust in the Spirit was great I could never make a decision like that.” Remind them that docility is achieved through small steps, like dealing with the barriers discussed in Lesson 4, or letting the "choose and ask" model remind us to regularly turn to the Holy Spirit for help (from Lesson 3). Emphasize that the Spirit is not pushy; he will only come in if he is invited. He will not move in our lives without permission. As we have learned, the Spirit resides in us since our Baptism. He is always at work within us but there is much more freedom and vitality to experience, if only we give him permission to move in our lives. When we open wide the doors of our hearts to him, then we are truly living in the Spirit. Even if we feel that we can only open the doors of our hearts a little bit, the Holy Spirit is still pleased with our effort. He will work with what he is given. Ask, “What is your desire? Do you wish to experience the freedom, vitality and relationship that we’ve learned comes from living in the Spirit?” This is an opportunity for participants to share what docility means to them. They might express fear of where God may call them or confidence in his great plan. Reassure them that responding to God is a personal choice and that the Spirit is gentle – he knows our fears about letting go. We should take to heart Gabriel’s words to Mary: “Do not be afraid” (Luke 1:30). 64