Communicating with the Holy Spirit
by Joan Carter McHugh
If you only knew the gift of God, Jesus said to the Samaritan woman! Do we appreciate the Holy Spirit in our lives and the gifts He gives us? In order to receive His gifts, we must be responsive to His inspirations. But how? I know of no better way to become docile to the Holy Spirit than to spend time in adoration of our Eucharistic Lord. To pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament is to sit in a private classroom with the Holy Spirit as our tutor!
Like a traveler pitching His tent in the desert, the Holy Spirit dwells in our souls as an intimate guest in order guide us on our path to holiness. On the day of our Baptism, we are consecrated temples of the Holy Spirit. St. Paul exhorts us: Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? The Holy Spirit is our resident spiritual director, our advocate, who communicates to us knowledge of the Father and the Son. How do we communicate with Him? St Teresa of Avila urges us to hold conversations with Christ, and she assures us in The Way of Perfection that He most definitely communicates with us. Meditation, she says, is not a monologue, but rather a dialogue. Do you suppose that because we cannot hear Him, He is silent? He speaks clearly to the heart when we beg Him from our heart to do so. . . Soon after we have begun to force ourselves to remain near the Lord, He will give us indications that . . . He heard us.
I sometimes pray with a notebook in hand. I simply speak to Jesus as a friend, and then record the thoughts that He seems to be saying to me. It is a way for me to open my heart to Him, to empty myself, and through deep listening, to welcome Him into my life. Before writing a word, I try to quiet down and let go of everything that's racing through my mind and heart. Sometimes it takes a few minutes because I'm so caught up in a whirlwind of activity. As each anxiety, problem, person, fear or thought comes to mind, I put it in an imaginary suitcase which I place at the foot of the Cross and ask Jesus to let a precious drop of His Blood fall on all these concerns. Soon, I come to a place of inner quiet, then I wait on the Holy Spirit.
One afternoon while sitting in Our Lord's presence, I thought back over my life to the thousands of times I have yearned for God from the time when I was six years old in the hospital with polio and cried for God through all the years up to the present moment when I've reached out for God. Through His grace, the Holy Spirit is the first to awaken faith in us and to communicate to us our new life, which is to know the Father and the one whom He has sent, Jesus Christ. (Jn 17:3) The Holy Spirit impressed me with the thought that our desire for God is His gift to us, His call which He places deep within our hearts. The hunger that we feel is His hunger for us, His love of us, His need for us to respond to His love! Our conversation continued: With Baptism, every child becomes Mine. You are sealed in My love, you are especially signed by My love, branded with an indelible mark in your heart which identifies you as My child. I own you, have paid the price for you by My cruel death on the cross. I have won you for Me, to be forever united to Me in heaven for all eternity. Just as you become a mother when you give birth to your children and you them because of that so do I become your mother and father through the birth of My spirit in you. Physical birth is one thing, spiritual birth is another. You become spiritually born through Baptism and you are then a child in My kingdom. You are Mine. My Spirit is born in you and lives in you and leads you through life. My spirit is your life, your real life. . . .
The truth of this was confirmed by my experience. As a child of God, we will never be led astray if we rely on our faith and pray to the Holy Spirit for guidance in life. He always answers our prayers and gives us what we need! As I reflect on the path I've traveled, I realize that I've been constantly led to the next step of truth and healing for my life. I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when He comes, the Spirit of truth, He will guide you to all truth. (Jn 16:12) The times when I abandoned my faith and chose not to follow God's will were times of great desolation when I refused His friendship and was dead so to speak.
When we come before the Lord, He pours His gifts into us through His Holy Spirit. Is there something we need? A problem to be solved? A wound to be healed? The Lord takes us where we are at any given time and invites us to grow. I have experienced the Holy Spirit as a teacher, counselor, intercessor and healer. During a retreat at Marytown, I asked for wisdom for a conference talk I was due to give. One thing led to another when I unexpectedly uncovered feelings of anger lurking below the surface. I was harboring a reservoir of hostility and resentment which was directed at my pastor, with whom I had locked horns at parish council meetings. I resented his cold, controlling manner, and the ways he stifled the Spirit (or so I judged). Sitting in the chapel, I vented my anger on paper. The Lord asked me to look deep in my own heart and ask myself what part of me is Fr. ________? What inside of me shuts people down and isolates them? While I was trying to blame my pastor for my anger, the Holy Spirit showed me that I was projecting my own shadow on him, the repressed parts of myself that I fear and hate.
What a moment of truth! Where, I wondered, did this darkness come from? It comes from your need to protect yourself from pain and abuse, from emotional abandonment, from hunger for love, for attention, for care, for touch, I wrote. Sometimes, love wasn't reflected to you. Instead, there was anger, insult, lack of trust, negativity, coldness. In sealing yourself off from that, you sealed yourself in. Until you recognize it and give it to Me for healing, it lives in you and hurts you and others and sometimes controls you. St. Paul exhorts us to cooperate with the Holy Spirit and surrender what is not of God in us in order to become more like Jesus and give glory to the Father. We who with unveiled faces contemplate the glory of God are being transformed in His image, progressing from glory to glory. This is the work of the Lord. (2 Cor 3: 18) I asked Jesus how this work is to be accomplished. Bring this broken piece of your heart to me everyday at Mass, He said. Put it in the chalice with My Blood. I will seal up the cracks in your heart with My Blood.
Praise be to You Lord Jesus Christ! My prayer that day began with a plea for wisdom to know God's will for a talk. The Holy Spirit answered me by giving me a generous dose of wisdom, knowledge, and understanding of myself and my pastor, and the humility to see my own deficiency which was separating me from God. He counseled me as to the source of my anger and how to deal with it. And He promised healing!
How can we hold Him to His promise? While Jesus was in their company he told them not to leave Jerusalem. You must wait, he said, for the promise of my Father. John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. . .You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will bear witness for me in Jerusalem, and all over Judaea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. (Acts 1: 4-5, 8) We must wait Jesus told us, and pray with all our heart. Like the man who knocked at his friend's door at midnight, he refused to take no for an answer! Each day, all day, we must beg the Holy Spirit to empower us to transform our lives, our families, our world. How much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!, Jesus said. To add maximum power to our prayer, we should follow the example of the apostles who waited on the Spirit before Pentecost with Mary. If we ask her to put in a word for us, we are assured of our prayer being answered if it be in accord with the will of the Father. Look what she did at Cana! Mary's influence with Jesus is enormous. Together with the Holy Spirit, she will intercede for our needs as only a mother can.