Pentecost is coming and though it’s a couple of weeks away, I’m already thinking about it, preparing for it and praying towards it. I began cultivating my relationship with the Holy Spirit in Middle School and I’ve been blessed because of it. But it hasn’t always been easy, because the Holy Spirit is intangible and abstract. It’s indescribable and indefinable.
As part of the Holy Trinity, we know that the Holy Spirit is God three-in-one: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the “active ingredient” between the Father and the Son, and humanity. We know God because of Jesus Christ, the Son, who reveals God to us. Jesus points us toward God the Father and promises the Holy Spirit. And when God acts in our world, it is through the Holy Spirit. One of the best and easiest examples to help us understand this is to think about how Jesus came to be in Mary and became part of humanity; the Holy Spirit came upon her.
As Catholics we know we should have a relationship with the Holy Spirit, though we have a hard time defining what that should look like and how we can have one. And honestly, to be a Catholic living faithfully in the world, we must have a relationship with the Holy Spirit. A relationship with the Holy Spirit helps us bring Christ into the world (again, think of Mary).
But to have this relationship, we have to spend time in prayer to and with the Holy Spirit. Just like when we want to have a relationship or friendship with someone, it takes time. And our relationships with the other aspects of the Trinity, God the Father and God the Son didn’t just happen. Hopefully we’ve spent years working on them and hopefully throughout our lives we continue to work on them seeking to grow closer to God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son.
Just like with the Father and the Son, the more time we spend time embracing God in prayer and through the sacraments, the more we will come to know and understand the Holy Spirit in our lives. Think about it… as little kids, we often understand God as Father, since we can identify with a father figure, either with our own father, a grandfather, a godfather or an uncle. As we get older, we understand God as Son in Jesus Christ by hearing and understanding the stories of Christ’s death on the Cross. But it’s Holy Spirit we have problems with. Again, it’s because the Holy Spirit is intangible, abstract, indescribable and indefinable. Yes, we have various symbols to represent the Holy Spirit, like a dove or fire or the color red. But we know the Holy Spirit is more than that.
The Holy Spirit empowers us to preach the Gospel and live every day for Christ. We received the Holy Spirit at our Baptism and that Spirit is strengthened when we receive Confirmation. The Holy Spirit makes us bold witnesses in the world. We receive seven gifts from the Holy Spirit that empower us to live as disciples in a world that can sometimes be challenging to our relationship with Christ. The Holy Spirit casts out the fear we have in living for Jesus and replaces it with the courage to be a faithful witnesses.
Gathered in the Upper Room with Mary, the Apostles waited for the “coming of the Spirit’ that Jesus had promised would come to them. And though they did not know what this meant, they trusted the words of Christ, but only partially. The Apostles were fearful that those who had Jesus put to death would do the same to them.
“And 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.” –Acts 2:2-3
From the moment of the entrance of the Holy Spirit into their lives, the Apostles were changed. The Apostles witnessed the Holy Spirit as “tongues of fire,” symbolizing the transforming power of the Holy Spirit’s actions. Being touched by the Holy Spirit transformed the lives of the disciples on the morning of Pentecost and filled their souls with Christ, enabling them to recall Christ’s works and teachings and become courageous and bold witnesses for Christ.
Just like the disciples, the Holy Spirit can enter our lives and strengthen us to become courageous and bold witnesses for Christ. The Holy is necessary for us to live as faithful Catholics in the world today. We have the potential to have an incredible relationship with the Holy Spirit, yet in our lives many of us forget to call upon the Holy Spirit. We ask God to help us in our day, we call on Jesus to help us and see Him in those we interact with, but we forget to ask for the Holy Spirit to be present in all we say and do.
Three Things I Recommend to Have a Better Relationship with the Holy Spirit:
1. Be open. You can’t and won’t experience the Holy Spirit:if you’re not open to it. Know that it’s abstract, be okay with that and embrace that mystery of intangibility. Know that being open can be very hard in our culture of having defined parameters and expectations.
2. Pray and listen. Seek out prayers to the Holy Spirit (one of my favorites is listed below), sign up to pray the Holy Spirit Novena (beginning on May 11 for 2013 and ending on Pentecost Sunday) through praymorenovenas.com and pray for the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Asking the Holy Spirit to be present in our lives through His Gifts- knowledge, wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, piety and fear (or awe) of the Lord- is one of the simplest ways to have a relationship with the Holy Spirit. Also, be quiet and listen. The Holy Spirit speaks to us in the quietness of our hearts, the stillness of our souls and peace in our minds. Again, all this is indescribable and indefinable, but the more you are open, pray and listen, the easier it is to identify the Holy Spirit’s presence.
3. Frequent the Sacraments of Eucharist and Confession. Keeping your soul healthy, in a state of grace and strengthened by the Eucharist helps your soul be open to receiving the Holy Spirit’s presence. These are especially important because the more you invite the Holy Spirit into your life, the more you will be encouraged and challenged to live the Catholic faith courageously and boldly.
Being and living as a faithful Catholics isn’t something we have to do on our own. The power of the Holy Spirit is with each one of us to help us live boldly for God. And to grow spiritually, it takes work and dedication, just like anything else in our lives. If you want to succeed at work, at sports, playing an instrument, with your studies, and more, you have to work at it. If you want to grow in your faith, you have to work at it. And the more you work at it, the more you will develop spiritually. All the grace, all the power, all the resources we need to grow spiritually are available to us through the Holy Spirit. God gives the gifts freely, He pours out the graces lavishly– but He does it THROUGH the Holy Spirit. So get to know the Holy Spirit!
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Prayer to the Holy Spirit
by St. Augustine
Breathe into me, Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy.
Move in me, Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy.
Attract my heart, Holy Spirit, that I may love only what is holy.
Strengthen me, Holy Spirit, that I may defend all that is holy.
Protect me, Holy Spirit, that I may always be holy.