Spirituality of the Readings
The Holy Spirit
I would like to give you some “points,” just as a retreat director would do during a retreat. Your job is not so much to “understand” them, but to pray from them, asking to be introduced to the Holy Spirit. Use as many as you want for prayer and feel free to disregard the rest.
But before you begin, remind yourself that your prayer will be in the presence of God, the one who watches over you and loves you by name. Then sit quietly, with as much patience as you have available.
Start with this question: “What does the Holy Spirit mean to me?” To some people it is the one who causes them to be “slain in the Spirit.” Others know it as somehow connected with the Trinity. Others have no idea.
In the Gospel [B],* Jesus says the Father is going to send “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit” to us, in his name. The English word “advocate” is derived from the Latin ad plus voco, which together mean “to speak for.” The Holy Spirit speaks for us, on our behalf. “Advocate” is only one translation of the Greek word, which is also rendered as “Paraclete,” “intercessor,” “teacher,” “helper,” or “comforter.” All these English words refer to someone who is called upon to aid another person and to defend them.
So begin by knowing that the Holy Spirit does these things. St. Paul says, “The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words” (Rom 8:26).
Recommendation: Ponder what it is like to have the Holy Spirit of God praying within you. Or consider what it is like for the Spirit to comfort you and help you when you call out.
Think of yourself as part of the dynamic story in the First Reading. You are gathered with the disciples in a house. Suddenly a huge noise “like a strong driving wind” drowns everything out. A tongue of flame appears and hovers in the air. Before you can even think, it splits into many flames, each of which hovers over a person in the room. Can you picture this?
Then you start preaching to the people. They have at least 15 different languages represented among them.
But they all understand.
Recommendation: Consider what might happen if you and others received this Spirit-flame, and how everyone could understand each other in depth, within God’s love and truth.
There is a poignant statement by Jesus in the Gospel [B].
Whoever loves me will keep my word,
and my Father will love him,
and we will come to him
and make our dwelling with him.
(Women, please substitute “her.”)
Recommendation: Take time with each line. (Remember that “keeping Jesus’ word” means loving one another, not just keeping the law.) Consider the Father’s love for you. Let down your guard for a moment or two in order to be a home for Jesus and his “Abba.” The Holy Spirit is praying within you.
When you are finished with your prayer, call out to God and tell him where your heart is. Maybe God will give you a sense of who the Holy Spirit is in your personal daily life, in your progress from day to day.
Nice to pray with you.
*Note: we are given two texts to choose from for the Second Reading, and two for the Gospel. Since, together with the one First Reading, this makes five possibilities, I cannot know which ones your parish will choose. So I will take my references from any of the five, and designate the readings with the letters A and B in each case.
John Foley, SJ
Fr. John Foley, SJ is a composer and scholar at Saint Louis University.
**From Saint Louis University