The Holy Spirit in Our Daily Lives
God has given us an amazing gift, but are we alert to knowing it? Fr Ralph de Hahn explains the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
When we read the Acts of the Apostles, we must surely be struck by the remarkable, often inexplicable, achievements of the twelve Apostles and their disciples. This most valuable section of the Bible has earned the name “The Gospel of the Holy Spirit”. One can only wonder how such a small number of witnesses to the Lord’s teaching, death and resurrection could possibly have managed to send their resounding message to every corner of the earth.
Yet it is almost inconceivable that, on the whole, the Church has failed to enlighten and encourage her believers to live by that Power which is within them; that this Power should be allowed to guide their every thought, decision and direction on this short pilgrimage on earth. For we need to understand that the God we worship is a God for us, with us, and in us. And although we mention the Holy Spirit each time we sign ourselves with the cross (often by mere habit, and not by intention) we may well need further instruction as to why and how this Divine Spirit, this “power from on high”, makes us truly the image of God.
How is that? All creation owes its existence to a living God, and, furthermore, all things created are impressed with the personality of its creator. At the core of every living, intelligent human being is the soul. This unique indwelling of the soul is by grace alone, and not by any merit of our own (Romans 8:9-16; Ephesians 3:20). It is a gift of the Father Creator who sent his Son of Man, Jesus, to make us sons of God.
Paul tells the Philippians that Jesus, the Son of God, equal to the Father, emptied himself to become a servant to his creatures, and is prepared to lavish many spiritual gifts on a humble and obedient soul. Basic to all gifts is that of faith, without which we cannot please God. Some of the gifts promised by the Holy Spirit are found in 1 Corinthians 12: the gifts of preaching or teaching, of prophecy, of healing, even of miracles, as well as the gift of tongues and others, all exposed in the Acts of the Apostles.
Gifts of the Holy Spirit
It is so important to realise that the gifts are available to every living soul on three basic conditions, namely, that we ask because we desire them; that we accept them in faith and obedience; and that we pay the price, which is the gift of self and total submission to God’s promptings and inspiration. James 1:6 writes that these gifts and blessings are freely ours with our submission.
It is God’s will to establish this intimate relationship and that we should be talking to him — not up there, but here within us, making prayer so much easier. Remember in our baptism by water we surrender our sins and become God’s children by adoption; now by our baptism in the Spirit we surrender ourselves and become his temple through this wonderful indwelling.
Indeed we are only earthenware jars, utterly human and sinful, but we hold an amazing treasure (2 Corinthians 4:7) — only by God’s free gift, his grace! It is reasonable to anticipate a whole new relationship with God’s indwelling, as Peter in the first chapter of his second epistle speaks of our being “partakers of [God’s] divine life” which, he insists, must include the many fruits of the Spirit. There is a further astonishing truth with this indwelling, and not only by the Holy Spirit but the full Trinity — Father, Son and Holy Spirit — simply because, although we allocate certain functions to each Person, God is ever One, an undivided Trinity. This must not frighten us, despite this overwhelming truth (for our God holds the entire universe, the blazing sun and all the stars, even the sum of all the oceans on earth in the palm of his hand!).
Truly we are God’s children by adoption and “heirs to the kingdom” — not an adoption merely as metaphor, because this indwelling makes the soul like to God. Saints are not born saints but rather are people who humbly submit to his divine indwelling. We are, in fact, poised on the threshold of eternal life — and that is exactly what the Father has planned and sincerely desires of us.
So why this misunderstanding over the Holy Spirit? And why do we place so many obstacles in his path? It is evident that so many Christians are not living a Christlike life. So much is offered us, and so much is lost! The proof of God’s offer is that in very many of our Christian brethren the fruits of the indwelling are indeed visible. These are the fruits mentioned in Galatians 5, namely joy, peace, patience, kindness, trustfulness, humble gentleness and, above all, love for every other creature and all creation.
Be careful, this is not a special devotion attached to our daily prayers for our salvation; this is our salvation! “Since the Spirit IS our Life” says Paul, “let us ever be directed by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25).
Fr Ralph de Hahn is a priest of the archdiocese of Cape Town