The Holy Spirit in a world chasing after peace

The Holy Spirit in a world chasing after peace

By Msgr. Euly B. Belizar, Jr., SThD

May 28, 2023

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there. If I make my bed in the depths, you are there” (Ps 139:7-8).

1. One lazy and quiet Sunday morning I heard the local radio play an old song that crooned, “Love is a many-splendored thing.” Many-splendored? I asked myself. No doubt about it. But is love a “thing”? Hardly objectionable.

But do you know that St. John Paul II taught that love is a Person?

2. If love were a person, who would that person be? St John Paul II answered this emphatically in his encyclical on the Holy Spirit ‘Dominum et Vivificantem‘ (‘Lord and Giver of Life’). He declared in no uncertain terms: “The Holy Spirit is Love-in-Person” (DeV 10). To me that simply means that love is a sign of, and connects us to, the Spirit of God. In a word, there wouldn’t be any real love at all without the Holy Spirit. On this score alone we all—men and women, parents and children, lovers and poets—owe it to ourselves to get to know and get closer to the Holy Spirit.

3. The Acts attests to the Holy Spirit being a person. “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as ‘he’ had come on us at the beginning” (Acts 11:15). Jesus himself makes a promise to his disciples and in the process reveals the Holy Spirit in terms of a personal pronoun: “It is better for you that I go because if I do not go the Holy Spirit will not come to you. Whereas, if I go, I will send ‘him’ to you” (Jn 16:7). There are other instances in which Jesus refers to the Spirit by way of the pronouns “he” or “him” (Jn 14:26; 15:26; 16:8). It should be said here that the pronouns “he” or “him” have nothing to do with the male gender. Rather it has more to do with “personal”. The Holy Spirit is definitely not a “thing” but a “Someone”.

4. And yet, if the Holy Spirit is Love-in-Person, how many times do we invoke love but forget the Holy Spirit?

In fact, as the old song suggests, there is a trait shared by these the two realities. We gather this from another source—the Scriptures. Like Love, say too the Holy Writ, the Holy Spirit is many-splendored. This we see, for example, in the concrete ways he manifests himself and makes himself felt. To a group of frightened and, I would assume, guilt-ridden apostles the Holy Spirit comes in the form of ‘wind’ as a Life-giving power just like our breath ‘ruah’ (which means also ‘spirit’ (Acts 2:2). Then the Spirit also comes in the form of ‘fire’ as he infuses the fear-filled disciples with courage and passion to proclaim God’s praises, to announce the Good News, even to those who openly persecute them (Acts 2:4-6).

5. Paul the Apostle expresses yet another splendor of the Spirit: the diverse gifts and charisms he gives to the Church, yet keeping the faithful united despite this diversity. It is amazing how in a small community alone the diversity of these gifts inspires awe: the ability to speak in languages effectively communicating God’s Word to more people, the ability to sing God’s praises inside and outside the liturgy, the ability to care lovingly for the sick, the ability to heal and to work miracles, the ability to pray powerfully for others’ needs etc. (1 Cor 12:3-13). The gifts of the Spirit are among the many splendors that especially draw people’s attention.

6. But Paul makes an important point: Christians must aim for the better gifts. “But be zealous for the better charisms. And I will reveal to you a yet more excellent way” (1 Cor 12:31). It is not the sensational gifts, such as speaking in tongues or doing miracles that make Christians who they are better than others. It is rather that Christians use these gifts not for self-seeking purposes but for the building up of the Community of Disciples, the Church, who they really are. Their being under the Spirit’s influence is meant to make them acknowledge Jesus who suffered, died and rose again as “Lord” (1 Cor 12:1). Through the same Spirit

disciples recognize, and profess, that the risen Jesus is real, not imaginary or ethereal.

7. In the Gospel of John we witness yet still another splendor of the Holy Spirit. Jesus “breathes” on his apostles and it results in their being re-created. The word for breath in Hebrew is ‘ruah’ which can also mean ‘spirit’. Remember how in Genesis God gives life to the first human being made out of clay by “breathing” into him (Gen 2:7). So now by the same breath of Life Jesus gives his disciples, rendered lifeless by fear, a renewed life by the giving of the Spirit who eliminates the cause of fear and death—sin. “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven. Whose sins you shall retain, they are retained” (Jn 20:22-23). This is none other than the power to forgive sins that is beautifully made available to us in the Sacrament of Penance.

8. Yet we need to remember, before “breathing” into them the Holy Spirit, the risen Lord greets his disciples: “Peace be with you” (Jn 20:19). This is no ordinary peace largely understood as the absence of conflict. This is “Shalom” which sums up all the blessings thst only the Lord can give, salvation included. Then he gives them a gift—a share in his mission. “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (Jn 20:21). That is to say, the giving of the Spirit is directly linked to the blessings of ‘Shalom’ narrowly translated as “peace” in English and our sharing in the saving mission of the risen Son of God.

9. World peace is not a cliche. It is like a house humans need to build. As Psalm 127:1 reminds us: “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman guards in vain.”

Pentecost speaks loudly: The Lord builds the house of peace through the Holy Spirit in and through humans like you and me. If only we let him.

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