Elijah went a day's journey into the desert, until he came to a broom tree and sat beneath it. He prayed for death, saying: "This is enough, O Lord! Take my life, for I am no better than my fathers." He lay down and fell asleep under the broom tree, but then an angel touched him and ordered him to get up and eat. Elijah looked and there at his head was a cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. After he ate and drank, he lay down again, but the angel of the Lord came back a second time, touched him, and ordered, "Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you!" He got up, ate and drank; then strengthened by that food, he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb.(P) The word of the Lord.
I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall be ever in my mouth. Let my soul glory in the Lord; the lowly will hear me and be glad. (R)
Glorify the Lord with me, let us together extol His name. I sought the Lord, and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears. (R)
Look at Him that you may be radiant with joy, and your faces may not blush with shame. When the afflicted man called out, the Lord heard, and from all his distress He saved him. (R)
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him and delivered them. Taste and see how good the Lord is; blessed the man who takes refuge in Him. (R)
Brothers and sisters: Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were sealed for the day of redemption. All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ. So be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma.(P) The word of the Lord.
The Jews murmured about Jesus because he said, "I am the bread that came down from heaven," and they said, "Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother? Then how can he say, "I have come down from heaven"?" Jesus answered and said to them, "Stop murmuring among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day. It is written in the prophets: They shall all be taught by God. Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from Him comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world."(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
One morning a salesman walked into his manager's office to ask him something. But even before he closed the door or said anything, the manager told him, "Oh! Come in! Please, sit down! In fact I want to talk to you as well. Since you are new on the job I want to teach you an effective sales technique. If you have a product to sell, keep harping on it in every possible way. Don't ever forget to repeat it and repeat it and repeat it. It is the only way to get our products sold." "Yes, sir!" the salesman answered. The manager, then, remembered that the salesman had come to him for something else and asked him, "And now, what was it you came in to see me about?" The salesman replied, "A Raise! A Raise! A Raise! A Raise!", meaning "keep raising my salary as well".
Some business people may disagree with such a technique. But some say that in order to succeed at sales, one must keep harping on it or repeating the same thing over and over again. One of the 20th century writers, Napoleon Hill, says, "Any idea, plan, or purpose may be fixed in the mind through repetition of thought."
I say this because those of you who have been coming regularly to church the past few Sundays and have been paying attention to the exhortation of Paul in his letter to the Ephesians, you would have noticed that Saint Paul has repeated the same message over and over again. That is, God has chosen us to be holy and blameless before Him. Paul used the letter to greatly encourage and strengthen the Gentiles or non-Jewish Christians living in the midst of non-believers. In the last week's text, Paul's instruction to them was that, they were not to live any longer like the futile, ignorant, hard, corrupt, rebellious Gentiles do but to grow and mature in faith, to put away the thoughts, desires and actions of their old sinful self and live a righteous and holy life. Today we read the continuation of that instruction.
He says, "Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were sealed for the day of redemption", Ephesians (4:30). What does "grieving the Holy Spirit of God", mean? To "grieve" means to sadden or to cause pain. Grief is our response to loss. When we lose something or someone we love, or deeply value, or attached to, we grieve. We experience sadness and pain. So "grieving the Spirit of God" would mean to make the Spirit of God sad. Some might ask, "How can the Spirit of God be grieved or saddened? Can God be hurt?"
We learn from the Bible that God has revealed Himself in three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and they posses all the distinguishing traits of personality such as, intellect, will and emotions. There are many texts in the Bible attesting to this understanding and belief. For instance, in the Book of Genesis (1:4-31), we read repeatedly, "and God saw that it was good", meaning that God the Father took pleasure in His creation. John in his gospel, (3:16), describing the Love of God says, "God so loved the world that He gave His only Son to the world." The prophet Isaiah, (11:3), describes the promised Messiah to be the One who will "delight in the fear of the Lord."
Matthew, (17:17), writes of Jesus who became exasperated by the lack of faith exhibited by his disciples and sighed, "How much longer must I be with you? How much longer must I put up with you?", John (14:9), observes Jesus expressing his disappointment in Philip by saying, "Have I been with you all this time, Philip and you still do not know me?" The prophet Isaiah describes the Holy Spirit as "wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge, and fear of the Lord", (11:1-2). Speaking of the working of the Spirit, Paul says, 1 Corinthians (12:11), "one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills".
The Book of Genesis (6:5-7), recounts that God experienced tremendous grief because of the sins of mankind as well as joy because of Noah's obedience. John (11), talks about Jesus weeping at the death of a friend. The gospels narrate that in the Garden of Gethsemane before his death, Jesus said, "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death", Luke (22:44), Matthew (26:38). From all these texts, we understand that all the three Persons with emotions are capable of being saddened and delighted by humankind. We can make God glad and we can make God sad. Thus, Paul apparently regards the Holy Spirit as receptive and capable of being grieved and saddened by sin.
The Bible tells us that God has entrusted us with one of the greatest gifts - the gift of the Holy Spirit. Saint Paul reckons that when we believe in Jesus, repent of our sins, accept Jesus as the Lord and Savior of our life, and is baptized in his name, God places His invisible Spirit inside our hearts. He also believes that the Spirit within us guides and teaches us the things of God and reveals the truth to us in the Bible and the world around us. That's to say, the Holy Spirit continues to lead and direct us through the Word, and wants us to express Him in our attitudes and actions.
But when we deliberately choose the wrong way, when we do what we know is wrong, when we do not allow the Spirit to be manifested in our thoughts, words and actions, when we allow any bad feelings, when we harbor any grudges in our hearts, when we suppress the Spirit who wants to express kindness, love and forgiveness the Spirit grieves for us like parents grieve for their wayward children. That's why Saint Paul exhorted the Ephesian Christians not to sadden the Holy Spirit but instead to remove "all bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, reviling and malice" from them Ephesians (4:31), and urged them to "be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another", Ephesians (4:32). And then Paul gave the Ephesians a reason to be different from non-believers.
He told them, "be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God as a fragrant aroma", Ephesians (5:1-2). Yes, Paul encouraged them to live in love, because they were God's beloved children and it was their nature to act like their heavenly Father. As a matter of fact, Paul presents himself as a model for others for imitating God. In his first letter to the Corinthians (11:1), Paul called on the believers, "Take me as your pattern, just as I take Christ for mine."
We may not consider "bitterness, fury, anger, shouting and reviling, malice" as grave and serious sins but when we commit them over and over again, they become sinful and will not only cause us and others great harm but also cause much pain to the Spirit of God. I would like to end my reflection today with a question to all of you: Are you suffering from any lasting feelings of anger, fury, bitterness, resentment, thoughts of revenge and condemnation? If so, today you still have the opportunity to let go of these ill feelings and display forgiveness, compassion, kindness and love like Christ did. However, it may not always be easy to do so. It takes courage. I believe if we think like Christ, we will also act like Christ. The more we desire to become like him, the holier we will stand before God.
Holiness grows in us with the passing years. When we repeat good or godly thoughts, words and acts often enough, they will become a permanent part of our lives. When we show the spirit of self-sacrifice over and over again, our lives will also become a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. Moreover, as Paul says in his letter to the Philippians (1:6), let us always be confident that God who has begun the good work of making us Christ-like will see it through to the end.(P) Amen.
God Bless You!