When I was a teen, my mom wrote the Prayer to the Holy Spirit on a sheet of paper and told me to pray it whenever I was facing a serious situation.
As a 6th grader, I remember my religion teacher, Mrs. McBurney saying, “The Holy Spirit came in tongues of fire and gusts of wind because the Spirit is meant to change you like fire changes you and move you like wind moves you.”
During an adult Bible Study session, one of my group members said, “What would happen if we allowed the Holy Spirit to do what it’s meant to do?”
St. Luke’s account of Pentecost in the Book of Acts shows us what happens when we allow the Holy Spirit to take over. Scripture doesn’t say that the Holy Spirit brushes over the holiest people while they were in deep prayer in an ornate cathedral. Scripture says the DISCIPLES were FILLED with the HOLY SPIRIT while they were in a HOUSE. There’s nothing fancy about this picture. But there IS something powerful.
I don’t think it was a mistake that the Holy Spirit first descended upon commoners in a common place. Jesus himself had a humble birth, making his first appearance as a helpless baby and then revealing himself to be the Savior of the world. Likewise, the Holy Spirit descends upon humble followers of Christ: fishermen, tax collectors, Galilean men and women who weren’t making headlines or holding positions of authority. What does this mean for us?
For me, it means that the Holy Spirit is here for me, too. When Jesus said “When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth that proceeds from the Father, he will testify to me. And you also testify, because you have been with me from the beginning,” he wasn’t talking just to Peter, James, John and the rest of them. When he promised the Spirit to his disciples, he promised the Holy Spirit to me, too. The Advocate wasn’t reserved for royalty or the wealthy. The Advocate was sent to those who needed it, those who would spread, protect and defend the Church.
When you take a look at what the early Church did after that first Pentecost, it’s mind-blowing. St. Peter, the fisherman who was once told by Jesus “Get behind me, Satan,” went on to convert thousands of people. St. James who was known to be hot-headed was the first among the apostles to lay down his life for Christ. St. Paul, who was later filled with the Holy Spirit brought the Word of God to the Gentiles, enduring much persecution along the way. By the same Spirit, thousands of people stood up for their faith, serving as witnesses to the risen God. By this Spirit, Blessed Mother Teresa was moved to care for the poorest of the poor in Calcutta. By this Spirit, Pope St. John Paul the Great proclaimed the truth about love to millions of youth around the world. And by this same Spirit, we carry on the faith that was first given to the Apostles by Jesus himself. When you really think about it, it’s quite overwhelming that we have been entrusted with the beliefs of the Catholic Church. But if lowly fishermen and repentant tax collectors did it, why can’t we? After all, the Spirit that guided St. Paul on three missionary journeys (without planes, trains or automobiles by the way) is the same Spirit that safely guides me on my way to work when I start my engine. Why can’t he also use me to do great things for the glory of God? The truth is that he can.
I know for certain that there will be times in my life when Jesus knocks at the door of my heart and I need only to be open to the Spirit to answer his call. And I pray that I will have the courage to say “yes” just as the early followers said “yes” back then. I relied on them to say yes, and there are future generations of Catholics who need me to open the door to the Spirit, too.