In the Acts of the Apostles, Luke describes Paul’s visit to the ancient city of Athens, the cradle of Western civilization. Paul congratulates the Athenians who had dedicated an altar to “the Unknown God.” He tells them that the God they do not know is the God that Jesus revealed. In the same way there are Catholics today for whom one of the three persons of the Holy Trinity is unknown. I am referring to the Holy Spirit. Most of us think about the Third Person of the Holy Trinity once a year, on the Feast of Pentecost.
Jesus, on the other hand, gave the Holy Spirit to us to continue the mission that the Father had given Him. The work of our sanctification has been entrusted to the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who makes us understand all that Jesus taught. We cannot do anything good except by the power of the Spirit. As St Paul writes, “No one can acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord” except by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
If the Holy Spirit is at the heart of everything good and holy, then we must constantly take Him into our spiritual lungs. In the words of Paul, “In Him we live, move and have our being.” In other words, we encounter the Consoler in everything, in every one, and in every situation. The English Jesuit Poet, Gerald Manley Hopkins, expressed this truth in a powerful way when he wrote: “The world is charged with the grandeur of God, and it will shine forth as shining from shook foil.” Jean Mouroux, a French theologian, called our world “the sacrament of God.” Everything in this vast universe communicates the powerful presence of God.
First of all, the Holy Spirit enables us to encounter God in nature. Dante said, “Nature is the art of God.” Growing up in India, we saw only three seasons: “Hot, hotter, hottest.” The changing of seasons here in the Midwest says most eloquently that the Divine is breathtakingly beautiful. The trees that were bare and apparently dead suddenly burst into life. Edith Daley affirmed, “The miracle of one pale rose is proof enough of God!”
Second, the Holy Spirit opens our eyes and makes us see God in everyone. I have been blessed to have lived in three different cultures and to love people on three different continents. I have found that deep down most people are good. Everyone carries the divine spark in them, even the hard-hearted criminals. It is the Holy Spirit that enables to come face to face with that spark. William Blake, the English poet, wrote: “I sought my soul, but my soul I could not see. I sought my God but my God eluded me. I sought my brother, and I found all three.” Cardinal John Henry Newman put it succinctly: “I sought to hear the voice of God and climbed the topmost steeple. I heard God declare, ‘Go down again, I live among the people
Third, the Holy Spirit helps us touch the finger of God in every situation. You might have heard me say that there are no coincidences, only God-incidences. Coincidences are miracles where God does not claim authorship. God is present in both pleasant and unpleasant situations. Nothing happens in our lives without God’s permission or at least His tacit consent.
Fourth, the Holy Spirit gives us the grace to touch God especially in our painful moments. Only He can help us to touch the wood of our cross and recognize the divine will. Just as when Jesus took up the Cross at the command of Pontius Pilate he saw in it the Father’s will, by the power of the Spirit we can accept God’s will in the sufferings that come our way. C S Lewis has powerful words in this regard: “God whispers in our pleasure, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pain.
We all know that God is pre-eminently present in the sacraments and in Sacred Scripture. Let us not forget, however, that it is by the power of the Holy Spirit that the presence of Christ is made real in every sacrament. Without doubt, it is He who makes it possible for us to encounter Christ in the Eucharist, to be adopted into God’s family in the waters of baptism or to be nourished by Sacred Scripture. In this column I am inviting all of us to recognize God’s presence in our everyday life, outside the church.
Let me leave you with some inspiring words that I read in a book long time ago...
Can we hear God in a robin’s song?
In the laughter of a child at play?
Can we see Him in the silver symmetry of a snowflake or in a sunset?
Perhaps He dwells within our souls or in the love we share with friends.
Or, as some claim, He might be heard in the thundering chords of the organ on Sunday or in the patter of raindrops in April.
But God cannot be found in one place, one day, one person.
God is truly in all people, all places, all creatures – all creation.
We feel His presence wherever we go, in whatever we do… because God is everywhere.
May the Holy Spirit touch our hearts so that we can touch God in everything and in everyone!
Born in India to deeply-committed Catholic parents, Fr Britto is one of seven children. He joined the Salesians of Don Bosco as a young man and was ordained a priest in 1981.
After he completed his priestly formation and his early education in India, he came to the US for his graduate degree in Journalism at...Read more...