A Pentecost column: The Holy Spirit in our times

June 8, 2014 at 11:31am

Since the beginning of this year, I have been signing all my letters, emails, and personal messages with the phrase “Peace and Joy”. In doing so, I was motivated by the insight that these states of a person’s and community’s being are the consequence of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge, fortitude, piety, and fear of the Lord (which encompasses wonder and awe).


In one of his weekly General Audiences in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis spoke of the Holy Spirit as the inexhaustible source of God’s life in us. The Holy Spirit is the living water that “quenches the thirst in our lives because he tells us that we are loved by God as his children, that we can love God as his children and with his grace we can live as children of God, like Jesus, the Pope continued. Indeed, it is the Spirit of God that vivifies, empowers and sanctifies. The living water of the Holy Spirit, the pope said, is a gift from the resurrected Christ “who dwells in us, purifies us, renews us, transforms us so that we can share in the life of God who is love.” Yet Jesus Christ did not reveal the Holy Spirit fully, until he himself has been glorified through his Death and Resurrection.


The Acts of the Apostles tells us how the Holy Spirit, as promised by the Lord Jesus Christ, descended upon the apostles to give then strength and free them from fear and desolation. With the death of our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, fear and the feeling of abandonment overcame his followers. Confusion and uncertainty reigned over them. Maybe, foremost in the minds of the apostles was to doubt what Jesus said that He was the Son of God. But Jesus did not abandon them. He promised to ask his Father, who would give them another advocate to help them and be with them forever. And so the scripture says: “ . . .  suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.” From being a terrified and hopeless group the apostles, filled with the Holy Spirit, became men of courage suffused with missionary zeal.


Throughout the ages the Holy Spirit has worked in the most mysterious ways. He spoke through the prophets of old to preach the message of God’s love and mercy and reminded His chosen people to turn their back from their wicked ways. Over the ages, we have seen how the Spirit of God guided and protected His chosen people especially during the most trying times. He anointed people as messengers to spread His message of love and mercy.


Even in our times, the Holy Spirit remains at work. The recent canonization of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II reminds us once again of the abiding care of God’s holy presence. These Saints during their lifetime had demonstrated heroic virtues and became great actors in the world stage not through their own merits but because of the inspiration of God’s spirit.


In our present times, when faith is waning among so many, when many practices threaten the very moral foundations of societies, when many are locked in bitter conflict and hatred abound in many quarters of the world, God has chosen a pope who is not afraid to preach the gospel of Christ’s salvific power. Pope Francis’ election as the current leader of the 2 billion strong Catholic Church is not a happenstance or a chance occurrence. Recall that he was never a frontrunner during the conclave to elect the new Pope.. No one had expected much of him because of his advanced age—advanced even by the standards of the Collage of Cardinals. Yet even in the early days of his pontificate, Pope Francis has surprised many—in a positive way—by his actions and pronouncements. He continues to serve as an inspiration, give hope and rekindle the faith of so many. Surely, the Holy Spirit is at work here.


This Pentecost Sunday we need to reflect on how the Spirit of God moves and influences our very thoughts and actions. It is to remind us once again to take to heart the exhortation of Pope Francis when he said:  “Let us be guided by the Holy Spirit, allow him to speak to our hearts and he will tell us this: that God is love, he’s always waiting for us, he is a father who loves us like a real dad and only the Holy Spirit can tell our hearts this,” he said. And he continuous, “We have to listen to the Holy Spirit who is inside us!” … “What does he tell us? That God is good, that God is a father, that he loves us and always forgives us.”