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The Supreme Tenderness of the Holy Spirit

From a whisper of awareness, the spirit of Jesus in us evolves into acute discernment and invites knowledge.
by Suze Forster | Source: Catholic.net

It starts as a whisper of awareness, the subtlest stirring of the soul; but when vague perception of the spirit of Jesus in us evolves into acute discernment and invites acknowledgement, it is like opening a door in your heart through which previously only the slightest breath of wisdom passed and welcoming a cyclone of awakening we cannot but embrace.
During my tenure as a ‘cultural’ Christian (a Christian who makes all the right professions of faith and claims to salvation through Jesus without any real integration of my faith into my daily life), I thought I understood what the Holy Spirit was. I thought I understood the unknowable nature of this more pure divine presence. But I ‘understood’ things from an intellectualized perspective, from the outside looking in, not the inside looking around – I was unengaged, remote, distant. I thought of the Holy Spirit as a silent presence of God in me – something I did not so much feel as was merely aware of (by reason of intellect) residing in me. That’s where it ended. I could not feel it. It had no form or voice. It was inanimate. It was merely ‘there’.

A great upheaval in my life (which prompted me to authentically and unreservedly rededicated my life to my faith and my Redeemer) coincided with an article I read about the power of the Holy Spirit to communicate most overtly through the conscience of Christians. The Holy Spirit was described as sometimes a stirring deep within, at other times moving us unexpectedly. This indefinable entity of the Holy Spirit, I learned, was what prompted our responses, activated certain of our instincts, motivated us at our most intuitive levels. My renewed commitment to my faith – not a dormant, hollow, latent faith but an evangelical, ecumenical, emboldened witness to the power and presence of Jesus Christ in my life – activated the Holy Spirit in me which, until then, had been gagged and trussed and cast into a disused corner. Freed from the shackles of constraint, it unfurled and filled me and I felt such great movement within the very bedrock, the very foundations, of me that I felt (not just knew, because knowing is of the intellect but feeling is of the spirit) that I had truly and for the first time in my Christian life allowed the spirit of Jesus in me to come to life.

Once I became aware of it, there was no lapsing back into spiritual quiescence. This embryonic whisper – the breath of Jesus – became a cyclonic, thronging maelstrom of inner transfiguration. Like Paul, I was knocked (emotionally and spiritually) off my feet, ‘conquered’ by the invincible warrior of love, my Redeemer. I was subjected to cataclysmic, radical change – my thinking changed utterly, my faith deepened and expanded, my outlook was transformed, I perceived my future with new consciousness. And most importantly – my life tipped dramatically off its worldly axis and began a new faith-based orbit.

The Holy Spirit was like a wind sheering through me, blowing away the dust and cobwebs of apathy, cutting through caked-on indifference, and blasting apart spiritual torpor and lethargy. It was to my spirit like adrenalin to the body – at once I felt alive, alert, vigorous and energized. In mind and body, heart and soul, I was a creation reborn. My spirit, once relegated to filtering the subterfuge of my fey emotions without any real dynamic force or discernible influence in my life, overwhelmed and reordered my experience of life. It designated devotional worship of Jesus Christ as the primary purpose of my life, along with a sense of active ecumenical citizenship and responsibility, the pastoral care of my loved ones, especially my children, and a deep, resonant call to fervent and continued prayer. Suddenly I found formerly cherished ideals of wealth, security, influence, material possessions and popularity negligible, consigned to a place of lesser importance than a lost button or a missed phone call. The Holy Spirit upended my misguided values and introduced me to the two most sacred moral doctrines of Christian life: uncontested love of Jesus Christ and the unhesitating acceptance of the grace freely offered to the faithful who accept that we are already saved through Christ’s Passion, Death and Resurrection.

These had always been concepts to me – never realities. I believed them – in my mind. But I had not realized that I had never truly accepted them into my heart…until I accepted them into my heart. And my heart was no longer merely an organ of flesh circulating life-sustaining blood throughout my body, but a living vessel of the love and grace of Jesus Christ, a chalice into which the living body and blood of Christ had come to dwell.

Great change blossomed forth from within me. I felt the need to attend Mass weekly again – to hear the Word of God amongst my brothers and sisters. I felt the need to participate in the sacrament of the Eucharist, to receive into myself the body and blood of my Savior in humble and contrite acknowledgement of His incomparable sacrifice for me, to do as Christ asked of me – ‘Do this in memory of me’. I felt the need to share my faith enthusiastically with any who would listen, any who took an interest, any whose curiosity as to the source of my spiritual buoyancy might leave ajar the door to their own Christian awakening, even if only a crack. A crack is all that Christ needs to enter the hearts of the seeking, the receptive, the lost, the predisposed or the intrigued. He found a crack in me and transformed it into a cavernous ravine through which the waters of life and truth deluged my parched soul.

