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  My Witness

Vol. 6, No. 4, November, 2001

The Holy Spirit -- Agent of Evangelization, Part 1
by Sr. Brigid Meierotto, S.N.C.

Sister Brigid "Evangelization will never be possible without the action of the Holy Spirit." Pope Paul the VI proclaims this wonderful truth in paragraph 75 of his Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelization in the Modern World.

After working many years in the Church's mission of evangelization without overwhelming success, and after listening to Pope John Paul II's consistent message about the necessity for every baptized person to evangelize, I have come to suspect that the above quote has a great deal to do with the apathy in regard to evangelizing. People don't know the Agent!

My goal in this and subsequent articles is to do something about this situation. So, I am going to introduce you to the Holy Spirit in order for you to come to know him personally. Then, because he is the Agent for Evangelization, he will do his work in employing you for his mission.

Let's begin with reading John 7:37 39:

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and proclaimed, "If any one thirst, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, `Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.' Now this he said about the Spirit, which those who believed in him were to receive; for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
Stop and think about the meaning of these words of Jesus for a moment. Ask yourself, who is the Holy Spirit to me?

As we begin to talk about the Holy Spirit, we need to get our thinking into the mode that fits the Holy Spirit. Let me explain.

When we talk about scientific efforts and technological things like medicine, aviation, computers we get an analytical approach in our minds. The same is true when we talk about a philosophy of life or about theology, with the difference that most of us believe that we need to take some kind of personal stance in relation to how we view life and how we view God. However, we don't usually see ourselves as intimately or personally involved with a philosophical or theological statement, concept, or truth. An example of a theological statement/truth is: the Trinity is one God in three Persons. In other words, these statements, concepts, or truths, don't really touch us in our daily living, where we are moved in our heart, in our will!

A very important truth about God is that he's not on the analytical level he's on the level of family, he's on the level of relationship, personal relationship. He's got something to do with our ancestry, with where we human beings are from. When it comes to talking about how to approach God, he's on the same level as our parents. He touches us where we live, where we are moved the desire and the love of our heart, the commitment of our will, the conviction of our mind.

I encourage you, then, in this introduction to the Holy Spirit, to take the position of getting acquainted with a famous relative with whom you haven't had the opportunity of spending a lot of time. You want to make a good impression, so you want to approach this relative with an open, accepting heart, a loving will and an open mind, not with a bunch of preconceptions, but with the attitude of being ready to receive this person.

I just want to say this first without taking the time now to explain it: there is a special place where this introduction happens. It is in the passion, the passover of Jesus. Why? Because it is in the passover that we can clearly see the presence and the action of the Holy Spirit.

In the passage from John's Gospel that we began with, Jesus said, "If any one thirst, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, 'Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water."' John comments on this, "Now this he said about the Spirit, which those who believed in him were to receive; for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified."

"This he said about the Spirit..." Here we see that it is possible to speak about, or of, the Spirit. Scripture is full of texts about him.

But, no one will ever be able to understand him as he is in himself and then to express the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is inexpressible. He is the unspoken one, by nature inexpressible, because he is the Spirit.

Think about that a moment...

In the Son, Jesus, we are able to know God. God is knowable in Jesus, but in the Holy Spirit, God is mystery, divine mystery. The Spirit is the power that urges God to reveal himself, to become incarnate. Here is an image: the Holy Spirit is the mouth, and through the mouth it is the Word Jesus who is poured out into the world.

The Spirit will never become incarnate, never become man, or human thought, or human word. What a mystery is this Spirit! The Holy Spirit is at the origin of creation, of revelation, of the incarnation, but he remains hidden.

Here is another image to think about. The Spirit is divine revelation, the one who inspires the scriptures, the one who brings about every manifestation of God but he is not the One revealed. How can we understand this Holy Spirit then?

Think about this: compare the Spirit to our voice . When we speak, our voice carries the words and makes it possible for others to hear them. We can comment on a person's voice: warm, cold, deep, high, velvety, clear, raspy we can speak about it, but we have not said it, we have not made that voice understood. At the same time, for each of us, our voice is personal, personal to us.

Another image to talk about the Spirit: the Spirit is the page on which the Word, Jesus, is written. Signs, symbols that we are able to read are penned or penciled on the paper we do not read the page itself.

And yet, 'The Spirit has spoken through the prophets', he has spoken through Jesus Christ; he is not the word, but he is the one through whom the word is transmitted. John 16:13 14 brings this out:

"When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you."
Even his name "Spirit" tells us that we will never be able to grasp him. In Hebrew (ruah), in Greek (pneuma), in Latin (spiritus), in English (spirit), the meaning is the same: breath.

I'll leave you with that. I suspect that you will want to reread and ponder this beginning introduction to the Holy Spirit, thoughtfully, prayerfully. Start with thinking on the images, the symbols of the Holy Spirit that touch your heart and mind. Write down your reflections. The Holy Spirit himself will teach you, you have Jesus' promise!

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