Come Holy Spirit

During a recent meeting between the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and Pope Francis, the Archbishop asked for a message of support from the Pope for a global prayer campaign that was taking place from Ascension to Pentecost. The Pope responded immediately and said, “Come Holy Spirit. This is the cry of all Christians on this day of Pentecost. Come Holy Spirit. The promise of the Father, the promise of Jesus, that the Holy Spirit might enlarge and widen our hearts.” The Pope went on to say that our hearts can become closed and narrow, we need the Holy Spirit to expand our hearts.

As we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost each year we are reminded of the vital role that the Holy Spirit plays in the life of every Christian and in the mission of the Church. In particular, as the Pope reminds us, the Holy Spirit can lift our thoughts beyond the immediate and practical to a transcendental and spiritual level. The natural tendency we all have is to view things from a human perspective alone. We are shaped by our immediate experiences. We form judgements based on what is evidently in front of us.

The Pope is reminding us that we believers should not allow ourselves to limit the horizons of our minds. God is far greater than the human mind. We find in the writings of the Prophet Isaiah these words: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.” (Is 58:8) The Christian is one who realises that God’s ways and wisdom are often far beyond the limits of our own perceptions.

It is the Holy Spirit who brings us into contact with Divine Wisdom. The Lord taught that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth and will lead us to all truth. (Jn 16:13) It is the Holy Spirit who can so enlighten our minds that we see things in a way which we could not previously.

We are also aware that God is at work in his Church through the Holy Spirit. This activity is often not identified, as it is a silent and spiritual activity. It is often only in hindsight that we realise the movements of the Holy Spirit. Our faith teaches us that the Holy Spirit guides the Church and influences its life and mission. This is often in unexpected ways, and can at times confound human wisdom and expectations.

It is when things seem to have no solution or possibility that the Lord does “a new thing”. The history of the Church is full of instances of the “surprises of the Spirit”.

The Church in Australia has been invited to listen to the Spirit as part of the preparation for the Plenary Council. This invitation encourages us to move beyond our own personal thoughts and plans and consider what God may want of the Church at this moment in our history. It is an invitation to a careful attention and a deep listening. In one way we need to be willing to let go of what we subjectively think the Spirit may be saying and actually let the Spirit reveal God’s plans and purposes. 

This is the Christian way. The Christian believes that God is constantly present among us, guiding and enlightening. He came at Pentecost and transformed the uncertain Apostles to enable them to become bold proclaimers of the Gospel message. The Acts of the Apostles records time and time again, the activity of the Holy Spirit within the first Christian communities. So confident were the first Christians of the active guidance of the Holy Spirit that they could say, “It seems to the Holy Spirit and to us” (Acts 15:28). St Luke said that the early Christian communities lived under the “consolation of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 9:31).

The early Christians had a vivid awareness that they were being guided by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit was an active agent among them. They were confident that the Holy Spirit would guide them in their decisions. Their primary interest was in acting in union with the Holy Spirit.

Pope Francis reminds us of the constant cry of the Church: “Come Holy Spirit.” As we continue on the journey towards the Plenary Council let us make this our cry, our prayer for the Church here in Australia, as we seek to find ways to strengthen and promote the Catholic faith. 

Archbishop Julian Porteous

Sunday, June 16, 2019

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