I was unprepared for the conversion within me from insecure, timid, invisible speck in the world to heartened, spiritually buoyant, enthusiastic witness and follower of Christ. The Holy Spirit filled me with the Word, covered me with the light of Truth, and clothed me in the armor of courage that I might freely abandon my fears and anxieties and surrender myself to the joy of proclaiming my allegiance to Christ.

And now, to know me is to know the one to whom I have devoted my life. I willingly and cheerfully subject myself to any ridicule, derision and humiliation that my Christian devotion brings upon me. If it costs me friends, family, employment, credibility by the world’s standards, improved circumstances and standard of living, material gain and security and even shelter, I will embrace all hardship and persecution for the sake of His name. For at what cost to my soul is the alternative? At what cost to the peace in my heart and the promise of everlasting life with Him in the Kingdom of Heaven , no more to be separated from my Father, to praise and worship Him with all the battalions of angels and the assembly of saints?

The Holy Spirit is in each and every one of us, but remains dormant, mute, inert while ever we languor in apathy, disaffectedness, and indolence. This hallowed spirit of Jesus is ever waiting to be quickened, ever hopeful of acknowledgement, ever ready to converse. You have only to say: Lord, I am ready. Even if your inner voice is a barely audible whisper in the heavenly realm, not one angel or saint, much less the Father and the Son, will fail to hear your plea. To animate the Holy Spirit in you, but a little trust is required on your part for Him to enrapture the longings of your heart. You will not hear His voice but the unmistakable hastening of your awareness of His presence will throng out across the planes of the earth, throughout the expanse of the universe, and within every sacred hall of heaven, leaving you in no doubt of His response: I am here.

If you don’t feel the Holy Spirit within you and long to, you have the three most powerful tools at your fingertips to rouse Him to sentience in you: faith, prayer and the Word of God. It is important to commit time to nurturing a nascent, burgeoning faith because in its infancy it is susceptible to many perils, not the least of which is Satan who, instantly alerted to the subtlest leaning of a wanting heart towards Jesus, will fight tooth and nail to undermine, emasculate and otherwise dismantle a fledgling faith through distraction, diversion and disruption. Budding faith is subjected to the missiles of uncertainty, misgiving and hesitation. In laying the founding bricks of the bedrock of faith, we must set aside time for uninterrupted investigation, reflection and meditation on the Word of God. It cannot be wedged in and around our ‘real life’. It can neither be a condensed exercise nor a rushed one. It can only impart its riches and blossom into fruitful nourishment of the soul when it becomes a priority, not a petty chore or a handy cork to plug a little gap in time here and there.

Take some simple steps. Turn off the television. It is both visually and mentally distracting. Music is fine as long as it is conducive to a receptive, meditative, contemplative state of mind (without lyrics is preferable). Find somewhere comfortable to sit. Before opening your bible, start with a simple prayer. It need be neither formal nor elaborate, only heartfelt; a simple ‘Lord, I’m new to this and I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do, so I will read your Word and listen for Your voice in me. Speak to me through the emotions stirred in my heart by Your Holy Spirit, reveal Yourself in me, accept my prayers and my faith, help me to grow in Your love’. And then simply open your Bible to one of the Gospels and read.

Read slowly. Let the words settle into you. Do not be surprised to discover that your spirit will rouse, even enthuse, at the message of hope that lies at the foundation of every word of scripture. That is the stirring of the Holy Spirit from deep within you. Allow your heart to naturally respond to the awakening illumination of the Word, for it is the living water, the bread of life, promised even before the dawn of time by our Heavenly Father and galvanized by the sacrifice of His son, that you might never hunger or thirst again.

Don’t spend all of the time you have set aside for reading. Spend some time in reflection. If it helps you to organize your thoughts and ruminate on the mysteries of the Word, write in a journal, if not to track the progression of your spiritual journey or to record instances of spiritual awakening, then to focus your growing knowledge and deepening awareness of the Holy Spirit into a discipline of written acknowledgement. In times of doubt and uncertainty it will remind you of the faithfulness of Jesus whose sentient, active and assiduous Holy Spirit tirelessly and joyfully remains within you always, ever enveloping you in His light, love, and hope.

Lastly, conclude this time with prayer. Begin first with thanksgiving and then offer your supplication. Prayer is the tender reed that invites the refreshing rains of renewal and the invigorating rays of regenerative warmth that lead to spiritual growth. The tender, swaying reed over time becomes a robust stalk. Those very first struts of belief laid upon the bedrock of faith soon become a mighty bulwark securely rooted upon the imperishable capstone of the Eternal Son. Prayer unites your soul with the heart of Jesus who rouses the Holy Spirit within you.

What began as a whisper in me – the breath of Jesus - became a cyclonic, thronging maelstrom of inner transfiguration that has saved my very life. Be the length of my remaining days but hours or decades, I will never forget the day the Holy Spirit came into me and created me anew.

It all began with a trembling heart and a porous faith but I spoke the words, though barely a whisper: Lord, I am ready.

That small whisper was met by the gale force of the Holy Spirit.

I have neither hungered nor thirsted since.

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