Guest contributor: Ed Trego
“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.”
Throughout the history of the Church, the Holy Spirit has strengthened the faithful. The apostles were so afraid at the arrest of Jesus that they abandoned Him and ran. Only Peter and John followed Him and Peter ran away after denying three times that he even knew Jesus. After His death they went into hiding and initially did very little to further the kingdom of God. The apostle John relates the appearance of the resurrected Jesus. “On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus cam and stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.” (John 20:19).
Then Pentecost came and with it the Holy Spirit. From that point on, these same men boldly proclaimed the good news of the gospel and grew a small band of followers into the Church as we know her today. They took the word of God throughout the known world, healing, baptizing and forgiving the sins of those who repented, bringing them into the family of Christ. Peter was so full of the Holy Spirit that just his shadow falling upon someone could heal them (see Acts 5:12-15).
Throughout time the Spirit has been there to help the faithful. There were many people martyred for the faith as the young church grew and spread. Christians were flayed alive, dipped in boiling oil, eviscerated, drawn and quartered, and fed to wild animals. Some were forced to watch the brutal torture and murder of their entire family in an effort to get them to deny Jesus. While we don’t hear much of it today, there are still people who are suffering for their faith. Many have died for their faith. Not always in as dramatic a way as the early martyrs, but suffering for the Lord just the same. And the Spirit is always there when they call upon Him to strengthen them in their trials.
I think we sometimes take the Holy Spirit for granted or too lightly. Even though the Spirit is the co-equal third person of the Trinity, we just don’t seem to think of and acknowledge Him as much as God the Father and God the Son. Sometimes I think it’s because we don’t want to give up control of ourselves. To fully receive the Holy Spirit we have to turn our lives over to Him. We find that extremely hard to do. We are an independent people with a lot of self-pride and stubbornness. To give total control of ourselves to anyone, even to God, is a hard thing for us. But the Spirit can’t really work within us unless we give ourselves up to His control, unconditionally. We can’t say “Well, you handle this and I’ll take care of that.” Or, “I’ll let you know when I need you.” We have to say “Take all that I am, all that I’ll ever be and use it for the greater Glory of God.”
We have to recognize that on our own we aren’t capable of doing the good that we should be doing. The gift of free will granted to us by God allows us to choose evil as well as good. Only through unconditional submission to God’s will through the Holy Spirit can we truly do good in this world and reject the evil that Satan would have us do. Once we realize this truth and turn ourselves over to the Holy Spirit, the Spirit can move through us and give us the gifts that we should have and should be using to further the good news of Jesus Christ.
There are such gifts and blessings available if we can only humble ourselves to accept what is offered. No one, not God the Father, God the Son, nor God the Holy Spirit is going to break down the walls we have built. We have to tear them down ourselves. Only then can the Glory of God shine through us.
St. Paul says of the Spirit and His gifts, “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are inspired by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. (1 Corinthians 12:7-11)
All of these gifts were there in biblical days and in the early church. Have we somehow lost them along the way? If the Spirit is with the Church always, shouldn’t the gifts of the Spirit be with us always as well? I believe the gifts of the Spirit are still there and ours if we accept them. But we must accept them of our own free will. The Holy Spirit will not force Himself upon us. He will wait for our invitation. In our world today it seems that not many people are inviting God and the Spirit into their lives.
Have you ever met someone who you knew was very intelligent, but couldn’t seem to explain anything to anyone? They had the knowledge but they couldn’t impart it. I believe we need to look at teachers when we want to find the gift of the expression of knowledge. I’m not only talking about those who teach in our schools but of many others as well. What of the Priest who can take a very difficult passage of the Bible and put it into words that we can understand and make a part of our life? Isn’t that the Spiritual gift of the ability to impart knowledge? Or the confessors who can speak to our heart and really help us understand and be sorrowful for the error of our ways. Doesn’t that demonstrate the gift of expressing knowledge and wisdom”
We all know healers both of body and spirit. Our priests, our confidants, our confessors come to mind. They heal our spirit, which I believe is far more important than a healed body. Can anyone be forgiven their sins and not feel the healing power of that forgiveness”
Those who heal our bodies are also very important and I’m sure many of them are gifted by the Spirit as well. There are many instances where a doctor has performed an operation or a cure far beyond what would normally be expected. I believe that in many such cases the Spirit is working through them. Many doctors will tell of the power of prayer and faith in the physical recovery of their patients. There are many instances of recoveries that no doctor can explain or take credit for. The Holy Spirit, through the faith of the person healed has responded to them and their prayers.
