This homily has been posted with the direct and generous permission of the late Fr. Thomas Harding, Th.D. (1918-2005).
Because 1998 was the year of the Holy Spirit it is important that we emphasize the role of the Holy Spirit in the PLAN OF GOD and in this period of the history of the Church from the First Pentecost until the end of time and for all eternity.
In the Apostles’ Creed we say: “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. Amen.”
In the Nicene Creed we say: “We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son, He is worshipped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets. We believe in One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.”
The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament
There are Biblical texts dealing with the Spirit of God from the Book of Genesis in the Old Testament to the Book of Revelation in the New Testament. We will mention a few of the familiar ones.
In Genesis 1:1-2a:4a we read “In the beginning, God created heaven and earth and the earth was void and empty and darkness was on the face of the deep and the Spirit of God moved over the waters. Then God said ‘Let there be light’, and there was light God saw how good the light was.” This is actually the second account of creation by the Priestly author of a later date.
The first account by the author known as YAHWIST because he referred to God as YAHWEH is in Genesis 2:4-7 where we read: “At the time when God made the earth and the heavens while as yet there was no field shrub on the earth and no grass of the field had sprouted, for the Lord God had sent no rain upon the earth and there was no man to till the soil but a stream was welling up out of the earth and was watering all the suiface of the ground The Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life and so man became a living being.”
The YAHWIST has no interest in the formation of cosmic light or the sun, moon and stars as Father George Montague says in his book entitled The Holy Spirit: Growth of a Biblical Tradition, because his interest is restricted to the earth and the things that immediately touch human life: water, earth, the sown land, animals, woman. His interest is centred in man who is ADAM for the ADAMAH, earthman from the earth.
Other popular texts from the Old Testament referring to the Holy Spirit or adaptable to His action are as follows:
In Isaiah 11:2-3. we read: “The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him; a Spirit of wisdom and understanding, a Spirit of counsel and strength. a Spirit of knowledge and of fear of the Lord and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord.” There is no explicit mention of piety in this text but it may be included in the opening words of the quotation. At any rate these Isaiah gifts are the general characteristics of the Messiah who is to come and, we hope. of his future followers who receive the Holy Spirit and His gifts in Baptism and Confirmation.
In Jeremiah 31:31-33, we read: “I will make a new covenant… I will put my law within them and I will write it upon their hearts.”
In the prophet Ezekiel 36:26, we read, “I will give you a new heart and place a new Spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you natural hearts.”
In the prophet Joel 3:1-2, we read: “I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh. Your sons and daughters shall prophesy. Your old men will dream dreams, your young men shall see visions. Even upon the servants and handmaids, I will pour out my Spirit.”
As we say in the Nicene Creed: “He” that is, “the Holy Spirit spoke through the prophets.” He truly spoke through all the prophets of the Old Testament and through Jesus Christ, the Priest, Prophet and King of the New Testament!
The Holy Spirit by His Inspiration is the Principal Author of the books of both Testaments. And yet it is difficult to find a direct quotation from the Holy Spirit Himself in the Scriptures. There are many indications of the Holy Spirit speaking in the New Testament:
MATTHEW 10:19-21 “When they hand you over, do not worry about what you will say or how you will say it. When the hour comes you will be given what you are to say. You yourselves will not be the speakers; the Spirit of your Father will be speaking in you..” This is commonly referred to as “the Dabitur Vobis” which translated into English means: “It will be given to you.”
Another oft-quoted text in this regard is JOHN 3-8: “The wind blows where it will you hear the sound it makes but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone begotten by the Spirit.”
The text of Paul to the Romans 8:26-27 is very comforting for all of us: “The Spirit too helps us in our weakness, for we do not know how to pray as we ought; but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in speech. He who searches hearts knows what the Spirit means, for the Spirit intercedes for the saints as God Himself wills.” Again St. Paul says in I Corinthians 12:3 just before he lists the charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit: “And no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Spirit.” So when you pray, be open to the Holy Spirit and He will take over. Invite Him to take over and your prayer life will improve immensely.
Thus the Holy Spirit is constantly in communication with the Church and with her members from within. We are Temples of the Holy Spirit and since He is dwelling within us, we receive His messages directly in our minds and hearts and it is our obligation to accept them and act upon them.
