…He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” - Jn 20:22
Jesus’ breath reminds us of the ‘ruah’ of God, when God “…blew into [Adam’s] nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being.” (Gen 2:7) The word ‘ruah’ in Hebrew also means ‘spirit’. Jesus breathed His Spirit into the apostles, giving them the power to forgive sins. (v.23) With this breath He was also preparing them for the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. In the Acts of the Apostles we read, “...tongues as of fire…parted and came to rest on each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.” (Acts 2:3-4)
See how evangelical the Holy Spirit is. The presence of the Holy Spirit brings an immediate sharing of the experience. Remember how Elizabeth gushed with honor for Our Lady and Our Lord when John “leaped in her womb” at the approaching presence of Jesus. The Scripture says that Elizabeth was “filled with the Holy Spirit.” This experience is not something one can contain. The abundance of God overflows the mind and heart of us mere creatures. This overflow is not wasted however; it overflows in the direction of other people. Our second reading from Corinthians speaks of the “spiritual gifts” of the Holy Spirit, which are given to each individual “for some benefit”.
Most of us have not experienced this dramatic kind of infilling of the Holy Spirit that occurred at Pentecost. In the history of the Church it’s actually somewhat rare, but not unheard of. In fact, the saints often had extraordinary charismatic gifts of healing, prophecy, and knowledge. More recently we have a charismatic movement in the Church that began in 1967 when 25 faculty and students at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh held a weekend retreat. They experienced similar phenomena as the disciples in the upper room. It soon spread to Notre Dame and Michigan State campuses. (Read more at http://www.ccr.org.uk/duquesne.htm)
While we might pray to have such an experience, the normal route for Catholics is faithful reception of the sacraments during our lives along with obeying our consciences. If our consciences are properly formed they will prompt us to seek the Holy Spirit who leads us “into all truth”. We also should seek to receive and use those charismatic gifts that most help the Body of Christ. If you are like me, you might not feel too excited about a gift that might seem a little odd to others. But who are we to refuse to be looked at as a “fool for Christ”? We should be open to whatever God desires, even these extraordinary gifts mentioned in the Bible.
St. Paul puts all this in perspective for us under the form of the theological virtue of love. While giving important guidance for maintaining unity and order in the community (1 Cor 12 and 14) he places the heart of the Gospel message in Chapter 13. Here Paul writes, “If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.” He places love above all charismatic gifts. As St. Ambrose would teach, ”Charity is the form of all the virtues.” (Summa II, II, q.23) St. Thomas Aquinas expounds on the meaning of this truth:
In morals the form of an act is taken chiefly from the end. The reason of this is that the principal of moral acts is the will, whose object and form, so to speak, are the end. Now the form of an act always follows from a form of the agent. Consequently, in morals, that which gives an act its order to the end, must needs give the act its form. Now it is evident, in accordance with what has been said (7), that it is charity which directs the acts of all other virtues to the last end, and which, consequently, also gives the form to all other acts of virtue: and it is precisely in this sense that charity is called the form of the virtues, for these are called virtues in relation to ‘informed’ acts. (Summa II, II, 23)
That’s easy for him to say! As I understand it, this means that love (that is, God), is the end, or goal, or true purpose for our existence. Jesus said that he is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. All our actions should direct us toward this end. Otherwise, where are our actions taking us? If I plan a trip to Spokane, driving to Portland is delaying that end. The straightest, quickest route is due east. We should head east as well, directing our thoughts to the Risen Lord, now Ascended into heaven, ready to direct all our thoughts, words, and deeds toward the will of our heavenly Father. Our hope to do this lies in God our Savior, “…and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” (Rom 5:5)
- ▼ June (5)