“To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.”
A woman bought a custom-made facemask for her 4th-grade son in preparation for the reopening of the school during the Covid pandemic. Her son loved the mask a lot because it had a picture of his favorite superhero on it. The mother also lectured him extensively about the need to wear the mask properly at all times to prevent contracting the Covid virus while at school.
However, he returned the first day from school with a different facemask. When his perplexed mother asked him what happened to his facemask, the boy replied, “My friend at school said he liked my facemask, so we exchanged our facemasks.” Talk about childlike innocence! The kid was indeed wearing a facemask properly all the time, but it just happened to be that of his close buddy. He was clearly not aware of the purported purpose of wearing the mask in the first place.
As we celebrate the birthday of the Church through the gift of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, we need to ask ourselves if we really grasp the purpose of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in the Church. When we are unsure or clueless about the purpose of the Spirit in our lives, then we easily ignore, offend, resist, or even dismiss the Spirit from our lives.
St. Paul said to the Corinthians, “To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.” God has a purpose in all the gifts that His Spirit bestows on each one of us. Our duty is to be aware of this purpose and to live accordingly.
St. Paul highlights three important purposes of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in the life of the Church.
Firstly, the Spirit is given to us to belong to Jesus and to submit to Him completely as our sovereign Lord, “Brothers and sisters: No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.” Without the Holy Spirit that makes us adopted children of God, we cannot depend on Jesus as our Lord, “Whoever does not have the Spirit of God does not belong to Christ.”(Rom 8:9) We cannot live for Him or seek to please Him in all that we do. We cannot endure temptations, trials, and sufferings for Him. We can claim or even profess Jesus as Lord, but we cannot truly live as His faithful subjects without the presence and gifts of the Spirit in our lives.
Secondly, the Spirit is given to us so that we use all His gifts to serve Jesus, the Lord, and to do so out of love for God, “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord.” Since our only Lord, Jesus Christ, has given us a share in the gifts of His Spirit, then we are to serve others out of love for the Lord. Without the Spirit, we cannot serve others and we cannot serve them out of love for Jesus. Devoid of the Spirit, we are hopeless in the struggle against selfishness and self-centered thinking.
Thirdly, the Spirit is given to us so that Christ can act in us and use us to gather souls to Him. It is not enough to belong to Him, submit to Him, and serve others for His sake. We must also be instruments for unity among all persons. Jesus’ desire for unity echoes in our hearts, “Father, may they be one as we are one.”(Jn 17:21) Possessing the Spirit, we strive for deeper union with Christ and with others, “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of the one Spirit.”( 1Cor 12:3-7,12-13)
When we begin to live according to the purpose of God in giving us His Holy Spirit, we have access to the deep and abiding peace of Jesus Christ. This peace endures even in the midst of interior and exterior turmoil. The risen Christ did not shield His scared disciples from the murderous Jews who surrounded them, but He offered them His own peace, “Jesus said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’”
He also showed them His hands and His side to teach them that He lived according to the purpose for which He received the Holy Spirit. By the Holy Spirit, He belonged completely to the Father, obeyed and served the Father even to death on the cross, and rose to unite us as one family of God. He offers us the Spirit to do the same thing and find peace in the midst of tribulations. , “As the Father has sent me, so I send you…Receive the Holy Spirit.”( Jn 20:19-23)
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, it is futile for us to seek true and lasting peace in this world as Jesus told us, “In this world, you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”(Jn 16:33) We cannot have peace in this world firstly because of the trials in the world. But we also cannot find peace here if we are not living according to the purpose of the Spirit of Jesus, the Spirit of the One who has overcome the world.
Sadly, there are so many ways in which we are disconnected from the purpose of the Spirit in our lives.
Are we not ignoring the Holy Spirit by rejecting His truth? Our relativistic mindsets lead us to manufacture our own convenient but enslaving “truths.” Our hearts become hardened and deaf to the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth that is meant to lead us to all truth.
Are we not offending the Holy Spirit by refusing to repent of our sins? The Holy Spirit is given to us for the forgiveness of all sins, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven, and whose sins you retain are retained.” We offend the Spirit of peace by being obstinate in sin, pretending we do not have sins, or dismissing them as harmless things.
Are we not dismissing the Holy Spirit from our lives by the sins against the flesh? Remember these words, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own…Therefore, glorify God in your body.” (1Cor 6:19,20) We cannot hope to have any peace when we are engaging in the myriad of sexual sins pervasive in our times e.g., masturbation, pornography, premarital sex, homosexual acts, adultery, etc.
Are we not resisting and grieving the Holy Spirit by that selfishness that makes us blind to the will of God and the good of our neighbors? Receiving the Spirit, we are not to live for ourselves, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice.”(Eph 4:30-31)
How can we hope to find peace in this tumultuous world when we are ignoring, offending, resisting, grieving, and blaspheming the Holy Spirit? For us to have any hope of peace in this world and in the life to come, we must remember the purpose of the Holy Spirit and strive to live according to that purpose all the time.
Our Eucharistic Lord is not stingy with His Spirit in any way, “The love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Spirit who has been given to us.”(Rom 5:5) He really wants us to have His own peace from His Spirit alive and active in us all the time, no matter what the world brings our way.
But this peace is not automatic. We must also live according to the purpose of the Spirit in our lives. By the grace of the Eucharist, let us submit to Jesus as Lord, serve Him in others with His gifts, and labor to gather souls to Him. Then we will begin to clearly hear the voice of the risen Christ saying to us even in troubled times, “Peace be with you!”
Glory to Jesus! Honor to Mary!