The spectacular way the Holy Spirit entered the Apostles on Pentecost (fire, speaking in tongues, etc.) is something we all could benefit from. A clear sign would be welcome, something perfectly obvious, to show us that this is truly real. Especially because we often have trouble knowing whether or not the more ordinary ways the Spirit works (the feelings, the inclinations, the pull on our hearts) really is the Holy Spirit at work within us. Sometimes we can worry that it is just us, our own desires rather than God’s Will which is driving us. Even worse, sometimes we are sure we are following the Spirit, and we are mistaken.
It would certainly be nice to have such clear signs of God’s presence, but this great sign at the first Pentecost was so that the first generation of Christians knew it was real. After that, they knew what was different, and continued to teach others how to know when the Spirit was really behind something. This is a difficult thing to do, because very few people take the time to really consider it, but it is just as important today.
The first difficulty is that we are often conflicted about our own thoughts and feelings. If we have trouble knowing what our own heart wants, how do we actually know the difference between our will and God’s Will? The first step has to be a very conscious act of our own, welcoming the Holy Spirit into the situation at hand. Only by doing this can we begin to discern the Spirit’s urgings for us. It may be a simple prayer, asking the Spirit to be with you in a decision. It may be letting go, even to the point of tears, so that we can hand over our control to God.
While this may be difficult, especially at first, it is absolutely freeing once the Spirit is revealed in our lives. Sometimes it is obvious, sometimes only we can see it, and sometimes it takes a bit more trust than we want to give, but when the Spirit blows through our lives, we see the effects. This trust that is built then grows, and we start to deepen the relationship which is intended: that we open our lives to the Holy Spirit always, making God our most welcome guest.
I share with you now the Pentecost Sequence, which is proclaimed before the Gospel at Mass each year. May we begin to build a deeper and more constant relationship with the Spirit, so that one day, our hearts may be worthy to offer this prayer.
Come, Holy Spirit, come!
And from your celestial home
Shed a ray of light divine!
Come, Father of the poor!
Come, source of all our store!
Come, within our bosoms shine.
You, of comforters the best;
You, the soul’s most welcome guest;
Sweet refreshment here below;
In our labor, rest most sweet;
Grateful coolness in the heat;
Solace in the midst of woe.
O most blessed Light divine,
Shine within these hearts of yours,
And our inmost being fill!
Where you are not, we have naught,
Nothing good in deed or thought,
Nothing free from taint of ill.
Heal our wounds, our strength renew;
On our dryness pour your dew;
Wash the stains of guilt away:
Bend the stubborn heart and will;
Melt the frozen, warm the chill;
Guide the steps that go astray.
On the faithful, who adore
And confess you, evermore
In your sevenfold gift descend;
Give them virtue’s sure reward;
Give them your salvation, Lord;
Give them joys that never end.