Look with the Eyes of Faith

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As I write, it is Pentecost Sunday. This morning at the Cathedral we had five adults receive the Sacrament of Confirmation and it was a wonderful time to reflect on the role of the Holy Spirit in the mystery of Salvation.

As I was addressing those to be Confirmed, I thought of a young lad who had spoken to me about his own Confirmation. He said to me: “I don’t need to receive the Holy Spirit, because I already received the Holy Spirit at Baptism.”

It was true that he did receive the Holy Spirit at Baptism. However, the language needs to be looked at carefully. The Spirit is not an object, or a thing.

The Holy Spirit is a person who relates to us at different times in different ways. At Baptism, the Holy Spirit brings us into a new relationship with the Father and the Son. We become children of God, sharing in the life of Jesus, his son. At Confirmation we are drawn more deeply into the mystery of God, and moved to involve others in that mystery.

When we look at the Spirit in that way, we realise that the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost is not the first coming of the Spirit. The Scriptures tell us that the Spirit was involved in creation itself. God’s first revelation to us in creation is the work of the Spirit. I am sure that many religions in history, and now, are a response to the basic revelation of God in creation. The Spirit also works in the hearts of all. We are all made in the image of God, and this is a deeper revelation of the God who reaches out to us. In the Incarnation, we see the Spirit opening up new vistas for entry into the life of God. The Word is made flesh and enables us to be saved. The divine becomes human that the human can become divine. This is the work of the Spirit.

It is in this light that we should see Pentecost. The Spirit is still at work, making available to us the mystery of the Risen Jesus in the Church, the community of his disciples.

In the Church, we breathe the divine life that the Spirit brings. This is not just a sociological community, but a living communion of those who share the life of the Risen Jesus. Our natural eyes can often only see the human frailty of the Church. Our eyes of faith see it for what it is; the creation of the Spirit, the mystery of Jesus made visible, tangible, and available to us. It is easy to look only with our human eyes, rather than with the eyes of faith as well.

Each disciple of Jesus is a temple of the Spirit, and is meant to live the life of the Spirit. The test of our discipleship can be the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience goodness, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness and self control. These are the pulse points of our lives as disciples of Jesus. The one who lives in this way loves as Jesus loved us. Today at Confirmation, the gifts of the Spirit we bestowed on those Confirmed: wisdom, understanding, right judgment, courage, knowledge, reverence and awe and wonder in the presence of God. One of questions asked of those to be Confirmed is, “Do you believe in the Holy Spirit who guides your life?” How could we not believe when we are confronted with all that the Spirit has done, and is doing for us?

It is not easy to live up to the fruits and gifts of the Spirit. We could not do it without the help of the one who bestows them on us. I often think of the Spirit as the “action” person of the Trinity. The one who brings about all that needs to be done. This is the one who is working in each of us to draw us all into that divine life which will reach its final fulfilment in glory.

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