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What Do You Owe Your Faith To—the Holy Spirit?

I owe my faith today to the Holy Spirit! In 1989, a close friend told me that if I was in a fatal accident, I’d be damned based on the spiritual state I was in at the time. I believed in God the Creator but didn’t go beyond that and only went to church on Christmas and Easter out of family tradition. I certainly didn’t like that approach to evangelization, but it did the trick. I was scared that she might be right, and I couldn’t sleep for two nights. Little did I know, that in three days I’d have Holy Spirit faith!

Out of fear, I seriously prepared to confess nearly twenty years of sins, examining my life since college days. I compiled a thorough list, as if I were taking out a hell-avoidance insurance policy. A “fallen away Catholic,” I entered the confessional box. To my surprise, as I confessed this long list of sins, I experienced true sorrow for how they’d not only been wrong but had also offended God. I cried. God forgave me in his mercy as the priest pronounced absolution and welcomed me home. Tears, peace, and joy washed over me, and I practically floated out of there. I said my assigned penance of one Our Father and one Hail Mary, and then went home, unafraid and sensing that I was floating on air. 

Returning home, I went into the backyard where I saw my husband on the patio reading the newspaper and our kids, 2 and 4, playing on a jungle gym 40 feet away. I opened my mouth to say what I would have said pre-Holy Spirit: “You call that parenting? Your eyes are buried in The New York Times and the kids are way over there where they could fall and break their necks and you wouldn’t even see it.” Instead, the words that emerged in a soft, sweet voice were, “Isn’t this a beautiful scene? You’re getting to relax and read the paper, and the girls are playing so nicely together!” 

The next morning, I told my husband, “I want to raise our children as Catholics, starting by taking them to Mass this morning. And tomorrow, I’m going to buy a Bible and join some prayer groups my friend is leading. OK?” He responded that he’d hadn’t liked going to Mass with his father while his mother stayed home, so he’d join me in giving the children a united message. “Besides,” he said, “the world would be a better place if everyone spent an hour a week listening to the Gospel and hearing a sermon about how to live.” So, we did that. I suddenly had Holy Spirit faith!

One of the prayer groups I joined was a charismatic prayer group where the music was uplifting and the gifts of the Holy Spirit flowed: words of knowledge, wisdom, prophetic words, praying in tongues and the interpretation of tongues, and laying on of hands for healing and for releasing gifts of the Holy Spirit. ~See 1 Cor. 12. Those praying and laying hands on me heard from the Spirit that I’d already received Baptism in the Spirit during my repentance, and I just needed to surrender to the gifts—so I did, beginning in baby steps of praying in tongues and being led to scriptures to share in the prayer meeting. 

About ten years later, I started an interdenominational charismatic prayer group —the “One Spirit Prayer Group”—and introduced it this way: 

DO YOU KNOW THIS ABOUT THE HOLY SPIRIT?

Of the 7,957 verses in the New Testament, 3,874 touch on one of these five categories of experiences involving the Holy Spirit:  the gift of healing, the gift of discerning spirits, dreams and visions, extra-sensory perception, and word gifts (tongue-speaking and prophesy).  In the New Testament then, “non-rational” spiritual experiences were a matter of course! So, the third person of the Trinity is essential to about half the verses! [Source:  Morton Kelsey, Dreams: A Way to Listen to God.]

I’m convinced that the Holy Spirit is essential in the life of every disciple of Jesus, because only the Holy Spirit comprehends God’s thoughts, unveils Christ to us, reveals the Word, and dwells in believers. ~1 Cor. 2:11, Jn 16:13, Jn 14:17 (NRSV). The Spirit is essential to our receiving both life and love! For “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” ~Rom. 5:5 (NRSV). The Spirit is the breath of life that makes beings live. ~See Ps. 104:29-30 (NAB), John 5:62-63 (NAB). As Luke says, quoting Isaiah 42:1-9, Jesus’ mission on earth came from his anointing by the Spirit:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,

because he has anointed me

to proclaim good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners

and recovery of sight for the blind,

to set the oppressed free,

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” ~Luke 4:18-19 (NIV)

Jesus’ followers are to carry on that same mission. ~See John 14:12 (NIV). And we need the Holy Spirit to do that effectively.

Jesus promised his disciples the Holy Spirit at the Last Supper, describing the Spirit as an Advocate, the Spirit of truth, to be with and in God’s children always. ~Jn 14:16-17 NAB. He also said the Holy Spirit will teach us everything and remind us of what He taught, which will help believers to bear witness, giving us at the right moment what we are to say. ~Cf. Jn 14:26, Mt 10:19-20.

Pentecost is a feast day I love, especially when it’s enthusiastically celebrated, seven weeks after Easter and soon after celebrating Jesus’ Ascension. On the first Pentecost, Jesus, in his fullness, poured out the Spirit in abundance, as described in Acts 2:33-36. 

I’ve had a practice of praying to the Holy Spirit for nine days leading up to Pentecost every year, to get to know the Spirit and experience the Spirit’s gifts more fully. This year, I will post my favorite daily prayers on my Radiant Joy Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/radiantjoychristine, every day from May 19th leading up to Pentecost on May 28th. I invite you to join me! On Pentecost 2023, let’s all thank God for the tremendous gifts of the Holy Spirit!

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