Jesus says in Gospel reading (John 14:21-26) that love is the key to union with God. Loving him, he says, involves cherishing him and embracing him so closely that we also cherish his ways and desire to imitate him. We embrace his teachings, his ways of handling problems, his ready and willing forgiveness, his servanthood, and his Holy Spirit.
Hmmm, can we really be that loving? Jesus assures us that the Holy Spirit will teach us everything we need to know so that we really can love like him!
In the reading (Acts 14:5-18), Paul and Barnabas heal a lame man with Jesus. It’s their love for Jesus and their fellowship with the Holy Spirit that stirred up their compassion for the crippled man and enabled them to do the miraculous. Through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, they felt the calling to reach out to him and the courage to shout out loudly, in public, “Stand up!” before they had any evidence that their prayers would work.
Whenever we help others, we are partnering with the Holy Spirit. It is this Person of the Trinity who enables us to go beyond our human abilities so that we actually live in the realm of Christ’s abilities.
Notice how Paul relied on this partnership: He looked “intently” at the man. Why?
I suspect that he was silently asking the Holy Spirit if the man had the faith to receive the healing love of God. Then he trusted the Holy Spirit to provide the healing that the man’s faith level allowed. He knew that faith comes from having a love relationship with God. Faith is not a power. It’s a union with the One who has the power. Love is the outflow of that power.
The Holy Spirit answers people’s prayers through us. But this partnership won’t work unless we love Jesus so much that we embrace his love for others. Unanswered prayers are very often the fault of Christians who neglect to extend Christ’s presence on earth through their own hands, their own feet, their own voice, their own actions and ministry — in love.
Our love is lacking if we see a need that we can address with the help of God but walk away saying, “God will take care of it without me.”
After the resurrection, Jesus could have resumed his normal ministry activities. Imagine how fast Christianity would have spread if he’d made himself visibly known to the public. Even the stubborn Pharisees would have dropped to their knees in worship had he shown up in the town square preaching and healing and proving he was real by showing the marks of the cross that had killed him. But as the stories in the Book of Acts make clear, he chose instead to share his Holy Spirit with his disciples — who are now us — to continue his ministry of love.