Tomorrow marks the 50th day since Easter, a day Christians celebrate as the coming of the promised Holy Spirit or Pentecost. So, who exactly is the Holy Spirit and why is this Spirit essential to all of humanity, and especially in the life of the Christian?
In the 17th chapter of John’s Gospel, Jesus is praying to the Father that his followers will be one as He and the Father are one, and that his followers “also may be in us.” We believe that when the risen Jesus ascended to the Father, he united not only himself perfectly with the Father, but also all of humanity, through the human nature he received from Mary.
The rupture that shattered human nature and broke the unity between God and man through the sin of Adam and Eve was restored in Jesus. This unity is an expression of the love between the Father and the Son, which is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was to descend down upon all of humanity and draw us into the mystery of the Divine Love between the Father and the Son. Got all that? So, what does this mean for all of us?
We believe that the Holy Spirit is constantly pursuing every human being and drawing us into that mysterious relationship between the Father and the Son, made possible through the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus. Baptism is the way in which we enter into that relationship that not only frees us from sin, but also creates a space in our soul for the Holy Spirit to dwell and lead us to Jesus and the Father.
This relationship is where human beings find an authentic sense of hope in the midst of life’s difficulties. We know, through faith, that all trials are temporary and that our true destiny is to live forever in God’s freedom. The problem we have as weak human beings is that, as strange as this might sound, we often do not want to leave sin and dysfunction behind! We can become very comfortable in our sin and when someone challenges us to change (i.e., the Holy Spirit), we often resist.
A sad reality is that many of us who are disciples of Jesus want to be in a relationship with God on our own terms rather than on God’s terms. We often prefer to create God in our own image (“I don’t need to go to church on Sunday”) rather than accept that we are created in God’s image (“keep holy the sabbath day”). The Holy Spirit gently persuades us to let go of self-centeredness, resentment and egocentrism because those things, as comfortable as they may seem, only lead to hopelessness and spiritual death. When, with God’s help, we let go of these vices, we begin to live our lives for others rather than ourselves. The natural fruit of this choice is the unity Jesus envisioned for all of humanity because it is the way he and the Father, who are perfectly one, relate to one another. The question is: are we willing to allow the same Holy Spirit to lead us out of ourselves and into oneness with God and our fellow human beings?
The Rev. CHRIS DOWNEY is pastor of Holy Family Catholic Church in Copperas Cove.