Reflection-Week 8

New Life in the Spirit: Overflowing with Hope!      
No early Church leader has done more to explain and propagate the essence of the Christian message than St. Paul. With rich insight and bold zeal, Paul worked untiringly to preach Jesus Christ to the nations and today’s Church owes this extraordinary apostle an immense debt of gratitude.
A fundamental insight which marked Saul/Paul for life is that the Church he had been persecutingwas in fact the Body of Christ, one with and inseparable from Jesus. This became the foundation for all the great teachings of St. Paul. Henceforth, whatever concrete issues he would treat in his letters, his preoccupation was always for the good of the Body of Christ: “Now you are the body of Christ, and individually members of it” (1 Cor.12:27); "We are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body… makes bodily growth and builds itself up in love” (Eph 4:15); etc.
Paul’s letters teach Christians what makes the life and teachings of Jesus Christ such Good Newsfor humanity! Perhaps his most important theme is: NEW LIFE IN THE SPIRIT, by which “the God of hope fill(s) us with all joy and peace in believing, so that (we) may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rom.15:13).
The first gift of the Holy Spirit to a Christian is called “fellowship” or “communion” (Gk. koinonia). It empowers a disciple of Jesus to never give in to discouragement or confusion, because his/her union or solidarity is first of all with God, through the Spirit’s permanent indwelling in each person through baptism! This Presence of God within us (or “fellowship of the Spirit”) enables a person to “overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rom.15:13) and to live an other-centered, community-oriented life, rather than an individualistic life according to the world. The 4th Eucharistic Prayer of the Mass, which quotes 2 Cor.5:15, clearly tells us what is the purpose of Pentecost and of the coming of the Holy Spirit: “That we might live, no longer for ourselves but for Him, He sent the Holy Spirit as His first gift to those who believe, to complete His work on earth, and to bring us the fullness of grace!”  New life in the Spirit, therefore, is not meant merely to enable someone to selfishly enjoy the riches of Christianity, but to empower him/her to love one another as He loved us and so be His witness to the ends of the earth.
This requires that we first be transformed! So the first significant effect of new life in the Spirit is “sonship/daughterhood” of God and co-heirship” with Jesus, in the power of the Holy Spirit: “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but the spirit of sonship. 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 co-heirs with Christ...” (Rom.8:15-17; see also Gal 4:4-7).
From this new nobility derives our spiritual freedom: “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Cor.3:17,18). However, “freedom” does not mean “license”:"God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-discipline” (2 Tim 1:7). Christian freedom does not mean doing whatever one pleases but living a life of obedience to the Holy Spirit: "For you were called to freedom; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another” (Gal 5:13). New life, or life in the Spirit, is meant to transform the Christian’s behaviour patterns so that he/she will ordinarily and habitually manifest the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:19-23) and fight victoriously against the flesh (Rom 13:12ff).
Those who live a “life in the Spirit” will witness to it by serving one another in love (Col 3:12-14). For the sake of the common good, the Spirit then bestows on Christians manifold charisms (1 Cor.12-14; Rom 12). An authentic life in the Spirit will keep Christians holy and prepare them for Christ’s second coming: “May the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and mind and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, and he will do it” (1 Thess 5:23-24).
Moreover, an authentic “life in the Spirit” will include the presence of the Cross: have been crucified with Christ: it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20-21). Paul teaches that, because of the disciple’s union with Jesus and his Spirit, suffering is both necessary and meaningful for Christian life: “Now I rejoice in my suffering for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church" (Col 1:24-27). Each Christian, as a “co-heir with Jesus” (Rom.8:17), is invited and empowered by the Spirit to fulfill his/her own “quota” of suffering in this life, in order to “hasten” (2 Pt.3:11) the Coming Again of Jesus Christ in glory.
In conclusion, in this holy season, let us accept with new faith “the full gospel” Paul preached and re-orient our Christian lives to bear clear witness to the emphases he placed on life in the Spirit, in the context of membership in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church which is the inseparable Body of Christ, the risen Lord!
Rev. Dr. Fio Mascarenhas S.J
Mumbai, India 

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