FOR THE DAY YOU ARE FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT OF THE LIVING GOD
“Then the LORD said, ‘Go outside and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will be passing by.’ A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD— but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake— but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was fire— but the LORD was not in the fire. After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound. When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave…”
- 1 Kings 19: 11-13A
Dear Brother, Dear Sister, Dear Friend,
As Christians, we are graced with the knowledge that God’s Holy Spirit is present in the world and in each of us. She is sometimes portrayed symbolically through fire, wind, or in the form of a dove. These images seek to capture the passion, freedom, and rushing joy of the Holy Spirit of God, who is the source of all love and all life.
I am happy that today you are filled with God’s Holy Spirit. You are in good company. Some encounter the Spirit in Scripture study or worship services at church. Others find the Holy Spirit through art, literature, music, or dance. Many find the Spirit of God through contemplating the beauty of nature or the goodness of family, friends, and neighbors. Many others grow closer to the Spirit through daily work, loving acts of kindness, or efforts to build justice. The truth is that a deep connection with God can be found through all things because God, the source of creativity and meaning, is present in all good human endeavors and all of Creation. If we let her, the Holy Spirit will join us wherever we are, guide us, deepen the value of our work, and enrich the joy of our lives.
If your current experience of intimacy with the Spirit is new or unfamiliar, you may be wondering, How can I trust that this is real? What is really happening here? As long as your experience is leading you to deeper love of God, neighbors, and yourself, then enjoy the ride and try to let go of fear and doubt. Jesus promised that God would send the Holy Spirit to help us live rightly. In John 14: 16-17, Jesus says, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you.” Jesus promises that God will send upon us the Holy Spirit, unseen by worldly eyes but known intimately as a friend and ally by those who open their hearts to receive her.
As a young man, I experienced the sacrament of Confirmation. As I was anointed with oil and given a new spiritual name, I committed myself to Christ and opened my heart to the Holy Spirit in a new way. At that time, I was on the brink of adulthood and about to embark on a new chapter of life. I yearned to serve my neighbors and I wanted to dedicate myself to God. The sacrament of Confirmation and similar rituals in churches all over the world seek to live out the words of Romans 12: 1-2: “I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourself to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.”
I feel the Holy Spirit moving in my heart and soul every day. Sometimes I experience a rush of joy that begins in my chest then zings into my head and throughout my entire body. Sometimes I discover quiet moments of peace as new spiritual insights or understandings dawn upon me. Sometimes the Spirit brings me a sense of freedom as I either embrace some mission or take a step into the unknown.
If we seek direction and peace from the Holy Spirit, she will never let us down. As a gay man, I believed for a long time that I had to be celibate for my entire life if I wanted to be a faithful Christian. Rather than bringing me peace, this notion led to despair and misery. It seemed like I had nothing substantial to hope for and my only consolation was found in thoughts of dying and going to heaven. The wise counsel of many good people, Scripture study, and countless days and nights of prayer culminated in a retreat where I encountered this prayer by Catholic monk and spiritual writer, Thomas Merton (2005):
My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I
cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I
think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I
believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire
in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I
know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing
about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow
of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my
perils alone. (pp. 57-58)
I meditated on the words of this prayer as I walked through a path in the forest. As I inhaled the cool scent of pine trees in the twilight, I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit grow stronger and stronger in my heart. A quiet voice opened my eyes to the reality that God is love and that wherever there is love, there is God. The words of Merton’s prayer echoed in my heart along with the encouragement of mentors and the words of Romans 13: 8: “Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” For the first time in my life, I believed that it might be possible for God to call me to a loving relationship with a good man. Hope is found when we dwell in possibilities for good. The Holy Spirit lives, moves, and breathes through such possibilities.
On that forest trail, I knew that God might still call me to the single life, and I remained committed to following God wherever He led me. But even knowing that, the future had lost its bleak emptiness. For the first time since realizing I was gay, I had hope that I could find joy and peace this side of heaven. The future had yet to be decided, and there was a good God beside me helping me to find my way. All I had to do was love the best I could. Whatever came to pass, joy and peace were already alive inside of me. I learned that life did not become good when circumstances changed. Life is good now because God loves me and I love Him. The Holy Spirit moved my heart, and I became a new man. My eyes were opened to so many opportunities for love starting that day. I had my family, my friends, my work, my writing, and my God. I had so many blessings and so many ways to serve. I never wanted to let despair steal my spirit ever again.
That walk through the woods was a moment in my life when the Holy Spirit made her presence boldly known. Maybe you have encountered the Spirit in similar moments, but oftentimes she is more gentle and subtle. We read about Elijah’s encounter with God in 1 Kings 19: 11-13A: “Then the LORD said, ‘Go outside and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will be passing by.’ A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD— but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake— but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was fire— but the LORD was not in the fire. After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound. When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave…” Elijah went outside to meet with the Holy Spirit of God, who was present not in mighty acts of power but in the “tiny whispering sound.” We find great peace when we listen to the quiet voice of the Spirit and let her speak love, truth, and mercy to our hearts. If you feel anxious about the tasks that lay before you, afraid of the enemies that threaten you, overwhelmed by the duties placed upon you, or lost in a sea of confusion or suffering, then open your heart and listen to the whispering voice of the Holy Spirit. Let her become your peace and calm amidst the storms of life, and allow her to show you the way home.
When you experience a moment of connection with the Holy Spirit, hold onto it. Let it nurture within you an ongoing, loving relationship with God. We are made to be Temples of the Holy Spirit so that God may live and love in the world through us. When we live grounded in this truth, other people notice. As it says in Galatians 5: 22-23, “In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” When these are the fundamental markings of our character, people will be drawn to our way of life and we will have opportunities to share the good news of redemption and love. The world changes for the better when people let the Spirit of God move and breathe in their hearts.
As you live, let your choices flow from your relationship with the Holy Spirit. Do not make decisions based on cringing fear, ignorant prejudices, or selfish thoughts of worldly gain. Center yourself in God’s Spirit through prayer, Scripture study, community worship, art, music, poetry, good works, and acts of justice. Let her be your anchor and your guiding light. Trust in the revelations she has made to the world through the Bible and through the saints, and live in such a way that your life is a testimony to her love and peace.
Perhaps you have had moments of connection with the Holy Spirit in the past but now you feel distant and spiritually dry. First of all, this is completely normal. Feelings come and go. That is part of the human experience. The important thing to remember is to choose to love God, love others, and love yourself faithfully through the emotional ups, downs, and deserts of life. When we choose love in the difficult or empty times, this is a sacred opportunity to prove to ourselves and to God that we love because it is right, not only because it makes us feel good. Even when we do not feel the Holy Spirit, she is always with us. We can trust her no matter what because we know that she loves us. If we remain open and faithful, feelings of her presence and grace will always return in time.
Please, pray with me today that the Holy Spirit of the living God comes upon us all. Consecrate your hands, your feet, your heart, your life, your everything to God. Let the Holy Spirit of love fill you and transform you into a member of the Body of Christ. Allow her to heal your wounds, refresh your soul, and dwell deep within you so that God will live in all you do, chase away every fear, and guide you on the path of righteousness and mercy.
Merton, T. (2005). I have seen what I was looking for: Selected spiritual writings. M. B. Pennington (Ed.). Hyde Park, NY: New City Press.