P&W Reflection: “Where the Spirit of the Lord Is”

Some time back, I was at this program teaching us about the Holy Spirit. One of the program sessions was about the ‘Spirit of conviction’, the Spirit that empowers us to be free. As I was watching the video, the song “Where the Spirit of the Lord Is” by Hillsong came into my head and I realized how apt it was for this paeticular session. If you doubt me, just look at the chorus:

“Where the Spirit of the Lord is
There is freedom
Where the Spirit of the Lord is
Chains are broken
Eyes are open
Christ is with us
Christ is with us”

More than just the explicit mention of freedom, the idea of the breaking of chains and the opening of eyes also evoke a sense of freedom. Expounding on this idea then, we can see that there seems almost a two-part approach to freedom. The more widely known part of freedom is the idea of chains being broken, or the giving to an individual the ability to choose freely and deliberately. This idea is more than just about the physical restrictions; it talks very much also about the chains of emotional baggage and addictions. The verses in the song also talks about this idea of breaking free from the bondages of these chains. The first verse goes “In Your Name alone, we have been released” with the second talking about how “we are slaves no more”. I think things such as emotional baggages, addictions, past hurts and other such things limit us from being able to act freely because of their ability to influence us. In this sense, these factors chains us to simple reaction, doing things out of fear – fear of repeating past hurts or fear of being emotionally wounded again – or simply by being compelled by our addictions. Just like how the fear of prosecution kept the apostles locked in the upper room after the resurrection of Jesus, the Spirit of conviction gave the apostles the freedom to act beyond this fear; to act freely and deliberately to let the Good News be known.

If this was the only definition of freedom, then the Church wouldn’t have so much problems with the freedom espoused by the world in general. However, many seem to forget of the second part of the notion of freedom: eyes being opened. The song opens with the verse “For we know the truth, Your truth has set us free”. If we look to what the Church has to say about freedom, “human freedom is a force for growth and maturity in truth and goodness; it attains its perfection when directed toward God, our beatitude.” (CCC 1731). There is an ordering of our freedom towards God. CCC 1734 adds that “there is no true freedom except in the service of what is good and just”. The first step, just like how the song first starts off, is recognizing this important truth; that true freedom is tied to the truth of God. If the ultimate purpose of our earthly life is to achieve perfect union with God, then freedom must be framed through the lenses of our end goal. It cannot simply be a desire to choose. Someone who has never learnt to play the piano is free and can choose to play the piano badly, but they are not truly free to play music on the piano owing to the sheer fact that they have never learnt nor practiced the piano, unlike a professional pianist. There is a lack of the freedom to be excellent. In this same vein, if we are all called to be excellent and to “be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect”, (Matthew 5:48) then abusing our free choice to disobey and be anything less than perfect becomes the “slavery of sin.” (CCC1743)

But what this song always reminds me of is our redemption and freeing from the bondage of sin. It is our victory cry. This is encapsulated so beautifully in the third verse:

“Who the Son has freed
He is free indeed
All our sin is gone
We have been redeemed
Jesus paid it all
Jesus paid it all”

And what’s more amazing? The fact that the Son chose to free all of humanity from the sins that held us captive. Not just His chosen people but Jews, Gentiles, pagans and all of humanity were saved. Free. Not just to be able to choose but to choose good. To choose to follow God. To choose to be in communion with God and with one another, we who are saved and free.

At the end of it all, the bridge gives two very important reminders in our freedom: that docility towards the promptings of the Spirit does not reduce our freedom but in fact, grows it and to always praise the Lord through our lives, in the free choices that we make. So, as we continue to continue on our various journeys, may we continue to open our hearts to the gentle promptings and fiery passion of the Spirit of the Lord that convicts us and to lead a live of true freedom, growing closer to the Lord and praising Him with our lives.

“Open wide the gates of heaven
Fill our hearts as we surrender
Lord let Your presence fall
Lord let Your presence fall

Open wide the gates of heaven
We will worship You forever
Lord let Your presence fall
Lord let Your presence fall”

© 2018 Christ Centered Conversations/Gregory Adrian Gunawan

The Donkey of Palm Sunday

Garrett reflects on the figure of the donkey Jesus rode into Jerusalem on during Palm Sunday.

It was Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Holy Week, which signals that Lent is about to come to an end, and Eastertide is drawing near. Arriving early to Church with my family, I jostled through the crowd towards the queue that had formed along the collection point for palm branches. Picking out two sturdy branches to bring back to my family, I made haste to return back to them. Along the way, I accidentally brushed the spiky palm leaves against the arm of a prim-and-proper looking lady. As she turned around, I raised my free hand sheepishly in apology. Re-joining my family, I fell into place as the procession began. Palms held aloft, we waited for Father to begin the procession into the main church. The procession has it’s own Gospel reading too, the one where Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey.

Ah, I thought, somewhat wistfully. It’s going to be a long Mass. Guiltily, I recalled the (paraphrased) words of St. Josemaria Escriva – “The Mass is long, you say. Because your love is short, I reply.” And indeed, I had little right to complain. The Palm Sunday service is a beautiful one. It is also the only time where the Gospel is interactive, with the congregation playing the part of the crowds of Jerusalem at Jesus’ entry into the city on a donkey, and later at His trial and Passion.

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