Prepare to Receive the Holy Spirit
May 5, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Sixth Sunday of Easter
Reading I (Acts 8:5-8,14-17) Reading II (1 Peter 3:15-18)
Gospel (St. John 14:115-21)
Our Lord, in the Gospel, tells us that He is going to send another Advocate, a Paraclete, who is going to help us because He is the Spirit of truth, and that He is going to lead us into all truth. The Lord promised that He would not leave us orphans, that He would give us His Holy Spirit. He told us that with the Holy Spirit we would come to understand that He is in the Father, that He and the Father are one, that we are in Him and He is in us. We have been brought into the very intimacy in the unity of the Trinity to be one with Our Lord Jesus Christ. That is the work of the Holy Spirit, to do that in each one of us. The Holy Spirit is the forgotten person of the Trinity. He is very often not called upon or not understood - or in our day the way that some people call upon the Holy Spirit would make it such that most of us would not want to; it has become trite and even goofy and certainly is not in line with what the Catholic Church teaches regarding the Holy Spirit. We want to be about the truth because He is the Spirit of truth, and we need to understand that the Holy Spirit is God. He was poured out upon the disciples on Pentecost.
We see the fruit of that Holy Spirit in the readings this morning. Philip went into the town of Samaria and preached the Gospel. The people heard his words and saw the works that were wrought through the power of the Holy Spirit. Some of these people had already been baptized, but only with the baptism of John the Baptist. They had not received the Trinitarian baptism. So when they were baptized, they received the Holy Spirit and they began also doing extraordinary things. We see that there are these promises that are given to us by the Lord. We see the working of the Holy Spirit in the early Church. Now we need to be able to understand how this Holy Spirit is going to work in our lives.
We live in extraordinary times, and we are going to see even more extraordinary things than this. In our day, the Holy Spirit is going to be poured out upon the earth in a most wonderful manner. We are going to see things in our day that have not been seen for nearly 2,000 years in the way that the Holy Spirit is going to work in the lives of individual Christian people. God wants to give that Holy Spirit to you in a profound way. He does not want to give you the Holy Spirit so you can show off some extraordinary power. He does not want to give you the Holy Spirit so you can run around doing all kinds of things so that people will think you are holy, or wonderful, or whatever it might be. He wants to give you the Holy Spirit, number one, so that you will be faithful to Him and, number two, so that you will glorify Him by the work you will do. That means you must be rooted firmly in the truth, because He is the Holy Spirit of truth.
He is a Holy Spirit, not an unholy spirit. There are plenty of those running around the world today. As St. Paul makes clear, the devil likes to disguise himself as an angel of light, so we must be very cautious. Just because, as they say, something glitters, it is not necessarily gold. We must be very careful. Just because there is some kind of spirit that is making people do some odd sorts of things or some extraordinary kinds of things does not mean it is the Holy Spirit. By your fruits you will be known. That is what we need to be looking at. We need to make sure we are rooted in prayer. We need to make sure we are seeking the Lord with our whole heart and soul and strength. I have known and seen the work of many people over the last number of years who claim to have the Holy Spirit, and it is very evident that they do not. They make lots of claims as to what they are doing and why they are doing it. Yet, when push comes to shove, it is very evident that this is not inspired by God. And if there is something extraordinary happening, it is obvious that they are not doing it themselves either - so there is only one other possibility. One must be very careful.
What we must do is prepare our hearts to be able to receive the Gift that God wants to give to us. Otherwise, God is going to do wonderful things in the world and we will not be part of it because we decided that we knew a different way and a better way. We decided that we could do it all by ourselves and we did not need the Lord. Look around in the world today and ask yourself, "Can I get to heaven by myself? Can I resist all the temptations of the world all by myself? Can I frustrate the designs and the works of Satan all by myself?" I think we all know better than that. And if we cannot do it now, I guarantee that we will not be able to do it in the near future. As things get worse, we are going to need the Holy Spirit in a profound way to be able to help us, and it will become very clear those who are children of God and those who are not.
We need to make a radical choice. No more mediocre Catholicism. No more sitting on the back seat wondering which way we should turn. No more sticking our toe in the water and saying, "That is good enough. As long as I go to church on Sunday, I do not have to worry about anything else." You are going to be in or out. You are either going to jump into the pool headlong off the high dive, or you are going to be standing on the sideline. You are not going to have your toe in the water anymore. You have a choice to make. It is in or it is out. It is God or it is the devil. There are no alternatives. Anyone who wants to be lukewarm, Jesus speaks of them in the Book of Revelation and says, "I will spew you out of My mouth." There is no room for a lukewarm Catholic - you either have to be hot or cold. The choice is yours; God will not force it upon you. He is offering the gift of His Holy Spirit in an extraordinary and profound manner if each one of us will simply prepare our hearts to receive Him.
The Holy Spirit is the Spouse of Our Lady. When we see the holiness of Our Lady, when we see the holiness that took place in the lives of the apostles and the early Christians, we understand there is only one way that this can happen; that is, through the working of the Holy Spirit and His spouse, the Blessed Virgin Mary. Those are the two to whom we must look. There is no growth in holiness apart from them. It is Our Lady who will form us to be like her Son, and it is the Holy Spirit who is going to give us the grace to do it. She will obtain for us the grace through her mediation and intercession, and He will work in our lives in that profound and supernatural way. We are going to see wonderful things if we are with the Holy Spirit. We are going to see horrifying things if we are not. The choice is ours.
When we look at the second reading today, St. Peter tells us that if we suffer for doing what is right, that is acceptable to God. But how do we assume that we are going to be able to do that without the Holy Spirit? We are going to see martyrs in our day - and you might be one of them. Do you think you will be able to stand before somebody and profess your faith in the face of death, and joyfully accept martyrdom without the help of the Holy Spirit? There is no way. How is it that the martyrs of the past have joyfully gone to their martyrdom? How is it that those who have suffered cruelty for the sake of the Name of Jesus Christ and for their faith have done so courageously and joyfully? It is by the work of the Holy Spirit, and the Lord has promised the Holy Spirit to us.
We can ask, then, why do we not see it at work? Why do we not see these extraordinary things happening the way they did 2,000 years ago? It is because God needs us to be able to learn in order to prepare ourselves for what is to come. The only way we are going to learn is by having to be submerged into the cesspool of this world to learn what sin is all about, to learn the working of the evil one, so that when we see the Holy Spirit, He will be so recognizable to us - and the ways of sin and evil are so common to us and so well known - that once we choose for the Lord and for the Holy Spirit, no matter what temptations the devil throws at us, we will reject it. We have seen it. We have been there. We know what it is about, and we are not going to say "yes" to it again. The only way we will know that - tragically, for us - is if we have been submersed in it.
What great saints God can make out of people who have wallowed in the mire of the filth of this world. When they are pulled out of it, they will become great saints for God. If you are a mediocre sinner, you can only be a mediocre saint; but if you are a great sinner, you can become a great saint. Now do not take that to think that you need to rush out and do some horrible things this afternoon just to become a great sinner. I think we all know that we are already there. What we need to do now is beg the Lord and beg Our Blessed Lady for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit to purify our hearts in whatever way He needs to do. He will humble us, purify us through the suffering, to prepare us for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. He will prepare us to receive the Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, so that with her we can unite ourselves to her Son. We will be able to do the works that the Lord wants from each one of us: to remain faithful in the face of suffering and to become great saints through the power of the Holy Spirit, Who will be given to us if we are willing.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.