It’s our standard blessing: “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” And most of us have a pretty good grasp of God the Father and of Jesus Christ. But the Holy Spirit? That’s a lot trickier.
We think about the Holy Spirit more in the springtime, as the liturgical year moves toward Pentecost and many parishes offer the sacrament of Confirmation. But there are some very good reasons to care about getting to know the Holy Spirit all year long!
#1: The Holy Spirit is an intrinsic part of our history.
In the Hebrew Bible, we hear the prophets giving a glimpse into the future—into the coming of the Messiah, whose mission would be sustained by God’s holy spirit. Their prophecy was fulfilled when Jesus was conceived by the Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. The Holy Spirit descended on Jesus when his cousin John baptized him.
Actually, when you look at it, the Holy Spirit was actively present throughout Jesus’ life. It was through the Spirit that Jesus was able to conduct his ministry, to create miracles, and to face his own mortality. And the Holy Spirit continues to be active in our lives and in the life of the Church. Before he died, Jesus promised that the Spirit would be given to the Apostles and to the entire Church. And then, after his death, he was raised by the Father through the power of the Spirit.
#2: The Holy Spirit guides us
You’ve probably heard about the “still, small voice” that God sometimes uses to communicate with us. That’s the voice of the Holy Spirit, speaking to us from inside our hearts. It’s sometimes hard to quiet our brains and thoughts enough to hear it, but it’s always worth the effort.
There’s a phenomenon that many people refer to as a “gut feeling.” You’ve probably experienced it. You’re about to start something—make a decision, begin a course of action—and your “gut” tells you that it’s not right. That something about it is wrong. If you’re like me, you’re liable to ignore that feeling, because you want to do whatever it is your mind is set on! And how does that turn out? Rarely well.
That “gut feeling” is the Holy Spirit, guiding us when we’re willing to ask for guidance and to accept the answer, even if it’s not the one we want to hear. I always—and I do say that unequivocally, always—make better decisions when I’ve asked the Spirit for help and sat quietly and listened and been open to the Spirit’s voice.
#3: The Holy Spirit is a Gift-Giver
We talk a lot about the Holy Spirit as the gift that God gave to us, but the gifts that the Holy Spirit in turn gives us are myriad.
In today’s newsletter, we’re sharing vocation stories told by some of the Daughters of St. Paul. These women—and many others all over the world—were given a beautiful, demanding, and powerful gift: the gift of a vocation to the religious life. Everyone can find inspiration in their stories.
The gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and the fear of the Lord. These are gifts we are all given, without ever asking for them, just out of love.
And in his first letter to the young Church in Corinth, St. Paul talks enthusiastically about the fact that even beyond these gifts, the Spirit visits each of us individually:
There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit. To one is given through the Spirit the expression of wisdom; to another the expression of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit; to another mighty deeds; to another prophecy; to another discernment of spirits; to another varieties of tongues; to another interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit produces all of these, distributing them individually to each person as he wishes.
There are many ways that God rejoices in the humanity he created, and one of those ways is the clear delight he takes in allowing us to be moved and motivated by his Holy Spirit and, in turn, be delighted in the gifts that Spirit has given us.
#4: You have been sealed—anointed—in the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit didn’t start interacting with you at Confirmation; that happened when you were baptized. But the sacrament of Confirmation is a beautiful liturgical moment that ritually connects you with the Holy Spirit, and in so doing, charges you with your own mission in life: to allow the Spirit to work through you to reach out to the world.
Confirmation is rooted in our past:
Now when the Apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John. On their arrival they prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit; for as yet he had not come upon any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.
Confirmation is a completion of what began at baptism, and in a sense it is a public affirmation of a relationship that already exists. It is God’s Holy Spirit laying claim to your life, your love, and your whole being, and your joyful response to that claim.
#5: Pope Francis loves the Holy Spirit
One of the books we suggest as a beautiful Confirmation gift is Anointed: Gifts of the Holy Spirit, containing the words and wisdom of Pope Francis taken from a series of talks he gave in 2014 about the gifts of the Holy Spirit at his weekly “Wednesday Audiences” in Rome.
Pope Francis clearly lives in constant awareness of the presence of the Holy Spirit in his heart and in his life.
When our eyes are illumined by the Spirit, they open to see God in the beauty of nature and in the greatness of the cosmos. The Spirit leads us to discover how everything speaks to us about God and His love. This is what we experience when we admire a work of art or appreciate something marvelous. The Spirit inspires us to praise the Lord from the depths of our hearts when we recognize a priceless gift of God and see it as sign of his infinite love for us.
And that is the real reason that we all need to get to know the Holy Spirit and see it working in our lives: because it brings us joy, and joy is easily spread. See if it doesn’t work out that way for you… today!
by Jeannette de Beauvoir