The Holy Spirit transformed the lives of the Apostles and Jesus’ disciples when it descended upon them over 2000 years ago, in the Upper Room. That same gift of the Holy Spirit is available to us through our Baptism and Confirmation, and if we allow it, will transform our lives as well. The Spirit does many things. It draws us into a closer relationship with Christ, expresses our prayers to heaven, and empowers us to share the faith.
Sarah Christmyer, in the “Entering the Scriptures” section of Walk in Her Sandals, provides countless scriptural “ah-ha moments” throughout the book. This chapter was no exception:
“Jesus had transformed the Passover at the Last Supper, illuminating it and filling it with new meaning. He had announced the coming of the kingdom. Would he not change Pentecost too?”
Although I was aware of the connection between the lamb used at Passover and Jesus as the Paschal Lamb sacrificed for our salvation, I was completely unaware of an ancient Pentecost. The original feast of Pentecost was a celebration of thanksgiving. Today, “On the day of Pentecost when the seven weeks of Easter had come to an end, Christ’s Passover is fulfilled in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, manifested, given, and communicated as a divine person: of his fullness, Christ, the Lord, pours out the Spirit in abundance” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 731). The meaning of Pentecost has transformed but clearly the providence and the celebration connection remains.
As many of us finish reading the book with our small groups or with the WINE Lenten Online Book Club, we are also entering into Holy Week. While it may seem too early to be reading and contemplating Pentecost, after learning the connection between the Jewish Passover and Pentecost, it seems like the perfect place to finish our Lenten Walk. The “rest of the story” as radio personality Paul Harvey would say, shines an astonishing brilliant light upon Jesus’ Passion. Sarah Christmyer writes “This ‘holy spirit, whom the father will send,’ would continue to teach them and enable them to bear witness to the truth even through persecution.” Sarah is referring to the words from John 14:26, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” What shall we do with this knowledge?
The Source of Every Gift
Kelly Wahlquist begins this final chapter of Walk in Her Sandals with this profound statement, “Of all the gifts God has bestowed upon us, the gift of the Holy Spirit surpasses them all as the source of every gift.” The Spirit is given to us for our spiritual well-being and welfare, even if we have yet to understand the full benefit of this gift. Whatever God sends is always for our good. To fully embrace this gift, we must be willing to accept the Spirit’s assistance in our lives.
For Christmas several years ago, my sweet health conscious sister gifted me the Wii Fit. At the time, I was significantly overweight and my initial reaction to the gift was not joy or thanksgiving! Quite frankly, I was insulted. Although I had received and unwrapped the gift, I had no intentions of using it. For months, it sat in the cabinet. One day my mother called to share her diabetes had worsened and she had been placed on insulin. After our phone call, something began to dawn on me. Maybe my sister’s gift was not to point out my fluffy body but instead was given out of love. My father has severe heart disease and received a heart transplant at 55 years old. Both of my parents’ illness are hereditary and considered preventable or at least manageable through diet and exercise. She wanted to help me strengthen my insides. However, just owning the Wii Fit doesn’t help me get healthier, I need to use it. A gift left unused is useless.
In regards to the Gift of the Holy Spirit, Kelly beseeches, “If you haven’t completely opened it yet, you’re going to want to start tearing away the wrappings because unwrapping this gift will perfect all your gifts and allow you to nurture the Body of Christ, to build up his kingdom on earth, and to live your life-giving glory to God!”
Receive the Holy Spirit
How does it feel to receive this gift of God’s Holy Spirit within us? My friend once recounted her amazing experience at Confirmation when she physically felt this rush within her spirit. I barely remember being present when I received the Sacrament of Confirmation since I was a very distractible 15-year-old at the time. However, if I could select how I would personally experience receiving the Spirit, it would closely resemble that of Stephanie Landsem’s character Anah, in her biblical fiction contribution to Walk in Her Sandals. Anah, present along with the others in the Upper Room that first Pentecost, reacts to that moment, “She [Anah] touched her face. She was filled, like a jar, overflowing with the finest wine, but lighter than wine, like sunlight and dew. And in the center of her being, a fire, burning with a fervor she’d never known. He had filled her—he had filled her emptiness—with this power from on high. But what was she to do with it?” Whether we felt it or not, we have this same gift. What are we going to do with it?
What do we do now after this Lenten journey of experiencing Christ’s Passion through the eyes of not only the women from Walk in Her Sandals, but those who walked along with us either in our homes, churches or online. Perhaps you will join WINE: Women in the New Evangelization over the Summer for Between the Wines, inviting woman either back into your home or church, or to join you for the first time. Encouraged by this experience, maybe you will feel more comfortable sharing what Jesus has done for you with family, friends or through social media. Like Anah who discovers her purpose is to be a witness and to share what Christ had done for her. The impact of authentic witness convert hearts.
Role of Holy Spirit in Prayer
The Holy Spirit plays a significant role in our prayer life. The ability to converse with God is truly one of his kindest gifts. Pat Gohn reminds us in The Gift of the Holy Spirit, that Mary is a great model of the blessing that comes from fully using this gift. “Mary had a prayer life. Scripture offers evidence of her many ponderings (see Lk 2:19, 51) on the mysteries of God. These references show us that Mary’s interior life was a priority.”
Section Four, in the Catechism of the Catholic Church focuses on Christian Prayer. Section 2627, explains the role of the Holy Spirit as intermediary for our prayers with God, it states “Two fundamental forms express this movement: our prayer ascends in the Holy Spirit through Christ to the Father – we bless him for having blessed us; it implores the grace of the Holy Spirit that descends through Christ from the Father – he blesses us.” The going back and forth reminds me of the 1980s arcade game, Pong. The object was to keep a ball in play between two rectangle paddles. The ball ascended and descended between the paddles. At first, the game was difficult and the length of the volleys short, however, the more you played the better you played. Keeping the ball in play was easier, and the longer you volleyed. The same with prayer, the more we spend time at it the better we become.
The beauty of living a life in the Spirit, even if I am unable to find the words with which to pray, is that the Spirit always can. As St. Paul teaches in Romans 8, “Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”
We Are Not Alone
In conclusion, not only of this Sunday reflection, but of the entire beautiful Walk in Her Sandals WINE Lenten Book Club experience, I want to end with these powerful words from contributor, Barbara Heil. Barbara writes in “Reflect on the Meaning: Pentecost”:
“It is the Holy Spirit that gives us the power to live as disciples of Jesus, to grow in holiness, filled with sacrificial love. It is the Holy Spirit that gives us understanding, awakens us, emboldens us, and fills us to overflowing. We are not alone! He is the one we hunger for, and he is stirring us to go deeper, to open ourselves to him in a new way, allowing him to overflow in our lives, renew our hearts and minds, and change us into Christ’s own image. He isn’t calling us to the impossible mission of doing this ourselves, of changing ourselves by ourselves. It is the Holy Spirit that is at work, in us and in his Church, causing us to live as sons and daughters of God.”
All Rights Reserved, Allison Gingras 2017