At this point in the Easter Season, the readings begin to prepare us for the great feast of Pentecost. Such is the case with today’s Gospel where these words have been proclaimed: “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth”.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus gently tells his disciples about his impending return to the Father in heaven. Jesus has not gone up, up and away, but rather, has come more deeply into our world. How is Jesus with us? The short answer is – we have the gift of the Holy Spirit.
In spite of what we see in paintings, the Holy Spirit is not a bird. The Holy Spirit is the 3rd person of the Blessed Trinity. The Holy Spirit is God. The Holy Spirit is divine power, energy and life.
The key message is that the Holy Spirit is active and real in our world and in each of us. Today’s liturgy encourages us to ask ourselves these questions: Do I allow myself to be guided by the Holy Spirit? Do I allow him to play a role in my life?
As we journey through life, particularly during a pandemic, the biggest mistake that we can make is to think that we are alone. We have someone who is very powerful in our corner – the Holy Spirit who has been poured out in abundance over us at our Baptism and Confirmation.
The invitation of today’s Gospel is to call upon the Holy Spirit every day to guide us in the practical situations of our lives. He is the one who will give us the gift of knowing what we must do when the time comes. We can be certain that the Holy Spirit will teach us to do God’s will in every circumstance.
The call of Baptism and Confirmation is to have the courage to ask the Holy Spirit for his help, particularly when we are confused or troubled. That’s the reason for which Baptism and Confirmation are only administered once in a person’s lifetime. The graces are permanent. They are available on a daily basis just for the asking.
At another point in the Gospel, Jesus tells us that the Father will never refuse someone who asks for the Holy Spirit. So, let’s ask! And ask again! Fr. Hesburgh of Notre Dame once commented that the one prayer that is always appropriate, whether one is experiencing success or failure, whether one is confident or afraid, whether one is young or old, is, “Come, Holy Spirit.”
When we have a difficult decision to make, we can pray, “Come Holy Spirit; descend on us and guide our attitudes and our choices”. When sickness, disease, and adversity come (as is the case at this time), we can pray, “Come Holy Spirit; descend with your healing and comforting power.”
Let me illustrate this point by another example. In 1914, Belgium was invaded and occupied by German troops. In the process, the King and his government were exiled, church buildings were destroyed, priests were killed, and all sorts of atrocities were committed against civilians.
Joseph Mercier, the Roman Catholic Cardinal of Belgium, criticized the German occupation in an open and public way. For example, he continuously spoke out against the cruel practice of deporting Belgian workers to factories in Germany to serve as slave labourers. (Due to Mercier’s efforts, the Germans eventually ceased this practice.)
He did all he could to alleviate the suffering of the Belgian people in these horrible circumstances. Through his pastoral letters, homilies and actions, he became the symbol of the Belgian resistance to the German occupation.
The reason he wasn’t arrested or killed was that he was highly popular among German Catholics. The soldiers were afraid to do something to Mercier that would anger their fellow Germans back home. In the end, men with machine guns were fearful of a man whose only weapon was the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
At the end of World War I, Cardinal Mercier was admired and highly respected by all of Europe. When asked to explain his courage and strength in the face of such evil, this was his answer. “I have discovered the ‘secret of sanctity’: Daily, I spend 5 minutes alone in a quiet place asking the Spirit for help and guidance”.
This is an example that can inspire us. We don’t have to be a Cardinal in order to do what Mercier did. Each of us ought to get in the habit of setting aside a period of prayer with the Holy Spirit every day.
“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth”. These powerful words are addressed to each of us today. As our Eucharist continues, let us ask the Holy Spirit to influence and to direct our thoughts, words and actions in our daily lives.
Deacon Roland Muzzatti
May 20, 2020