What does it mean to be a Christian? It has to be more than just living a good life. Blessed Mother Teresa, Sts. John Paul II, Catherine of Siena, Paul, Francis, Augustine – these people are not our heroes because they figured out how to live a heroic life and just did it. Atheists can do that too. Jesus didn’t come to just be our role model and cheer us on to ‘do better.’ He came for something much greater.
Pope Benedict XVI can help us out:
Christ’s entire mission is summed up in this: to baptize us in the Holy Spirit… (Spe Salvi)
This has been the consistent message of the last five popes, going back more than 50 years (see The Urgency of the New Evangelization). Jesus came to give us the Holy Spirit – the very life and love of God. He didn’t come to give us only wise words, a worldview and ways to live by. He came to give us God Himself. He came to fulfill the promise of the Father to “pour out [His] Spirit upon all flesh” (Acts 2:17). For this reason Pope Paul VI stated:
“More than once we have asked ourselves what the greatest needs of the Church are… what is the primary and ultimate need of our beloved and holy Church? We must say it with holy fear because, as you know, this concerns the mystery of the Church, her life: this need is the Spirit… the Church needs her eternal Pentecost; she needs fire in her heart, words on her lips, a glance that is prophetic.” (Pope Paul VI, General Audience, Nov. 29 1972)
What do we need? We need our own personal, perpetual Pentecost. We don’t need to just try really hard to live a good life; we need a life lived in the power of the Holy Spirit. We need the living dynamite of God’s life in our souls. We all need this Pentecost to happen in our lives. That is the teaching of our first pope:
And Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise [of Pentecost] is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” (Acts 2: 38-39; emphasis added)
This was the first message of the pontificate of our first pope and this message continues into our own time. Look at Pope Francis whose first gesture as pope was to ask everyone to “pray over him,” and who continues to show us that a life lived in the Spirit is the way to live a Christian life.
That footage (here is another beautiful moment) is taken from the 37th National Convention of Renewal in the Holy Spirit recently held in Rome, which Pope Francis didn’t need an invitation to attend – he insisted on coming. There he gave an address in which he said:
I expect from you that you share with all, in the Church, the grace of Baptism in the Holy Spirit.
That’s clear enough, huh? Though, granted, this probably makes many people uncomfortable.
Be not afraid! Why wouldn’t be want everything God has to give – especially if He gives Himself? He gives us what we need and we need more of Him. Let’s trust that our Father is the giver of good gifts.
Let’s open ourselves up to the life-altering, life-deepening, life-purifying power of the Holy Spirit. If we haven’t experienced the power of Pentecost for ourselves, let us ask God for this grace – that His Holy Spirit might enflame us and pour into our hearts. Peter Kreeft, as always, may have the last word here:
Let us pray: Come Holy Spirit!