The Holy Spirit in The New Testament
In his constitution on Confirmation in 1971, Pope Paul VI said the New Testament shows how the Holy Spirit assisted Jesus Christ throughout His whole Messianic Mission:
1) At the Annunciation the Angel Gabriel said to Mary: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and that which you conceive will be called the Son of God.” Luke 1:35
2) On receiving the Baptism of John the Baptist, St. John the Evangelist said: “I beheld the Holy Spirit descending upon Him like a dove and it stayed upon Him!” John 1:32
3) After His Baptism, St. Mark said: “He was led by the Spirit into the desert and He was in the desertforforty days and forty nights, being tempted the while by Satan; and He was with the wild beasts and the angels came and ministered to Him.” Mark 1:12-13
4) Teaching the people of Nazareth, He showed by what he said that the words of Isaiah referred to Himself: “the Spirit of the Lord is upon me.” Luke 4: 17-21
5) He later promised before He suffered that “the Holy Spirit would help them to bear fearless witness to their faith before persecutors.” Luke 12:12
6) The night before He died, He assured His Apostles that “He would send the Spirit of Truth upon them from the Father.” John 15:26
7) After His Resurrection, He promised the coming descent of the Holy Spirit: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes down upon you and you Will be my witness in Jerusalem in all Judea and in Samaria and even to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8. He had told them: “not to depart from Jerusalem but to wait for the promise of the Father.” Acts 1:4
8 ) After praying for nine days in the upper room: “the Apostles and the disciples with Mary, the mother of Jesus and the women and the brothers were ready to receive the Spirit ” Acts 1:13-14
9) On the tenth day it is reported: “When the day of Pentecost came, all the believers were gathered together in one place. Suddenly, there was a noise from the sky which sounded like a strong wind blowing and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then they saw what looked like tongues of fire which spread out and touched each person there. They were all filled with the Iioij’ Spirit and began to talk in other languages as the Holy Spirit enable them to speak.” Acts 2:1-4
10) The Church was born and the believers began to preach the Good News: “There were Jews living in Jerusalem, religious people who had come from every country in the world. When they heard this noise, a large crowd gathered. They were all excited because they heard the believers talking in their own languages. In amazement and wonder they exclaimed: “These people who are talking like this are Galileans! How is it then, that all of us hear them speaking in our own native languages? We are from Parthia, Media and Elam from Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia; from Pontus and Asis, from Phrygia and Pamphylia, from Egypt and the regions of Libya near Cyrene. Some of us are from Rome, but Jews and Gentiles converted to Judaism and some of us are from Crete and Arabia -yet all of us hear them speaking in our own languages about the great things God has done.“ Acts 2:5-11
Titles of the Holy Spirit
1) Advocate: “These things I have spoken to you while yet dwelling with you. But the Advocate, whom the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things and will bring to mind whatever I have said to you.” John 14:26 Advocate means lawyer, one who pleads our case.
2) Paraclete: “But I speak the truth to you; it is expedient for you that I depart For if I do not go, the Paraclete will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.” John 16:7-8 Paraclete means “Comforter”, one who gives strength.
3) The Spirit of Truth: “But when the Advocate has come, the Spirit of Truth who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness concerning me.” John 15:26
4) The Love of God Personified: “And hope does not disappoint because the Love of God is poured forth in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:5
Father Bernard J. F. Lonergan, S.J., the great Canadian Theologian uses this text to contrast the Apostles’ love of God before and after the coming of the Holy Spirit on the First Pentecost. For example, Peter loved the Lord with a human love on the first Good Friday and he denied Him three times during the Passion. However, after the descent of the Holy Spirit, he loved the Lord with the love of God, or with divine love and thus he was able to face persecution and he even asked that he be crucified upside down because he was unworthy to die like the Lord.
There are other titles for the Holy Spirit such as: Comforter, Sanctifier, the promised One of the Father, and the Inner Teacher, the Spirit of the Father and the Spirit of the Son.
Symbols of the Holy Spirit
1) A Dove: The dove has long been a sign of peace, gentleness and hope. “And the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form, like a dove. A voice came from Heaven: ‘You are my Son, the Beloved with whom I am well pleased” Luke 3:22
2) Wind: The word SPIRIT is etymologically from the word BREATH or WIND. Invisible and formless, the wind can caress us or overwhelm us with its power. “The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John 3:8
“And when the days of Pentecost were drawing to a close, they were altogether in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a mighty wind blowing and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.” Acts 2:1-2
3) Fire: Fire consumes and purifies, warms us and lights our path. “Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them and a tongue settled upon each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit.” Acts, 2:3-4
4) Water: Water cleanses and refreshes, yet its power can carve a mountainside. “Those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty; but the water that I will give shall become a fountain of water springing up unto life everlasting.” John 4:13-15
“On the last and most important day of the festival Jesus stood up and said in a loud voice, ‘Whoever is thirsty should come to me and drink As the scripture says, ‘Whoever believes in me, streams of life-giving water will pour out from his heart Jesus said this about the Spirit, which those who believed in him were going to receive. At that time the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not been raised to glory. John 7:37-39
This text is used to illustrate the growth in the Spirit in those who are living The life in the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit and the Church
God the Father’s plan was to raise all the members of the human race to a participation of the divine life. When Adam sinned, He did not abandon human beings but sent His son Jesus Christ into the world as the Saviour and Redeemer. Christ inaugurated the Church, the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. He is the HEAD OF THE CHURCH.
When the work of redemption was completed, God the Father and God the Son sent God the Holy Spirit into the world that He might continually sanctify the Church and guide her until the end of time to preserve her from error and all dangers. The Holy Spirit, who is the Soul and the Life of the Church, gives her infallibility and indefectibility. He makes sure that the Church is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic for all time to come.
Moreover, each member of the Church receives the Holy Spirit in the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation along with His Gifts and Fruits and all the other wonderful effects of these sacraments. (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Vatican II, Numbers 2-8 )
This homily is not to be copied, duplicated, modified nor distributed in any way
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