Happy Sunday! I hope to be able to write a spiritual editorial once a week, but I can’t promise anything. Yes, this is a blog about politics and common sense, but, as a wise man once said, “Without God, we are nothing and through God all things are possible.”
My favorite individual comic strip of all time is from the Family Circus series. In the individual strip, the Family Circus’ oldest son Billy is in Sunday school with his siblings and their friends. The teacher is sitting in front of her class and is explaining the Trinity to the children. The teacher, bent over to look all of the little children in the eye says, “Remember, children, that God is one.” Billy then stands up says to the teacher, “And I am five!”
The Trinity is, very simply put, the hardest thing for me to wrap my head around in regard to the faith. That’s because I never really understood who or what the Holy Spirit was. At first, I thought he was just some type of energy that animated God. But that’s not exactly right. The Holy Spirit is an individual being of His own. I understand. That’s a pretty vague definition. I know. Sometimes you can’t just define a person based on what they are. If you asked me who I am, just saying that I am a person isn’t enough. I have to start using adjectives.
Q: Who am I?
A: A person.
See? It doesn’t really work. It is far easier to learn who I am if you ask me what I do.
I like to read. I love movies. I am a Politics major, I like reading philosophy and fiction, and I plan to go to law school. I also have to keep myself constantly busy because I have a short attention span. And I really love naps. Now you know about me. What a person does is so important to the way in which they define themselves and are defined by others. So what is the Holy Spirit?
Simply, He is God. Now what does He do?
The Holy Spirit is the part of God that gets things done on Earth. When you pray to God to help you with a test or to help someone who is sick, your prayers are going to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit’s job is to spread the news of Jesus Christ. That’s why during Pentecost, it is the Holy Spirit that comes down upon the apostles. The Apostles’ whole ministry was successful because the Holy Spirit was within them. In Acts 2:6 the Holy Spirit makes it possible for the Apostles’ words to be instantly translated into their own language so everyone could understand what was being said. The Apostles had to be sealed up with the Holy Spirit before they could help others become whole. The Apostles were like backpacks. And so are we. We are all backpacks.
The Holy Spirit can also show you what to say. For example, I was very unsure about what I was going to write about today because I still have much I need to learn about the Holy Spirit. So, I prayed for inspiration. By chance, I went to see one of the monks on campus the other day and instead ran into the director of campus ministry. She asked about how I was doing with this speech and before I knew what I was saying I was asking for help and she was very helpful. Later that same day, I was having dinner with some friends and we talked about our weeks. I brought up how I needed some help with the speech (luckily these are the friends who know a lot about faith) and they spent the next twenty minutes going over who the Spirit was and what He does for us daily. And I realized that it wasn’t a bad thing that I didn’t have all of the answers, because that meant that I got to continue to learn. “For our Gospel did not come to you in word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with much conviction.” 1 Thessalonians 1:5
There are seven gifts given to us by the Holy Spirit. These gifts bring the life of God into us. So what are these seven gifts? The first is Wisdom. This gift makes us value what we believe through faith and makes us want to learn about our relationship with God and the world around us. Understanding, the second gift, allows us to understand what we learn about God. Counsel allows us to judge the best way to act by intuition and to stand up for what we know is right. Fortitude gives us the strength to use counsel when needed. Knowledge lets us see the consequences of our actions through God’s perspective. Think Ten Commandments. Piety is the desire to worship and serve God. Finally, there is Fear of the Lord. Know, Fear doesn’t mean that we worship God because we’re scared of Him, it means that we don’t want to offend God.
Do you know the story of Jesus and the Pharisees; when they tried to trick him into siding with Rome on taxes? What did He say? He said, “Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and give unto God what is God’s.” This is the cleverest response ever, because it sounded like He was staying neutral, but He was really saying that we should give Caesar nothing because Caesar owns nothing. Everything is God’s. That’s the Holy Spirit, all knowing and all powerful, working to lead Jesus out of danger. In this story alone, the Holy Spirit gives Jesus the gifts of understanding, counsel, fortitude, and knowledge. The use of this story to influence and teach other believers spreads all seven of the gifts to the rest of us.
In my diocese, confirmation is done in sixth grade. (Confirmation is a sacrament of the Catholic Church.) It used to be much earlier. I made my confirmation and my first communion at the same time, in second grade. My little brother made his confirmation last October and I was his sponsor. When one has finished the sacrament, the Bishop says to the newly confirmed, “Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit.” SEALED. That means that nothing that you get from the Spirit will fall out of you. It will be in you forever. The human soul is like a backpack. Remember when I said that we are all backpacks?
When a backpack is unzipped everything in it can just fall out at anytime. I can put what I need into the bag, but unless I seal it up, stuff will fall out. I have to repack my backpack every day when I leave my room and I have to zip it up every day so that my books won’t fall out. It’s the same thing when it comes to who the Holy Spirit is and what He does for us. The seal of the Holy Spirit that you receive during confirmation isn’t going to seal you up permanently. As human beings you will fall and you will falter, but that’s okay. Because the Holy Spirit is there to help you become whole. He is there to guide you to what is right and He will help you deal with the problems you might face. Think of how hard it would be to seal my backpack if it had no zipper. It would be incredibly hard. Luckily, we all have zippers. And when something drops out of us, just like my backpack, we can fill ourselves up with good things and then be sealed once more.
There’s a reason that God is split into three parts. God the Father makes the rules, Jesus the son showed us how to follow the rules, and the Holy Spirit spreads the word and helps us follow these rules. So every morning, just as you would make sure all of your books are packed, check to see if you’ve packed the gifts of the Holy Spirit and zip yourself up.