Fr Rodney Kissinger, S.J.
We saw last time that the operation of the Holy Spirit is not limited to Pentecost but is active from creation and will continue until the end. We saw also that the working of the Holy Spirit is not always spectacular or instantaneous. We saw that Jesus is our model and that Jesus was Spirit-led. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit at the Annunciation and led his entire life under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. As followers of Jesus we should be Spirit-led Christians. Just how does this happen?
The Holy Spirit operates in the Church ordinarily through the Sacraments, initially and fundamentally through the Sacraments of Initiation: Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist. In Baptism we receive the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom and understanding, counsel and fortitude, knowledge and piety and the fear of the Lord. Like giant TV dish antennae these gifts make us more receptive to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit.
Not only the mighty winds of Pentecost but the gentle breezes of these inspirations are constantly blowing. These inspirations, these illuminations of the intellect and impetus of the will, are like rain. The same rain that makes cabbages grow also makes roses grow. These gifts are given primarily for the up building of the individual and secondarily for the up building of the Church. The more there are of healthy cells in the body the healthier the body.
The Holy Spirit operates in a more extraordinary manner in the charismatic gifts of prophecy, healing, interpretation, discernment and tongues. These gifts are primarily for the up building of the Church. Secondarily they also assist the up building of the individual. We are grateful for these charismatic gifts and we should be open and receptive of them. I remember I was invited by a charismatic friend to make what is called the “Baptism of the Spirit” seminar.” It lasts about six weeks. I started it simply out of curiosity to find out what it was all about but was glad I did at the end. It is not another Baptism. It is simply an attempt to stir up the graces and gifts we already have from Baptism.
In regard to these charismatic gifts we should heed the advice of St. Paul, “Do not quench the Spirit, test everything, hold fast to that which is good.” In other words, we should avoid two extremes. First, “Do not quench the Spirit.” That is, do not a priori write it off as many people do. On the other hand, “Test everything, hold fast to that which is good.” That is, do not be gullible. We are all subject to illusions and delusions. And there is another spirit, often disguised as an angel of light, waiting and eager to deceive us.
How do you test them? The first test is to ask yourself what is your attitude in regard to the Church? These gifts are given for the up building of the Church. The Holy Spirit is the principle of life of the Church and as the Spirit of truth it cannot contradict itself. Secondly, “By their fruits you will know them.” Do they help you to grow in the fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, peace, joy, patience and self control? Thirdly are you growing in humility and simplicity? Mary was the greatest charismatic; she was the very spouse of the Holy Spirit, the model of humility and simplicity.
St. Paul mentions all of these gifts in his first letter to the Corinthians. (1Cor.12,13.) It will be well to read these two chapters today. And then he says, “But I will show you a still more excellent way…the greatest of these is love.” This reminds us of St. Teresa, the Little Flower. She wanted to do great things for God, to be a martyr. She was reading this Epistle and found she didn’t have any of these gifts and finally at the end she read, “But I will show you a still more excellent way…the greatest of these is love.” Here she found what she was looking for. Here was something she could do, she could love and she did and she still does. The Holy Spirit gives us two things: an intimate relationship with Jesus and the power to witness to Jesus.
What we have been talking about is simply what we mean by the spiritual life. The spiritual life means the life of the Spirit in us; it means that we are Spirit-led just as Jesus was. St. Paul tells us that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and that no one can say Jesus is Lord without the Holy Spirit and when we cannot pray the Holy Spirit prays in us and for us. Isn’t it amazing that we can talk so often about spirituality and the spiritual life and forget all about the Holy Spirit?
At the opening of the Second Vatican Council Pope John XXIII said that the Church is always in need of reformation and he prayed for a new Pentecost. Since then the Church has been experiencing the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit in a new and exciting way. We are realizing more and more that the experience of love, joy, peace and the power of the Holy Spirit is not the hallmark of the mystic but the birthright of the baptized.
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