• julia marshall

What the Holy Spirit is Not

One of the greatest homilies on the Holy Spirit came from a seven year old boy. He was playing Mass with his siblings, and of course, he just had to preach on the Gospel for that week.  ‘Who is the Holy Spirit?’ the boy asked his captivated audience which consisted of two five year olds and their younger sister of three. ‘He is not fire, even though we think of fire when we think of Him. He is not a dove, even though we think of doves when we think of Him. We cannot say, ‘look, there is a dove; there is the Holy Spirit!’ No, the Holy Spirit is a person and He wants to be loved.’

Well said Gabriel. How many within the Church could have benefited from that simple homily. Especially when Trinity Sunday comes up, year after year, how many of us hear about how the Spirit is the power of God, or the action of God, or simply the love of God. All of these are quite useful, please do not misunderstand me, and they have been used by many saints and otherwise to explain the role that the Spirit might tend to.  Yet for all of His actions He is still a person; someone worth knowing.

And to know someone is to know at the very least their name. He is called Holy not because He is somehow more holy than the Father or the Son, but He is called Holy because that is primarily His preoccupation within each of us. He is the great Saint Maker if you will. And He is called Spirit not because He again has some quality that the Father and Son do not have but because He tends to want to reside with our spirit; within us.

Yes, what we know about the Holy Spirit’s actions are very useful indeed but that is not what He is, and it certainly is not who He is. As Frank Sheed pointed out, ‘…in the Old and New Testaments the Spirit is very often spoken about and never spoken to.’ Are we allowed to change that? Because we know that the Spirit is first a person – and a divine one at that – who wants to love and to be loved. Gabriel got it, and I think the small group (both in stature and in age) got it too.

Holy Spirit, Lord and Giver of Life, we need you. Amen.

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