Diocese of Rockville Centre
A famous prayer to the Holy Spirit by Cardinal Mercier, who lived into the early twentieth century, goes like this: O Holy Spirit, Soul of my soul, I adore you. Enlighten, guide, strengthen and console me. Show me what I ought to do, and command me to do it. I promise to be submissive to all that you ask of me and to all that you permit to befall me. Only show me what is your will.
The Holy Spirit figures prominently in both of today’s readings. In the first, from the Acts of the Apostles, we’re told that as the disciples prayed, “the place where they were shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.” In our gospel, John records Jesus’ telling Nicodemus, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless one is born again of water and the Holy Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.”
What’s easy to miss in these readings, so striking is the power of the Holy Spirit, is God’s penchant for enlisting the aid of instrumental causes. The Spirit’s manifestation to the disciples comes in answer to prayer, and, as important as the Holy Spirit’s role is in strengthening and inspiring the Apostles, as important is the cohesiveness and support of the Christian community.
Of the Spirit, Jesus says it is like the wind that blows where it will and that it has the mysterious power to give new life, yet not just in the gospel, but in the experience of the Church, we find that this new life of the Christian comes in baptism through water and the Spirit.
Almost always, it seems to be God’s way to pay tribute to His creation by using elements of it in bringing about even His most supernatural purposes. In a sense, He makes Himself dependant on His creatures. Yes, the Holy Spirit will come to our aid, but it will be in answer to our prayers and in concert with others who lend a hand or word of encouragement. Yes, the Christian will be reborn by the power of the Holy Spirit, but water will be the effective sign of that rebirth.
The great model of cooperation with the Holy Spirit is the Blessed Virgin Mary. Together, she and the Holy Spirit were responsible for bringing the God-man, Jesus Christ, into the world. Together, she and the Holy Spirit channel God’s grace to souls open to that gift. It’s why theologians speak of Mary as “Mediatrix of all graces.”
The great Anglican student of the spiritual life, Evelyn Underhill, wrote that our relations with God could be summed up in two words: communion and cooperation. Mother Teresa once described herself as nothing but a “pen in the hand of God.” You see, God writes, but enlists us as His pens. The page is covered with print only when Author and instrument are one and cooperate.
Our whole life is to be a communion with God’s Holy Spirit in bringing about the will of the Father in imitation of Jesus. As Benedict XVI was fond of saying, “We are made for greatness.” Indeed! What could be greater than to be in communion with and to cooperate with the Creator, the Redeemer, and the Sanctifier of the entire world?