Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ
The spirit of God is all pervasive and yet uns
een character in the New
Testament and the whole
Bible. Ronald Brownrigg says in
‘Who’s Who the New Testament’ that “The Holy Spirit is the
life and activity of God at work
in the world of nature and al
so in and through people” (p.257).
The Hebrew word ‘ruah’ used for spirit has actua
lly no equivalent word in English and hence it
is vicariously translated ‘breath’
, ‘wind’ and spirit, li
fe, etc. The equivalent Greek word in the
New Testament is ‘pneuma’ which means ‘spirit’. Th
e world spirit is used in the Bible both for
good spirit and evil spirit. Here we are speaking on
ly about the Holy Spirit
, the Spirit of God.
The Catholic Church believes that the Holy Spirit
is the third person of the Blessed Trinity or the
Triune God. The Catholics believe that the Holy
Spirit is a true God, equal to the other two
Divine Persons, the Father and Son. The Catholic
creed says that the Holy Spirit proceeds from
the mutual love and will of the Father and the Son.
In the New Testament the Holy Spirit is first mentioned in the Gospel according to Mathew.
Joseph was engaged to Mary. But
before their marriage Joseph lear
nt that Mary was pregnant
with child. So Joseph being a just man made plan
s to break the engagement privately. Then, an
angel of the Lord in a dream said to him, “Josep
h, descendant of David, do not be afraid to take
Mary to be your wife. For it is by the Holy Spir
it that she has concei
ved” (see Mt 1, 18-20).
The Holy Spirit appears again in the baptism of
Jesus at River Jordan. John the Baptist says, “I
baptize you with water to show that you have repe
nted, but the one who will come after me will
baptize you with the Holy
Spirit and fire” (Mt 3, 11).
Then, at the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist,
Mathew tells us that
the Spirit of God came
down like a dove and alighted on Jesus. The bapt
ism and the Temptation of Jesus are narrated by
all the three synoptic evangelist
s and the Holy Spirit is a si
gnificant character in all the
narrations. Luke says, “Jesus returned from the Jo
rdan full of the Holy Spirit and led by the
Spirit into the desert where
he was tempted” (Lk 4, 1-2).
After Jesus’ baptism and temptation, the first th
ree evangelists speak of the Holy Spirit on the
occasion of Jesus’ preaching in the synagogue of
his home town Nazareth. Jesus reads from the
book of the prophet Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lo
rd is upon me, because he has chosen me to
bring good news to the poor” (Luke 4, 18).
Jesus speaking to his disciples about coming troubl
es and persecutions assures them that they
need not worry about them. For, “When they br
ing you to trail, do not worry about what you are
going to say or how you will say
it; when the time comes, you will
be given what you will say.
For the words you will speak will not be yours; th
ey will come from the Spirit of your Father
speaking through you” (Mt 10, 19-20).
“And when you are arrested and
taken to court, do not worry
beforehand about what you are
going to say; when time comes, say whatever is
then given to you. For the words you speak will
not be yours; they will come fr
om the Holy Spirit” (Mk. 13, 11).
Later, when Pharisees accuse Jesus of drivin
g out demons by their leader Beelzebul, Jesus
defends himself saying “No, it is not Beelzebul,
but God’s Spirit, who gives me the power to
drive out demons, which proves that the Kingdo
m of God had already come upon you” (Mt. 12,
Once, teaching his disciples about prayer Jesus tells
them to ask for the Ho
ly Spirit “How much
more, then, will the Father in heaven give the
Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11, 13).
In the fourth Gospel the Holy Spirit or the Spirit
of God is also referred
to as the Advocate, the
In the conversation with the Samaritan woman at
Jacob’s well, Jesus tells her that people will
worship the Father by the power of
God’s Spirit; and that God is
Spirit. “God is Spirit, and only
by the power of his Spirit can people wo
rship him as he really is” (Jn. 4, 24).
In the Gospel according to John
during the long discourse
after the Last Suppe
r Jesus often refers
to the Spirit of God with different functions es
pecially as an Advocate,
a Helper. The Spirit
reveals Jesus and guides his disciples. Jesus promises that, “I will ask the Father, and he will give
you another Helper, who will stay with you for ever
. He is the Spirit who reveals the truth about
God” (Jn. 14, 16-17).
Jesus says again, “I have told you this while
I am still with you. The Helper, the Holy Spirit,
whom the Father will send in
my name, will teach you everything and make you remember all
that I have told you” (Jn. 14, 25-26).
Jesus assures his disciples again that, “The Help
er will come – the Spirit, who reveals the truth
about God and who comes from the Father. I will
send him to you from the Father, and he will
speak about me” (Jn. 15, 26).
The Holy Spirit is Jesus’ gift to his disciples
when he appeared to them after his resurrection.
“Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As
the Father sent me, so I send you.’ Then he
breathed on them and said, ‘Receive
the Holy Spirit” (Jn. 20, 21-22).
In the first chapter of Acts just before his ascension Jesus tells his disciples that the Holy Spirit
will come upon them with power, “But when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, you will be filled
with power, and you will be witne
sses for me in Jerusalem, in all Judaea and Samaria, and to the
ends of the earth” (Acts 1, 8).
As promised by Jesus the Acts of the Apostle
s has described the coming of the Holy Spirit
during the feast of Pentecost,
the harvest festival of th
e Israelite-Jewish people.