Comfort My People — Come, Holy Spirit

Archbishop Shelton J. Fabre

Each year on Pentecost Sunday, we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit into the life of the Church. We hear in the Pentecost gospel that the Spirit manifested Himself to the apostles in the upper room and moved them to preach the Gospel of Jesus to every corner of the earth. Of all the persons of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit may seem the most difficult for us to relate to or understand. To understand God the Son is easy enough — Jesus Christ was a man who lived and taught. He concretely existed, and we can read His words. God the Father, too, speaks in the Scriptures. The image of a father is one that helps us to relate to that Person of the Trinity.

But God the Holy Spirit —how I am to understand this third person of the Trinity? When we see images of the Trinity, we most often see the Three Persons depicted as an older man, a younger man, and a dove. How are we supposed to relate to a dove? How do we relate to fire or wind, other images of the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit can seem ambiguous, a nameless force rather than a true Person to whom we can relate. So, who is the Holy Spirit, and what does He do in our lives?

I invite you to imagine yourself as one of the apostles in the upper room on that Pentecost Day. You have spent three years of your life living with Jesus, whom you believe to be the Messiah sent to save the world. You watched Him die and then experienced His Resurrection. He has given you His final command to proclaim the Gospel to all people and to baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Then He ascends, and He is gone. He has given you a worldwide mission and has seemingly left you to handle it. The apostles were untrained men, with little to no theological training, no infrastructure, no money or resources, no plan, and no experience or influence, who lived in a city that was hostile to them. Their situation seems bleak, and it makes sense why they stayed together in one place after Jesus left. Where would they even start? It seems like an impossibly hopeless task had been entrusted to them.

That situation, where it seems like there is no way forward, no chance of success and seemingly hopeless, is the situation that best reveals to us the person of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, it is fitting that the Holy Spirit appears to the apostles in that context. The Holy Spirit is the living presence of God within us, the love of God that dwells within our hearts, the one who helps us to believe. The Holy Spirit inspires belief, not just with empty words, but with a firm conviction that Jesus Christ is Lord, the unconquerable one, who brings victory even from death.

The Holy Spirit enabled the apostles to believe that against all odds and contrary to all human calculations, the message of Jesus Christ could transform the world, and that this transformation is the only thing that matters. As they went out and proclaimed the Gospel of Jesus, they saw the Holy Spirit’s power manifested. They changed the course of human history by the Holy Spirit working through them. What is striking in the narrative of the Acts of the Apostles is that the Apostles did not do anything remarkable or revolutionary. They proclaimed the Gospel that Jesus died and rose from the dead and offers new life to every person. That message, so seemingly simple on the surface, proves to be transformative. Thousands upon thousands join the Church because of that message.

What the Holy Spirit did for the apostles and for those who heard them, the Holy Spirit also does for us. It is by the Holy Spirit that we know that Jesus is Lord, as St. Paul writes. It is by the Spirit that we know that God is our Father and that Jesus died for us. It is through the Holy Spirit that we experience the life-changing nature of this reality.

Only the Holy Spirit can make this reality take root in our hearts and live it in a transformative way. The moments when I am aware of God’s presence and love for me, in particular, when I believe beyond any doubt that my life is safe in His hands, when I trust that He will be with me through every trial, this is what the Holy Spirit does for each of us.

How did the apostles receive that grace? They simply prayed together and engaged in faith actions rooted in and guided by the Holy Spirit. That is it. If we ask, the Holy Spirit comes. If we open our hearts in response to the Spirit’s knocking, He enters. If I am open to it, if I am looking, I will know the presence of the Holy Spirit within me and see the Spirit working in all that I do in faith. God leaves no space empty that we offer to Him.

Today, and every day, simply ask the Holy Spirit to be present to you in faith — guiding you, strengthening you, comforting you. As you persevere in that, as you choose it daily, watch what happens. You will experience Pentecost, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, every day of your life.

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