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Center for Action and Contemplation
Life in the Spirit
Life in the Spirit

Welcome the Holy Spirit  

Monday, May 20, 2024

In an early book, Richard Rohr names the ability to love as the essential gift of the Holy Spirit: 

At the end of Luke’s Gospel, Jesus tells his followers, “Stay in Jerusalem until you are covered by the power from on high” (Luke 24:49). The disciples remained as they were told until the Spirit descends upon the gathered community on the feast of Pentecost. Suddenly, there is a new vitality in the Church, a new source of power and love. Just as Jesus was empowered by the Holy Spirit, now the followers of Jesus are empowered by the same Spirit. 

By living in the Spirit, Jesus’ disciples can do what God does. Or as Jesus puts it, “Be compassionate, just the way your Father is compassionate” (Luke 6:36). It is by the power of the Spirit that they follow Jesus’ alternative way:  

Love your enemies; do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you; pray for those who treat you badly. If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer your other cheek. If someone takes your coat, let them take your shirt as well. Treat others the way you want them to treat you (Luke 6:27–30).  

The gift of the Spirit is God’s own power to love unconditionally—and to transform the world by that power. 

This gift of knowing the Spirit, of being able to love as God does, is the same gift we need today. We see the world on the brink of destruction, yet we are too often apathetic about it. We hear of wars and famines, yet we choose to ignore them. We watch the earth degrade around us, and we simply adjust our thermostats. Too many of us just want to be left alone, not bothered by someone else—not even God—making demands on us. All of this is evidence of something missing in our lives, and reveals that we do not really know the Holy Spirit. 

The Spirit is always a gratuitous gift. It’s always an unmerited favor. It’s always pure grace. Like wind, it cannot be seen. Like smoke, it cannot be controlled. The Spirit is elusive, blowing where it wills. Yet like fire, the Spirit can be felt. The Spirit is experienced as the warmth of God’s love. And like blood, it is experienced as an inner vitality. The Spirit is supremely intimate, yet supremely transcendent. 

To enter into relationship with the risen Christ, we have to let go of ourselves, surrender control of our lives, and let the Spirit be given to us. We think that we might lose our individuality, yet surrendering to God actually increases it. For once in our lives, we’re truly free to become ourselves rather than what others want us to be. The highest form of self-possession is the capacity to give ourselves away. By giving ourselves completely to God, we come to be possessed by God and in full possession of ourselves at the same time.   

Adapted from Richard Rohr and Joseph Martos, The Great Themes of Scripture: New Testament (Cincinnati, OH: St. Anthony Messenger Press, 1988), 72, 76–77, 87, 93, 94. 

Image credit and inspiration: Tim Zänkert, body of water (detail), 2017, photo, Unsplash. Click here to enlarge image. Like sunlight on water, we cannot grasp or clutch Spirit, but its beauty is with us all the same. 

Story from Our Community:  

The Daily Meditations on artistic spirituality have been life-giving for me. I have written professionally for a long time, but now I am inspired to expand how I engage my creative expression. I find my spirit opening and my boundaries dropping as I explore my artistic talent for something broader and more lively. I’m unsure where it might lead me. This fits with my ongoing spiritual journey to meet God’s love more freely.  
—Marian S. 

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