Fr John Flader: Holy Spirit just a phonecall away

27 May 2009

By The Record

Q&A with Fr Flader: Can I get closer to the Holy Spirit without being a charismatic.

By Fr John Flader


Question: I have some charismatic friends who seem to be filled with the Holy
Spirit, who talk in tongues and participate in healing ceremonies. Is
there anything I can do to have a deeper relationship with the Holy
Spirit without the distinctly charismatic elements?


While the Holy Spirit certainly manifests his presence and power in more extraordinary ways, beginning at the first Pentecost and continuing down to the present, all Catholics can, and indeed should, have a very personal relationship with the third Person of the Blessed Trinity.
Let me explain some ways in which we can do this, based on the various roles of the Holy Spirit mentioned in the Scriptures.
Jesus says in the Last Supper that the Holy Spirit will “be with you forever” and that “he dwells with you, and will be in you” (Jn 14:17). As St Paul puts it, “your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you” (1 Cor 6:19).
This opens wide vistas in our spiritual life. We have the dignity of being temples of the Holy Spirit, who dwells within us. We can therefore carry on a loving conversation with the Holy Spirit who is not “out there”, but “in here”. He is the “Sweet guest of the soul”.
This awareness of our dignity should move us to struggle harder to avoid sinning, especially against our body. It was in this context that St Paul wrote that we are temples of the Holy Spirit, concluding, “You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Cor 6:19-20).
Also in the Last Supper Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as “the Spirit of truth” who “will guide you into all the truth” (Jn 16:13). This has many applications for Christian life.
Those engaged in study of any kind, be it secular or spiritual, can invoke the Holy Spirit to lead them into the truth of whatever they are studying. Also, if someone is having difficulty grasping the truth of a particular matter, they can ask the Holy Spirit for light.
And anyone who is teaching others can ask the Holy Spirit to guide them, and those they are teaching, into the truth. St Paul writes to the Romans that the Holy Spirit instils in us a deep sense of our divine filiation, of being not only creatures but children of God our Father: “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God…” (Rom 8:14-16).
When we are troubled, or feel in some way that God is distant, we can pray to the Holy Spirit to make us cry out “Abba! Father”, remembering that God is never distant – he is a Father who loves us and sent his Son to die for us. We are his children.
In the same eighth chapter of his letter to the Romans, St Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit also helps us in our prayer: “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” (Rom 8:26-27).
There can be times when we find it difficult to pray, when we don’t know what to say or we feel dry. It is the time to go to the Holy Spirit and ask him to intercede for us, so that the Father will know what is in our heart.
Always, the Holy Spirit is the Love between the Father and the Son, and “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Rom 5:5) We are all called to be saints, to be filled with love, but so often we content ourselves with merely fulfilling our duties and attending Mass on Sundays. We can ask the Holy Spirit, as we do in the prayer “Come, Holy Spirit”, to “kindle in us the fire of thy love”, to give us a vibrant spiritual life that will be reflected in our love for God and our neighbour.
Finally, as the Holy Spirit came down on the apostles on the first Pentecost and transformed them into bold preachers of the Resurrection, we can pray to the Holy Spirit to fill us with apostolic zeal to lead others to Christ. And we can ask him for the “gift of tongues”, so that we reach the minds and hearts of our friends.
Fr Flader: