“At Pentecost, after Jesus had arisen from death, the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles…”, chirped my Catechism teacher to a class of listless Confirmation students one Thursday evening. We were a noisy bunch of eight and ninth graders about to receive the Holy Spirit and yet had no idea what was in store for us. Not that our Confirmation teachers did not do a good job of preparing us well for this Sacrament, but that it all amounts to the fact that the Third Person in the Holy Trinity is not as understood as it should be.
I remember my Confirmation teacher advising us all to ask for a gift of the Holy Spirit, simultaneously informing us that we wouldn’t receive it immediately. She was right. In my experience, everything happens in God’s time– and to receive my own gift of the Holy Spirit- certainly took time AND took faith.
But that is the whole concept behind the Holy Spirit- a concept so wonderfully mysterious and yet so simple- that it can only be perfectly and concisely explained by chapter 8 of Paul’s Letter to the Romans.
Before reading this chapter, I had several questions, being the inquisitive teenager that I am, like, “Does the Spirit lie within us? Does it always live within us; do we have control over it? What has God entrusted to us through the Spirit, anyway?” And as if they were several people like me to answer, Jesus seemed to have so exceptionally clarified all my doubts through His Apostle Paul’s writings! But when I kept reading on, I struggled at comprehending a particular verse, “Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly…”(Rom 8:23); and kept thinking to myself , “What could these ‘firstfruits’ possibly be?” The nagging college girl in me prompted me to leave no questions unanswered. Determined to be a fruit-bearing disciple of Christ, I spent the next few days hunting Scripture and praying for a spiritual breakthrough. Again, I was helped by the Word, soon enough. One fine day, while I was directing my thoughts to this very quest, I found my answer while stumbling over Galatians 5: 22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility and self-control”.
So it was here that I came to my conclusion- the Holy Spirit was a gift of God (in fact, during Pentecost (Acts 2:38), Peter comforts the Israelites who mourn Jesus’ death, telling them that the Holy Spirit is the gift that He has left behind) and it has gifts of its own for us- which we can exercise because God has granted us free will! However too often, sin hardens us and renders us spiritually blind. And this only becomes more evident when we leave our spiritually comfortable Christian home and go to live away, for college or work- and only then the Spirit comes to our rescue. The difference between spirituality and religiousness, is now unmistakable to us- we may mark our attendance at Church service every Sunday morning but we may not necessarily walk with the Spirit!
Just as Mary as our protector, the Holy Spirit is our ultimate Guide in our never-ending spiritual journey. The truth is, if we feel close to God right now, there is a good chance we may not feel the same later. After all, the closer you are to God, the great opposition you are likely to feel! Achieving spirituality is a non-stop process and since it obviously becomes difficult to attempt so single-handedly, having accountability partners for the same works best-it may be a church friend, a youth ministry leader, a catechism teacher, a cousin or even a Bible study friend!
Throughout the Word, we see the Paraclete takes several forms, and reminds us that Christ’s death was good because it brought the Spirit down to guide us. In all its Pentecostal glory, we have much to learn from the Spirit- and what better place to start, than from the Word? Firstly, I’d like to think that the Spirit helps in renewal of the self, after all it arrived when Christ had already died for our sins. What only the Spirit and nothing else, can help us achieve- is the winning of the constant war within. One day, we’re on a spiritual high, the other day we’re tested and we’re on a spiritual low with Christ. Our spiritual journey with Christ is no regular than rain-bearing winds. And so the Spirit, teaches us to fight and help ourselves retain our faith against all odds. Since the Spirit dwells within us, and moves in our midst just like Jesus once did, it delivers an exceptional spiritual identity to us- after all we were created in the image of God! But when we let the Spirit walk in our midst, we must be aware that things shall be different- because the Spirit’s gifts may not be in accord with our human passions (Gal 5:17). And this is something we realize all too easily- as most of us suffer from the youth disease of “The Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak”.
Turn the golden pages of the New Testament and you’ll rightly recognize that the Spirit is a Helper, most mysterious indeed (John 14:15-16), the revealer of the Truth (John 14:17), the ultimate promise of Christ (Ephesians 1:14) and the Director of our lives (Gal 5:16). Continue flipping and you’ll discern that we’re expected to have a gentle and quiet spirit (1 Peter 3:4), a steadfast spirit (Psalm 51:10) and perhaps a Mary spirit rather than a Martha one.
God is spirit and he dwells in us as one- so let us accept this blessing and make His home in our hearts. The Spirit lets us be the host for a change so let us start living in the Spirit!
“The helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and make you remember all that I have told you”. –John 14:26