You are invited to a relationship with the Holy Spirit
Many of you may know a couple like my friends Rose and Tony, a couple that laughs a lot, that loves and serves each other, that lives for each other. After 48 years marriage, Rose and Tony know each other so well, they often don’t even need to speak. With a glance one will know what the other is thinking, or what the other needs. I find it nice to be in their company. Their bond has grown over the years and people around them feel it.
You are invited to a relationship with the Holy Spirit that is much like the one Rose and Tony share. The call is for you to spend so much time listening to God’s Holy Spirit that you come to know Him intimately, that you know what He desires and expects. We are invited by God to an intimate relationship with His Spirit, to even fall in love with His Holy Spirit but it’s difficult since we can’t see the Spirit or gaze into the Spirit’s eyes like Tony can do with his wife Rose.
When a relationship is good, there is communication. Lovers communicate. They consult one another, listen to one another, spend time alone with each other. Ever notice that some couples after many years can even start to look life each other or sound like one another? Our relationship with the Holy Spirit should be the same.
But how do we fall in love with and grow to resemble someone we can’t see? When you can’t see something, often you need an image, a symbol or a representation of what that thing is. I’d like to share 5 images of the Holy Spirit that we find in Sacred Scripture which may help us to know and love Him. All these images capture something about the Holy Spirit but none capture it all, or say it all. They reveal something, teach something about our relationship with the Holy Spirit and the power of the Spirit and invite us to deeper reflection.
The first image is WATER
The Spirit comes on the waters. In John 3:5, we learn that we must be born again of water and the Spirit. John 7:38 says: whoever believes in me, from him rivers of living water shall flow. Isaiah 55 says: “All who are thirsty come to water…” Come and drink in God’s Spirit. In the Bible, water often is sort of a vehicle for God’s Spirit. There are many things that water can tell us about the Holy Spirit. Water is a source of cleansing and refreshing. It quenches our thirst, it cools us off, and it also forms us.
Padre Miguel brought me back a gift from his visit to the Holy Land. It was a stone from the bottom of the Sea of Galilee. It was flat and very smooth. I used to look for stones like this one when I was young to skip them across water’s surface. They have been made smooth by thousands of years of immersion in water.
When a stone is flat and smooth like that, you can stack one upon the other and maybe even build something, like a church, like Saint Francis did. If we stay immersed in the water that is God’s Spirit, we are shaped. As the Spirit shapes us, the rough edges of our weak faith are worn away, and we become more like Jesus Christ, more capable of supporting the faith of others as one stone can rest upon another. God can build on us, letting others rest on us, as we share faith with one another.
In nature you see animals working to build their homes. They dig a hole, bring hay into the corner of a cave, gather twigs to make nest. They shape the place where they’ll dwell. So too does the Holy Spirit desire to shape the place where we wants to dwell. He shapes our hearts. The Holy Spirit is like powerful rushing water that smoothes our lives so that he may rest in us. He prepares a place, moves in, and resides in our hearts. We become well-rounded, smooth stones, capable of supporting other stones or even flying across water if God wills it.
We’ve all seen the power of water. A heavy downpour can wash away homes. Water can move mountains, reshape rocks, and create landslides. It reforms and changes the landscape. The water of God’s Spirit moves and changes the heart that prays and welcomes Him. Like a blast of cold water when we are sleepy, the Spirit can wake us up and get us moving when we pray to Him and invite Him to reshape our hearts.
The second image of the Holy Spirit from the Bible is FIRE
In Malachi 3, we hear that Lord’s Spirit will purify his people, just like silver is refined and purified when it is placed by flame, in a fire that is hot and bright. Fire can help us see by lighting up a room and it will keep us warm. It can be symbol of passion, of the strong feelings which sometimes burn within us.
The Spirit within us is a guiding light and a passionate fire that can spread. Saint Francis was once told: “Francis, extinguish that flame within you or you’ll set the whole world on fire!” The Spirit gives light that is designed to spread and grow. A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle. Instead the light in the room is doubled whenever a new candle is lit from an older one. I know a brother who always keeps candle lit on his desk to remind himself of the continual presence of God and the call to spread that flame wherever he goes.
The Blessed Virgin Mary welcomed the divine fire that came through the angel. She was passionate in her love for God. Her love kept her living for Jesus, raising him, teaching him, and humbly staying out of the spotlight. The fire of the Spirit burned within her so that she could do nothing else but stay by her Jesus. The fire of God’s Spirit even kept her faithful at the foot of the cross.
The third image for God’s Holy Spirit is the VOICE
The Spirit calls us to prayer. The more we listen in silence, the more we develop a taste and appreciation for silence, the more we can hear God’s voice. The voice of the Holy Spirit is often a soft and gentle voice. In the first book of Kings 19:11, the prophet Elijah was looking for God in a mighty earthquake and in the power of a storm, but did not find Him. Finally God’s Spirit came to Elijah in a whisper. The Spirit spoke deeply within the silence of the prophet’s heart.
