Question: To me, the Holy Spirit is an enigma. Please teach me how better to understand the Holy Spirit.
— James, city and state withheld
Answer: Scripture comes to mind, that when St. Paul went to Ephesus, he inquired if they had received the Holy Spirit. They replied, “We have never even heard that there is a Holy Spirit” (Acts 19:2). You, of course, have heard, but like many, are not sure of his role in your life, and wonder how better to experience him.
Within the Blessed Trinity the Father beholds the Son, and the Son beholds the Father. And there flows from them both, and between them, a divine love that is so perfect, and of such infinite ardor, as to be a living Love, and a divine person (for it is the very nature of God to exist), and we call this Love the Holy Spirit.
To have the Holy Spirit living in us, received at baptism, is to be caught up into the very love and life of God. The work of the Holy Spirit is to make us holy and pleasing to God. The Holy Spirit also bestows on us countless graces and charisms to transform us and make us a blessing to others.
It is no surprise that one image of the Holy Spirit is that of fire. For as tongues of fire came to rest upon the first disciples, so too for us does the Holy Spirit light the fire of God’s love in us, purifying and refining away impurities, and instilling in us, with increasing perfection, the life, love and glory of God.
Another image of the Holy Spirit is that of the rushing wind that came upon the disciples at Pentecost. The word “spirit” means “breath.” Yes, God, the Holy Spirit breathes new life into us. And by his power we become more, and more alive, in the new life Christ purchased for us, a new mind, by the Spirit’s inspiration, and new heart by his love, a growing transformation and a share in every good and perfect gift by his grace.
What does the Holy Spirit do for you? Consider the transformation of the first disciples at Pentecost. Anxious individuals gathered in an upper room were suddenly transformed and, throwing open the door, went forth with love and confidence to proclaim Christ. The Holy Spirit offers you this as well.
Question: I am a convert from the evangelical church and my RCIA teacher told me that the seven days of creation in Genesis is a primitive mode of speaking and does not really mean seven days. Is this true?
— Shelly, city and state withheld
Answer: The Catechism of the Catholic Church discourages the word “primitive” (see No. 304) in reference to Scripture. A better Catholic approach is to describe the creation account as a poetic account, rather than a modern, scientific account.
If we try to hold to a literalistic reading of all the details, we have difficulties. For, if a “day” is a 24-hour cycle of the sun, it is surprising to read that the sun and moon are not even created until the fourth “day.”
Further, there are two accounts of creation in Genesis, and they are very different.
What is essential for us to hold from these accounts is that God made everything out of nothing, he did so in wisdom and love, guiding every step. And though transcendent, remains present and active in all he has made.
So, seven days is likely more poetic than scientific.
Msgr. Charles Pope is the pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian in Washington, D.C., and writes for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., blog at blog.adw.org. Send questions to Pastoral Answers, Our Sunday Visitor, 200 Noll Plaza, Huntington, IN 46750 or to firstname.lastname@example.org. Letters must be signed, but anonymity may be requested.