Many saints have written countless pages describing the Holy Spirit. St. Basil, for instance, wrote an entire treatise proving that the Spirit truly was the third Person of the Blessed Trinity. St. John Vianney, on the other hand, constantly focused on how we can experience the Spirit’s power in our lives.
In our own day, St. John Paul II wrote his own encyclical entitled On the Holy Spirit in the Life of the Church and World. “In our own age,” he wrote, “we are called anew. . . . to draw near to the Holy Spirit as the giver of life” (2). According to John Paul, “The Holy Spirit . . . takes from Christ and transmits to all.” He “‘convinces concerning sin’ . . . in order to restore what is good in man . . . in order to ‘renew the face of the earth.’ . . . He purifies . . . he heals . . . he changes the interior dryness of souls. . . . What is ‘hard he softens,’ what is ‘frozen he warms,’ what is ‘wayward he sets anew’ on the paths of salvation” (67).
This the Spirit that Jesus promised to send to us. This is the One about whom Jesus said, “You will be baptized with the Holy Spirit” and “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you” (Acts 1:5, 8).
This baptism with the Spirit and this power that Jesus spoke about is described in Scripture as a filling (Ephesians 5:18). Pope Francis calls it “the presence of God living and working” in us (Angelus, August 14, 2016). St. Paul said much the same thing when he wrote about the Spirit pouring the love of God into our hearts (Romans 5:5).
An Experience of Love. Did you notice how many of those quotes talk about the Holy Spirit as someone to be experienced? Of course, we need to understand the Church’s teachings about the Spirit, but even that is so we can come to a deeper experience of his love and grace in our hearts.
Forty-seven years ago, I was filled with the Spirit at a prayer meeting. I vividly remember what happened. While sitting in the back row of the gathering, I realized in a new way that Jesus died for my sins. Until that night, my faith was about being good and trying hard and not wanting to go to hell. That night, the Spirit opened my eyes and showed me that Jesus was not a crucifix, and he was not a “way of life.” Jesus was a real person who deeply loved me, a real person who wanted to redeem me. I experienced his love that night, and it was the best moment of my life.
I hope you enjoy reading this issue dedicated to the Holy Spirit, the One Jesus entrusted to open our hearts and reveal God’s love to us. I pray that the Spirit will open your eyes and show you “the glory of the Lord,” so that you can be even more deeply “transformed into the same image,” the image of Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:18).