The Gift of the Holy Spirit Brings Life to the Church May 17, 2024

The Gift of the Holy Spirit Brings Life to the Church

This weekend, Catholics throughout the world celebrate the great Feast of Pentecost, which marks the gift of the Spirit to the disciples, and the beginning of the Church. Pentecost also marks the close of the Easter Season – and with it, the invitation to live as intentional and missionary disciples until Christ comes again. Ascension and Pentecost communicate that Christ’s ascension to the Father and his gift of the Spirit ushered in a new period of God’s salvation history where we are called be the hands and feet of Jesus, to bind the wounds of those in need, and to carry the message of God’s saving love to all.

Most mornings, I begin my day with prayer which includes praise and thanksgiving to God for who God is and for the all the gifts and grace God has generously bestowed upon me and all of humanity. My praise of God includes praising the Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. When I praise the Holy Spirit, I use several titles associated with the Spirit, including Paraclete, Advocate, Guide, Oil of Gladness, The Lord, the Giver of Life, and the Ruach (Breath of God). I also praise the Holy Spirit as the one who vivifies (brings life), sanctifies (makes holy), and unifies the Church. Indeed, the gift of the Holy Spirit caries a dynamism that transforms believers, inspires truth, and apportions unique gifts for the flourishing of Christ’s mission and upbuilding of the Catholic Church.

I think it is fair to say that without the gift of the Spirit, the early Church would have faded quickly into the annals of history as a small band of believers that was well meaning. As we have seen throughout the Easter Season in Luke’s Acts of the Apostles, the Holy Spirit is the divine protagonist out ahead of the disciples – giving them the inspiration, gifts, wisdom, and courage to continue the mission of Christ. Many passages of Acts begin with these words: “filled with the Holy Spirit….” Perhaps the most encompassing title for the Holy Spirit is The Lord, the Giver of Life. This is the title that we use for the Spirit in professing our ancient creed on Sundays and I believe this title best captures the dynamic gift of God’s Spirit. The Spirit is a source of new life in so many ways, including through the sacramental life of the Church – new life is given through baptism, confirmation, Eucharist and new life is restored through the sacraments of penance and anointing of the sick.

Many years ago, my father asked me a question, why if the presence of the Spirit was so powerfully present in the early Church, through miracles and other astounding events and acts, do we not see the Spirit as powerfully present today? I think this is an astute question. The answer that came most quickly to mind is that I do not think Christians are as intentionally open to the power of the Holy Spirit as they may have been in the early Church. There are all sorts of reasons why this may be the case. God continues to offer the gift and power of the Spirit to believers to build up the Church and to continue the saving mission of Jesus. There are specific Catholic healing ministries working today which can document powerful physical and spiritual healings. These ministries are dynamic and effective precisely because they invoke the power of the Holy Spirit to bring healing and restoration. Given this, I would invite all Catholics to more intentionally call on the presence and power of the Spirit in our lives of faith, in our communities of faith, and in our world.

This weekend, we are honoring a man of faith who has remained open to the Holy Spirit in his various ministries and leadership initiatives throughout his life. Michael O’Connell served as pastor of The Basilica of Saint Mary at a critical time for the parish and used his considerable skills to build up The Basilica into a flourishing and dynamic community of faith. No doubt, the Holy Spirit was out front in this work and Michael’s openness to the Spirit fostered a parish culture which was inclusive, innovative, bold, and compassionate. Michael’s Jeremiah Program is another example of where Michael’s openness to the Spirit resulted in an initiative which has led countless women and families to experience greater flourishing and restoration.

This weekend, a group of friends have generously gifted The Basilica of Saint Mary the Heritage Edition of the St. John’s Bible in Michael’s honor. I am so thankful to them for their generosity to The Basilica and for honoring Michael in this way. I am also thankful for Sue Hayes and what Sue has meant to The Basilica community for years. Sue’s generosity of spirit, giftedness, and winning personality have brought so much life to The Basilica and to all who count Sue as a friend. Ad multos annos Michael and Sue!

May the Holy Spirit, the Lord the Giver of Life, continue to guide and gift the Church and may all believers have hearts wide-open to the Spirit as we continue to live the divine mission entrusted to us by Jesus.

Fr. Daniel Griffith, The Basilica of Saint Mary