From Scared to Sent: Transformed by the Holy Spirit
As the Church recently celebrated Pentecost, I’ve been thinking about my relationship God. Specifically with the third person of the Trinity—the Holy Spirit.
Like many Catholics, I haven’t always understood the Holy Spirit. For most of my growing-up years, the Holy Spirit was a vague combination of white dove-tongues of fire-shimmery ghost. I must have learned something about the Holy Spirit in CCD, but it was ‘in one ear and out the other’. I remember feeling kind of sorry for this ‘forgotten person of the Trinity’. I could sort of wrap my mind around God the Father and God the Son. I knew what a father was like and I knew that Jesus came to earth, taught us how to live, and died on the cross for us. But God the Holy Spirit seemed so vague and mystical. He floated around thousands of years ago, burning the apostle’s heads and causing gusts of wind to rush through houses. How does that have any relevance to my life? Maybe you’ve had the same confusion. Maybe you’re still unsure about the Holy Spirit.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that, “The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, is God, one and equal with the Father and the Son” (§245). To truly know, love, and serve God, a relationship with the Holy Spirit is essential! God the Holy Spirit is a “person”, not a bird-fire-wind conglomeration. He is at work in our lives and He is pursuing a personal relationship with each one of us!
Seven years ago the Holy Spirit burst into my life, and I haven’t been the same since! It all started when I began college at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. The school has a far-reaching reputation for its charismatic spirituality. I had never even heard the term ‘charismatic’ before my freshman year. My first all-campus prayer meeting was quite a shock. People were raising their hands, dancing, singing, laughing, and clapping…all in praise and worship to the Lord. I was a bit skeptical and very hesitant. Singing out of the hymnal at Sunday Mass was considered expressive for me. But as I watched my friends sing with abandon, raise their arms towards the heavens, and glow with heavenly joy and peace, I hungered for whatever they had. I longed for that child-like abandonment to God, but continued to watch from the sidelines, trapped by the fear and doubt.
The Holy Spirit relentlessly pursued me. Like a rain shower, He was constantly sprinkling my soul with divine grace. In March of my freshman year, that constant sprinkling became a torrential downpour. I was on my first mission trip to Mexico. On the last night of the trip a priest offered to pray with everyone who desired a deeper relationship with the Holy Spirit. I was still scared to open my life fully to God, but I knew that I needed to. I knew that I would never experience true freedom, strength, and joy without the Holy Spirit. As Fr. Brad laid his hands on my head and prayed, I was suddenly filled with an indescribable lightness. All the self-conscious doubts and excuses were gone, and I simply surrendered to the Lord.
As I continued opening my life to the Holy Spirit, it rapidly changed! The Spirit of God, whom I had received as a baby through baptism, and whose gifts were sealed when I was confirmed, was stirred into action!
- Scripture came alive and relevant. Trying to understand the Bible without the Holy Spirit is impossible because the Holy Spirit is the author of Scripture. He opens our minds and hearts to receive the Word of God. (2 Timothy 3:16)
- My prayer life deepened. I actually wanted to spend time just being quiet and sitting with God. (Romans 8:26)
- I wasn’t afraid to share my faith and began seeking out opportunities to tell people about Jesus. (Matthew 10:19-20)
- The fruits of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control) grew in my life and healed many relationships. (Galatians 5:22-23)
New life in the Holy Spirit isn’t just for a few people. It’s not reserved for those who attend charismatic prayer meetings. It’s what God desires for all His children—a requirement, in fact! “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5)
When the apostles received the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, they were transformed! These ordinary, timid men were suddenly filled to the brim with the power of God! Immediately they rushed out of the upper room and began to proclaim the Good News. Thousands were baptized and the Gospel spread like wildfire. This boldness and zeal wasn’t a special one-time deal for the early Church—it’s for Christians of every place and every time!
The Holy Spirit “impels us to open the doors and go forth to proclaim and bear witness to the good news of the Gospel, to communicate the joy of faith, the encounter with Christ!” (Pope Francis’ Pentecost homily) Now that I had opened my life to the Holy Spirit, I couldn’t remain locked behind the doors of fear and self-absorption. I wanted to go forth and share the joy and freedom of life in Jesus! The Holy Spirit fills us up with grace and zeal, and then sends us out! He had been filling and transforming me during my time at Franciscan University. Upon graduating, I knew that I was being called into foreign missionary evangelism. Bearing witness to the good news of the Gospel isn’t just for foreign missionaries, though. We all must share Christ with the people around us. It doesn’t require extreme bravery, intelligence, or talent. All it takes is humble surrender to the Holy Spirit. He is the “principal agent of evangelization” and works mighty wonders through simple vessels.
In missions I’ve seen the Holy Spirit at work in incredible ways! The “signs and wonders” we read about in the Bible are still happening today—multiplication of food, the lame walking, the blind restored to sight, relationships healed, people preaching in foreign tongues, the dead raised to life!
The Holy Spirit is the “Lord and Giver of Life.” Do you long for a life full of joy and meaning? Are you searching for guidance and direction? Do you desire a deeper relationship with God? Open your life to the Holy Spirit!
How To Grow in a Relationship with the Holy Spirit
Luke 11:13 says, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” It’s that simple—just ask in faith! God wants to pour out His Spirit into your life! When I started to open my life to the Holy Spirit, I thought there must be some specific formula or series of steps I had to go through. I wanted to experience the fullness of the Spirit, but I kept worrying that I wasn’t being open enough. But it’s not complicated. Simply pray “Come, Holy Spirit!” throughout the day. In times of temptation, anxiety, frustration, or despair, cry out to the Holy Spirit.
Imagine trying to fall in love with someone you barely know—maybe someone you hear great things about but with whom you have never had a real conversation. It would be nearly impossible! It’s the same with God. The more we learn about Him, the easier it is to love Him. Studying the Church’s teachings about the Holy Spirit will help you gain a clearer understanding of the Third Person of the Trinity. It will tune your mind and heart to all the ways He’s at work in your life. A few places to start are:
- Catechism of the Catholic Church (articles 683-747 talk specifically about the Holy Spirit)
- John Paul II’s encyclical letter Dominum et Vivificantem: On the Holy Spirit in the Life of the Church and the World
- Sober Intoxication of the Spirit by Ranerio Cantelemessa
- Baptism in the Spirit
Jesus promised that “Before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit…You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses” (Acts 1:5-8). Baptism in the Spirit describes this outpouring of the Holy Spirit in our lives. This is what I experienced when Fr. Brad prayed over me. Picture a glass of milk with chocolate syrup poured into it. Until it’s stirred up, the syrup all sits on the bottom of the glass. But once it’s stirred, the chocolate spreads throughout the milk and transforms it into something amazing and delicious! It’s the same with the Holy Spirit—we must “stir up” the Spirit who dwells within each of us.
Ask the Holy Spirit to come and transform your life! You have nothing to lose and EVERYTHING to gain!
By Rebekah L.