Diocese of Rockville Centre
It’s a happy coincidence that this year the Memorial of St. Philip Neri falls on Monday of the sixth week of Easter, for our reading from the Gospel of John records Jesus’ promise of “the Advocate,” i.e. the Holy Spirit, to enlighten, guide, strengthen and console His disciples, and few saints have been more devoted to the Holy Spirit than St. Philip Neri. Indeed, Philip described his heart as being ignited with God’s own Spirit, and when we consider that he became known as “the Apostle of Rome” during the Protestant Reformation, a time when, particularly in Rome, there was much to lament in the character—or lack of it—in the Church, it’s not hard to believe that the Holy Spirit worked in St. Philip to restore virtue and zeal to Christ’s battered Bride.
The driving force of the Holy Spirit is evident, too, in our reading from the Acts of the Apostles. Luke, its author, describes his missionary journey with Paul from Samothrace to Neapolis to Philippi, telling of the conversion of Lydia and her entire household and of Lydia’s hospitality to them.
The challenges Luke and Paul faced in the early Church and those faced by Philip Neri fifteen hundred years later were daunting and might easily have proved paralyzing, but Jesus had foreseen this and would not leave those whom He called to go it alone. Nor will He do so to us, even if our calling doesn’t seem quite so exalted as that of the great saints.
Jesus promised to be with us until the end of time, and He is true to His word. He is with us through the Church’s teachings and sacraments, and He is with us through His Holy Spirit sent to dwell in each of our hearts. The great 19th century Jesuit poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins, spoke eloquently of this indwelling and its effects. As does the New Testament, he calls the Holy Spirit the Paraclete and says:
“A Paraclete is one who comforts, who cheers, who encourages, who persuades, who exhorts, who stirs up, who urges forward, who calls on. What the spur and word of command are to the horse, what clapping of hands is to a speaker, what a trumpet is to the soldier, that a Paraclete is to the soul.”
So often in life we seem in over our heads, the more so if we are making a serious effort to live a genuinely Christian life, but always we have an Advocate, not just with us but in us, if we have not shut Him out. We are engaged in a great battle, it is true, but we never fight alone. In our humanness we are wayward and weak, but we go forward in the strength of God Himself, whose Holy Spirit is the Soul of our souls.
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful. Enkindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created, and you shall renew the face of the earth.