Who is the Holy Spirit? What is His role in a believer’s life? Would you be able to answer those questions? Sadly, when many people think about the Holy Spirit, all they think about are the symbols, like the dove or maybe the tongues of fire from our 1st reading. People might be familiar with the symbols, but unfortunately, so few people really know who the Holy Spirit really is or what His role is in their lives. Romans 8:14 says, “Those who are led by the Spirit are children of God”. So the first thing we know is that we are God’s children. However, many people don’t really know what it means to live a life led by the Spirit, then neither do they really know what it means to be a child of God. So today, I want to do what I can to help you to know who the Holy Spirit is, what His role is in our lives, and what it means to be led by the Spirit.
To do that, I will highlight some, but still only a handful of the Scripture verses, some of them from our readings today, which describes the Holy Spirit’s role in our lives. So go ahead and pull out your bibles… oh wait I realize we are not in the practice of bringing our scriptures to mass each week… but we should be at least reading them. And I will I assume you don’t want to be here for several hours, so I can only briefly talk about the Scriptures, therefore I invite you to listen carefully, ask the Spirit to help you understand; but don’t worry, my homily will be on our website soon so you can read and pray over them yourselves to deepen your understanding.
Before I start with the Scriptures though, perhaps a theological explanation will be helpful to understand who the Holy Spirit is. The early Church Fathers described the Holy Spirit as the love between the Father and the Son. So as the eternal Father out of love gave of Himself to Jesus, the pre-incarnate Son, and the Son received all that the Father is and out of love gave Himself fully back to the Father, that eternal reciprocal giving and receiving, that eternal love of God is the Holy Spirit. Then Scriptures say that out of love for us the Father and Son would send the HoIy Spirit upon the disciples. And Jesus tells them to remain in his love (Jn. 15:9), that means we are called to remain in the Holy Spirit. Therefore, if you know God’s love for you in a personal way, that is the Holy Spirit, and we are to remain in that love of God.
Similarly, our Gospel (Jn 20:20) says that when the doors to the upper room were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus appeared to his disciples and said, “Peace be with you, as the Father has sent me, so I send you”, and “when he had said this, he breathed on them and said, Receive the Holy Spirit”. We see that when the disciples were afraid, Jesus gave them his peace. He breathed on them told them to receive the Holy Spirit”. Therefore, first this Scripture reveals the Holy Spirit is the breath of God, it is the divine life from within Jesus given to be the life within each of us. So not only is the Holy Spirit the love of God, but also the life of God, both which is given to us to share in. This Scripture also describes the Holy Spirit as the Peace of God. So whenever you are fearful or afraid, and you pray and receive a sense of Peace, that is the Holy Spirit.
Part of our 2nd reading, 1 Cor. 12:3 says, “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit”. No one can have true faith in Jesus Christ, no one can follow Him as Lord in their lives except by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit’s role in our lives is to make Jesus Christ ‘LORD’ of every aspect. And so He reveals and brings clarity to the paths in our life that is according to God’s will, if we are listening to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Imagine being able to go through life and when it comes to a decision you have to make, you wonder what you should do, what action you should take, the goal is when you pray and weigh the options- is to be able to discern what the Holy Spirit is prompting at that moment- which gives the most peace and joy, which gives the most uneasiness and anxiety? That is part of what it means to be led by the Spirit.
Likewise, in John 14:26, Jesus says, “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, that the Father will send in my name- He will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you”. Not only did Jesus tell us to keep the Commandments, but Jesus even elevated the laws of God, and told us everything we need to do inherit eternal life. Therefore, to be led by the Holy Spirit is to allow Him to teach us right from wrong, we let the Spirit form our conscience and reveal what is the right thing to do in this circumstance. Those who are led by the Spirit, listen to the Holy Spirit, and the Church through whom the Spirit teaches; we learn to see and think with the Holy Spirit and not allow ourselves to be conformed to the ways of the world. The Holy Spirit leads us to all truth- the one truth who is Jesus Christ.
John 14 continues to say that the Holy Spirit convicts in regards to sin. Many people in today’s culture have watered down what sin is. There are so many ways in which we justify our sinful actions. I encourage you to prayerfully read the Examination of Conscience that we have in the back there by the confessionals, it is a tool that will assist you in reflecting on your sins. Many people tell me they did not know this or that was a sin- the prompting you feel, perhaps the uneasiness about an aspect in your life, is the Holy Spirit convicting. And I encourage you to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you your sins, particularly the sins you might not be aware of. Also, though, ask the Holy Spirit to convict you in the severity and disgust of sins that you do know of, we cannot be rid of the sins without the Holy Spirit, so let Him into them. If you might be afraid to do that, afraid what you will find out, don’t worry. The Holy Spirit who is the love of God is most gentle and understanding. He only reveals what we can handle, with Him. I have found that the Holy Spirit doesn’t shame us in that sinful action, but He reveals to us what the sin really is and our true selves behind the sin- that is, the Holy Spirit shows reveals that the sin is simply a disordered attraction and lovingly wants to purify and make us be attracted to Him and the love He gives.
In addition though, 2 Cor 3:17-18 says, “Where the Spirit is, there is freedom. All of us, gazing with unveiled faces on the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, as from the Lord who is the Spirit”. Where the Spirit is, there is freedom. Freedom from guilt, freedom from shame, freedom from the chains of sin. Freedom to gaze with unveiled faces on the glorious face of God. So not only does the Spirit convict us of our sin, but also convicts us in the forgiveness and mercy of God. The priest, in the Prayer of Absolution, prays over us in the Sacrament of Confession, “God the Father of Mercies, by the death and resurrection of His Son, has reconciled the world to Himself, and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins”. The Holy Spirit has been sent among us so that we can receive and know the forgiveness of our sins.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, not only does the Holy Spirit want to dwell and remain in us, and wants us to know the love, forgiveness, and mercy of God, but the Holy Spirit compels us to share that Good News with others. The Holy Spirit, who remember is the love of Christ, as 2 Cor 5: 14 says, For the love of Christ compels us…those who live might live not for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised”. Once, through the Spirit, we have truly come to know the love and mercy of God, then the same Spirit compels us to live not only for ourselves but for others. The Holy Spirit compels, drives; it urges, it exhorts us to live no longer for ourselves but share the love and forgiveness of God we have received. The Holy Spirit wasn’t given to the disciples just for their benefit, but for the benefit of others. Our 1st reading, which describes Pentecost, says the Holy Spirit came upon each of the disciples and enabled them to proclaim different tongues, or languages, in order that people from the different nations could hear proclaimed and understand the mighty works of God in their own language. Therefore, the Holy Spirit is given so that we can share and proclaim, and so others can receive, the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ. Think about that for a second, if one of the disciples didn’t share the Good News in the language they were now able to proclaim, countless people wouldn’t hear the Good News. We all must do our part. Similarly, our 2nd reading today says that the one Spirit gives different gifts to individuals for the benefit of different people, so that by each of us using the gifts God has uniquely given us, we can be effective in reaching all the different kinds of people in the world. So again, we all must do our part. If one of us does not do what the Spirit compels us to do, then many people potentially will not hear the Good News in a way they can hear it and suffer because of it. We must pray always to have the courage to follow the lead of the Spirit.
So join me in praying that the Holy Spirit will come upon each of us in a new and deeper way, so that we can receive fully the love and mercy of God, and can be inspired to be led by the Spirit and share with others what it means to be a child of God and to truly know and remain in God’s love.BACK TO LIST