Every year, we celebrate the feast of the Holy Spirit, otherwise known as Pentecost. Have you ever tried to explain the Holy Spirit to a friend? Was it an easy task? My guess is that your answer here is no, but not to worry.
Being the least spoken of among the three persons of the Blessed Trinity, particularly in the Bible, many Christians, including Catholics, know so little about the Holy Spirit and are not well equipped to leverage the power He brings into Christianity.
Here are pointers about the Holy Spirit that may help you the next time you try to explain the Holy Spirit or to grow in relationship with Him. Keep in mind that these do not exhaust all the qualities of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, the Holy Spirit remains a mystery to us at many levels. However, thanks to Scriptures and the Church, we know enough about Him to love and adore Him as God.
1. The Holy Spirit is a person
The Holy Spirit has been associated with various things such as a fire, a whirlwind, a feeling, a dove, and is oftentimes, wrongly attributed with these forms. However, we see from the gospel of John 14:26 that the Holy Spirit is not just a person, but also a masculine one. The keywords here are “the counsellor” and “he”. Also, the acts of teaching and reminding as described here is something that can only be achieved by a person and not a “thing”.
Being a person, therefore, the Holy Spirit is capable of feelings and other human qualities. In Isaiah 63:10, we see the Holy Spirit is grieved, blasphemed in Matt. 12:31, opposed in Acts 7:51, and outraged in Hebrews 10:29. All these are feelings that only a person is capable of possessing, and as such, the Holy Spirit cannot be mistaken for a thing as we have seen from the Bible.
Furthermore, the Holy Spirit instructs (Nehemiah 9:20), testifies (John 15:26), speaks or communicates (Acts 13:2), intercedes for us (Romans 8:26-27), loves (Romans 15:30), and wills (1 Cor. 12:11). These are attributes that further cement the truth of the Holy Spirit being a person and not some object or feeling like some claim.
Jesus Christ also referred to the Holy Spirit as a person in other verses such as in John 14:16-17, John 15:26-27, and John 16:7-15. In these statements, He continuously refers to the Holy Spirit as “He” and uses various actions such as “being”, “speaking”, “bearing witness”, etc, to further stamp the truth of the Holy Spirit being a person.
Consequently, you are expected to have a relationship with him, just like every other person around you. Make Him your friend, and hold Him very close to your heart. He is not just “a force” or “a power” you call upon at specific times, make Him part of your life, and the most important one at that. Again, being your friend, you wouldn’t want to hurt His feelings, just like you don’t want to hurt the feelings of your other human friends.
Also, seek to know Him more as a friend and to have a deeper relationship with him, just like you would do for someone special to you. Spend time with Him in quiet time. As your friend, He also seeks to have a relationship with you and a very close one at that.
2. The Holy Spirit is God
This is the focal point of the mystery of the Holy Trinity: the mystery of the three distinct persons in one Godhead – God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This mystery further says that these three persons are equal in substance and divinity (CCC 245). We see in this mystery that each of the three divine persons refers to the same God, “whole and entire”, not three Gods nor three divine persons sharing one divinity among themselves (CCC 253).
Several scriptural texts also back up this central Christian mystery. In Genesis 1:26, the Bible hints about the Trinity when it says, “let us make man in our image and likeness”. This statement no doubt indicates the presence of more than one person in the scene. First, the use of “us” and “our”, then the fact that one person cannot be having a conversation with Himself using the said words.
Remember too that God is Love (1 John 4:7-8), and since love in a human family is an action between two persons which can give rise to a third person, the love of God is at the very least, like marriage. The love between the Father and the Son which gives rise to a third person: the Holy Spirit, who in turn proceeds from the former two. Note however, that marriage is an analogy of God and not the other way around because God came first. Therefore, do not take the analogy of marriage too far in understanding the Trinity – a mystery that goes well beyond our human reasoning and which is a more perfect love than we can imagine.
Additionally, In John 16:13, Jesus Christ says to His disciples that the Holy Spirit will “lead you to all truths”. This provides a hint about the divinity of the Holy Spirit. As you know, God alone is omniscient, and 1 Cor. 2:11 tells us that “only God’s Spirit knows about Him”. Therefore, the fact that the Holy Spirit can “lead to all truths” shows in fact that He knows all truths, a quality possessed by God alone. This then proves the fact that the Holy Spirit is indeed God.
Also, in Hebrews 3:7-10 and Hebrews 10:15-17, we see the Holy Spirit used synonymously with God and referred to as “Lord”. Therefore, in your relationship with the Holy Spirit, bear it in mind also that you are dealing with and interacting with God in the fullness of His divinity.
3. There is no Christianity without the Holy Spirit
The event of the Holy Spirit resting on the heads of the apostles in the upper room after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ gave birth to the Church we know today. None of the acts of the apostles would have been possible without the power of the Holy Spirit working in them. Little wonder they were asked to wait in Jerusalem until the coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts1:4-5)
In Acts 1:8, Jesus Christ said to His apostles, “the Holy Spirit will come upon you, and you shall receive power…” It is with this power that they were able to carry out various works, live the Christian life, and spread the gospel of Christ even amid great persecutions. Jesus Christ knew that the apostles couldn’t do anything without the Holy Spirit, which was why He prayed for the Holy Spirit to live in them when He was about to depart this world (John 14:16).
