| By Bishop Robert D. Gruss

Invite the Holy Spirit to ignite your heart

The Novena to the Holy Spirit begins Friday, May 19. The novena prayers can be found here.

For much of the world, the celebration of Easter has come and gone. However, for Christians who live the Easter joy, we know that the Easter season spans 50 days, concluding on the great Solemnity of Pentecost – the birthday of the Church when the promised Holy Spirit descended upon Mary and the apostles gathered in prayer.

This event was the final part of God’s plan of love, culminating his work of salvation following the Ascension of Jesus. The sending of the Holy Spirit enabled this love affair between God and humanity to continue, and it enabled the work of Jesus to be continued through his disciples. In other words, on the day of Pentecost, the divine person of the Holy Spirit came to dwell in the human heart, within human history. The same love that unites the Father and the Son comes to each of us to do the work of Christ.

Throughout this Easter season, I am inviting everyone who reads this article to pray daily for a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit. This renews and deepens our relationship with Christ and our dedication to the call of discipleship. We all need this – bishop, priest, deacon, religious and layperson alike. Because our culture today is much like that of the early church – apostolic times – it necessitates a biblical worldview, whereby sharing the vision of the Gospel is accomplished much the way it was done by those early apostles. They were sent out with this mission and this mission alone: “Go and make disciples of all nations.” In other words, to bring the Gospel of Christ to the whole world.

In the power of the Holy Spirit, they went forth in faith and trust, with great hope and determination. Most importantly, they had great confidence in the Lord Jesus, their message and in the creativity and fruitfulness of the early Church. It was important to them to avail themselves to the Holy Spirit in order to grow the Church, and they knew the power of the Lord’s grace to make it grow.

What about us? Do we have such great confidence? Are we alive in the Holy Spirit?

There is a beautiful and very human story about Cardinal Leo Joseph Suenens, one of the main leaders of the Second Vatican Council, regarding his experience of faith and the Holy Spirit. Being a very dedicated man of the Church, he tells of a change that happened when he prayed for a great release of the Holy Spirit in his life.

“I did not discover the Holy Spirit through the [Charismatic] Renewal. The Spirit had long been at the center of my life. I saw how Christians live, who took the Acts of the Apostles at its word, and this led me to question the depth and the genuineness of my own faith. As a result, I found that I believed in the action of the Holy Spirit, but in a limited sphere; in me the Spirit could not call forth from the organ all the melody he wished; some of the pipes did not function, because they had not been used.”1

This led to some significant changes in his life. He had firmly believed in the mysterious living presence of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but when he prayed for the release of the Holy Spirit, Cardinal Suenens experienced at a deeper level the need of the Spirit to enlighten for him the face of the Lord Jesus and to create with him [Jesus] a deeper intimacy. He also realized more than ever before that the face of Jesus is indeed the face of the unique Son of God. He knew that “the Holy Spirit had but one mission for [him] – that of revealing the Son to him and in the Son, the Father.” He realized more intensely that “Christianity is not an ‘-ism’, but a Someone. And that Someone is the living Jesus.” 2

Cardinal Suenens was asked to open himself even more to Jesus in a readiness for prayer. Prayer became “more of a listening: to hear his voice, to look upon his face. The Holy Spirit revealed to him more intensely Jesus as the Word of Life which illuminates the darkness in our lives leading us to drink from the springs of living water.” 3

What about us? Is the Spirit playing a complete melody in you and me? What pipes in us are not being used? Again, have you prayed for the release of the Holy Spirit in your life?

The Lord Jesus has already given the Spirit to us, but he is waiting for us to let him ignite the fire. But we must want this fire to be ignited and pray for it each day. However, it also takes letting go of what I want and seeking what the Lord wants for me.

“In effect, Jesus' whole mission was aimed at giving the Spirit of God to men and baptizing them in the 'bath' of regeneration. This was realized through his glorification, that is, through his death and resurrection: Then the Spirit of God was poured out in a super-abundant way, like a waterfall able to purify every heart, to extinguish the flames of evil and ignite the fire of divine love in the world.” 4

What a great image Pope Benedict XVI gives us – “like a waterfall able to purify every heart, to extinguish the flames of evil, and ignite the fire of divine love in the world.” Has this been your experience of the Holy Spirit in your life? Do you feel the power of the Holy Spirit in such a way?

A renewed encounter with the Holy Spirit will not only bring new life to our lives, but also to our families, parishes and our diocese. I am praying for this tremendous gift. Therefore, I am also asking every person across our diocese to join me in praying a Novena to the Holy Spirit in preparation for the Solemnity of Pentecost, May 28. An authentic and renewed conversion to our Lord Jesus Christ can only happen through the power of the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit that transformed the lives of those disciples in the upper room at Pentecost.

The Holy Spirit changes hearts, changes situations and changes lives. The release of the Holy Spirit radically changed the early disciples from fearful, scared, lost men and women into courageous witnesses to Christ and enlightened heralds of his Word. The Holy Spirit guided them along the difficult and new paths of mission, that same mission given to every baptized person. We ask the Holy Spirit to bring about an amazing renewal among us.

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love!

The Novena to the Holy Spirit begins Friday, May 19. The novena prayers can be found here.

1 Léon Joseph Cardinal Suenens, A New Pentecost? (New York: The Seabury Press, 1975), pgs. 212-227.

2 ibid

3 ibid

4 Benedict XVI, “Let Baptism of the Holy Spirit purify every heart” given May 11, 2008, printed in L’Osservatore Romano, English Edition, May 14, 2008, No. 20, p.1.