Posted on: 2015-06-07

The abiding spirit

The Holy Spirit is the scriptwriter, choreographer and producer of all relationships with God. Saint Paul declared in the Bible "All those who walk in the Spirit of God are sons and daughters of God" (Rom 8: 14). In the Catholic Church you could try count the number of times the Holy Spirit is mentioned during Mass, the supreme Catholic worship. The number would be far more than you imagine. Right from the beginning of Mass "In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" to the very end, "May Almighty God bless you, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit", the Holy Spirit is prominent in the prayers of the Church. Rightly so, because he is the "manager" and "facilitator" of all activities of God in the history of salvation. The Church confirms this in the mouth of all Christians through the Creed, the condensed formula of the Christian faith, approved over thousands of years. "I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord the giver of life who proceeds from the Father and the Son, together with the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified. He has spoken through the prophets". That part of the Creed justifies the excitement which the mention of the Holy Spirit generates among believers till this day.

The active living Spirit

That excitement about the Holy Spirit is not at all misplaced. It is tested and proven. The Spirit overshadowed Mary and made her the mother of Jesus the saviour. The angel told her: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore, the holy child to be born of you shall be called Son of God" (Lk.1: 35). That same child, as he grew up "was seen to be strong in the Spirit" (Lk. 1:80). The upright and devout man, Simeon, had the Holy Spirit in him, was led into the temple by the Holy Spirit after the same Spirit had assured him that he would not die before seeing the Messiah (Lk. 2: 25-26). The same Holy Spirit descended and rested upon Jesus Christ at his baptism in the Jordan by John (Matt. 3:16-17), and led him into the desert to be tempted by the devil (Matt. 4:2). So did the Holy Spirit accompany Jesus all through his life and resurrection. Jesus, returning to the Father, promised his disciples not to leave them orphans... "From the Father I will send you the Spirit of truth. When this Helper has come from the Father he will be my witness, and you, too will be my witnesses, for you have been with me from the beginning" (Jn. 15: 26-27). "I shall send you an advocate. He will remind you of everything I have told you". After him, the Apostles needed the Holy Spirit to endorse their calling and he descended upon them on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2). When they needed to appoint deacons to care for widows they chose seven men who were full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom to do the job (Acts 6: 1-7).

The transforming Spirit

Today all Christians need to witness to the presence in our society of that Holy Spirit who "is a spirit of courage not of timidity". These hard times call for true, courageous witnesses to fight the powers of darkness and evil to a standstill. Pentecost, has been celebrated in the Church this last week in many creative ways through Life in the Spirit seminars, retreats, crusades and novenas. Its essence has also been recalled through hymns that teach: "Spirit of God in the clear running waters... fill the earth, bring it to birth and blow where you will. Blow, blow, blow till I be the breath of the spirit blowing in me". The one purpose of all these however is the transformation of man, of the earth through him and man's reorientation towards the things of heaven. For that purpose at Pentecost the Church teaches that we have all been given the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit derived from the characteristics of the Messiah from the "book of Emmanuel" in the prophecy of Isaiah: "There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of fortitude, wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord" (Is 11:1-2). That spirit has been poured on all Christians at baptism when they were "drowned" in water with Christ so that they may rise up with him on the last day.

Come Holy Spirit

In these difficult moments therefore, we Christians have a full time job making a positive difference through God's all-powerful Spirit. That indwelling Spirit must bear fruits of charity, joy, peace, patience, understanding of others, kindness and fidelity, gentleness and self-control (Gal 5:22-23). For all this, we must invoke him to dominate our flesh, our greed, our pride and all our weakness. Not for nothing the apostle Paul warned: "Do not be fooled. God cannot be deceived. You reap what you sow! The person who sows for the benefit of his own flesh shall reap corruption and death from the flesh. He who sows in the spirit shall reap eternal life from the Spirit. Let us do good without being discouraged; in due time we shall reap the reward of our constancy" (Gal.5:7-10). God has already sent forth his powerful Spirit into us. There is no better time than now for us to send forth ours, in order to renew the face of Nigeria and our world.