Wind and fire are powerful elements on this planet earth. But they are ambiguous elements in their capacities to either give life or destroy life. In the Acts of the Apostles we hear of a driving wind that suddenly filled the place where the disciples were staying; we hear of tongues of fire descending upon them bringing about a graced transformation. These symbols speak of the power of God to bring about change in the lives of individuals living in fear.
There are other ways to gain entrance into knowledge and experience of the Holy Spirit. Song can do, as can poetry. As we sing “Come Holy Spirit,” the heart is invited to welcome into its sanctuary the very life of God. Hospitality is essential, a warm gracious welcome to God’s visitation. If given, we experience the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Poetry too can mediate the gift of the Spirit. As one poet, Jessica Powers, proclaims: “To live with the Spirit of God is to be a listener … To live with the Spirit of God is to be a lover.” Again we are back to the core of spirituality: listening to God’s word and responding to it in love. Nothing more or less is asked of us.
St. Paul reminds us that it is only through the power of the Holy Spirit that we can say that “Jesus is Lord” and really mean it. The Spirit does three things: enlightens us to see, enkindles us to be on fire with God’s love, and empowers us to hear and live God’s word. This same Spirit is necessary if we are to read the sacred Scriptures with any real insight. The Scriptures were written under the inspiration of the Spirit; the Scriptures can be correctly read only if the Spirit is our guiding force.
When Jesus appeared to the troubled disciples in that locked room, he bestowed upon them peace and the gift of the Holy Spirit. It was that Spirit that flooded their minds with the truth of who Jesus was; it was the Holy Spirit that drew them from their own self-centeredness into a life of sacrificial love for others. The consequence of this transformation was joy and peace.
Questions for reflection
1. What is your favorite image or symbol of the Holy Spirit?
2. Do you invoke the presence of the Holy Spirit when you read the Bible or celebrate the sacraments?
3. In what sense is the Holy Spirit light, love and life?
Bishop Morneau is the auxiliary bishop of the Green Bay Diocese and pastor of Resurrection Parish in Allouez.