Jewellers become accustomed to working with fine stones; mechanics become used to working with tools and automobiles; priests become used to working with the spiritual, and Christians can become used to referring to God as simply God. But what of the Third Person of the Trinity of Persons: The Holy Spirit Who is rarely ever mentioned by us Christians except on special occasions when we haul out the Spirit for Baptism and Confirmation and then neatly tuck Him away for the next special occasion when (and if) it comes along?
[I do hope that my readers aren’t going to be saying to themselves by this time in the second paragraph, “Here’s another boring writing on the Holy Spirit as yet another facet of our spiritual life we’re supposed to attend to”.] Why is it important at the beginning of Lent to think of the Holy Spirit? Because the Spirit is real fire, real power, real energy and a real force to be reckoned with and is present and available to anyone who is baptized. I can only speak for myself as a priest when I reluctantly admit that I don’t give enough time to the Holy Spirit of God, and I should for my own sake and for the sake of the Church I am called to serve. There is a human tendency to take for granted anything or any one not immediately perceived as necessary. It’s a neglect.
In Sacred Scripture the word ‘spirit’ is most often used to describe the human soul or man himself. That’s why since we’ve had the new translation of the Roman Missal, four times in the Mass when the priests says, “The Lord be with you”, the people respond “And with your spirit”. This is the small ‘s’ reference to the word ‘spirit’, but when the word is fittingly capitalized it refers to the Holy Spirit of God.
It is clear from the scripture writers and the teachings of the Early Church Fathers that the Holy Spirit is a distinct Person of the Trinity and the Holy Spirit is not ‘generated’ somehow by God the Father and God the Son, rather, the Holy Spirit is “spirated”. Spiration means “the act of breathing”. We recall when Jesus “breathed” on the Apostles and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit”. Before this breathing of the Spirit the Apostles had some human knowledge of the works of God and the mission they were being called to but lacked the supernatural power of knowledge and wisdom to do it. They had no power until the Holy Spirit was given to them. The same formula of this breathing of the Spirit is used by the bishop when he Confirms a candidate who desires the fullness of the Spirit’s manifold gifts: “Be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit”.
In the Old Testament the phrase “the Spirit of the Lord rushed on him and….” and then is followed by some great superhuman deed of power that was done through the power of the Holy Spirit through the person who received that power. In the New Testament the word ‘spirit’ is used 156 times, and in the majority of cases it is clearly speaking about the power, working and presence of the Holy Spirit “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (2 Corinthians 3:17), while in other cases it is referring to an evil spirit, “do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you”, (Luke 10:20) or of a merely human power “I will pray with the spirit, but I will pray with the mind also”, (1 Corinthians 14:15).
THE MEAT AND POTATOES OF IT ALL
So, why did I feel so moved to write about the Holy Spirit? Principally because the Holy Spirit has moved me to do so. Any one of our parishioners or people who have read my bulletin articles in the bulletin or on line know that I so often speak of the evident and perhaps less-evident evils taking place in the world today, right now. Yet it’s not inside information or a secret because it’s right there staring us all in the face in the news, on the internet and heard in the teaching voice of the Church. I speak about what’s really going on because I have a sense that most people don’t seem to know about what is going on in the world around them in the areas of Euthanasia, Abortion, Human Cloning as well as the ever pervasive threats to Marriage and the Family and the gift of life itself. Human sexuality is so misunderstood from its proper context as ‘gift’ from God and there are many an educator today who clearly desires to teach small children about such things as would make moral, God-fearing adults blush. I sense that people don’t know because most of the people I meet – and I meet a lot of them – don’t talk about it. Or worse: perhaps people don’t care and that’s just darned right scary.
At around this time last year I became famous among some in Brooklin for apparently composing the Ten Commandments and the teachings of the Church through the sending of an Examination of Conscience with a cover letter inviting Catholic parents with children in our Catholic schools to come back to the practice of their Catholic Faith. Canon Law states that the pastor of a parish is responsible for all of the souls living within his parish boundaries, Catholic or not. For our entire congregation who received the same Examination of Conscience aid in their bulletins along with a silent majority of Catholics, there was no issue. However, for a handful of Brooklin Mom’s it was a war they hoped we see me ousted from the parish that they sadly had no affiliation with, though they cleared their consciences by blaming that on me as well. Throughout the time when the venomous Facebook entries were being made about me, the parish and the teachings of the Catholic Church and when my name appeared in the Toronto Star newspaper – I slept like a baby! Why? The Holy Spirit. That peace that only the Spirit can bring was in me. While I knew what was going on and being said about me, I knew I was right with God evidenced in the gift of the Holy Spirit and His unmistakable peace.
The Holy Spirit will guide our hearts in the knowledge of Christ’s truth. When we cry out to God and ask for His help, God hears us but we are not being specific enough in the beautiful relationship God has given us and revealed in the mystery and the majesty of the Trinity. If I am afraid I should pray to the Holy Spirit. If I want to know something that is beyond my merely human capacity to know things, I should pray to the Holy Spirit. If I want to be inspired, I should pray to the Holy Spirit. If I look at the world around me that seems to be increasingly removing itself from a lived and believed faith in the power of God and of right and wrong and moral imperatives, then I should pray to the Holy Spirit. If I don’t know what I should do; if I’m seeking to know God’s will in a particular circumstance; if I desire to know what my vocation in life is; if I desire the healing power of God; if I want to really know that I am a beloved and irreplaceable child of God, precious in the eyes of God – I should pray to the Holy Spirit. In James 4:2b we hear: “You do not have, because you do not ask.” Beginning now, I urge you to do just that – ask the Holy Spirit to do for you what you cannot do for yourself.
Cardinal Mercier wrote:
I am going to reveal to you the secret of sanctity and happiness. Every day for five minutes control your imagination and close your eyes to all the noises of the world in order to enter into yourself. Then, in the sanctuary of your baptized soul (which is the temple of the Holy Spirit) speak to that Divine Spirit, saying to Him:
O Holy Spirit, beloved of my soul, I adore You.
Enlighten me, guide me, strengthen me, console me.
Tell me what I should do; give me Your orders.
I promise to submit myself to all that You desire of me
and to accept all that You permit to happen to me.
Let me only know Your Will.
If you do this, your life will flow along happily, serenely, and full of consolation, even in the midst of trials. Grace will be proportioned to the trial, giving you the strength to carry it and you will arrive at the Gate of Paradise, laden with merit. This submission to the Holy Spirit is the secret of sanctity.
“COME, HOLY SPIRIT!”