Where Mary is, the Holy Spirit is too. Our Catholic tradition teaches that Mary leads us to her Son, to Jesus. But Mary, the Mother of God, is a human being. She has no power of her own to lead anyone to Jesus. The power working through her which has led millions of people to Jesus is that of the Holy Spirit.
And then there is Peter. The first one to declare that Jesus is the Son of the living God. The one who, out of fear, disowned Jesus, yet who, after Pentecost, led thousands of people to Christ and died a martyr's death. The one whose ministry lives on today, almost 2,000 years later, in the person of Pope John Paul II.
Yet the power in Peter's ministry which has brought millions of people to be saved through Jesus Christ comes not from him. It is the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is the hidden person of the Trinity. The Spirit comes not to reveal the Spirit, but to reveal the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit is gentle, non-assertive. Ignore the Spirit and he will withdraw. But look for the Spirit and he will come rushing in to fill you with more joy, peace, kindness and generosity than you believed were at your disposal. Open the door to the Spirit and there will be incredible manifestations of God's presence.
Mary knew about such manifestations. Filled with the Holy Spirit and pregnant with Jesus, she went to visit her cousin Elizabeth. In Mary's presence, the child in Elizabeth's womb leaped for joy. Elizabeth too was filled with the Holy Spirit.
Mary is blessed among women. She is blessed with the Holy Spirit. And this Holy Spirit is contagious. His presence is palpable. The Spirit overflows from Mary and touches those around her.
More leaping took place shortly after Pentecost. This time, it was in the presence of Peter. He and John went to the temple and saw a man lame from birth being carried in. Peter looked intently at the man and asked the man to look at him. Then Peter proclaimed, "In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk." The man did walk and "entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God" (Acts 3:8). Again, the power of the Holy Spirit to inspire faith in Jesus.
The same sorts of manifestations occur today. In the mere presence of those with a close relationship with the Holy Spirit, people have been healed of a wide variety of maladies or have been given a deep inner peace that is not of this world.
The Holy Spirit invites us to a relationship with himself. But it is a different sort of relationship than one has with either Jesus or the Father. We know the story of Jesus' life. He took physical form as a human being and he takes physical form today in the Eucharist.
But the Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us "The Spirit does not speak of himself. We know him only in the movement by which he reveals the Word to us and disposes us to welcome him in faith" (no. 687).
We pray to Jesus or through Jesus to the Father. But we pray with the Holy Spirit. "To be in touch with Christ, we must first have been touched by the Holy Spirit" (no. 683). The church, in its liturgy, speaks of "the fellowship of the Holy Spirit." The Spirit prays with us and even through us. "We do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words" (Romans 8:26).
Christians, especially myself, have too often ignored the Holy Spirit. And when we do, he withdraws and we miss out on so much of what has been made available to us. Christ died not only to free us from sin, but also that we might share in the life of the Holy Spirit. Pentecost is the fulfillment of Good Friday.
Yet rarely do we accept the life in the Spirit which we have been offered. We pray, but we do not ask the Spirit to intercede with us. We do not partake of the fellowship of the Holy Spirit and so live a truncated Christian faith.
The gentle Holy Spirit comes to us, yet if we do not welcome him, he quietly leaves. Pentecostal pastor Benny Hinn writes, "The Holy Spirit will not run away in fear, but rather he will leave your presence with a wounded heart. If he is grieved, he will gently retreat" (Good Morning, Holy Spirit, p. 92).
We are then left to our own devices to live the life to which God has called us. One thing is certain -- we will not succeed. We will fall into various forms of impurity and coarse living. We will be without joy and our lives will bear no fruit.
Take your lead, rather, from one whose life bore abundant fruit -- Mary, the Mother of God. Where Mary walked, so did the Holy Spirit. And because she welcomed the Holy Spirit, she could exclaim, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my savior" (Luke 1:47).
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