Have you ever noticed how you can scream and scream and people will often just ignore you and tune you out? But if you whisper to someone, “I have a secret” suddenly everyone quiets down, leans in closer and wants to hear. Sometimes there’s more power in a soft voice than in a scream. The Holy Spirit is a soft voice that we may miss if our hearts and minds are filled with the noise of the world, with what is unimportant.
I have a friend who keeps the TV on “for noise.” She admits to being afraid of silence, afraid of being alone, and needs continual noise in her home. But if we do that, we miss much. We must quiet down interiorly as well as exteriorly to hear the soft subtle voice of God who speaks to the heart.
The fourth image for the Holy Spirit is the DOVE
In Assisi, Italy, there is a little chapel that St. Francis built called the Portiuncola. Even today when people visit, there are alway 2 live doves who have made their nest in the hands of Francis. I love visiting there. The doves are beautiful, pure white, and united. One dove always follows the other, wherever it goes. The dove has been a symbol of peace, since it returned to the ark with the olive branch in the Old Testament story and showed Noah that the flood waters had subsided, and there was now peace on the earth.
The dove was a sign for Noah and also for John Baptist, showing him that the Kingdom of heaven was at hand, that Jesus, the King of peace had entered into the world. The Holy Spirit within us calls us to embrace peace and to work for peace. There would certainly be great peace in our world if everyone prayed and sought to follow the Holy Spirit. There would be peace if we listened to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and forgave people that hurt us, if we tried again and again to extend to them the “olive branch of peace.”
Finally we come to the fifth and last image, the WIND
The prophet Ezechiel (37:9) had a vision of skeletons lying on the dusty, sandy ground. The dead dry bones represented the faith of the people of Israel which had become dead and dry. Then the Lord said to Ezechiel: “Prophesy in the Spirit saying: Thus says the Lord God, come from the four winds oh Spirit and breathe into these slain that they may come back to life.” He prophesied as he was instructed and the Spirit was breathed into them and the dead bones came to life. The apostles too “come alive” at Pentecost when “suddenly from up in the sky there came a noise like a strong driving wind heard all through the house.” (Acts 2:2)
The Holy Spirit is a mighty wind. It is the breath of God that gave Adam life in the Garden of Eden. The Spirit lets things live. Breath flows in and out of our bodies all day long. It carries oxygen to our bloodstream and gives health to the whole body.
Wind can be quite powerful. Some places will experience fierce winds that break windows, uproot trees, and knock people over. The Holy Spirit is God’s power given to us who believe. He has the power to tear down and blow away what is dead or to breathe into the lungs of one who is to be given new life.
Wind implies movement. Wind never leaves things they way they once were. It shakes up people and objects. Watch a tree and you’ll see it is almost never completely still. The leaves are always moving, the branches rock and sway. Look closely and you will see the effects of the wind everywhere even though the wind itself, like the Holy Spirit, is invisible to our eye.
The Holy Spirit too is always at work, always moving hearts, sometimes subtly, other times powerfully. As wind can move mountains, the Spirit can move stubborn hearts. Only the Holy Spirit can take someone lost in sin and selfishness and turn that person to God. More amazing than the wind that effects the tides and makes the mighty bodies of water move, the Holy Spirit moves hearts again and again and opens them up to God.
God’s Spirit moves us interiorly. He tries to warns us of danger. The world may call it instinct or intuition or conscience, but it is really God’s Spirit who lives within us. As a bird or the masts of a ship must not fight the wind but use it and move with it, so also things go best for us believers when we stop fighting the impulses of Spirit within us calling us to the good. The great powerful wind of the Spirit at Pentecost took a frightened pack of apostles and turned them into a bold preaching force with a powerful message of love and salvation.
So, God’s Holy Spirit desires to be united with us in true relationship of love. Like the Wind, he wants to be what moves us and gives us life. More than anything the world can offer, we’re called to let Spirit move us here and there. He is the Voice that advises us, warns us, but only if we listen in silence and prayer. The Spirit is the Dove that speaks of peace and points out the way of peace and wants a mate to follow closely on the road of peace. The Spirit is the Fire that gives us passion and power, the flame within us calling us to set other hearts on fire with our love. The Spirit is the Water that cools and refreshes us and patiently works to form and shape us from jagged rough stones, into stones that can soar across the waters or rest solidly as a foundation for any great structure God may wish to build.
We need to call on the Holy Spirit each day. We need to listen in silent prayer to His voice, and follow as the dove leads us along the way of peace and forgiveness. We need to let the wind move us, let the fire of the Spirit make us passionate, and let the water that is God’s Spirit reshape our hearts to be more and more like the heart of Jesus Christ.
May God give you peace!