A neighbor of mine this past week asked me why we Catholics don’t worship the Holy Spirit, why we priests never give a sermon on the Holy Spirit. He said he remembered the end of the Apostles Creed: “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the Communion of Saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.” “But what do we believe about the Holy Spirit?” he asked.
I wanted to say that without the Holy Spirit we would have nothing. I wanted to give him a copy of my brother John’s book called No Spirit, No Church, a phrase borrowed from Cardinal Suenens of Paris. Yes, in sacred scripture and tradition the Holy Spirit holds an· essential place. In the Acts of the Apostles the Holy Spirit is the source of the action 57 times. In St. Paul’s Letters, the Spirit is invoked 157 times. Indeed without the sending of the Spirit from God the Father and God the Son there is no church, no mission, no grace of salvation, no fulfillment of the work of Jesus Christ. As Jesus himself said to his apostles, it is to our great advantage that Jesus and his Father send his Spirit on the church.
In our baptism the Holy Spirit gives us the new life of heavenly grace, intimacy with God, the pledge of eternal life. In our Eucharist it is only by the invocation of the Holy Spirit that our gifts of bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ, the food of everlasting life. Without the gift of the Holy Spirit in Confirmation we would have no power to witness to Jesus and his Gospel. Without the Holy Spirit there would be no forgiveness of sins in Confession. “Receive the Holy Spirit,” said Jesus to the apostles. “Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven.” Without the Holy Spirit there would be only division and confusion in the church, for it is He that binds us together in love. Without the Holy Spirit we would have no understanding of God and the mystery of salvation; for it is He that gives us intelligence about the plan of God. Without the Holy Spirit we would be motionless in our own tracks, for it is He that directs our journey and points us in the right direction. Without the Holy Spirit we would be minced meat for our adversaries, for it is He that defends us from our enemies. Without the Holy Spirit, we could not pray, for it is He who prompts and enables us in prayer. Without the Holy Spirit, we would have no “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control,” for these are the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit, we would not be strengthened in these gifts, for it is He who confirms and seals us in the Sacrament of Anointing. Without the Holy Spirit there is no resurrection from the dead, for as St. Paul wrote: “the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead will also raise our mortal bodies.” We begin and end our life in the anointing of the Holy Spirit. We pass from death to life in the power of the Holy Spirit. We live and breathe each day in the love of the Holy Spirit. As my brother Father John wrote, No Spirit, No Church Or as our Sequence at Mass said: “Where you are not, we have naught, Nothing good in deed or thought.”
Why is it, then, that we do not give proper worship and honor to the Holy Spirit?
Is it not because we don’t read and study our Scripture? There we see Jesus commanding his disciples at his Ascension to pray and wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit. There we hear Jesus say: “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth ... and He will declare to you the things that are to come ... He will receive of what is mine and give it to you.” In the sacred scripture the Holy Spirit reveals to us the things of God and enables us to pray in union with the Saints of God. St. Luke in The Acts of the Apostles reveals the power of the Holy Spirit on the feast of Pentecost, the birthday of the church. Then the apostles “were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.” All who heard the apostles preach in the power of the Holy Spirit that day understood “the mighty acts of God” and received new life in the birth of Baptism.
My friends, it is this same Holy Spirit that God the Father and his Son sends into his church every moment to pour forth God’s love into our hearts and to enable us to minister to each other the mercy, joy and peace of God. Our prayer today and each day is:
“Come Holy Spirit and fill the hearts of the faithful.” Come Holy Spirit, for without you we shiver and shake in trepidation. Come Holy Spirit, for with you we have courage and strength to stand up for the truth of Jesus. Come Holy Spirit, for with you we have “love, joy, peace” and understanding. Come Holy Spirit, for without you there is no Church. Come Holy Spirit, for with you there is “faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
It is the Holy Spirit that binds God the Father to God the Son. It is the Spirit that binds us to the heart of Jesus and to one another. It is the Spirit that distributes the evangelical gifts to the members of the Church. It is the Spirit that points and guides us to eternal life, to God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ. Praise and honor to God the Holy Spirit, the one sent and given to the world for our salvation and for the glory of God.
Alleluia, Alleluia. Amen.