The Holy Spirit and the Church
God is a good father. And he knows what his children need. And he has asked us, through his Son and our eldest brother, a huge and very difficult mission, which needs our best disposition. An “impossible mission”, we may say: “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Mt 28,20)
I mean an “impossible mission” for us, not for God. Because “making disciples”, teach them “all” that Jesus has commanded us and preach the Gospel all around the world are jobs only possible for God, for whom nothing is impossible.
So, as it is an impossible mission for us, The Father himself and his Son Jesus send us the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit, who opens hearts without violence, it is impossible to convert someone to Christ’s faith. Without the Holy Spirit, that is Jesus’ Spirit itself talking to our hearts, it is impossible to make true disciples of Our Lord. Without the Holy Spirit, who knows our life and hearts better than ourselves, it is impossible that anybody may live everything our Lord commanded.
And also, without the Holy Spirit it is impossible to announce the Gospel to everyone. Today, it seems normal to us that Church has spread its message all around the world. At the beginning in Jerusalem Church just was a very small group of Jesus’ disciples, most of them without any other instruction or education than the one of having lived and heard their Master’s teachings.
The miracle or ability of speaking in other languages on the day of Pentecost expresses very well what happened in Church in those days. But everything was possible because of the Holy Spirit presence. That miracle of a small group of people, who in a short period of time enlighten the whole world by means of their preaching, was not the result of those men’s intelligence, men who had scarcely and wrongly understood their Lord before his death. Nor was it possible because of those men bravery, men who had abandoned and rejected their Lord. Nor was it possible due to those men’s organization or ability, men who had even argued in front of their Lord to see who was the most important.
The Holy Spirit, then, widens the person and humanity from the inside to the outside. As St. Augustine says, the Holy Spirit is “more inward than my innermost and higher than my uppermost”. The Holy Spirit is at the same time source of the Christian mystic that takes to the most inward of the person and source of the mission that takes the Church to the end of the world. The Holy Spirit is source of one self’s knowledge and of the other’s mercy. It is source of personal wisdom and of the scientific knowledge of the universe.
This also can be appreciated in the Church’s two styles, which as John Paul II taught, has a kind of “two lungs”. He said, “The Christian Church has two lungs, a western and an eastern one. And it needs both to breathe”. John Paul II referred to the Western Catholic Church and to the Eastern Catholic and Orthodox Churches. Simplifying things, a little, we can say that these two big traditions of a unique Church have two different styles: the Eastern Church which characterizes for a holiness that attracts towards it. We can remember the monks in the desert from St. Anthony onwards: they sought solitude to fully meet with God and finally people went to them. They had a huge power of attraction.
The Western Church, also having great mystic saints, is mostly characterized for the holiness that seeks the distant one: the mission of the Church that seeks the one who is not there, seeks the lost sheep. It is an ecclesial style of going out to seek. Both experiences are needed in the Church and both are a fruit of the Holy Spirit that acts in her. That mission was accomplished thanks to the Holy Spirit action in their hearts and minds. And nowadays that is still the case: that is why we plead to the Holy Spirit asking for intelligence, strength and unity so we may keep on announcing the Gospel of the Lord through our own vocation.
Fr. Juan Carlos