Reflections on the Creed: “I believe in the Holy Spirit”
There is indeed a Holy Spirit. We know that there is a Spirit because Jesus has revealed him to us, just as he has revealed the Father to us, and because he has given us the Spirit to be our life. This is the reason why God took on our human nature: to share divine life with us.
As Jesus prepared to return to his Father, he promised to send the Holy Spirit to live with his disciples as Advocate, Consoler, Gift, and Love. From this farewell discourse, it is evident that the Spirit is not a something, but a Someone, a Person co-equal in the Trinity with the Father and the Son, who lives in relationship with the Father and the Son. It is clear, then, that this Spirit possesses the fullness of divine wisdom and power. Through this gift, believers will share in God’s infinite life, wisdom, power, and love.
God so loved us that he sent his only Son who also out of love died to save us. Jesus continues that work of salvation through the presence of God’s Holy Spirit with us today. It is the mission of the Spirit to fill us with God’s presence, so that we can be elevated in grace and truly become adopted children of our heavenly Father.
In Saint John’s Gospel, Jesus told his disciples, “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming” (John 16:12-13). Our understanding of the Holy Spirit begins with Jesus’ explicit declaration that when his work was finished he would return to his Father in glory and that he would send the Holy Spirit to continue the work of salvation.
After his resurrection, Jesus appeared to the Apostles and “he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the holy Spirit’” (John 20:22). The outpouring of the Spirit happened in a more dramatic and visible way, however, at Pentecost, when “there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind and . . . there appeared to them tongues as of fire” (Acts 2:2-3). Thereafter, the Apostles drew their strength from the Spirit who directed their movements and gave them words, courage, zeal, and wisdom for discernment.
The Church continues to receive that great Pentecostal outpouring of the Spirit, and the Church continues to bestow the Spirit through the sacraments established by Jesus. As the Spirit was poured out on the Apostles, so the Spirit comes to the Church today through their successors, the bishops, and is shared with the whole Body of Christ.
In the first letter to the Corinthians, Saint Paul teaches that “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3). In writing to the Galatians, he tells us that God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts crying, “Abba, Father!” (Galatians 4:6). The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that the knowledge of faith that allows us to call Jesus Lord and to call God our Father is possible only in the Holy Spirit. If we are to be in touch with Christ, we must first have been touched by the Holy Spirit (CCC 683).
Catholics believe that God dwells with us most intimately by the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is sent by the eternal Father and by Jesus to give us light, comfort and strength and to stir up within us a newness of life. At the same time, the Holy Spirit seals our friendship with God and unites us with one another by the divine love that the Spirit pours into our hearts. When we profess our faith in God’s Spirit we do so aware that we are touching the mystery of the Holy Trinity. Yet the mystery of the Holy Trinity awaited a fuller revelation in the joys of Pentecost. Thus was the Holy Spirit revealed as a distinct divine person.
This is the third in a series based on passages from “Faith that Transforms Us: Reflections on the Creed.”