Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Praying For The Gift Of The Spirit

God, because of His great love for us, is always showering us with gifts of grace. Every good thing comes from His hand.

Because of this beautiful reality, we work to prepare ourselves to receive all that He has in store for us. We ready ourselves so that, when His gifts arrive, we can put them to use to make ourselves holy and to serve others.

The Church provides us with seasons to help us prepare ourselves for all the graces God plans to shower upon us. During the Advent season, we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus. During the Lenten season, we prepare ourselves more intensely for the celebration of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

For the past six weeks, we have been journeying through the season of Easter. Though we may not be accustomed to thinking of it in this way, Easter is also a season of preparation. Especially in these final weeks as the feast of the Ascension approaches, this season is a time to prepare ourselves for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the feast of Pentecost.

The Holy Spirit is sometimes called “the forgotten person of the Trinity”. While we might commonly address our prayers to God the Father or God the Son, praying directly to God the Holy Spirit does not seem to come as naturally to us. Nonetheless, the Holy Spirit is God and deserves the same worship and praise we would give to the Father and the Son. In our Profession of Faith we call Him the “Lord and Giver of Life”. We also profess that “with the Father and the Son [He] is adored and glorified.” So it is proper for us to address the Holy Spirit in our prayers - particularly in words of praise and adoration - especially during this Easter Season.

One of the reasons we may have difficulty praying to the Holy Spirit is that the traditional images of the dove, fire and a driving wind do not help us relate to Him as a person. We can imagine ourselves relating to God as Father. We can form a mental image of Jesus. However, forming a mental image of the Holy Spirit does not come as naturally.

Some Christians have found it helpful to think of the Holy Spirit in the following way. We can understand the Father as “God above us”. We can understand Jesus as “God among us”. In the same way, we can understand the Holy Spirit as “God within us.” It is the work of the Holy Spirit to bring Jesus into our hearts. Therefore, when we pray to Him, we can imagine Him dwelling within us.

This is what Jesus teaches us in today’s gospel. He calls the Holy Spirit “another Advocate” who will be “with [us] always.” He goes on to say the the Holy Spirit “remains with [us]” and “will be in [us]. When Jesus uses the word, “remains”, He is speaking about an intimate union of love between persons. It bespeaks friendship, sharing life together, being one in mind and heart. It is an image similar to that of marriage wherein two people make a home together and create a family.  That is the type of intimacy the Holy Spirit introduces into our lives.

How can we prepare ourselves to welcome the outpouring of the Holy Spirit?

The first way is by ridding ourselves of sin. Jesus tells us, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you...the Spirit of Truth.” For us to receive the Holy Spirit, we must be keeping the commandments. If keeping the commandments is the way that we show love for God, then sin is rejecting God and His grace. The Holy Spirit will not go where He is not welcomed. Therefore, for us to make room for Him, we must actively reflect on our lives, identify where our attitudes and behavior are not in accord with the gospel, and repent by going to confession and making amends. Then there will be room in our hearts for the indwelling of God’s Spirit.

The second way to prepare for the Holy Spirit is by giving witness to others about how God has transformed us. Telling others about Jesus intensifies the presence of the Spirit within us. Though it often requires courage, it also increases joy within us. As Philip experienced in today’s first reading when he proclaimed Christ to the Samaritans, signs and wonders accompany our witness. We will see hearts changed, lives transformed and attitudes healed. All this will strengthen our faith and make us even more eager to “give an explanation to anyone who asks [us] for a reason for [our] hope” as Saint Peter encourages us to do in the second reading. This will naturally lead us to praise the Holy Spirit for using us to bring Jesus to others.

In these final weeks of Easter, we look ahead to Jesus’ ascension into heaven and the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. It is a time for us to reflect more intensely on the person of God the Holy Spirit, to make ourselves more worthy to be used by Him in the work of bringing souls to Christ and to spread the good news to others. There is no more real and intense way to welcome the Holy Spirit, “God within us”, than through the Eucharist we are about to share. As we move to the table of Jesus’ Body and Blood, let us welcome Him already into our heart and show Him our love by pledging to keep His commandments.  

No comments: