Tomorrow’s gospel passage from John’s 14th chapter (for Monday, May 15) brings back a memory from years ago when my turn as “helper” with our RCIA group necessitated explaining the role of the Holy Spirit in our prayers lives to our candidates and catechumen. In John’s gospel, Jesus shares with his disciples:
“I have told you this while I am with you.
The Advocate, the Holy Spirit
whom the Father will send in my name—
he will teach you everything
and remind you of all that I told you.”
Trying to explain the Holy Spirit to a group who were largely unfamiliar with the Church’s teachings on the Trinity felt like trying to explain how wind works. For me, a “cradle Catholic”, the certainty of God’s daily and ongoing presence in my life was not something I had ever tried to analyze of “figure out”. I’m pretty certain I failed miserably that day in serving our inquirers. I should have done some additional homework, because a certainty of the Spirit’s ongoing presence in our lives is a beautiful gift, one that deserves to be cherished and cultivated.
Chapter Three of the Catechism of the Catholic Church provides a good starting point for learning what the Church teaches with respect to the Advocate. That chapter’s opening statement teaches us:
“No one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.” Now God’s Spirit, who reveals God, makes known to us Christ, his Word, his living Utterance, but the Spirit does not speak of himself. The Spirit who “has spoken through the prophets” makes us hear the Father’s Word, but we do not hear the Spirit himself. We know him only in the movement by which he reveals the Word to us and disposes us to welcome him in faith. The Spirit of truth who “unveils” Christ to us “will not speak on his own.” Such properly divine self-effacement explains why “the world cannot receive [him], because it neither sees him nor knows him,” while those who believe in Christ know the Spirit because he dwells with them.
So if we cannot “see” the Spirit, how might we begin to cultivate a relationship with the Holy Spirit, Christ’s Advocate in our life, who dwells within us? The Church provides a few ways that even non-theologians like me can prayerfully invoke the Spirit:
Prayerfully Pray the Sign of the Cross
When we reverently begin prayer, work or even relaxation (such as a family meal) with this form of prayer, we profess our belief in the Trinity and invite God’s presence into our life.
Learn the Prayer, “Come, Holy Spirit” (Veni, Sancte Spiritus)
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Thy faithful and enkindle in them the fire of Thy love.
V. Send forth Thy Spirit and they shall be created.
R. And Thou shalt renew the face of the earth.
Let us pray.
O God, Who didst instruct the hearts of the faithful by the light of the Holy Spirit, grant us in the same Spirit to be truly wise, and ever to rejoice in His consolation. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Seek and Acknowledge Signs of the Holy Spirit Around Us
I’ve started making note of “Holy Spirit” sightings in my life… those moments when it’s clear that God is truly present in my life. In these moments when I feel the Spirit “dwelling within me”, I try to remember to pause my activity and to prayerfully acknowledge the Spirit in that very moment. When you begin this practice, “God sightings” come in surprising places and at unexpected times. One beautiful way to share our faith is to pause if we are with others and to simply and humbly acknowledge God’s goodness. We don’t have to give a twenty minute dissertation to let others catch the excitement of a “Spirit sighting”. It’s enough simply to verbally thank the Creator for sending His Advocate our way to smooth our path.
Make Note and Study of the Spirit in Scripture
John 14 is only one of the many places where the Holy Spirit is proclaimed in the Bible. Check out Matthew 12, Luke 24, and the Book of Acts for other places to learn about the Holy Spirit.
Know and Employ the Fruits and Gifts of the Holy Spirit
12 Fruits of the Holy Spirit:
charity, generosity, joy, gentleness, peace, faithfulness, patience, modesty, kindness, self-control, goodness, chastity
7 Gifts of the Holy Spirit:
wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, fortitude, piety, fear of the Lord
In recent homilies, Pope Francis has been teaching us to keep our hearts open to the workings of the Holy Spirit and to receive the Spirit’s gifts with docility. He recently preached,
“The Spirit is the gift of God, of this God, our Father who always surprises us. The God of surprises… Why? Because He is a living God, who dwells in us, a God who moves our hearts, a God who is in the Church and walks with us and in this journey He surprises us. It is He who has the creativity to create the world, the creativity to create new thing every day. He is the God who surprises us.”
I may not understand all the doctrine, but as one who is continually surprised and delighted by the workings of the Spirit in her life, I invite you to take a deeper look at not only sighting but also praising the Advocate along your journey. You’ll find that the Spirit’s are gifts that keep on giving and fruits that will never fade!
A question for you: What is your favorite way to encounter the Holy Spirit in your life?
Copyright 2017 Lisa M. Hendey