The final night of Fr. Cedric Pisegna's Parish Mission was on the Person of Holy Spirit. May all of us ask Holy Spirit daily, "Come Holy Spirit!" to guide us with His wisdom, to assist us as our Advocate, and to stir us with fire of love for God and neighbor. -Fr. Paul Yi
Glorious Holy Spirit
By Fr. Cedric Pisegna
Therefore I prayed and understanding was given me; I pleaded and the Spirit of Wisdom came to me. I preferred her to scepters and thrones, and I accounted wealth as nothing in comparison with her. Neither did I liken to her any priceless gem, because all gold is but a little sand in her sight, and silver will be accounted as mire before her. I loved her more than health and beauty, and I chose to have her rather than light, because her radiance never ceases. (Wisdom 7:7-10)
I’d like to ask you a straightforward question, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed in Jesus?” It is amazing to me that when the early church began there were actually communities, such as Ephesus, that didn’t know the Holy Spirit.
One problem in the Church today is not that people don’t know that there is a Holy Spirit—they do. The problem is that many do not know the Holy Spirit in a life-changing, intimate, personal way.
A number of years ago a movie came out that broke all the box office records of the time. It was called Star Wars. It became a trilogy with the succeeding episodes The Empire Strikes Back and The Return of the Jedi. It was so successful that the trilogy was re-released in theaters some time ago. What made Star Wars and the other movies of the trilogy so successful? Certainly the sounds and sights and script were excellent. In addition, the theme was a familiar one: the struggle between good and evil. If you remember, the story was about a young man, Luke Skywalker, who wanted to become a Jedi knight. In order to do this, he had to pass many tests and eventually fight with Darth Vader. Darth Vader represented the evil in his life and Luke’s dark side (his fears and passions). Luke was able to conquer by tapping into the “force” within him. The force was that which created the universe and held it together. It was positive and powerful. Without it Luke was powerless. With the force he had unlimited potential.
A popular phrase that came out of that movie was, “The force be with you!” Whoever wrote that must have been Catholic because over and over again at Mass priests proclaim, “The Lord be with you!” Some would reduce the Holy Spirit to a force. Certainly the Holy Spirit is powerful. In fact, biblically, the ancient concept of “ruah” or spirit was seen primarily as a “charismatic breath of wind” that somehow signaled the presence of the divine.
That the Holy Spirit is a person is shown throughout the New Testament, where the Spirit is described as having characteristics very similar to ours. We are persons, after all, made in the image of God. For example, God’s Spirit “speaks” to the church. He “intercedes” and “prays” for us. He “testifies” to the truth, “witnesses” to who Jesus is, and “leads” us in the way we should go. The Holy Spirit “appoints,” “commands,” and “guides.” Also, God’s Spirit can be lied to. Finally he can be insulted and blasphemed, and by our words and sinful inclinations, we can “grieve” the Holy Spirit. These are not the characteristics of a force! The Holy Spirit is alive! He is a living person with a unique personality. God’s Spirit is the third person in the Trinity (Father, Son and Spirit).
The Holy Spirit is a person, but not just any person. He is God, Lord of life, author of all. All that God is, so is the Spirit. The Spirit is no angel or mystical being that the new age movement drummed up, floating around somewhere. God’s Spirit is eternal, all-powerful, creator, everywhere present, all-knowing and Lord. One of the most inspiring truths about the Holy Spirit is that he is not only God, but also the gift of God to us!
When we talk about who the Holy Spirit is, we must talk about God’s activity in our lives and ability to affect our lives. That’s where the rubber meets the road. I was raised in the Catholic Church in Springfield, Massachusetts where I grew up. I was baptized as an infant, and confirmed as an eighth grader. These sacraments were intended to bring me into an encounter with the Spirit of God. As much as I prayed and thought I believed, I must say, there was little or no encounter. For me, God was out there somewhere and I believed he existed, but I never really knew him. During my high school, teenaged years I fell away from the Church. I prayed once in a while, but nothing with any depth. I was searching for life, but looking in wrong places. I looked to the world to satisfy my inner cravings. It did temporarily, but I had great hunger and kept searching.
Do you feel the tug, the pull, the bobbing, the hunger, the thirst, the craving, the desire for something more? That’s first of all how you know that there is the Holy Spirit, not “up there” but in your heart. Desire, craving, hunger and thirst for spiritual grace and growth and an encounter with God are classic signs of the Spirit’s presence. How do you know you have the Holy Spirit? You want more. You aren’t satisfied. Get in touch with your hunger and your thirst right now. These feelings are a gift. Without physical hunger we wouldn’t know that the body needs nutrients and that we should eat. Without spiritual thirst, we wouldn’t know that we need God and the blessings he brings.
LIVE BY GRACE
I’ve noticed also that God’s grace helps me to take responsibility for all my life. If I don’t do my laundry, it won’t get done. If I don’t empty the basket and clean the dishes, they won’t get done. If I don’t make my bed and vacuum my room, then I will have to live with dust balls. When I put things off, they are always waiting for me later, reminding me of my laziness. Because of the Spirit’s anointing, I have increasingly become a NOW person. Whenever possible, I do it now. If I don’t, then work will just mount up and I will have to do it later (or forget that I was supposed to do it!)
People complain that their life feels out of control. One way to gain some sense of control in your life is to take responsibility for your life and get things done. This is good, solid, basic wisdom. Remember, the Holy Spirit is the spirit of wisdom and common sense who wants us to stay on top of our lives and not always live under pressure of delay and sloppiness. It is foolishness to procrastinate and wisdom to prepare well.
Morning by morning the Lord will waken your ear to listen like a disciple. Crave the Spirit’s anointing, call out for grace, trust that you are anointed and God will help you in every aspect of your living. The power and creativity of the living God lies within you! God is waiting for you to trust him so he can help you every day. The anointing abides in you. Abide (live and be rooted) in the anointing! (1 Jn. 2:27)
-Fr. Cedric Pisegna, Glorious Holy Spirit