For God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control.(2 Tim 1:7)
Beloved brothers and sisters in the Lord, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
I welcome you to the month of June that holds very special celebrations in the sacramental life of the Church. One of these celebrations is the Solemnity of Pentecost, the recalling of the birth of the Church, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the principle of unity, one in being with the Father and the Son; He is the source of power and courage for though the disciples were behind locked doors for fear of the Jews, the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost infused in them that fire that melted the fear and timidity, let them loose to spread the sacred word and mighty deeds of God.
The beginning of Fear and Timidity
The disease of fear came into man’s heart with sin. From the beginning, Adam the first man was never afraid of God until he flouted the command given by the Lord. Prior to the moment of the fall, when the Lord God walked in the garden and Adam heard him, he went with haste to commune with God as a little child runs to talk to a dear father. The twist of event occurred the moment he touched the forbidden tree, he ran and hid himself. At the voice of God asking his whereabouts, Adam declared “I heard the sound of you in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked and I hid myself” (Gen 3:10). It is sin and the consciousness of sin that makes cowards of us all. As long as sin continues in us fear will prevail.
The context of Paul’s letter to Timothy bringing to his remembrance the grace of the Holy Spirit working in him, must be properly situated. He says “For God did not give us a Spirit of timidity…” According to Biblical exegetes, the Greek word translated ‘timidity’ means lack of mental or moral strength. It is not the standard word for ‘fear’ as being conquered or severely dominated. Despite the difference between fear and timidity it is not out of place to experience both at the same time as evident from the account of the fall of man – Adam definitely experienced both.
The Spirit of Power
Throughout the Bible the two words, ‘Spirit and Power’, often used together recur a number of times. The strength of the spirit is contrasted to the weakness of the flesh. Saint Paul develops this theology in his letters and speaks of flesh as that creature that remains in its enclosed selfish sovereignty, dispossessed of energy from on high.
According to Francois-Xavier Durwell, these two titles, Spirit and Power are two names for a single reality which is specially expressed in the Gospel of Luke. One instance is when the Holy Spirit comes upon the young woman, Mary and the power of the Most High covers her with its shadow (cf. Lk 1:35). The Spirit comes downfrom on high, makes Mary capableof being the mother of a child, the Son of God, and proves that nothing is impossible to God.
Also, “the ministry of Jesus, inaugurated ‘with the power of the Spirit’ (cf. Lk 4:14), is developed under the action of this power which rests upon him (cf. Lk 4:16); He is ‘anointed with the Holy Spirit and with power’ (Acts 10:38) and performs mighty works (Lk 4:18). He shatters the power of devils by the finger of God, that is, by his power, a characteristic of the Kingdom of God (cf. Mk 9:1). ‘If it is through the finger of God that I cast out devils, then know that the Kingdom of God has overtaken you’ (Lk 11:20). This power of the Kingdom is interpreted by Mt 12:28: ‘If it is through the Spirit of God that I cast out devils…’ After the Resurrection Jesus promises: ‘And now I am sending down to you what the Father has promised. Stay in the city, then, until you are clothed with the powerfrom on high’ (Lk 24:49; Acts 1:8).”
How about through the history of the Church in its early stages and its eventual spread and preaching of the word? The two words – Spirit and power – reappear almost throughout the story. “The Gospel is spread ‘as power and as the Holy Spirit’ (1 Thess 1:5); preaching is a ‘demonstration of the power of the Spirit’ (1 Cor. 2:4); the apostles ‘boldly’ bear witness to Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit (cf. Acts 4:31). Among them, Stephen is ‘filled with grace and power… filled with the Holy Spirit’ (cf. Acts 6:8; 7:55). The faithful are ‘powerfully strengthened by the Spirit’ (cf. Eph 3:16) who gives them ‘power’ to confess the Lord Jesus (cf. 1 Cor. 12:3).”
These lists of testimony to the power of the Spirit is not exhaustive however one thing is crystal clear and that is, the Spirit is the omnipotence of God. This power is amply manifested in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. The Spirit of God is the “Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead” (Rom 8:11) and this is the Spirit that has been given to all of us to drink, the same Spirit in which we are all baptised. The problem however is that we haven’t opened ourselves to the power and courage that the Spirit gives us but more often than not, we are afraid and timid (like Adam in the beginning who hid himself), to be friends with the Holy Spirit and refuse to be possessed by Him. Remember the words of Saint Paul to Timothy once again, you have not received the spirit of timidity but one of power.
To the Youths
I am inspired to dedicate this portion to the youths of our age. The Holy Father, Pope Francis, recently released his post apostolic exhortation, Christus Vivit, on the 2ndof April, 2019 dedicated to the young people and to the entire people of God. A striking aspect of that document is the biblical journey that exposes how God, through different figures from the Old and New Testaments, engages the young people in an important vocation. God values the strength and energies of the youth, to be deployed for the cause of right. Each one of you can identify with these rooster of young ones called always to renew themselves and the ideologies that rule their world. As already established above, there is a potent fusion between the Spirit of God and Power; power to do what pleases God for the good of our world.
It will be beneficial to remember that being a youth is synonymous with being alive. This is underscored in the Holy Father’s exhortation when he says “youth is more than simply a period of time; it is a state of mind.” He continues “the Church is young when she is herself, when she receives ever anew, the strength born of God’s word, the Eucharist and the power of his spirit in our lives” (Christus Vivitnos. 34 & 35).
The Holy Spirit is the Lord the giver of life, the breath of God that renews all things. This same spirit is the one who raised Jesus from the dead and Saint Paul says “if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit who dwells in you” (Rom 8:11). The Holy Spirt who really is the source of life and youthfulness is also the Spirit of power and courage not of fear and timidity. This is the Spirit that dwells in you, the same Spirit promised to us by Jesus and the Father.
Many Christians do not want to join the crusade for uprightness not simply because they nurse fear, but because they are timid, they do not feel comfortable about it. Meanwhile, the Spirit of God urges us (but cannot force us) to do God’s will and when this happens the Spirit infuses us with power and courage to execute the divine will.
Therefore my dear ones I urge you, do not be timid to let the Holy Spirit steer your course; do not be reticent to stand and speak for what is right, true and edifying; do not exclude your energies from the healthy revolution that is needed to reshape the polity and leadership of our dear nation that has become a sham and disgrace to the international community; do not be abashed to swim against the current of corrupted practices and love rather, you should tap into the power and courage that the Spirit reposes in you to accomplish the good work that must be done.
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on us.
† Alfred Adewale Martins
Archbishop of Lagos
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