I was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness, and when I would go from door to door Christians would tell me about being filled with the Holy Spirit. I did not really understand what they were talking about.
You see, as a Jehovah’s Witness, I was part of the group that they called the “Great Crowd.” We were not considered Spirit-anointed Christians and, therefore, were not allowed partake in their communion ceremony known as the Memorial.
Maybe that is why the Lord decided that I was to be received into the Catholic Church on Pentecost Sunday 2003. I remember the scene vividly. The Cathedral of the Risen Christ in Lincoln, Nebraska, was packed and Fr. Tucker anointed me with chrism oil and said, “Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit!” Then I was finally allowed to participate with my Catholic brothers and sisters in receiving the Holy Eucharist. I had been yearning for this moment for years and finally the Lord blessed me with this great gift.
Since becoming Catholic, much of what I have learned about being Catholic has been through the writings of our beloved Pope John Paul II. In his encyclical Ecclesia De Eucharistia, John Paul II points out that the Eucharist is also in continuity with the incarnation of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. As our late Holy Father wrote:
At the Annunciation Mary conceived the Son of God in the physical reality of His body and blood, thus anticipating within herself what to some degree happens sacramentally in every believer who receives, under the signs of bread and wine, the Lord’s body and blood. Ecclesia De Eucharistia, Section 55
Perhaps that is why we Catholics receive the gift of the Holy Spirit through the sacrament of baptism and/or confirmation prior to receiving the Lord in the Eucharist not unlike our Blessed Mother who received the Holy Spirit before becoming the physical tabernacle for our Lord Jesus Christ prior to His birth.
This profound insight from John Paul II into what happens when every Catholic receives the Eucharist continues in the following comments:
As a result, there is a profound analogy between the “Fiat” which Mary said in reply to the angel, and the “Amen” which every believer says when receiving the body of the Lord. Mary was asked to believe that the One whom she conceived “through the Holy Spirit” was “the Son of God” (Lk 1:30-35). In continuity with the Virgin’s faith, in the Eucharistic mystery we are asked to believe that the same Jesus Christ is present in His full humanity under the signs of bread and wine. Ecclesia De Eucharistia, Section 55
So in a sense, whenever we receive our Lord in the Eucharist and say our “Amen” to the priest, we are experiencing our own opportunity to say to the Lord, “I am no longer mine but Yours. Let it be done to me according to Your will.” In short, we are promising the Lord each time we receive Jesus in the Eucharist that we will glorify Him with our bodies and embody Him to others in our words and actions.
On Pentecost Sunday the last few years, individuals who want the Church to approve of the homosexual lifestyle have worn rainbow-colored sashes to Church in an effort to receive the Eucharist while protesting the teachings of the Church on this matter. These individuals are using their bodies to speak to us.
Our beloved John Paul II told us that when Catholics receive the Eucharist we are using our bodies, as temples of the Holy Spirit, to make a promise to God and to the Church that we are willing to faithfully embody Christ in all things. This includes being in full communion with the teaching authority of the Church. To receive the Eucharist in our bodies while wearing a sign that signals our dissent with Church teachings is to tell a lie with our bodies. We also tell lies with our bodies when we commit any mortal sin with full knowledge and consent after we have received the Eucharist. These actions are not all that different from the way in which Judas Iscariot lied to Jesus using his body (Lk 22:47, 48). Judas used a kiss, which is usually a bodily sign of welcome and affection, to mark Jesus for death.
As Catholics we are commissioned by the Lord to proclaim His death until the end of the world. By receiving the sacrament of the Eucharist we are promising before God and the Church to use our bodies, which are temples of the Holy Spirit, for the work of the Lord in whatever vocation He has given us. Let us be true to the Lord in our words and actions. All of the Sacraments give us the grace to be faithful to the Lord in word and deed if we are open to receiving those graces. When we are faithful to the Lord and to His Church in both body and soul, we join our temples of the Holy Spirit with the prayers of the Church in heaven and on earth in constantly praying, “Come, Lord Jesus!” until the day He returns (Rv 22:20).
“You must know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is within the Spirit you have received from God. You are not your own. You have been purchased, and at a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Cor 6:19, 20).
© Copyright 2005 Catholic Exchange
Jeffery M. Schwehm is a former member of the Jehovah's Witnesses' Headquarters Staff in Brooklyn, New York, and a former Lutheran. He is an Assistant Professor of Biochemistry at Lakeland College in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, and a member of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Kohler, Wisconsin. He is also the president of the Fellowship of Catholic Ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses (www.catholicxjw.com), a Catholic apostolate to assist Jehovah’s Witnesses into the Catholic Church.