As the Church continues to make her way through the Easter Season, she celebrates the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus and prepares for the promised Holy Spirit. It is the waiting for the Holy Spirit that oftentimes gets overlooked. Summer hits, programs and academic years end, and the coming of the Holy Spirit gets eclipsed by the hustle and bustle of life.
The Church, however, keeps pointing us to the coming of the Spirit. In particular, the Sunday Mass readings begin to highlight the promise of the Lord and the forthcoming descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
But who is the Holy Spirit? How are we to understand this Third Person of the Holy Trinity, this promised gift of the Lord Jesus?
The Holy Spirit can be the most mysterious among the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This is true in large part because the Holy Spirit does not speak of himself. The Lord Jesus taught us: “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.”
In our Bible readings this Sunday, Saint John recounts further teachings of the Lord Jesus on the Holy Spirit: “I have told you this while I am with you. The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.”
The spiritual life and our growth in holiness, therefore, begins with the Holy Spirit. As the Lord Jesus also taught us in his public ministry: “No one comprehends what is truly God’s except the Spirit of God.” We need the Holy Spirit, therefore, to know who God is, how we can cooperate with his grace, and how we can be in fellowship with him.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains: “The Holy Spirit is the master of the interior life,” and further, “Through the power of the Holy Spirit we take part in Christ’s Passion by dying to sin, and in his Resurrection by being born to a new life; we are members of his Body which is the Church, branches grafted onto the vine which is himself.”
The Holy Spirit helps us to encounter the living God and re-live the Lord’s own Paschal Mystery in our own lives. Such a sharing in the Paschal Mystery begins at baptism. As Saint Peter told the early Church: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
The Spirit comes as a gift. It is the Spirit who dwells within us and is the source of all holiness. The supernatural life cannot be understood or nurtured within us without his presence and divine assistance.
Such a realization helps us to understand the Holy Spirit a little more, but the Spirit moves wherever and however he prefers. He is not bound to anything, not even to baptism or the other sacraments. The Lord Jesus references this movement of the Holy Spirit when he told us: “The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
As we approach the celebration of Pentecost, it’s worth reminding ourselves of the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit.
As we look at our lives and the fallenness of the world, it’s good to examine how we are re-living the Paschal Mystery of the Lord Jesus in our own lives. The Spirit moves where he wills, but he respects our freedom. The only force that can restrain him is an obstinate heart.
Our task in this life is to discern the movement of the Holy Spirit and to allow him to work in us and through us.