There is an old, popular prayer addressed to the Holy Spirit. Perhaps some of you may know it by heart. I learnt it by heart when a retreat preacher began his talk with this prayer addressed to the Holy Spirit. Many Christian daily prayer books have it. It goes: “Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of divine love. Send forth your Spirit, O Lord, and you will renew the face of the earth.” This prayer speaks about three significant things about our Christian Spirituality:
1) We are asking the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts. Here we acknowledge that the Holy Spirit is alive and active in our lives;
2) We are asking the Holy Spirit to kindle the divine fire within us. Here we acknowledge that the Holy Spirit within us as a fire;
3) We are expressing our faith that the Holy Spirit will transform our lives and renew the face of the earth.
1) THE HOLY SPIRIT IS ALIVE AND ACTIVE IN MY LIFE
When we are in the state of grace the Holy Spirit dwells in us. When we love God and fellow human beings the Holy Spirit shows forth in our lives. In the final parting discourse or the last prayer of Jesus in the Gospel according to St John, the Evangelist quotes Jesus:
“If you love me, obey my commandments. I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, who will stay with you forever. He is the Spirit who reveals the truth about God. The world cannot receive him because it cannot see him or know him. But you know him, because he remains with you and is in you.” (Jn 14: 15-17)
St Paul also tells us the same thing in his letter to the Romans: “This hope (God’s approval) does not disappoint us, For God has poured out his love into our hearts by means of the Holy Spirit, who is God’s gift to us.” (Rm 5: 5) Here St Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit has been given to us and that the Holy Spirit dwells in us. We are not mere flesh and blood as an atheist, agnostic or a rationalist tells us but our body is the aboard of the Holy Spirit.
This St Paul clearly indicates in his first letter to the Corinthians. He asks, “Don’t know that your body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and who was given to you by God?” (1 Cor 6: 19) Both in the letters addressed to the Romans and to the Corinthians St Paul speak often about the Holy Spirit swelling and acting in our lives.
In the letter to the Romans St Paul tells us, “For if you live according to your human nature, you are going to die; but if by the Spirit you put to death your sinful actions, you will live. Those who are led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons. For the Spirit God has given you does not make you slaves and cause you to be afraid; instead, the Spirit makes you God’s children, and by the Spirit’s power we cry out to God, “Father! my Father!” God’s Spirit joins himself to our spirits to declare that we are God’s children. Since we are his children, we will possess the blessings he keeps for his people, and we will also possess with Christ what God has kept for him. For, if we share Christ’s suffering, we will also share his glory.”(Rm 8: 13-17)
In the first letter to the Corinthians we hear Paul telling us: “Surely you know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit, lives in you! So if anyone destroys God’s temple, god will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you yourselves are his temple.” (1 Cor 3: 16-17)
2) THE HOLY SPIRIT WITHIN US AS DIVINE POWER
We see the Holy Spirit descending on the Apostles and other disciples as narrated in the Acts of the Apostles. “When the day of Pentecost came, all the believers were gathered together in one place. Suddenly there was a noise from the sky which sounded like a strong wind blowing and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then they saw what looked like tongues of fire which spread out and touched each person there. There were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to talk in other languages, as the Spirit enabled them to speak.” (Acts 2: 1-4)
Fire is an image for the reality of the third person of the Trinity. It is a physical image to express a divine reality: A tongue of fire rested on each one of them! The image of fire is inspiring, igniting, illuminating the presence of God. We see the transforming changes taking place in the lives of St Peter and other apostles and disciples.
Those who were hiding behind closed door fearing attacks from those who crucified Jesus, not only come out in the open but also they boldly proclaim the Risen Lord Jesus in the Temple and in other public places. Not only the apostles and disciples but all the followers of the Way, the Christian community, are transformed and energized!
Acts tells us that God show no partiality. The Holy Spirit comes down on all including the Gentiles! The Gentiles are non-Jews. The Holy Spirit breaks the barriers of only Jews becoming the followers of the Way. So in the first letter to the Corinthians St Paul writes, “In the same way, all of us, whether Jews or Gentiles, whether slaves or free, have been baptized into the one body by the same Spirit who does all this; as he wishes, he gives different gifts to each person” (1 Cor 12: 13)
In his talk St Peter says, “I now realize that it is true that God treats everyone on the same basis. Whoever worships him and does what is right is acceptable to him, no matter what race he belongs to. (Acts 10: 34-35) We can imagine the situations in Jerusalem after the Jews and Gentiles heard Peter. Most people irrespective of Jews or non-Jews have jumped and danced expressing their joy. They heard Peter and other apostles spoke, each one of the listeners heard them in their own tongues, languages or dialects.
