“I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you” (John 16:7). Jesus Himself said that it was better for us that He not remain on earth, that He ascend to the Father. Why? Because then He would send us the promised Spirit of Truth to be with us always and to dwell within us.
This Pentecost, I reflected on how my life — and the life of the Church — would have been different if Jesus had not sent the Holy Spirit upon us. I realized my life would be completely different and totally void of all the meaning and fulfillment in it if it were not for the Holy Spirit! Of primary importance, if the Lord had not sent His Spirit, there would be no Sacraments. The water used to baptize me would have just been water poured over my head and not an instrument of grace through which God Himself came to live within me. Similarly, without the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, there would have been no men consecrated as priests, no way for my sins to be forgiven in confession, no sealing of the grace of my baptism in confirmation, no encounter with His healing grace through anointing of the sick, no matrimony to bind my parents in a spiritual and not merely physical or earthly union. And perhaps hardest of all to imagine because of the profound impact it would have had on my life as a Dominican Sister of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, without the sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and at each Mass, bread and wine would never be changed into the Body and Blood of the Lord whom I adore.
Without the Holy Spirit, too, my religious vocation would be non-existent. I would never have made vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. I would not know Jesus Christ, and I would not be able to preach to others about Him either.
In short, without the Holy Spirit, my life would be devoid of all meaning and purpose. Without Him, I am convinced, I should never have known the deep joy that I have in my life. Truly, it was better for me — and for all of us — that Jesus go, so He could pour down upon us His Holy Spirit.
I realized on Pentecost that the Holy Spirit has always been there as part of my life, from my earliest moments, with His quiet but persistent presence. And yet, I encountered Him in a deeper, profound way this past November, on a retreat during which I had what some might call a “baptism in the Holy Spirit.” The overwhelming sense of His presence brought a joy that spilled over in both laughter and tears. Prior to that moment, I had experienced much deep spiritual joy in my life and in my vocation, but even that paled in comparison to the joy of this renewed encounter with the Holy Spirit.
“You did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, ‘Abba, Father!’ The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him” (Romans 8:15-17).
The Holy Spirit you and I have received is a Spirit of freedom and of adoption as sons and daughters of God. He is present within us to bring us the joy and peace of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Let us open our hearts more fully to His presence and proclaim, following the advice of St. Bonaventure, that we love Him, we invite Him, and we expect Him. Come, Holy Spirit!
Sr. Mary Martha Becnel is a member of the Ann Arbor-based Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.