Signs of the Spirit

Those of us who live in Wellington are very familiar with the power of the nor’westerly wind. It rips through intersections, howls under the eaves of houses, and picks up trampolines, bowling them end-over-end like discarded newspapers. And then, when the wind subsides, the sun emerges, bathing us in warmth and light. Are these signs? From the earliest Christian tradition wind and sun have been images of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus and the Spirit

After he had shared his final meal with his disciples, Jesus assured them that despite his death, he would not leave them alone. In a series of sayings in Jn 14.15-16.15 Jesus outlines what the Spirit will do and be for them. He tells them the Spirit will be the living presence of himself among them – speaking for them, teaching them truth, steeping them inwardly with peace (15.26), helping them to judge aright (16.7-10), and proclaiming Jesus as the Christ (16.12-15).

The Church and the Spirit

Reflecting on these and other texts, the Church has elaborated on the gifts Jesus spoke of. To our minds the Spirit brings understanding, wisdom, eloquence, prophecy and discernment. On our will and emotions it bestows courage, leadership and perseverance. Yet this is no glorification of individualism. Repeatedly in the Acts of the Apostles when the Church prays and reflects on what God asks of it (for instance, what Jewish law it should lay upon gentile converts), it is with the assurance of the Spirit, the spirit of unity, that the Church pronounces its decisions. (cf Acts 15.28)

At times, like when the Church becomes complacent or hypocritical, prophetic voices need to be raised to challenge it. When such critique springs from the Spirit, its goal is to purify, inspire and sanctify; it’s never marked by self-assertion, arrogance or the desire to dominate. The Spirit may be wind and fire but it comes to reshape and remould, never to wreak havoc.

Father Neil Vaney
info@catholicenquiry.nz

Next steps

This writing is based on the content of ‘What Catholics Believe’, Booklet 5, ‘God’s life in us’ referencing page 20. Should you like to read more just click either of the links below to download ‘Booklet 5’ or the complete set of ‘What Catholics Believe’.