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  My Witness

Vol. 7, No. 1, January, 2002

The Holy Spirit -- Agent of Evangelization, Part 2
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.

In this series on the Holy Spirit as the Agent of evangelization, my goal is to introduce you to this glorious Person, the Holy Spirit. As I said in the first article, I suspect that the reason we don't see a lot of zeal for evangelization is because people don't know the Agent!

A wonderful place to meet the Holy Spirit is in the bible. Let's look at the symbols that are used for the Holy Spirit in the scripture.

One symbol of the Spirit is the wind which, as Jesus says, "blows where it wills; you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with every one who is born of the Spirit" (Jn. 3:8). The other chief symbols for the Spirit are living water and fire.

Breath, water, and fire have this in common: breath is no longer itself when it stops breathing; water is no longer living when it stops flowing; fire is no longer fire when it stops burning.

It is the same with the Spirit when we think that we have captured him, and he is sitting still, then, he has already escaped.

One of the characteristics of the Spirit is inwardness. We can picture the Father and the Son, to some extent. They have some likeness to earthly fathers and sons. But the Spirit is faceless, he is beyond the image of God in Jesus Christ, or, maybe better said, he is behind Jesus Christ, in order that Jesus may be the image of God.

In our Christian faith we see the Holy Spirit as a person, because he is personal, but, the analogy between a human person and the Spirit is rather poor. So, for example, I am a human person; I exist in myself, but, the Spirit is a person in two other persons, the Father and the Son.

Also, as a human being, I grow into personhood, to the degree that I open my heart to God and to others and give of myself, but, the Holy Spirit is essentially openness and gift.

According to the scriptures, the Spirit is never the one on whom God's action is focused. So, he is not begotten, or revealed, nor does he become incarnate.

The Father begets the Son in the Son himself, and in many beings in creation and in the Church, where his sonship is reflected.

Speaking philosophically, the Holy Spirit is not cause, he is not effect, he is dynamism! He is the one through whom the Father begets, is revealed, the one through whom the Son becomes incarnate. Look at John 15:26:

"But when the Counselor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness to me;"
The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father, he comes forth from him like an action. How do we imagine a person who is action? The nature of the Spirit is "event." He is the grace by which God is gracious. He is the salvation by which God is Savior. He is the power by which God is powerful.

A word about power divine power is quite different from the way that we human beings think of power. God manifests his power under the form of helplessness (1 Cor. 1:23f; 2 Cor. 12:9). In talking about the Spirit, everything is paradoxical, as here in speaking about his power being manifest in helplessness or powerlessness.

St. Paul proclaimed the purest words about the Holy Spirit in Romans 5:5:

"and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us."
But, even with this statement, do we understand the Spirit? For example, how does one explain the love that two people have for each other? How do they explain their love to each other?

The Holy Spirit is love, his reason for being is within him, and is beyond all explanation. Our understanding will never grasp him as we see in Romans 8:23 26. When the Holy Spirit makes his presence known within us, it is "with sighs too deep for words," only God knows the meaning.

When the Holy Spirit arouses a spiritual language in us, we speak mysteriously. In the New Testament it's called tongues. The language is incomprehensible unless someone who is inspired by the same Spirit interprets the message (1 Cor. 14:2-5).

So, you ask, is it possible to know, to experience the Spirit? Yes! Consider this:

The cloud of glory that protected the Israelites when they escaped from Egypt was not invisible they saw the cloud!
  • The Holy Spirit is not the Word, but he is the voice which we can recognize!

  • We can feel Wind on our face we can feel our heart swell, and burn with the Fire of his love we can experience being washed, cleansed, made clean with Living Water!

Without being able to understand him, we can experience the Spirit whose dynamic presence marks the opening (Gen. 1:2) and closing (Rev. 22:17) words of the bible, and all the pages in between.

His presence is everywhere (Ps. 139:7). Even though we cannot express the Spirit, we can experience him, and this experience is the knowing of him (Jn. 14:16f):

"And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you."
The Holy Spirit manifests his presence to us in these wonderful ways (1 Thes. 1:5; Gal. 3:3f; Gal. 5:22). Through this fruit, we can experience the Holy Spirit's presence.

We recognize the fullest presence of the Holy Spirit in the fruit of Mary's womb, Jesus! The full revelation that Jesus is truly the Son of God is given to us when the Father raises Jesus from the dead in his Spirit (Rm. 8:11). When Jesus dies, he abandons himself into the Father's hands, or, saying this another way, in this act, Jesus accepts himself entirely from God, even in his bodily existence. Luke sees this as the fulfillment of Ps. 2:7 (Acts 13:33).

We can describe the resurrection of Jesus in relation to the Spirit the resurrection of Jesus is the total outpouring of the Holy Spirit into the world, Jesus rises and the Spirit flows out into creation in an immense flood pouring out from the Father in the Son. In the Risen Jesus, the Spirit is present to the world, to us, just as he is in God himself. No wonder he's the Agent of evangelization!

Take time each day to meet with the Holy Spirit pray!

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