Most people at Pentecost Sunday Masses probably didn’t get it. The Holy Spirit, I mean. God the Father made the universe, and God the Son died to redeem it. But the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, Who hovered above the waters during Creation, caused the Blessed Virgin to conceive Jesus, came down from heaven at His baptism, and appeared as tongues of fire at Pentecost—that Spirit (a.k.a. Paraclete or Advocate)—what exactly is He?
By their fruits you shall know them, said the good book. So it is with the Holy Spirit, taking it from Fr. Tim Ofrasio, professor of systematic theology at Ateneo’s Loyola School of Theology. In his homily on the vigil before Pentecost, Fr. Tim counted five effects of the Third Person on the human mind and soul.
First, faith: the Spirit makes us believe that Jesus Christ is our Lord. Thus, when Saint Peter exclaimed that Jesus was the Messiah, Christ attributed the apostle’s recognition of His true nature as inspired by the Holy Spirit.
Second, peace and joy: “true inner peace that will never be taken from us by whatever trouble or anxiety may come our way . . . peace and understanding with others, even those with whom we disagree.”
Third, forgiveness, and fourth, unity and community. Besides inner peace, the Spirit imparts social harmony. “It is the Holy Spirit who makes our heart meek, understanding and forgiving,” said Fr. Tim. “He inspires us to be patient and understanding of those who are blind to their own faults and make life difficult for others . . . He makes us servants to one another.”
Where in the world is the Spirit?
All very heartwarming, except that looking at our nation and our world, it seems one can’t find much of the Spirit on the planet.
“Thailand, Iraq, the Ukraine, Syria, our own country, to mention but a handful of nations in travail, are hemorrhaging badly from the wounds inflicted upon them by the turmoil of the world,” lamented Ateneo philosophy professor Fr. Luis David. “Pope Francis heroically is seeking to turn the tide and returning the Vatican to its former role as the broker of peace among nations.”
“Our own government,” Fr. Louie added, “once fond of repeating the mantra Matuwid na Daan, has been found out not at all to be about that, and therefore, losing its moral compass, has descended into the bottomless pit of no-holds-barred recrimination and counter-recrimination.”
Yet even as the Spirit of God seems absent in many corners of the world, its guiding light, inspiring flame, and all-embracing wings of peace amd reconciliation are needed more than ever. For if there is one widespread blindness bedeviling the world and spawning immense discord and destruction, it is the failure or refusal of modern man to see the Spirit imbuing with meaning and linking everyone and everything.
If that last line makes the highly educated roll their eyes or snicker and shake their heads, that’s exactly the problem. Denying the promptings and indeed the very existence of the Spirit not only shuts out His guidance, but also His unifying embrace. Thus, man is left disjoint from his fellow human beings and creatures, making it easy for him to treat them as mere objects of his own wishes and beliefs.
A unifying, pacifying force
Breaking down those barriers among men and between them and creation is one effect of the Spirit, vividly demonstrated in the miracle of tongues during Pentecost, when the disciples could be understood by all in their own languages. That communication and communion with others is most imperative today, as the world hurtles toward widening and intensifying conflict among nations and between man and nature.
Sadly, due to the science worship of our age, understandably astounded by technology’s amazing capabilities, the world sees only greater and greater expansion and application of scientific and technological knowhow as the solution to our problems, from cancer and depression to poverty and war. And there is no place for or resort to the Spirit’s enlightenment and healing.
“These are good reasons,” Fr. Louie admonished, “to pray for that same Holy Spirit promised the disciples by the Ascending Christ, and His gifts of wisdom, knowledge, and discernment. And healing and strength amid the world’s pains and troubles:
“Heal our wounds, our strength renew;
On our dryness pour your dew;
Wash the stains of guilt away:
Bend the stubborn heart and will:
Melt the frozen, warm the chill;
Guide the steps that go astray.”
Be God’s heart, hands and voice
Okay, so we need the Spirit to change our hearts and our world with His wisdom, grace and power. Does that mean we just sit, pray and meditate, hoping the Holy Ghost will come upon us as He did with the Apostles on Pentecost?
Fr. Louie’s thoughts on the Feast of the Ascension two Sundays ago provides a useful answer. Inviting and opening up to the Spirit is best done partly by prayer and contemplation, but also by living God’s will and word every day. Counseled the philosophy professor:
“Life as we know it is not a mere front porch to eternity, and therefore worthless in light of the afterlife. Our reality here and now, and our calling as Christians to heal and transform this world, are nothing less than our earthly steps heavenward. For in our struggle and sacrifice that God’s kingdom may come and His will be done, we become channels of the Spirit redeeming the world, our humanity imbued and harnessed by the divine.
“A poet once prayed: ‘Lord, teach us that here on earth, we are your hands, we are your voice, we are your heart.’ Do God’s work in this world, and we become His hands, His voice, His heart, imbued and transformed by the Spirit.
“Let His kingdom and His will transform the world through your hands, your heart, your voice, your entire being. Then, as the Lord promised, ‘the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses . . . to the ends of the earth’.”
Let us be other Christs that His transforming Spirit may flow through us into our world.