HOLY GHOST 101: UNDERSTANDING THE PERSON AND MISSION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. REFLECTION FOR THE FEAST OF PENTECOST. Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

Pentecost 2

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

Understanding the person, mission and work of the Holy Spirit is one of the great challenges that has been confronting Christianity from the apostolic times to our day and age.  We, therefore, need to understand whom the Holy Spirit is, and leveraging on that, we can move further to appreciate His mission and work in our lives.

The First thing we need to know is that the Holy Spirit is a person and not a thing! The Bible presented us with some symbolic images that indicate the presence of the Holy Spirit; they are just symbolic manifestations. We have some examples like mighty wind and fire (Acts 2:2-3). During the baptism of our Lord, the Holy Spirit also came in form of a dove (Matt.3:16).

The Holy Spirit is God; the third person of the Trinity. Oftentimes most people think that the Holy Spirit is only a New Testament reality. But the Holy Spirit has been working and we could locate His action from the moment of creation. The Book of Genesis tells us that “the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the deep” (Gen. 1:2).

In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit was not identified as a distinct person from God the Father. Often, He is called the Spirit of God (Gen. 1:2; 6:3; Ezekiel 37:1, Neh. 9:30). He is also called the breath of God (Gen. 2:7; Job 32:8; 33:4). Furthermore, He is called Good Spirit (Neh. 9:20). Above all, David identified and called Him the Holy Spirit. (Psalm 51:11).

In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit came upon people at needful times but His presence was not permanent; in other words, He did not dwell in people. For instance, Joseph had the spirit of God (Gen.41:38), at the instance of Moses, the Holy Spirit came down on the seventy elders and they prophesied once and never again (Num. 11:25-26). During the time of Moses, the Spirit of God came down on a man called Bezalel and gave him intelligence and knowledge of every kind of craft.

The Judges were men and women who worked under the impact of the Holy Spirit. Among them were Othniel (Judges 3:10), Gideon (Judges 6:34), Jephthah (11:29), Samson (Judges 13:25). The prophets were also in touch with the Spirit like Balaam (Numbers 24:2), Elijah and Elisha (2 Kings 2:9, 13-15), Isaiah (Isaiah 48:16-17), Daniel (Daniel 4:8-9) and others.

Before starting his public ministry, our Lord Jesus Christ declared the word of God which says “the Spirit of God is upon me!”. (Luke 4:18) The Spirit did not only come upon him like He did in the Old Testament, but He also remained with him. John the Baptist confirmed this in the Gospel of John (1:33) where he says:

I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit DESCEND and REMAIN is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.

From the foregoing reflection, we can see that the difference between the activity of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament and in the New Testament is that in the former, the presence was not permanent but in the latter (New Testament) the Holy Spirit comes to stay. We could confirm this from the words of our Lord in the Gospel of John (14:16) where he says:

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate,[Holy Spirit] to be with you FOREVER.

I believe that we are privileged to be among the beneficiaries of the new dispensation of the Holy Spirit. It now makes more sense why our Lord asked the apostles and few others including the Blessed Virgin Mary not to leave Jerusalem until they receive power when the Holy Spirit comes. The power is meant to stir up the Holy Spirit he already gave to them in during one of his post-resurrection visits (John 20:21-22) when he breathed on them and said: “Receive the Holy Spirit”.

The apostles needed the Holy Spirit to empower them to begin to function effectively. What happened on the day of Pentecost was a commissioning ceremony. It is one thing to be named for something and another thing to be confirmed and commissioned to act.

By the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the apostles were strengthened, they spoke in strange tongues, they became bold to speak in public and were no longer “afraid of the Jews”. When the Holy Spirit is lacking in our lives, we become afraid of the Jews. The Jews stand for all the variety of oppositions in our lives. The Jews here stand for all the odd experiences that make us hide and shy away from witnessing to God.

Today is also our own Pentecost. The Church is the new Upper Room. On this Upper Room, heaven will meet the earth. On this Upper Room, gifts of wisdom, knowledge, understanding, piety, courage, fortitude and fear of God are available for us. On this Upper Room, we have baskets of the fruits of the Holy Spirit: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, and chastity.

It is very important for us to remember that before the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the apostles and others were together in ONE ACCORD. Even when they spoke in different tongues there was mutual understanding unlike what at the tower of Babel where they spoke one tongue but lacked understanding. The Holy Spirit cannot come where people are not in one accord; disunity displaces the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Today we ask the Holy Spirit:

  • To recreate us and make us the newest versions of ourselves (Psalm 104:30).
  • To help us in our weakness (Romans 8:26).
  • To Empower us (Act 1:8).
  • To reborn us (1 Pet. 1:23).
  • To teach us (Luke 12: 11-12).
  • To Guide us (John16:13).

May this Pentecost celebration bring amazing transformation and graces upon your life. Have a great week ahead.

Fr. Bonnie.

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