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BEFORE THE CROSS | Saying ‘Yes’ to a deeper outpouring of the Holy Spirit

We're currently in between Ascension and Pentecost on the liturgical calendar. As we prepare to celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit long ago, and pray for a deeper outpouring of the Spirit now, an important question to ask is: What does that look like?

Why is that an important question?

Because sometimes we don't get specific enough. For example: we say we want to grow in holiness. But often we don't take the next step: What does holiness look like in the concrete circumstances of our daily lives? After all, the holiness of St. John the Baptist and the holiness of St. Louis IX are very different in their concrete expression. The holiness of the young virgin St. Thérèse of Lisieux and the holiness of the aged mother St. Monica are very different, as well.

So: when we ask the Spirit to make us holy — very specifically and concretely, what are we asking for?

It's also important because sometimes our anticipations lead us astray. The Jewish people had a notion of what the Messiah would look like. Jesus didn't match that notion — so many people missed the signs that He was the Messiah. Jesus asked the Father to glorify Him. The disciples had a notion of what that glory would look like. But they weren't ready for the glory of the Cross — so they fled and missed it. We have an instinctive notion of what power looks like. But we forget the fact that the Cross is a revelation of God's power — which is a serious challenge to our usual notions of military, economic and political power.

So: when we ask the Holy Spirit for grace, what do we anticipate that grace will look like?

Sometimes we don't let the Scriptures guide our definitions. For example, we imagine that humility means thinking little of ourselves. But Mary was the perfect model of humility. That was true even when she said, "From this day all generations will call me blessed. The almighty has done great things for me." To untrained eyes that might look like pride. But Mary recognized and celebrated the gifts that came from the Lord, and that's the true definition of humility.

So: when we ask the Holy Spirit to be present in our lives, how do we define the signs of that presence?

For the Ephesians in Monday's first reading, this presence meant speaking in tongues and prophesying. Those extraordinary gifts are one way the Spirit's presence is manifested. In Monday's Gospel, Jesus speaks of His disciples having peace in Him. That peace is another way the Spirit's presence is manifested. When St. Paul takes leave of the Ephesians in Tuesday's first reading, he reminds them that "I did not shrink from telling you what was for your benefit." That kind of boldness and honesty is another way the Spirit's presence is manifested. For St. Justin Martyr and St. Charles Lwanga, whose feasts we celebrate this week, it meant having the courage to shed their blood for Christ. That kind of courage is a manifestation of the Spirit's presence.

As we prepare for the celebration of Pentecost, we pray for a new and deeper outpouring of the Holy Spirit in each of our own lives. But we need to ask ourselves and each other: What will it look like when the Spirit comes, and what will it look like to say 'yes' to the Spirit? 

RELATED ARTICLE(S):FRENTE A LA CRUZ | Decir Si, a una efusión más profunda del Espíritu Santo sobre nosotros

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