“Feeling” The Holy Spirit


Acts 2: 1-11; 1 Cor 12: 3b-7, 12-13; Jn 20: 19-23

Deacon Larry Brockman

Today is all about the Holy Spirit.  We hear two different accounts of how the gift of the Holy Spirit was bestowed by God on his people.   

First, Jesus bestows the gift of the Spirit on his Apostles in the Gospel story late on Easter Sunday.   He breathes on them and then tells them that he is sending the Holy Spirit on them.

This is reminiscent of the creation of Adam and Even in Genesis, when God breathed on them and gave them life.

You know, we can explain all the physiological events that occur when someone takes a breath.  We take a breath by an internal impulse, the heart pumps, blood flows through our lungs, and the lungs renew our blood.     

But the fact remains, that the projection of our spirit’s presence is symbolized by the fact that we are dynamic, breathing beings.  Nobody can explain in physiological terms that projection which is unique to each one of us- the way a person smiles, the look in their eyes, the uniqueness of the way they move, their likes and dislikes, their temperament, and so many other things that are unique to each person.  People say that’s all imbedded in our genes.    But what is the mechanism by which those genes project the whole spirit of the person.   

And so, we sense something else other than just the physical presence in ourselves; we sense a spiritual presence.  First century Israel was not aware of so many of the scientific advances that are second nature to us today.  Fortunately, it was easier for them to understand and accept the symbolism that breathing represented the Spirit.   

And so, Jesus is infusing into the existing spiritual presences that accompanied the bodies of the Apostles something else-  an additional spiritual presence; the presence of the Spirit of God.   

Now last week, we talked some about the Holy Spirit.  We talked about the fact that the Spirit would give us power that would strengthen us and help sustain our Faith by giving us the gifts of the Spirit.   

In today’s Gospel, Jesus made it clear on that first Easter Sunday that he was giving the Apostles the Spirit of God to exercise a specific power-  the power to forgive sins or not forgive them.  This scripture is the basis for our Sacrament of Confession.   

It’s not that God can’t and won’t forgive us if we ask him directly.  But it is clear that the power of forgiveness was vested by Jesus in the Apostles by proxy, and by Apostolic succession to our current priests.  How comforting it is to know for certain that we are forgiven. 

But this was a specific gift, a specific power, just given to the Apostles. I doubt that they felt it in any way; they exercised it on Faith.   

In today’s second reading we hear about the gifts of the Holy Spirit in general.  Paul says that “To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit”- for some benefit.  Then Paul uses an analogy to describe how the gifts of all of us weave together into God’s will.  He uses the human body for that analogy; how each member has an essential function.   

Now In the first reading, we hear about thousands of people who received the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Sunday.  First, the Disciples of Jesus are infused with the Holy Spirit in tongues of fire.  Each of them has been empowered in a unique way by the Holy Spirit.  One power is the gift of tongues, the ability of those Apostles to communicate with foreigners speaking different languages.  And working all together, Jesus’ disciples convert thousands of people on that first day through the power of the Holy Spirit.   

Now this sounds just great as we read it 2000 years later, but when most of us were confirmed, we didn’t see tongues of fire or people speaking in tongues to us.  So, did we feel the presence of the Spirit come on us?  Many of us had a spiritual high; a joyful expectation finally met.  But did anything really change in our lives instantly that we could really sense?  Did we feel stronger in our ability to deal with evil?  Did we get a special inspiration about what God wants us to do with our lives?   

Well, the Holy Spirit’s powers are spiritual, not physical powers.  They are not something we can touch or feel.  We have got to accept on Faith that these powers, these gifts, are there, and that they are there for our benefit.  We have received the power to access the will of God for us.  He now guarantees us his presence and attention when we appeal to him.  We are in his good “graces”; we have received “grace”.  We hold that grace as long as we are faithful to God and his commandments.   

In particular, he will help guide us to discover the gifts and powers that he wills for us if we ask him.  He does that by nudging us in the right direction as circumstances present themselves and by giving us the spiritual strength, fortitude if you will, to stick with it.   

Today, we see many people who found the Spirit’s gifts to them as we see how society is dealing with the Corona Virus.  People are serving their fellow man in extraordinary ways.  They have a strength they didn’t know they had; and although exhausted, they experience joys they didn’t know existed.  

Our access to the gifts of the Spirit is like that.  When we least expect it, we will be called, and our challenge is to hear that call.  It is then we will feel the strength of the Spirit working in us.   

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