Going further, in Acts 2:14-40, Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, received the boldness to proclaim the gospel of Christ to men who had come to celebrate the Passover feast in Jerusalem, and three thousand men were converted instantly. Several other manifestations of God in the New Testament show the partakers being filled with the Holy Spirit.
Some examples of such manifestations are, John the Baptist in his mother’s womb (Luke 1:15), Zechariah, the father of John when he prophesied in the temple (Luke 1:67), Stephen when he saw the glory of God during his stoning (Acts 7:55-56), our Mother Mary when she was conceived of our Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 1:29-35), etc. The Old Testament is not left out here, as we see the role of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the men and women (Nehemiah 9:20, Job 32:8, Psalm 143:10, etc.)
The early Christians were also able to live in communion by the power of the Holy Spirit who they received upon being baptized after accepting the gospel of Christ (Acts 2:38, 44-46). Therefore, if the apostles and even Jesus Christ who was filled with the Holy Spirit while on earth couldn’t do without the Holy Spirit, that tells you that the Holy Spirit is needed in your Christian walk if you are to do it correctly.
The Holy Spirit performs a host of functions in your life as a believer. He counsels, comforts, teaches, instructs, rebukes, intercedes, advocates, convicts, etc. He is also responsible for the transformation of a Christian’s life through His fruits and gifts. He is your great companion in life and is indeed the driving force behind a Christian life well-lived (Zechariah 4:6).
Having established the importance of the Holy Spirit to live the Christian life, ask God in prayers to fill you with the Holy Spirit, acknowledge His importance in your life, and ask Him to help you and empower you to live a good Christian life. Once again, seek a relationship with Him and let Him dwell in you, so that He may transform you just like He did to the apostles and early Christians
Also, endeavour to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation if you have not yet received it, to become a mature Christian by the stirring of the Holy Spirit deposited in you at Baptism, and to become a soldier of Christ for the evangelization of the world around you (CCC 1302, CCC 1303)
4. The Holy Spirit is ever-present
Many Christians, including Catholics too, see the Holy Spirit as a force that is called upon only when prayers are about to be said or maybe during a “miracle service”. These persons wrongly interpret the Holy Spirit as the manifestations that are brought about by the same Holy Spirit. As a result, these sets of persons are not able to benefit fully from this great gift of God to man.
In Matt. 28:20, Jesus Christ promises His disciples to be with them till the end of time. Now, as you know, shortly after this promise, Jesus Christ ascended into heaven, leaving the apostles behind. Therefore, His way of being with them “till the end of time” was through the Holy Spirit who He had promised to send them earlier to dwell in them. Furthermore, John 14:16 declares more expressly that the Holy Spirit is with us till the end of time.
Holding on to this, we are therefore assured of the presence of Jesus Christ who is one with the Father and the Holy Spirit at all times in our lives. He is always there with you, at every step of the journey, acting as a guide and companion throughout the journey of life. He is practically the best friend, guardian, and teacher you can ever have.
So, feel free to call out to Him at any time, anywhere. In times of pain or joy, in trouble or at peace, in lack or plenty, at work or home, at school or the office, at the airport or in the market, wherever you are. He is ever-present, whether you’re praying or not, He’s right there living this life with you.
5. God moves by the action of the Holy Spirit
Jesus Christ responded to the apostles’ question about the restoration of the kingdom of Israel with the promise of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8). Jesus knew that their interest was not just in the restoration of Israel, but also in the freedom from the Roman oppression that came with such restoration. Thus, Jesus showed His disciples, a way that overrides every fear and one which would also empower time. This way was the reception of, and life in, the Holy Spirit.
Jesus lived an exemplary life in the Holy Spirit. We read in Acts 10:38 that “Jesus Christ was anointed with the Holy Spirit and with power, and He went about doing good”. The Holy Spirit was present all through the earthly ministry of Jesus, beginning from His conception (Luke 1:35) to His baptism at the Jordan river (Matt. 3:16), to being led to the wilderness where He was tempted by the devil (Matt. 4:1), even up till His death. The apostles were also able to do the works they did by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit (Mark 16:15-18).
In addition, Jesus began His earthly ministry in the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:14) and was filled with the same Spirit enabling Him to perform the many great works. Furthermore, in Rom. 8:11, we see that Jesus Christ was raised to life by the power of the Holy Spirit.
We see also in the Old Testament the demonstration of God’s power by the action of the Holy Spirit (Zechariah 4:1-8, Micah 3:8, Judges 14:6, Judges 6:34, etc.), further demonstrating that the manifestations and power of God are brought about by the working of the Holy Spirit. While transformation is brought about through the fruits of the Spirit, the demonstration of God’s power is usually a function of the manifestations of the Holy Spirit who is also referred to as “the finger of God”.
Come O Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of the faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And you will renew the face of the earth.
O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.
Mary, Spouse of the Holy Spirit, pray for us.