In a very real sense we are all healers through the Spirit, by our prayers and intercessions for others. Most of the time, our society likes to talk about “luck” in such cases, but I believe it is the Spirit acting through the prayers of the faithful in many cases. We can all be healers by the grace of the Spirit if we have the faith and believe. However, we should not expect that every time we pray for the healing of another, we will see them healed as we might expect it. The healing may be completed in the transition from this life to the next. In the presence of the Lord, what added healing could possibly be needed”
On Pentecost Sunday the disciples spoke to a crowd from various places who spoke many languages. “Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem. At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each heard them speaking in his own language.” (Acts 2:6) Today, some claim to have the gift of tongues or interpretation of tongues and they speak in a language unknown to anyone except the one doing the interpretation. I can’t say whether they truly have the gift of tongues or not, but, if so, it is different from the tongues spoken by the disciples which was a universal language understood by all. However, I’m convinced that the missionary who is “blessed” to have the ability to quickly learn and understand the “tongues” of a foreign language has that gift of the Spirit. I also think many of those who are able to effectively communicate with the mentally impaired are blessed with the gift of tongues.
We all know of stories of people who have done great deeds far beyond their expectations. One recent example is Mother Teresa. She may have been a physically small, unimpressive woman, but she certainly accomplished some beautiful and great deeds in her lifetime. Many of the early leaders of the civil rights movement in this country also performed deeds of courage and love that were more than they would have expected of themselves. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. comes immediately to mind. But also many others such as Rosa Parks. How much courage it must have taken for her to stand up for her rights in the very segregated south. We’ve all heard the stories of the heroes in battle who were just as ordinary as the next guy until circumstances required more of them. Many gave their lives in an effort to save others. There is no greater courage and love than to sacrifice your life for others. I’m sure we all know people who we look at and wonder at their accomplishments. I believe the Spirit is the driving force in a lot of these deeds.
The gifts of prophecy and the discernment of spirits are gifts of the Spirit that we don’t seem to see much today. You don’t meet many prophets these days. But I’ve read numerous accounts of both of these gifts in the lives of the saints and religious. I’m certain these gifts are present today as well. I think we just don’t do a very good job of recognizing them.
If fact, I don’t think we do a very good job of recognizing the gifts of the Spirit most of the time. Our society believes in luck, coincidence and chance but refuses to accept that God could be the cause. We readily agree that someone who survived a catastrophic car wreck or recovers from a disease diagnosed as terminal is a “very lucky” person. But we all too often fail to recognize that they are the beneficiary of prayer and God’s intervention. To deny this is to deny God the praise and glory He deserves.
Too many times we don’t recognize our own gifts. One of the most important prayers we can make is for the discernment to understand and develop our own gifts of the Spirit. If we are Christians, we all have them; we just don’t always know what they are. We need to find out. Otherwise, how can we ever use them for God’s glory”
In our world today we expect miracles to be larger than life. We have a difficult time recognizing the magnificence of the smaller gifts and miracles that occur every day. We are looking for something spectacular when perhaps the gift is something very simple and very common. We may want to do great things for God but maybe it’s not the big things God is asking of us. Big or small, they are a miracle if they are truly of God and His will.
The prophet Elijah had an experience that I believe is a very good lesson for us about looking for God and the Holy Spirit and His gifts. “Then the Lord said, ‘Go outside and stand on the mountain before the Lord; the Lord will be passing by.” A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the Lord – but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake – but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was fire – but the Lord was not in the fire. After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound. When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave.” (1 Kings 19:11-13) Elijah knew that God was not in the wind, or the earthquake or the fire, but in the whispering. If we can be more attuned to the whispering that is in our hearts and souls I believe we will find God and the Holy Spirit there talking to us and leading us.
We need to quit looking for the spectacular and recognize the small workings of the Holy Spirit in our everyday life. He’s there, in the love of a spouse or child. He lives in the beauty of a sunrise, the majesty of the ocean and mountains. He’s there is the simple smile given at a time when we need it most; an encouraging word when we are down; the thanks of another when we share our blessings.
Ask for the blessing of the Spirit, pray for guidance in the ways of the Spirit and make an effort to see the Spirit in your daily life. These are the things that will help us better understand the workings of the Holy Spirit and enrich our lives tremendously.
“But you, beloved, build yourselves up on your most holy faith; praying the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God; wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.” (Jude 1:20-21)