God desires to give you the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit wishes to dwell ever more completely in you. Can we ever fathom the implications of this fact? Through the presence and action of the Holy Spirit, you are caught up into a reality that is much greater than yourself: the very life of God. The life of faith is so much more than you can possibly imagine. It is your entry into the infinite.
Christianity can be thought about in different ways. Because of the action of the Holy Spirit, who continues to speak the word of God to us through Scripture, the teaching of the People of God, and through our prayer and experiences, we can describe Christianity as being primarily a mysticism. That is to say, it has at its heart the spiritual relationship that each of us has with God.
For some, this is an obvious point to make; for others, it can come as a complete surprise. We can think of responding to the Spirit as peripheral to our daily experience, and we may not often think of it as being at the very centre of who we are. And yet so much of the Christian life is premised on this. Without the strength and power of the Spirit, our attempts to live the faith we profess are in vain.
We are called to be people of the Holy Spirit. Without the grace and healing the Holy Spirit brings, all our good intentions and prayerful endeavours will do us no good whatsoever. It is the gift of the Holy Spirit, and the grace that the Holy Spirit provides, which propelled the frightened and inarticulate group of disciples into being Apostles. Even their experience of the Risen Jesus was not enough to work this transformation. They had to await the grace that came with the gift of the Holy Spirit (see Acts 2:1 – 3).
So why don’t we always appear to experience the power of the Holy Spirit? Perhaps one answer is that the Holy Spirit is a gracious and respectful guest. He won’t ‘possess’ us in the way that an evil spirit is said to do (see Mark 5:1 – 20 as one example). The Holy Spirit leaves us free to call on his power or not. It’s up to you whether he will work with you in a given situation. He waits to be asked, but we often resist. Jesus describes the entry into the life of the Holy Spirit as a rebirth. This implies a different way of seeing the world and a different way of understanding ourselves. Perhaps our resistance to the Holy Spirit is understandable after all: the Holy Spirit changes everything. Pope Francis put it this way:
The Holy Spirit upsets us because it moves us, it makes us walk, it pushes the Church forward. We wish to calm down the Holy Spirit, we want to tame it and this is wrong. The Holy Spirit is the strength of God, it’s what gives us the strength to go forward but many find this upsetting and prefer the comfort of the familiar. (Pope Francis, Homily, April 16 2013)
Someone asked me recently how to begin being led by the Holy Spirit. I responded that asking that question is the beginning. Bring that question to your prayer and keep asking God to show you the way forward. Again, from Pope Francis:
Listen to the Holy Spirit because he is giving people the good news that God loves them and can renew, purify and transform their lives. The Holy Spirit is the living water that quenches the thirst in our lives because he tells us that we are loved by God as his children, that we can love God as his children and with his grace we can live as children of God, like Jesus. (Pope Francis, General Audience Address, May 8 2013)
Original text by Shane Dwyer
Photo of stained glass window by Chokdidesign on Unsplash
Fr Anthony Mellor, 30 October 2019
Archbishop Mark Coleridge, Archbishop of Brisbane, 30 October 2019
30 October 2019