Picture this: LeBron James dunks a basketball, throws you the ball and says: “Your turn.”
Or this: Albert Pujols hits a home run, hands you the bat, and says: “I’ve showed you how. Now you show me.”
Or, finally, this: Jesus stretches out His hands on the cross, pays the price for the sins of the world, then looks at each of us and says: “Follow my example.”
Something’s missing in every case.
Unless you put LeBron’s springs in my legs, I can’t follow his example. Unless we put Albert Pujols’ pistons in your arms, you can’t follow his example. And unless someone puts Jesus’ life in all of us, we can’t follow His example.
I don’t have a plan for acquiring the muscles and skills of LeBron James or Albert Pujols. But I can tell you about acquiring the life of Jesus: This is exactly where the Holy Spirit comes into play.
At the creation of the world, God breathed the breath of life into Adam, and Adam became a living being (see Genesis 2:7). Then, at Pentecost, God breathed the Holy Spirit into the apostles, and they became alive in Christ.
That’s why, immediately after Pentecost, they could do things — like understand the Scriptures (see Acts 2), or heal people (see Acts 3) — in a way that, before, only Jesus could do. The Holy Spirit gave them the very life of Jesus. As a result, they could follow His example.
Can we receive the life of the Spirit that way?
There’s a common misconception that the life of the Holy Spirit is some weird thing that only charismatics or Pentecostals have, and that its primary expression is speaking in tongues. Those misconceptions can cause us to hold the Holy Spirit at arm’s length. But when we do that, we hold the life of Jesus at arm’s length!
In place of those misconceptions, let me highlight two ordinary characteristics of the life of Jesus that the Holy Spirit offers us and that I think we need.
First, Jesus was dynamic. He didn’t simply wait for people to come to Him. He went out, met people where they were and drew them closer to God.
Similarly, the life of the Spirit is dynamic. And that challenges us. A complacent faith waits for people to come to us. A dynamic faith goes out and creates relationships that draw people closer to God. The Holy Spirit invites us and compels us, like Jesus, to go out.
Second, Jesus was creative. He didn’t answer yes-or-no questions with yes-or-no answers. “Should we pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we stone this woman or not?” Again and again Jesus gave creative answers that made people rethink their questions.
Similarly, the life of the Spirit is creative. Think of a musician who always comes up with new songs to help people think more clearly and feel more deeply. The Spirit invites us and challenges us to bring that kind of creativity to our families, parishes and friendships.
Pentecost is not simply a one-time event that happened long ago. It’s meant to be daily reality for each of us. Let’s welcome and cultivate the life of the Spirit in our lives. It’s the only way we’ll be able to love as Jesus loved.
Here’s a prayer that you might pray daily to foster greater receptivity to the Holy Spirit:
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful. Enkindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit, and they shall be created. And you shall renew the face of the earth.
What the soul is to the human body, the Holy Spirit is to the Body of Christ.