The Word Among Us

Prayer Resources

The Work of the Holy Spirit

Holiness Is the Exclusive Work of the Spirit

By: Bert Ghezzi

The Work of the Holy Spirit: Holiness Is the Exclusive Work of the Spirit by Bert Ghezzi

I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live. —Ezekiel 37:14, RSV

In a sermon he delivered for the solemnity of Pentecost, St. Thomas Aquinas (ca. 1225–1275) explained how the Holy Spirit makes us holy:

No one is holy unless the Holy Spirit makes him holy. . . . In all whom He makes holy, He renders them . . . contemptuous of temporal things. As it says in John’s Gospel: “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15). Again, He bestows spiritual life upon those whom He makes holy, as it says in Ezekiel: “Behold I will place the spirit within you, and you shall live” (37:5). The spiritual life owes its very existence to the Holy Spirit. “If you live by the Spirit, walk also by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25). . . . Again, the Holy Spirit leads them back to the hidden origin through which we are united to God; in the words of Isaiah, “the Spirit of the Lord will carry you away to a place you do not know” (1 Kings 18:12), that is, to the heavenly inheritance.

The Second Vatican Council called us to holiness, inviting us to dispose ourselves to become saints through prayer and a life of discipleship. But nothing we do can make us holy. That’s the exclusive work of the Spirit, who makes us saints if we ask him to.

Open your heart wide to welcome the Holy Spirit and his graces, and to cooperate with the Spirit’s desire to make you holy. St. Paul tells us that, “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7, RSV). In each of us, that might look different, but consider the example of my friend Deacon Henry Libersat.

Henry preaches with great effect. He is well prepared for his service. Henry has read widely in Catholic theology for the past five decades, and he has immersed himself in Scripture during his training for the deaconate and in his leadership of our parish men’s Bible study. When Henry is scheduled to preach, he spends weeks researching the text he has chosen, talking about it with friends, and meditating on it. All this preparation creates the opportunity for the Holy Spirit to act when he speaks. The Spirit picks up Henry’s thoughts and charges them with life-changing energy. Henry says he can tell when the Holy Spirit engages him—he senses the Spirit’s presence, is filled with peace, feels certainty about his message, and receives words he had not planned to use. In this way, the Spirit makes Henry himself a gift to our parish community.

Every Christian (and that means you and me) has received spiritual gifts for service. Over the years I have discovered my gifts for writing, teaching, and encouraging. What gifts has he given you? Are you using them for “the common good”?

Ask the Holy Spirit to show you your spiritual gifts and guide you in using them well, and may he give you as a gift to your community. Pray and ask the Spirit to help you work with him in building up the Christian community. Open yourself to discover and accept the gifts he wants to give you for service to the Church.

This is a selection from Prayers to the Holy Spirit: Power and Light for Your Life by Bert Ghezzi (The Word Among Us Press, 2014), available from