With the solemnity of Pentecost practically on our doorsteps it would be wise and helpful to appreciate, at least with a small dose, this great liturgical feast that we, as Church, will soon be celebrating.
In effect, when we closely consider Pentecost, we come to realize that this feast presents to us a very down-to-earth role of the Holy Spirit in our lives. As He clearly emerges from this powerful and fateful event, the Holy Spirit is the Facilitator: the One United Core who unites the differences.
Let us have a look at what the term facilitator means. According to the Wikipedia entry, “a facilitator is someone who engages in facilitation—any activity that makes a social process easy or easier. A facilitator often helps a group of people to understand their common objectives and assists them to plan how to achieve these objectives; in doing so, the facilitator remains ‘neutral’, meaning he/she does not take a particular position in the discussion. Some facilitator tools will try to assist the group in achieving a consensus on any disagreements that preexist or emerge in the meeting so that it has a strong basis for future action”.
I found this neat definition very fruitful in trying to decipher the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of both the Church, and, especially in the life of each and every individual believer. The Holy Spirit facilitates our relationship with the Father and the Son. How can we fathom to go to the Father without the promptings of the Holy Spirit who lives and works in and through us? Look at Jesus himself! His entire life was utterly guided by the Holy Spirit! In that matter, I am all the time amazed when I read Luke’s gospel. In this third Gospel, I find the numerous references to the Holy Spirit really fascinating! Back to my theology student days I kept ruminating on the phrase which splendidly deciphers Luke’s Gospel as “the Gospel of the Holy Spirit.”
For instance, The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you (Luke 1:35); And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! (Luke 1:41-42); And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying (Luke 1:67) and so forth. In all these passages we notice the power of the Spirit that starts the incarnation of the Son of God. Furthermore, from these references the Spirit facilitates the person to praise the Lord.
Another verse which really opens for me the door to regard the Holy Spirit as the Facilitator for God’s grace to dwell and acts in and through the individual believer is certainly Luke chapter 4 the very first verse: And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan, and was led by the Spirit. This verse is pivotal for every true evangelization worth its salt. Without the Spirit we have simply indoctrination but never evangelization. Only the Spirit can, in fact, offer that still small voice (1 Kgs 19:12) before whom Elijah, when he heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave (1 Kgs 19:13). Marvelous is the fact that this important prophet was not to meet his Lord in the great and strong wind, which rend the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks. Neither in … an earthquake, … and after the earthquake a fire (1 Kgs 19:11-13). It took Elijah just to listen to that small voice to convince him of God’s very presence and helped him submit himself to His will with great courage and peace.
Elijah’s experience reminds us that only the Holy Spirit convinces fearful and closed hearts! Who can forget the great words written by Saint Paul VI in his timeless apostolic exhortation concerning the proclamation of the Gospel to the people of today, Evangelii Nuntiandi, when he wrote:
“Evangelization will never be possible without the action of the Holy Spirit… Techniques of evangelization are good, but even the most advanced ones could not replace the gentle action of the Spirit. The most perfect preparation of the evangelizer has no effect without the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit the most convincing dialectic has no power over the heart of man. Without Him the most highly developed schemas resting on a sociological or psychological basis are quickly seen to be quite valueless” (no. 75).
Speaking from my direct contact with the people I unworthily serve, it is only the Holy Spirit who leads those who have estranged themselves from God and His Church. It is Him who gives the courage to the believers to witness for Christ. The Holy Spirit is the one who builds the Church by opening the consciences of those who form it by assisting them in looking around and letting His prophetic voice speak to them so as to discern the signs of the times. It is the Spirit who gives a new heart to the Church to accept, include and harmonize the different gifts which make her up. As her Facilitator, the Holy Spirit empowers every Christian man and woman to be like a yeast in the society where he and she lives so that humanity be regenerated in Christ. Finally, the Holy Spirit calls and prepares people to be His agents of freedom, healing, joy and transformation. No wonder then that these insights are all jotted down in the famous Uppsala Ecumenical Council of Churches document, The Holy Spirit and the Catholicism of the Church of 1969.
Speaking to the College of Cardinals on Friday 15 March 2013 Pope Francis told them: “Let us never yield to pessimism, to that bitterness that the devil offers us every day; let us not yield to pessimism or discouragement: let us be quite certain that the Holy Spirit bestows upon the Church, with his powerful breath, the courage to persevere and also to seek new methods of evangelization, so as to bring to Gospel to the uttermost ends of the earth (cf. Acts 1:8)”.
Holy Spirit, My eternal Facilitator, facilitate in and through me Christ’s very life. Amen.