Ever since I first saw Hans Solo and Princess Leia on the enormous movie screen back in 1977, I have been an ardent Star Wars fan. If you have never heard Darth Vader utter those infamous words to Luke Skywalker “Luke, I am your father…”, or seen any of the other Star Wars’ movies, you have been severely deprived! The story lines always center on the age old battle between good and evil. The “good guys”, the Jedi warriors, use
the supernatural power source called “the Force” to fight the evil Emperor and his minions.
I have taught confirmation for several decades, and my favorite topic is the Holy Spirit, which is a difficult doctrine for adults, much for less teens to grasp. So I compare the “Force” from Star Wars to the incredible power of the Holy Spirit to explain the doctrine surrounding this third person of the Trinity. Basic Christianity teaches there is only one God, but mystically he is made up of three people; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Since Jesus came as a human and lived among us, we have many writings and stories to give us insight into the Son; God the Father is fairly easy to figure out. But the Holy Spirit? Symbolized many times as a dove, or a flame? Much tougher to understand. Some other names of the Spirit are Counselor, Advocate, and Paraclete; Wikipedia defines these names as “one who consoles or comforts, one who encourages or uplifts; hence refreshes, and/or one who intercedes on our behalf as an advocate in court”.
St. Patrick used a shamrock to illustrate the Trinity; I also use the sun to depict this tenent of our faith; the sun is God the Father, the sunlight is Jesus, and the heat from the sun is the Holy Spirit. When I joined the Church in 1987 I really struggled to comprehend the doctrine surrounding the rarely mentioned third person of the Trinity; my husband explained that he was “God’s love poured out”. His explanation did little to dispel my confusion, and it wasn’t until years later that this teaching became clear.
The gospel reading for July 11, 1993 was about the parable of the seed “some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, where is had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots. Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it. but some seed fell on rich oil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold…The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit. But the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, and indeed bears fruit…”. This verse hit me like a ton of bricks! Up until that point in my life, my faith had been a roller coaster; sometimes it was up and strong, sometimes it was way down on the bottom of my priorities. Hearing this verse I made a conscious decision to keep my faith foremost in my life, and to get off the roller coaster once and for all.
I started attending daily mass; I went to confession for the first time, and started praying an hour a day. My life changed drastically! Shortly after that, I was sitting in mass and suddenly felt God’s presence so powerfully I thought I would be literally knocked off my feet. I was dumbfounded and uncertain about the sensations I had just experienced. Then a week or so later at mass we were singing the song “Amazing Grace”, and a light bulb went off in my head. The earth shattering experience was simply the Holy Spirit pouring out God’s incredible mercy and grace. The theological term for this is “consolation”. We don’t “earn” consolation; it is pure gift. However, sometimes God withholds consolation to test and strengthen our faith.
We all received the Holy Spirit at our baptism, but it doesn’t come to full power until we are confirmed. It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to help our faith grow stronger, convict us of our sins, and console us in the process. When the bishop anoints us at confirmation, he is imitating the apostles in 2nd Tim. 1:6, who would “stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands”. All who are baptized have that spark, and at confirmation the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are enkindled into a raging fire.
The seven gifts are Knowledge, Understanding, Wisdom, Fortitude, Piety (or reverence) for God, Fear of the Lord, and Counsel. These gifts help us to combat the seven deadly sins and to live holy lives. Then by vanquishing the seven deadly sins, we can bear the fruit of the spirit listed in Gal. 5:22: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
The Holy Spirit enlightens us, brings light into our doubts and confusion, revealing God’s will for us and his solutions to our problems. Fear paralyzes us, but God sent the Holy Spirit to heal us and empower us. Some blocks to receiving more of this wonderful supernatural power are selfishness and other areas of sin; as long as our passions dominate us, we are unable to respond freely to the Spirit’s inspiration.
The Holy Spirit enhances our ability to know and understand God, and reveals his mysteries to our limited human minds. He shows us the truth of God’s Word, and leads us to follow God’s will. John 14:15 “If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him ,because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.”.
Many experience the presence of the Holy Spirit as a warm glow, but remember, the Holy Spirit is not an emotion – whether we feel his presence or not, the power of God is always at work in our lives. The Holy Spirit emboldens us and equips us to perform the work God is bidding us to do.
Right before Pentecost the apostles were frightened, confused; their hearts and minds were closed. After Pentecost they were strong, unafraid and eager to go forth; they were open to the promptings and gifts of the Holy Spirit. After Pentecost they witnessed so boldly many were martyred! The miraculous power of the “Paraclete” is available to all baptized Christians and will bring insight, healing and confidence to our lives. Just imagine a pipeline between you and God; through sin the pipeline gets dirty and clogged, blocking his grace and mercy. But the more we avail ourselves of the sacraments, mass and confession, the more we pray and follow God’s will, the stronger the outpouring of the REAL “Force”.
As St. Paul tells us “For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that He may grant you in accord with the riches of his glory to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner self.” Eph. 3