Meeting the Holy Spirit

Here’s a question for men, one that I don’t think gets much attention: Do we know the Holy Spirit?  Have we experienced the Holy Spirit?  Okay, that’s two questions.

I never thought about the Holy Spirit until after I was 40 years old.  I became conscious of the presence of the Holy Spirit as a result of my conversion experience in 1988.

As Catholics, we say we believe in the Trinity, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Yet, my guess is that many of us think about the Father and the Son, but not so much about the Holy Spirit.  We should know all the members of the Trinity.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus informs His followers that after He goes the Father will send them the Holy Spirit, the “Advocate,” who will teach them all they need to know and remind them of all that Jesus taught them.  After the resurrection, Jesus appeared to the apostles, breathed on them and instructed them to receive the Holy Spirit, then gave them the power to forgive sins.

In Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 2, the coming of the Holy Spirit to the earliest Christian community in Jerusalem is described.  There was a noise like “a strong driving wind.”  There appeared “tongues of fire.”  The disciples were “filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues.”  Having been paralyzed by fear, the disciples were now filled with courage and boldness.  They began proclaiming Christ, performing miracles and bringing thousands to Christianity.

The gifts of the Holy Spirit are listed in 1 Corinthians 12: wisdom, spiritual knowledge, faith, healing, mighty deeds, prophecy, discernment of spirits, tongues and interpretation of tongues.  In Galatians 5:22, St Paul identifies the fruits of the Spirit as “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”  And, in 2 Timothy 1:7, St. Paul advises Timothy that God has not given us a “spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control.”

I think of the Holy Spirit as being like the conductor, the maestro, of the orchestra made up of all the members of the Body of Christ.  The Holy Spirit guides and engineers the circumstances by which followers of Jesus Christ build up the kingdom on earth.

If we read the Acts of the Apostles, there are numerous examples where the Holy Spirit tells one of the disciples specifically what to do, who to talk to, where to go, and so on.  The guidance and power of the Holy Spirit are just as available to us today as they were to the early disciples.

I love the words of Jesus to Nicodemus in Chapter 3 of the Gospel of John.  Jesus has told Nicodemus that one must be born “from above,” a statement which confuses Nicodemus.  Jesus explains, “Do not be amazed that I told you, ‘You must be born from above.’  The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

In other words, to receive the Holy Spirit requires an act of surrender, an act of total abandonment and openness to the will of God at every moment of our lives.  The “power” of the Holy Spirit becomes available to us only to the extent we acknowledge our human “powerlessness.”  As St. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12, God’s power is “made perfect in weakness.”

My suggestion is that we read the Acts of the Apostles and that we ask the Lord to send us the Holy Spirit in the same way that He sent the Holy Spirit to the early Church.  We should pray for this with a hopeful expectation that the Holy Spirit will come to us in new and powerful ways.

Then we can pray as often as needed the Prayer to the Holy Spirit:

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in us the fire of your love.  Send forth your Spirit, and we shall be created, and You shall renew the face of the earth.

Let us pray.

O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever rejoice in His consolations, through Christ Our Lord. Amen.