The devoted Jews must have been puzzled as they knew that the apostles were like them but now they are speaking in different tongues! So they accused the apostles being drunken babbling thinking which they, the speakers themselves, might now have understood! But Peter speaking on behalf of the apostles then defended themselves clarifying that they were not intoxicated with drinks in the early morning. Yes, they were intoxicated with the Power of God, the Holy Spirit, working through them.
Imagine the joy of a woman receiving her child just after she has given birth with immense pain and suffering. But with the child in her hand she is experiencing heavenly bliss! She is delighted with great joy. Her husband may also feel same heavenly joy. Imagine the ecstasy of the young couple! Imagine the joy of an young man/woman much sought-after, prestigious job with a more than expected pay-packet!
The Apostles and the disciples who received the Holy Spirit were on fire. They became fearless and daring people ready to face any situation and proclaim Jesus and his message of salvation. We know that the Apostles and early Christians challenged the then prevailing Greco-Roman culture. They proclaimed the values of Christ, very different from the worldly values of the time! In short they transformed the world with the values of Jesus Christ.
3) THE HOLY SPIRIT TRANSFORMS OUR LIVES
The Holy Spirit transforms not only our lives but also the lives of everyone who receive the Spirit. So we say, the Holy Spirit transforms the earth. In the words of our prayer, the Holy Spirit “renews the face of the earth”. The Holy Spirit is given to you and me not just to keep it under lock and key or to bury it somewhere like the foolish servant in the Parable of Three Servants Mathew 25: 14-30 and in
Luke 19: 11-27.
In our Catechism class we have learnt about the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Do you remember them? They are 1) Wisdom, 2) Understanding, 3) Counsel, 4) fortitude, 5) Knowledge, 6) Piety, and 7) Fear of the Lord. Let us try to understand them.
1) WISDOM is the first and greatest gift. Wisdom acts upon our intellect and our will. It illuminates our minds and gives us an attraction to divine.
2) UNDERSTANDING helps us to grasp all truths and their purposes. The Holy Spirit helps us to understand the Scripture and religious truths.
3) COUNSEL is a sort of super-natural intuition. The Holy Spirit through counsel enables a person to judge correctly and fast.
4) FORTITUDE means courage, endurance. Fortitude enables to stand up for thing things we think right and just and true.
5) KNOWLEDGE gives us the ability to see things in God’s perspective. The Holy Spirit enables us to know the greatness of God revealed in everything in the creation.
6) PIETY here means reverence especially for godly people, godly things. It is not religiosity but seeing God in others and respecting all people as brothers and sisters.
7) FEAR OF THE LORD is something close to awe and wonder before God. It is an awareness of the Glory of God.
These seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are for our daily living. We have to cultivate and nourish these gifts by knowing them and cherishing these gifts of the Holy Spirit in our lives. No one can concretely direct you how to cultivate and nourish these gifts of the Holy Spirit. But the Holy Spirit will tell us and guide us how to love where there is hatred, how to overcome injustice with justice, how to spread truth where there is falsehood, how to spread joy of the Spirit where there is sadness. Listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit and discern constantly what is good from evil. The fire of the Holy Spirit can light up the darkness within us, around us. The Holy Spirit is the fire of love in your life.
The Song of Song in the Bible tells us: “Love is as powerful as death; …. It bursts into flameand burns like a raging fire.” (Song of Song 8: 6) We have to be aware of this raging fire which is the Holy Spirit in us, working through us, through our superiors, through the Church.
Once late Archbishop Alan de Lastic of Delhi told me, we may have different opinion in the Church but when we follow the teaching of the Pope, we can be sure that we are on the right path. No one is an all-knowing person. So obeying your superior and doing things under a superior’s direction you can be sure that you are on the right path.
Through the gift of the Holy Spirit we are inspired to live for others. We live for others through various things we do in our community, through caring for others, through cleaning our rooms and the house, through working in the garden and through buying things for the community.
As we began this reflection let us also close it with the age old prayer addressed to the Holy Spirit: “Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of divine love. Send forth your Spirit, O Lord, and you will renew the face of the earth.”
Changed On: 01-11-2018
Next Change: 16-11-2018
Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2018