Jesus told his Apostles at the Last Supper many things about the Holy Spirit, and some of these are included in the readings at this time, such as: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth…” (Jn 14:16-17). In another moment during the Last Supper discourse, Jesus even said to the Apostles, “But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you” (Jn 16:7). The Holy Spirit’s presence with the Apostles, disciples and with the entire Church throughout the centuries is always meant to be a comfort, a consolation, a leader and a guide to Jesus’ friends.
If we think back to the Last Supper, it is totally appropriate that Jesus would make such a promise at that time. The impending departure of Jesus was troubling his friends. They did not know what was about to happen, and they did not understand many of the things Jesus was saying. All they really seemed to grasp at that moment was that Jesus was going away — and this reality left them in the dark, even desolate.
Jesus knew this, so at the Last Supper he not only instituted the holy Eucharist, whereby he would always be present to his friends, but he also promised them the Counselor, the Holy Spirit. He told them that the Holy Spirit would dwell with them and be with them. The Holy Spirit’s presence in and among the disciples would make it possible for them to live for Jesus, just as he was asking them to do. Living for Jesus means more than a simple calling to mind; it is to actually live Christ’s life within the sphere of my own existence. As St. Paul put it, “For to me life is Christ, and death is gain” (Phil 1:21). It is the Holy Spirit that enables that sentence to be true for Paul and for all of us.
The Holy Spirit makes God’s plan for each of us real, and we know the Holy Spirit by what he does in each life. Here is one way the Catechism expresses this: “…[T]he mission of the Spirit of adoption is to unite [God’s children] to Christ and make them live in him…” (CCC, No. 690).
In other words, that mission is to reveal Jesus, the Word of God, and to make the image of Jesus fully alive in each person. The Holy Spirit teaches us who Jesus is and how we are to become more and more like him. He also makes us ready to receive Jesus in faith. The life of a baptized person can be an ever increasing union with God through faith, hope and love. The Holy Spirit is the author of that union; he teaches us how to know God better and love Him more fully.
There are many ways that the Holy Spirit can do this, but two very important ones are through Sacred Scripture and through the sacraments. In Sacred Scripture, the same Holy Spirit who inspired the sacred authors to write is the one who dwells within the heart of each person reading it. As the Spirit inspired the writing, so the Spirit inspires the reading — so that the mind and heart of Christ can be formed in us.
In the Sacraments, we receive grace. Grace makes us like God, but we have to be disposed to it and cooperate with it. What does it mean to be like God? What does God do? Above all else, God knows and loves himself and knows and loves all things in himself. That is why the Lord Jesus taught us that the greatest commandment is to love God: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment.The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt 22:37-39). The Holy Spirit teaches us and forms us to do what Jesus taught us to do. It is the Holy Spirit that enables us to do this, because “The Holy Spirit, whom Christ the head pours out on his members, builds, animates, and sanctifies the Church” (CCC, No. 747).
If you do not have an active and growing relationship with the Holy Spirit, you can ask for that friendship with Him at any time. You can invite the Holy Spirit to play a real, dynamic role in your life starting now. As we turn our minds and hearts toward Pentecost, we can invite the Holy Spirit to renew Pentecost in our own lives.
Sister Anna Marie McGuan, RSM, is director of Christian formation in the Diocese of Knoxville.