June 4, 2017
Suppose for a moment that I have placed a glass of water on the altar. What might your first reaction to this glass sitting there be? That it should not be there! The altar is a holy place. It is where the Holy Spirit comes down like a dove during the Eucharistic prayer and changes ordinary bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. This same Spirit flows out like water to you, the body of Christ, when you look on him or adore him, believe in him, and then consume him, and he becomes like fire within you. Water is one of the metaphors scripture uses to describe the Holy Spirit’s action in our lives.
Much of the Spirit’s action in or lives is not visible to our naked eyes. This is why not everyone on earth believes what we believe! But still we are left with a glass of water on the altar. Actually, this glass of water tells us a lot about why God chooses to remain invisible to our bodily eyes (this analogy is taken from the words of Pope Benedict XVI). There is no doubt that there is a glass of water on the altar. It is a simple fact. So what’s the point?
God is not going visibly show himself-- on the altar – or in this world –- or in our lives – like this glass of water, because this would completely take away our freedom to choose, and that is exactly what we are here to do. Life is just one choice after the other, ending in that final choice for or against God at the end of our lives. But if God made his actions so obvious that we could not avoid knowing he really exists, if we could not avoid seeing that the glass is, in fact a reality, then we would no longer be free to say no to God either.
This explains why the Lord, at present, appears to be hidden, though he is in fact very real. His Holy Spirit really will descend like a dove on this altar; he really will flow like water out from here into our hearts; he really will blow like the wind in the words of scripture; he wishes to put a fire in each heart. But we must want this; we must ask for the gift of faith; we are free to reject these gifts. He will almost never make himself so obvious in our lives or our church or our world that we have no choice but to accept him!
You and I are also like a glass of water on the altar. We are the glass and the Holy Spirit is the water. We are like a vessel that God keeps molding and expanding and shaping all our lives. He does this through suffering; through experiences; through the scriptures; through the church; through our service to each other, and in many other ways. At the moment of death, the size of this glass -- your soul -- will be set forever. Then God will perfect the glass and fill it in heaven. But we will not all have the same size of glass (though we will all be as full as we are able to be), and that is why it is so important to try to cooperate with the Holy Spirit now during this brief life, once we understand what he is trying to do. The level of spiritual maturity that we have reached at the moment of death is the level that we shall be perfected at for all eternity. The Holy Spirit may not be as obvious as this glass of water is on the altar, but he is no less real.