Vessels of the Holy Spirit
“For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control. Do not be ashamed then of testifying to our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but take your share of suffering for the gospel in the power of God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling.”
2 Timothy 1:6-9
The day of Pentecost as told in Acts of the Apostles was a crucial moment for the Apostles, the Church, and for all of humanity. Salvation had been obtained through Jesus’ death on the cross and revealed in his Resurrection appearances to the disciples. Yet, the mission of the Great Commission to make disciples and preach the Gospel to all nations was an insurmountable task for this small band of followers. It would take the Holy Spirit – God’s own inner life – to accomplish what was set before them.
In the Old Testament, God promised to gather all the scattered remnants of Israel back into one fold (cf. Ez 36:26-27, Jer 31:31-33). The descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost fulfilled these prophetic promises. The gift of the Holy Spirit to the nascent Church, however, far surpassed the narrower confines of one nation as was supposed through the writings of the prophets. The abundance of God’s mercy in Jesus Christ was to be extended to all the world. A New Law was to be given – the Law of the Spirit – which was to match the New Covenant instituted by the crucifixion of Jesus. The rushing wind, the tongues of fire, and new language corresponded to the same signs given to Moses on Mt. Sinai when the Old Law was spoken by God. Jesus came, not to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it. The gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church was a completion of what was only foreshadowed to Moses and Israel.
On our own we may have certain natural gifts and talents. By the gift of the Holy Spirit, we receive the gifts of wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord (Isaiah 11:2-3). In short, we are made to look and act like Jesus, to follow in his footsteps and be other Christs in the midst of the world.
The Holy Spirit given to the Apostles at Pentecost and to any baptized person confers upon them these seven gifts in order to bear the fruits of the Holy Spirit – charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, and chastity (CCC 1830-1832).
Acts 2:1-4 states that the house was filled with a rushing wind and tongues as of fire rested upon each person. “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit” (v. 4). The Greek word for fill denoted a complete filling. Yet, they remained themselves and were not displaced by the Spirit. In being filled with God’s Spirit, we do not lose ourselves nor is anything good in us displaced. Rather, we are completed – made whole as a new creation.
To be filled by the Holy Spirit can be likened to a diamond being filled with light rather than a cup being filled with water. A cup is empty unless it is filled, but a diamond remains full and solid regardless if it is in the light or in the dark. However, when a diamond is placed into brilliant light, it becomes filled with that light and radiates that light. If the diamond is in its raw form, uncut and unpolished, it may not shine as magnificently as if shaped and polished. A cup filled with water must lose water to give it away. Unlike the cup, however, a diamond does not lose any light by radiating light. As long as the diamond remains in the light, it will endlessly shine forth the light that it holds without itself losing any brilliance. Such is the law of the Kingdom that we must each lose our life in order to find it. The Church states it like this:
“Indeed, the Lord Jesus, when He prayed to the Father, ‘that all may be one … as we are one’ (John 17:21–22) opened up vistas closed to human reason, for He implied a certain likeness between the union of the divine Persons, and the unity of God’s sons in truth and charity. This likeness reveals that man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself” (Gaudium et spes 24).
We are made to be a gift, just as we have been given heavenly gifts. The Holy Spirit gives us the means to give the gift as vessels of God’s grace and glory.
Each of the Apostles and each one of us are such diamonds in varying states of wholeness, polish, and cut. Sin has soiled our exterior surface and cracked us on the inside. God, however, is the master jeweler. Placed into his hands, the diamonds of our lives can be polished, reshaped, set, and arranged to magnify His glory.
Has your life been one of particular brokenness? Do you feel that you are no longer a large diamond, but irreparably damaged inside and out? Be consoled that a thousand small diamonds broken off, reshaped, and arranged can often shine more brilliantly than one large diamond. God Himself knows how best to reshape your life to conform to the image of Jesus Christ crucified and risen.
Come, Holy Spirit, and renew the face of the earth!