Who is the Holy Spirit?
Just like a soul enlivens a body, the Holy Spirit unites and animates all the members of the Church and the Holy Spirit makes us alive in Christ.
Edmund: As a kid, I used to throw these rings in the deep end of the pool and I’d dive down super deep to try to get those rings. I’d hold my breath until I felt like my chest might explode, then I’d grab a ring, and kick back up to the surface. I’ve never felt as grateful for air as that moment when my head splashed out of the water and I took a big gasp of air.
Emily: I don’t think about my breath that often, but you’re right that we can’t survive long without it.
Edmund: And just as our lungs breathe air, our soul breathes God. And we need this breath of God to live our life as Christians.
Emily: What is this breath of God?
Edmund: The Holy Spirit, who is the third person of the Trinity. In the Hebrew scriptures the word used is “Ruah” and it means spirit, or breath.
Emily: So I remember in scripture the Holy Spirit being referred to as a lot of different things.
Edmund: Yes, and each one helps us understand the Holy Spirit’s mission. The Holy Spirit is referred to as water, fire, anointing, cloud and light, a seal, and a dove. Jesus says that the Holy Spirit will be a paraclete, meaning an advocate and counselor for us.
Emily: So is this “Ruah”, the Holy Spirit, that important for us?
Edmund: In Acts 19 St. Paul visits a group of Christians in Ephesus. He must have noticed something was off because he asks them: “Did you receive the Holy Spirit?” It turns out for some reason they had not been given the Holy Spirit. What was it that Paul saw in them? They didn’t have the Holy Spirit, and it was evident in the way that they were living that they needed this Holy Spirit to have a life in Christ.
Emily: So Paul thought that they needed the Spirit? But I thought the Christian life was about living in a relationship with Jesus?
Edmund: Before Jesus ascended to heaven, he told the Apostles “It is better that I go” so that Jesus and the Father could send the Holy Spirit. Now imagine that. The Holy Spirit’s presence in us is better than Jesus’ visible presence while he was on earth. And that’s because the Holy Spirit can dwell in us. And the three persons of the Holy Trinity are God. So God is able to dwell in us through the Holy Spirit. Jesus is able to have a closer relationship with us through this dwelling of the Holy Spirit, Jesus’ spirit in us.
Emily: So I understand God the Father, and God the Son, but the idea of a third “spirit” was always kinda vague to me. Like is he a force, or a dove, or just a feeling Jesus gives us?
Edmund: The Holy Spirit is not an impersonal force, or just a power. The Holy Spirit is the third PERSON of the Trinity. In the same way the Father and the Son are persons. In the Trinity, the Father so eternally, infinitely, and completely loves the Son, and the Son so eternally, infinitely, and completely loves the Father, that this love contains and has everything that the Father and Son have. So this love between the Father and the Son is manifested as a third person, who is fully God.
Emily: But how does this third person change things for us as Christians?
Edmund: The Catechism says: “To be in touch with Christ, we must first have been touched by the Holy Spirit. He comes to meet us and kindles faith in us. By virtue of our Baptism, the first sacrament of the faith, the Holy Spirit in the Church communicates to us, intimately and personally, the life that originates in the Father and is offered to us in the Son.”
Emily: So the Holy Spirit helps us experience faith, and be in touch with Jesus, and is given to us in baptism.
Edmund: Yes, and this “love” between the Father and the Son, this third person, is the experience of God’s love. The Holy Spirit allows us to experience a new kind of love and life, a kind that we lost through original sin. Through the Holy Spirit we are able to participate and experience the divine life that God originally intended for us. The Holy Spirit dwells in us through Baptism, is sealed in us in Confirmation, and we experience the Holy Spirit poured out on us through all the Sacraments of the Church. Just like a soul enlivens a body, the Holy Spirit unites and animates all the members of the Church and the Holy Spirit makes us alive in Christ.
Emily: This must really allow us to experience life differently. I feel like a life like that could have a huge impact on the world.
Edmund: Yeah, the Holy Spirit is Jesus’ greatest gift. The Holy Spirit strengthens us as Christians and allows us to bear fruit in our lives. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. These operate in our lives and produce the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Scripture says the Holy Spirit produces in us charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, and chastity.
Emily: So why aren’t we all super holy and healing people and not sinners if we have the Holy Spirit?
Edmund: Well the Holy Spirit is in us, but it doesn’t override our free will. Also, we can’t “use” the Holy Spirit. We can’t force God to give us more of the Holy Spirit. We can only allow ourselves to be more and more open and obedient to the guidance of the Holy Spirit in our life.
Emily: Like Mary and the apostles, who in different ways, allowed the Holy Spirit to come upon them and change them in a very radical way and send them to all corners of the world
Edmund: Exactly. Jesus said “I came to set the world on fire, and how I wish it were already ablaze”! Jesus has come to bring the fire of the Holy Spirit to change our lives, the Church, and the world. Because the Holy Spirit is the Lord and giver of life.
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