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  • Writer's pictureDr. Anthony Lilles

The Battle for Integrity and the Gift of the Holy Spirit

Often, the lack of peace in our relationships with others is a symptom of the contention we carry in our hearts. Something is wrong with the world first of all because something is wrong inside me. My conscience convicts me of sin. The sin is never anything I really wanted, but there are forces at work in me that oppose one another - movements of passion that oppose who I want to be in relation to Christ and how I truly desire to act. These passions result in self-contraction whenever I allow them to sway. And they do sway as long as I also allow a host of inordinate attachments dissipate the inner resources required to live a life worthy of the call that I have received. Something deep inside me groans over this -- and that groan is one particular instance of a groan that rises in all creation. Something is out of order in the world, in my relationships with others, and, most of all, in me. What should I do? St. Paul gives us a little secret when he declares, "Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ" (Romans 7:25). Rather than leave the field of battle or surrender to our enemies, he finds reason to thank the Lord. This state of affairs does not stop the love of God or frustrate the Divine Plan. For St. Paul, God's plan unfolds precisely here, in this difficult paradox of conflicting desires, good and evil, within us. God knows our very integrity is on the line, and we can be grateful to Him that He has not abandoned us but found a way to accompany us in the midst of our plight. He leads us to victory, to true peace, if we will persevere in trusting and giving thanks to Him.

But how? This is where the Gift of the Holy Spirit comes in. The Holy Spirit is the Gift that Jesus won for us through His passion and death. He ascended into heaven so that this very Breath of God that He shares with the Father might also breathe in our own hearts. A Fire from Heaven, this Furnace of Love is meant to give new light and new warmth to this earthly life. If we let it, our whole existence can suddenly be ablaze with this Living Flame of Love. The Holy Spirit does not make the winds of self-contradiction vanish all at once. He blows through and in them, purifying them, transforming them from dispositions of sin into moments of conversion. In this way, the Spirit of God suffers our human spirit with us, in all its brokenness, and moans with us over our desire for integrity and wholeness. Foretastes of something beautiful are found, even in the midst of failure, and a new beginning awaits even when everything ends poorly. Indeed, we are not meant for a frustrated existence, dissipated and turned in on itself, but in the Divine Image and Likeness, we live our short and frail lives to make known that eternal peace born in love and truth, the source of all that is, the happy ending for which all things were made. The Lord and Giver of Life who dwells in us longs for us to know the peace that reigns with the Father and the Son -- and the cry of the Holy Spirit takes up our own cry and the cries of the whole world into one great hymn of praise, a canticle so magnificent that it moves the very depths of God Himself. This Gift from Above brings into harmony all the misery of our lives with the passion of our Risen Lord -- and with desires to beautiful for words, the Word cries with us in the same Spirit to the Father. And, in the great silence of Divine Love, the Father blesses this great sacrifice of praise with His tender mercy until the pathway to conversion and peace opens before us.

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