Over the last few weeks we have been reading the acts of the apostles during mass. The acts of the apostles could be renamed the acts of the Holy Spirit as it was the Holy Spirit who acted through the apostles.
(If we wanted to be technical about it then we’d have to concede that it was the combined acts of both the apostles and the Holy Spirit as God does not act in and through people without their free will.)
Now the last few weeks’ readings have reminded us of the signs and wonders that the apostles performed and also the misunderstandings and divisions that happened as a result.
While it makes for a great read, who would actually want to sign up for that type of a life and hardship?
And yet tomorrow we will be celebrating the feast of the ascension when Jesus left the apostles and told them that He was going so that the Holy Spirit could come.
And many of us will pray over the coming few weeks for a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in our churches for Pentecost (Sunday week).
However we must sit down with ourselves and be very honest. When the Holy Spirit came into the lives of the apostles He changed everything. They began preaching in public, they performed miracles in public, they were flogged, jailed, beaten and more.
Are we praying to the same Holy Spirit? Let’s make no mistake about it, the Holy Spirit is not like Casper the friendly Ghost!
I can allow myself to write like this because I’ve learnt first hand how difficult and demanding it is to follow the Holy Spirit. Enormous trials have come my way that have shaken me to the core and I too have got into enormous difficulties with church leaders and other authority figures because of my lifestyle. Many times too I felt like giving up….but where would I go?!
Yet over the years I have met hundreds of people who have been catholic for far longer than I have and despite praying to the Holy Spirit, nothing much has changed in their lives.
So is it that the Holy Spirit didn’t come or is there something else happening?
Well the Holy Spirit of course has come but if He comes and finds no space then He’ll have to leave again.
You see most people want the Holy Spirit to come on their terms. They want enough of Him to improve their lives and yet not so much of Him to disturb their lives!
The modern word is ‘balance’ and in the name of this so called balance the Holy Spirit has been all but booted out of our church and lives.
You see the true ways of the Holy Spirit are as mad and controversial now as they were 2000 years ago. It’s simply not possible to avoid controversy in your life and ministry if you really give it to the Holy Spirit.
In our catholic church nowadays the Holy Spirit is very active especially in charismatic circles and in places like Medjugorje.
Healings, conversions, hours of prayer, deliverances, exorcisms, praise and worship, gifts of tongues, prophesy, annointed preaching and teaching are just some of what is normal at these gatherings.
And yet many people and sadly many priests have no time for this type of nonsense. Some consider it to be immature, silly, non-scientific, unnecessary and even dangerous.
And so you see here we have the big dilemma. “Come Holy Spirit” we pray and shout but don’t come like that….
“Come in a 21st century type of way and let us guide you and teach you as you clearly couldn’t be familiar with our modern world. We have technology now you know and have made enormous advances in medicine and psychiatry so we really don’t need that healing and deliverance stuff! No, just come gently and tell us how much you love us and how happy you are with us and then you can go home. We don’t really need you after that but thanks for the offer.”
And so you see, in so many churches and in so many of our lives the actions of the Holy Spirit are utterly blocked and the result is dead lifeless parishes with little enthusiasm for prayer and no great joy.
However it doesn’t have to be so. Pentecost is coming and in His eternal patience the Holy Spirit is waiting to come into our hearts and lives for real.
And so as we start a novena to the Holy Spirit on Friday it might also be a good time to simultaneously pray that well known novena of surrender so that when the Holy Spirit does come at Pentecost we will be ready to follow Him and make the radical changes to our lives that He may be asking.
“Come Holy Spirit, prepare our hearts and minds so that we may pray for your coming meaningfully and wholeheartedly and that we may abandon all of our lives and ministries to your divine will”.
Have a blessed day,
Ps. The cartoon images came from avatar!