By: Marta Timar
Of the three persons of the Blessed Trinity, it is perhaps the Holy Spirit who is hardest to grasp. Most of us understand God (the Father) to be The Creator, the one who holds the entire universe in His hand, the author of life. Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, we know as Savior and Redeemer, wholly divine, who became incarnate, and by His life, death and resurrection purchased for us eternal life. Then, there is the Paraclete – the Holy Ghost – the least comprehended person of the Most Blessed Trinity. For many, the Holy Spirit, as His name suggests, is ethereal and more elusive, harder to “pin down” than either the Father or the Son.
During a 2008 address in Rome, Pope Emeritus Benedict said “ the Holy Spirit cannot be seen with the eyes…..it cannot be seen or demonstrated; but it changes and renews all the perspectives of human life. The Holy Spirit does not change the exterior situations of life, but the interior. Thus, we make room in ourselves for the presence of the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Blessed Trinity which is the ‘soul’ and the ‘vital breath’ of Christian life. The Spirit helps us to grow ‘in an understanding of Jesus that becomes ever deeper and more joyful…”
Through the Sacrament of Confirmation, the Holy Spirit bestows upon us the sanctifying gifts of wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord. By these treasures, we are filled interiorly with the promptings of the Spirit and gradually begin to conform our lives more and more to Jesus’, aiding us in persevering throughout the course of our earthly journey.
However, it is a mistake to think that after this generous outpouring of gifts, the Holy Spirit departs and leaves us to fend for ourselves. Not so. The Holy Spirit stays with us and continually renews and strengthens our efforts in developing and living the kind of spiritual life that is necessary in order to combat the effects of the challenging times in which we live.
Contrast the Apostles from how they behaved, their demeanor before Jesus sent the Holy Spirit and how transformed they became at Pentecost. The Holy Spirit, as a driving wind and appearing as tongues of fire endowed the Apostles with the ability boldly and decisively make known the message of Jesus Christ to the farthest corners of the world. So it is for us, that the gifts of the Holy Spirit help us in leading a truly Christian life:
- “The gift of wisdom, by detaching us from the world, makes us relish and love only the things of heaven;
- The gift of understanding helps us to grasp the truths of Catholic faith;
- The gift of counsel springs from supernatural prudence and enables us to see and choose correctly what will help most to the glory of God and our own salvation;
- By the gift of fortitude, we receive courage to overcome the obstacles and difficulties that arise in the practice of our religious duties;
- The gift of knowledge points out to us the path to follow and the dangers to avoid in order to reach heaven;
- The gift of piety, in inspiring us with a tender and filial confidence in God, makes us joyfully embrace all that pertains to His service;
- Lastly, the gift of fear fills us with a sovereign respect for God and makes us dread, above all things, to offend Him”1
The Holy Spirit bestows these powerful gifts to us freely. He is present around us and more importantly, within us inspiring and urging us to live a life more fully conformed to Christ’s. Working within us, in a hidden manner, His presence is more subtle than that of the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit’s guidance is there simply for the asking, and when asked, He is known for His very prompt response. In living lives cultivated by the gifts of the Holy Ghost, we reap great benefits or fruits, as Saint Paul says in his letter to the Galatians: “But the fruit of the Spirit is, charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, longanimity, mildness, faith, modesty, continency, chastity” (Galatians 5:22-23).
The Holy Spirit is always with us because Jesus told us so. He defends us from the evils of this world and helps each of us reach our truest, fullest potential – if only we call on Him and heed His urgings.
1 New Advent Online Catholic Encyclopedia