The Inspiration of the Holy Spirit
In last month’s article we looked at how the Holy Spirit gives us peace in times of suffering or when we might be experiencing some form of persecution for our faith. We began with the Jesus’ wonderful promise of assurance from the gospel of John – “Do not worry beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you… through the Holy Spirit.”
It is important to note that the Holy Spirit “gives words” not only in times of persecution, but also for the building of the Kingdom and the edification of listeners. Many have been the times when I was inspired to write about a topic, but I could not quite conceive of what to say. I would start writing one simple thesis statement that reflected the direction I wanted to go. Suddenly, words began to come to me. I began to think of additional points which bolstered the thesis statement, additional distinctions which clarified it, stories which animated it, and then good advice which could be drawn from it.
You might immediately conjecture, “Well, that is the normal muse of an author. Why call it ‘inspiration of the Holy Spirit?’” I certainly agree that this process does represent an ordinary muse of authorship, but when I read back what I just said, and actually derive benefit from it because my writing was more profound than anything I had consciously thought of previously, I must admit I am truly given pause. I find myself asking, “Who said that?” For it really doesn’t sound like something I would say. It doesn’t sound like my style, and the content seems to have exceeded my limited powers of perception and wisdom.
One might say, “Well, your subconscious mind was tacitly aware of all of this, but your conscious mind was not. That is why your conscious mind was genuinely surprised at the depth of content and the beauty of style.” Hmmmm. If my subconscious mind is so smart, how come it doesn’t speak more often to my conscious mind so that I might derive benefit from it every day (outside the context of preaching, writing, or helping others)? Why is it that when I am not trying to help someone, I am almost befuddled by my musings, and confused by my subconscious mind? Just curious.
This gives us a clue about how the Holy Spirit of love operates. The usual context is when we’re trying to help or edify another person. The Spirit does not blast thoughts into our head, but rather gives us a thesis statement with a sense of drawing us to something deeper. Now we, in our freedom, must follow this sense of being drawn. If we do, then our desire to help, and our effort to formulate, combine with this sense of following Wisdom, and words begin to tumble out. They may be prosaic or poetic, ordinary or beautiful to behold, plain and straightforward or filled with metaphor and imagination, but whatever the case, they have the capacity to reach into the hearts of deeply empathetic individuals, moving them to new depths and directions of love. Our job is to follow this sense of being drawn, and to exert the effort to put words into what our heart already seems to know. The Holy Spirit will take care of the rest.
By Fr. Robert J. Spitzer. Reprinted from Five Pillars of the Spiritual Life