Sunday, May 20, 2012

Come, Holy Spirit

These ten days between our celebration of the Ascension of Jesus to heaven and of Pentecost, the day when the Holy Spirit came down upon the apostles and Mary, are days of expectant prayer. We ask God to send his Holy Spirit anew upon his people so that we may be re-energized in our faith and given new power to spread the good news of Jesus' death and resurrection to all the world.

The Holy Spirit is the life-breath of the Church. Through the Holy Spirit we are given the power to follow Jesus' example and live the good news.

Sometimes the Holy Spirit is called the forgotten member of the Trinity. We are very comfortable bringing our prayers and worship to God the Father and to Jesus. But the Holy Spirit is often overlooked although it is through him that we are even able to pray at all.

And so as we spend these days asking God to pour out his Spirit upon us anew, let us look at the readings which the Church offers us this day and ask the question, "Who is the Holy Spirit?" As we reflect on the Scriptures set before us, we see that the Holy Spirit is a Spirit of truth, of unity and of love.

First of all, the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth. He reveals to us the truth about God and his love. The Holy Spirit is given to us to speak to our minds and hearts about what God requires of us.

Today's gospel reading from Saint John shows us Jesus in prayer for his disciples and for those who would believe because of their testimony. At the end of the prayer, he asks that they be consecrated in the truth and says that God's word is truth. The truth about who God is and what his plan of salvation is can be found in his Word, the Bible. We believe that the Bible was written by men, but that they were inspired by the Holy Spirit to such a degree that God can truly be considered its author. Therefore, we find in the Bible a sure pathway to understanding who God is and how much he loves us. Furthermore, the Holy Spirit who dwells in our hearts guides us so that as we read the Bible we are able to grow in our understanding of it and in our ability to apply it to our lives. Spending time in prayer reading the Bible is indispensable to the life of every follower of Jesus if we are to be consecrated in the truth by the Holy Spirit.

Secondly, the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Unity. He gathers together people of different languages, ethnic backgrounds and abilities into one Church which extends itself throughout every century into every nation.

Again, in the gospel reading, Jesus begins his prayer for his disciples by asking that they be one as he is one with the Father and the Holy Spirit. The followers of Jesus are not meant to be a bunch of individuals scattered about the world doing their own thing. Rather we are meant to work together and to worship together. The closer we get to Jesus and the more his Spirit takes up residence in our souls, the closer we become to one another. Nowhere else is this more evident than when the Church gathers to worship on Sunday. All of us here are very different people. We would have no other reason to be gathered here together except for the faith we share in Jesus and in his presence in the Holy Eucharist. What's more, we are not alone. Throughout our country and throughout the world, people are gathering to worship with the same words and reflecting on the same readings we have pondered today. The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Unity, makes this possible.

Finally, the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Love. Because he is God, the Holy Spirit is love itself. When the Holy Spirit dwells within us, we come to experience the unconditional love the Father has for us and are empowered to show that love to others.

Today's second reading from the first letter of Saint John teaches us that, when we love, God dwells within us. When we show love, the invisible God who is love itself is then made visible to the world. As Saint John tells us, "No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us." This love is not merely having warm feelings for others. It is a love that shows itself in action by forgiving those who wrong us, by visiting the sick, by instructing those in error, by witnessing to the power and presence of God in our lives to those who are lost and by putting aside our own comforts to wash the feet of others. It is the love that Jesus showed by offering himself to us on the cross. It is not a love which we can show by our own human power. It is only possible by the Spirit of love who dwells within us.

The Holy Spirit we worship is a Spirit of truth, of unity and of love. We know that we are drawing closer to God when those three characteristics of his Spirit are growing in our lives. So as we approach the feast of Pentecost, let us focus our prayers more on the third person of the Blessed Trinity. Let us bring him our worship and adoration. Let us ask him to make his home within us and reveal to us the truth of God's burning love for us. Let us ask him to set our hearts aflame with love for God and for one another so that we may be renewed as his People and bring the good news to all the world.

(image by Sheila Yackley)

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