WHY DO WE NEED THE HOLY SPIRIT?
I will start this article with stanza from a poem that worked its way into my heart this morning:
Once my mind by confusion was clouded,
Then by darkness I was shrouded –
Then came to me what I needed most.
The Holy Spirit freely gifting,
Filled my soul, my spirit lifting,
To see Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
Who is the Holy Spirit?
The Holy Spirit is the third Person of the Trinity. All of us who remember our catechism lessons can recite that. The Holy Spirit is Divine and flows from God the Father. The Holy Spirit is the essence of God, and was with Jesus during his human life. The very fullness of the Holy Spirit is the power that resurrected Him from the dead: “If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the One who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through His Spirit that dwells in you” (Romans 8:11-13).
What is so unique about the actions of the Holy Spirit in our lives?
That quotation goes further than Jesus Christ. St. Paul said the Holy Spirit will give life to believers. What does this mean?
Even before Jesus came to the world, we read about the Holy Spirit's presence in the Old Testament, quite literally from the dawn of creation. We read, “And the earth was a formless and desolate emptiness, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters” (Genesis 1:2 NASB). Throughout the Old Testament, we also read about the Holy Spirit moving within prophets and holy ones from the Old Testament (see 2 Chronicles 15:1; 20:14; 24:20; Joel 2:28-29 for examples).
The New Testament is full of the evidence of the Holy Spirit's work. There is, of course, the great day of Pentecost when Jesus fulfilled His promise to send them a Counselor. It was this very Spirit of God who spoke to the people who were seeking the truth about Jesus. In fact, sometimes the Holy Spirit spoke to people who weren't even asking questions!
One of my favorite stories is when the resurrected Jesus knocked Saul off his horse and struck him blind. The Lord asked a man to heal Saul, but the man argued, but finally did what he was told:
So Ananias departed and entered the house, and after laying his hands on him said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road by which you were coming, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately something like fish scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight, and he got up and was baptized. (See Acts 9:3-18)
As we see later, the Holy Spirit revealed the depths and truth about Jesus Christ to Saul, whose name was then changed to Paul. There are countless examples of God changing people's names throughout the Scriptures. It is very clear that after God visited certain people and changed the course of their lives, often their names were changed (Abram to Abraham, Sarai to Sarah, Jacob to Israel, Simon to Peter, Saul to Paul, just for starters). We continue this tradition today by taking a new name at our confirmation.
Since we have the Father and the Son, why do we need the Holy Spirit to fulfill us spiritually?
The Holy Spirit fulfills a unique role to us. When Jesus ascended to heaven, He said that He would not leave us alone; He would send the Comforter, the Paraclete, a Counselor to us to guide us after He left the earth. (John 14:16 and 15:26). The Holy Spirit is the presence of the Divine within us. The Holy Spirit empowered Jesus to fulfill God's will while He was here on earth. It is God's power through the Holy Spirit that made Jesus burst forth from the tomb with new life. This same power is poured out within us in Baptism and Confirmation.
The specific gifts of the Holy Spirit are listed in 1 Corinthians 12:7-11, including gifts of wisdom, prophecy, and healing, among others. These are extraordinary gifts from the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The ability to understand Divine mysteries is a gift of the Holy Spirit. We see throughout the Scriptures that we could not fully understand the Word without the Holy Spirit (see 1 Corinthians 2:10).
We read about the fruits of the Holy Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”
As I studied this list when preparing for confirmation as a youth, and RCIA with my husband, I instantly felt that these fruits were not easy to come by. How can anyone live a faithful Christian life for even just one day? Some days it is impossible to find even one apple blossom on this tree.
That’s where I missed the whole point. These fruits of the Spirit are not goals we try to achieve. Without the Holy Spirit it is impossible. The Holy Spirit gives us the power that enables us to rise above our human frailty and to be a more faithful follower of Jesus Christ.