A Pilgrim's Catechism

The Occasional Thoughts of a 21st-Century Roman Catholic on Journey

Towards the Reign of God 

El Greco:  Pentecost (detail), Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1596-1600


What of the coming of the Holy Spirit?


It is in the encounter with Jesus, the Word made flesh, that the coming of the Holy Spirit is acknowledged.  John in his gospel writes of Jesus on the Cross handing over the Holy Spirit to the Church, symbolically represented by his mother, the other two Marys, and the beloved disciple.  Jesus also breathes the Holy Spirit on the apostles the evening of his resurrection:  “Receive the Holy Spirit.”  All through John’s gospel there is reference to those already in possession of eternal life.  It is the Spirit who brings life.


In Luke’s Acts of Apostles, on the feast of Pentecost, the feast of the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai, the Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus’ disciples in the upper room amidst all of the phenomena of the storm on the holy mountain, the loud noise (thunder), the rushing of wind and the tongues of fire (lightning).  On the streets of Jerusalem the confusion of language brought on by Babel is undone and all understand one another in the giving of the Holy Spirit.


In Jesus there is realization that the Holy Spirit is given but the Spirit has in fact been given from the beginning.  It is the gift of the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father through the Word, gift accepted in the power of the same Holy Spirit, that constitutes us, every one, as human beings.  True we are distinguished from other earthly creatures by intellect and free will but it is the constant presence of the Word speaking to us and offering us the gift of divine life in the Spirit that finally defines our humanity.  Even when we deny the gift, once freely received, through sin, the Word remains ever present offering forgiveness, reconciliation and the renewal of divine life if only we would accept it and allow it to transform us.


The prophets of old, and even Luke in his writings, acknowledge the Spirit empowering us on certain occasions to perform mighty acts.  True, there are times when it seems to us that the Spirit comes into our lives to move us with great power but the Holy Spirit is in fact living in us always, if only we accept him, sharing the very life of God with us.  Every moment then is saving.  Indeed, every moment is privileged.  The power that we experience on occasions is always ours if only we would be sensitive to its presence.


The Holy Spirit is given from the Father through the Word, ever present.  Our understanding of the gift, and the degree of our acceptance of it, is so often limited by our very creatureliness, our historical situation, our common sinfulness, and our personal sins.  The Father, through the Word, always challenges us in ever moment to grow in the gift of the Spirit, to grow in divine life, and in case of sin always to turn back to him.   





Other Pages:



Is it possible to prove the existence of God?

How is God eternal?

How is God one and yet three?

Does God act?

What does God know?

Does God answer our prayers?

Are visions, the stigmata and other mystical experiences from God?

What of the coming of the Holy Spirit?