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The transforming and unifying role of the Holy Spirit

The transforming and unifying role of the Holy Spirit

Pentecost Sunday, Year A (Jn 20:19-23)
June 4, 2017

By Fr. Sal Putzu, SDB

JESUS freed us from sin through all that he was and deed, but especially though his passion, death, and resurrection. Thanks to him, salvation is made available and offered to all human beings. But this does not mean that we are all herded into heaven. Christ destroyed sin, but not our freedom. It can still happen that we say once again “No!” to God.

As long as we live on earth, sin remains a “possible accident” caused by a number of factors, the main ones of which are the devil’s temptations, the negative influence of the environment in which we live, and especially the moral weakness of our wounded nature. Experience shows that sin remains a sad reality to this very day, both in ourselves and around us.

Jesus knew it would be so. That is why he repeatedly promised and eventually gave the Holy Spirit to the Church that she might continue his healing mission in the power of the Source of all unity, wholeness, and holiness.

Thus, Jesus completed his redemptive work by commissioning the Church to carry on the struggle against all that divides mankind, all that makes us selfish, proud, aggressive, and oppressive.

And this is what the Church has been doing in her 2000 years of existence, in spite of all the limitations and weaknesses that come to her from her “human component.” The Holy Spirit, present in her as her “soul,” is the divine Power that keeps the Church alive, constantly renews her, guides her into an ever greater appreciation of the truths of revelation, sanctifies her, and strengthens her against all dangers and oppositions.

And so the mystery of the Incarnation continues – God saving men through men, not just through the all-holy Jesus, but also through the ministry of frail and defective people, sanctified and strengthened by the Spirit of love, unity, and holiness.

We will never be able to fully appreciate the importance of the role of the Holy Spirit in the Church and in each of us. Without him, the Church would be just a human institution, destined to perish like all other institutions, empires and civilizations. But the Church will last until the end of time only because the Holy Spirit, the Lord of Life, animates her.

Thanks to the presence of the Spirit, the gift of salvation and all other gifts of the Risen Christ are channeled to people, through the Church, the “Universal Sacrament of Salvation” (CFC, 1416). The Church fulfills this role through all that she is and does, but especially through those sacred acts that we call “sacraments.” In particular, the forgiving love of God becomes a reality for us, today, through the sacrament of Reconciliation, which enables us to rise after every fall, purified and strengthened by God’s forgiving love.