Sign of the Holy Spirit

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

May 22nd, 2022 – Sixth Sunday of Easter - John 14:23-29

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I am old enough to remember when we Catholics said the Sign of the Cross, we ended it with calling the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Holy Ghost. To an impressionable youngster that I was, this raised all sorts of questions because I knew about ghosts that inhabited haunted houses and scary stories. And I even wondered about whether there might be a ghost living in our basement. I never went down there alone.

But times changed and we were told to extract the Holy Ghost from our prayers and replace it with someone called “the Holy Spirit.” I was happy to dismiss talk about the ghost, although I can’t say that its replacement (the Holy Spirit) initiated more clarity. Less, in fact, because at least I know something about ghosts and very little about spirits.

Over the years, I grew accustomed to mention of the Holy Spirit, although I cannot admit to knowing much more than this divine person was number three. Catholic schools often had special Masses to begin the school year during which we prayed that the Holy Spirit would inspire us to be better students. Especially before exams.

In our parish church a large stained-glass window pictured God in heaven There was an older looking man with white beard (the Father) sitting next to a younger man (the Son) and above them floated a large bird (I was told it was the Holy Spirit). Later, as a theologian, I concluded that this God image likely caused more confusion than clarity.

So, this Sunday we are given a gospel passage where Jesus tells his disciples that after he departs, the Holy Spirit will be sent to continue his teaching mission. Recently I read a poem that concluded with a poet’s words that went something like this: The third was the Holy Ghost, that’s the one I liked the most. This clever use of language prompted me to give a little more thought to my own understanding of God’s Spirit as present among us and in us right now.

Here are a few thoughts that came to me. First, some (maybe all) of the truthfulness of my words here come in part because I am being “inspired” by the Holy Spirit. Also, are the words of my wife telling me to place my dirty laundry in the basket and to wash my hands before dinner. In addition, the good insights I gain from my repeated reading of today’s gospel. And any other truths about my life I receive today. It all comes through the help given me by God’s Spirit who dwells in me, in you, and in all truthful people.            

©David M. Thomas, PhD

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