A good friend, Martha, from Madonna House, “happened” to sit beside a self-proclaimed witch on an old bus heading towards the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico. Noticing Martha’s large cross identifying her as a member of the Lay Apostolate, the witch cynically remarked that most Christians were stupid because they were completely clueless about the potential power that existed within each of them. Chuckling, she pointed out all the people on the bus who were Christians. How did she know? The witch could “see” a blue light or aura around every baptized Christian. She then mocked Christians who acted like weak victims but was pleased that the power of the Holy Spirit was usually wasted on them and lay dormant.
At the time Martha was having trouble fasting and praying in seclusion twice a week. When her seat mate boasted that she fasted regularly for the destruction of Christian families, Martha was appalled. If a witch could fast motivated only by hate, surely she could fast with the help of the Holy Spirit while motivated by love. Surely she, who had taken vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience could start relying more on the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling within her to live out her vocation to intercede through prayer. That encounter with a witch radically altered Martha’s attitude, inspiring a renewed zeal to live fully in Christ.
God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. When we ignore His indwelling Spirit, it is like owning an expensive computer which we never bother to plug in and use.
The Holy Spirit Dwells Within All Baptized Christians
Christians, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16)
The light of Christ, His Spirit, dwells in all baptized Christians, whether we are aware of it or not. When Jesus said, “Remain in me as I remain in you” (John 15:4), He was stating a fact; He lives in us. Whether our experience seems to line up with Christ’s statement or not, the truth remains. Yet, most of us live our daily lives as if this were not the case; we are obvious to the fact that we are actually the Temple of the Holy Spirit. Paul chastised the Corinthians for not recognizing this spiritual reality when he wrote: “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?”
We cannot experience anything of the spiritual life in ourselves apart from Christ. We do not acquire something personal in our experience because all the spiritual experiences of Christians have already been experienced by Christ. What we call “our” experience is only our entering into Jesus’ history and experience. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is clear:
The One whom the Father has sent into our hearts, the Spirit of his Son, is truly God. Consubstantial with the Father and the Son, the Spirit is inseparable from them, in both the inner life of the Trinity and his gift of love for the world. In adoring the Holy Trinity, life-giving, consubstantial, and indivisible, the Church’s faith also professes the distinction of persons. When the Father sends his Word, he always sends his Breath. In their joint mission, the Son and the Holy Spirit are distinct but inseparable. To be sure, it is Christ who is seen, the visible image of the invisible God, but it is the Spirit who reveals him. (CCC 689)
Saint Paul also prayed that people would become enlightened “… that you may know” (Ephesians 1:18). We need our eyes opened so we may know the truth that the Holy Spirit dwells in our hearts; if the Holy Spirit dwells in our hearts we have the Father and the Son dwelling within. This is not merely doctrine but reality.
To many Christians, the Holy Spirit is unreal. They think He is as simply an influence for good, like a conscience, and that the Holy Spirit simply tries to show them how to be good. The trouble with the Corinthian Christians was not that they had not received the Holy Spirit but that they were not aware of His presence. They failed to realize the greatness of the One who lived in their hearts. Saint Paul wrote to them: “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” Saint Paul’s words are for Catholics today as well.
Through the Holy Spirit
… “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” [Romans 5:5].
By this power of the Spirit, God’s children can bear much fruit. … “We live by the Spirit”; the more we renounce ourselves, the more we “walk by the Spirit” [Galatians 5:25; cf. Matthew 16:24-26]. (CCC 734-736)
A Christian is one with Christ, born again by His Spirit. A Catholic is not someone who merely agrees with a set of teaching, or strives to live a good life in his own strength and power. Living in, with and through the Holy Spirit is not for a select few saints or for the so-called Charismatics or Pentecostals. The release of the Holy Spirit and life in the Spirit is for all because it is simply the normal Christian life. Let’s honestly choose to humbly trust that God is wiser and smarter than we are and so give the Holy Spirit permission to take charge in our lives. Let’s choose to live a Holy Spirit led life and thus allow God’s power to heal and transform our world through us. Let’s simply choose to be who were really are.
Be who you were created to be, and you will set the world on fire. – St. Catherine of Siena