“…suddenly there came from the sky
a noise like a strong driving wind,
and it filled the entire house in which they were.
Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire,
which parted and came to rest on each one of them.
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit
and began to speak in different tongues,
as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.” (Acts 2:2-11)
As Catholics, we can view the Holy Spirit as this strange and perhaps unimportant figure. We see the Pentecost event as merely something that occurred and ended 2,000 years ago. We celebrate the presence of the Spirit at Confirmation and then…well, usually that’s it.
If the Holy Spirit is indeed the very breath of God’s love, then the Spirit is just as alive today as the Father and the Son who resurrected from the dead. Maybe we know this intellectually, but it needs to become a living truth that drives our hearts. The age of comfortable Christianity is over. The secular world has no lasting answers to the violence that plagues our day. What can conquer the violence and darkness but the blazing power of God’s love and peace?
It all seems obvious enough, right? If we want to continue the saving mission of Jesus Christ, we need to live in and be moved by his Spirit. But we sure do like to keep the Holy Spirit in a cage, like a friendly bird who doesn’t really want to wreck our lives. The Holy Spirit must be the engine for the New Evangelization. We cannot be afraid of the Holy Spirit.
But we love “playing it safe.” Programs and DVD programs are safer. We do “what we’ve always done” in ministry. Clocking in and out of Mass is a comfortable alternative to actually speaking about Jesus to others. Donating a leftover coat or two without ever looking a poor man or woman in the eyes takes much less risk. A fire can appear to be tamed by a grill or fireplace, but that fire always wants to be unleashed.
God wants more…He always wants more. God is never satisfied with our mediocrity. He is the God of infinite desire and passion and doesn’t want our lukewarm, sterile efforts. “I have come to set the world on fire, and I wish it were already burning!” (Luke 12:49).
The Holy Spirit is our advocate, purifier, healer, and our driver. He convinces us of our sins and strengthens us in virtue. “The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought,” Paul wrote (Romans 8:26). The Holy Spirit also gives us gifts in our Baptism (and sealed in Confirmation) that we are called to use to build up the Kingdom of God, such as gifts (or charisms) of wisdom, knowledge, discernment of spirits, healing, prophecy, tongues (see 1 Corinthians 12).
Those who live a life in the Holy Spirit (which all Christians are called to) will bear the fruits of the Holy Spirit, which are charity, joy, kindness, faithfulness, generosity, goodness, gentleness, self-control, chastity, modesty, patience, peace, (see the Catechism of the Catholic Church 1832). However, as the papal preacher Father Raniero Cantalamessa once said, these gifts and fruits of the Spirit can be unreleased, even if the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation have been valid and legal. But, God wants to unleash and stir up the Holy Spirit within us (2 Tim 1:6), not keep Him bound up and constipated.
The “consuming fire” of God’s love prompted the terrified apostles to depart to the ends of the earth, unleashing their witness in the world. Pope Paul VI wrote that the “The Holy Spirit is the soul of the church…the principal agent of evangelization: it is he who impels each individual to proclaim the gospel.”
Boston philosopher and teacher Peter Kreeft recently affirmed his experience that the Holy Spirit is also unifying Catholics and Protestants like never before, especially as the culture around us crumbles. We have personally seen these grassroots happenings here in Southern California at the grassroots level. Bridges are slowly being built that never would have existed years ago.
We must be bold. A Church that does not share its faith stagnates and dies. We cannot be afraid to pray with and over people. We cannot be afraid to be “charismatic,” to literally be living in and activating the charisms God has given you. Whether you are introverted or extroverted, God needs us to be unafraid! We have several bold friends who ask people for their prayer intentions and then pray over them right there, whether it’s in an airport, a Uber ride, or even Chipotle. Who needs to explicitly hear about the love of Christ in your life right now? Woe to us if we keep the Good News only to ourselves!
There’s so much more that could be said about the Holy Spirit, but let’s end with the easiest and most freeing prayer you will ever utter:
“Come Holy Spirit!”
“Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful
and kindle in them the fire of your love!
Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created a
nd You shall renew the face of the earth.”