Sunday, May 23, 2021

Feeling the Spirit

Propers for Whitsunday

Sermon for Whitsunday

How do you know the Holy Spirit?

There are many who claim to be filled with the Holy Spirit and are not. There are also those who hold Ebenezer Scrooge up as their model and regard any talk of being moved by the Holy Spirit as being affected by indigestion.

Both of these views have one thing in common. They both rely on the Holy Spirit expressing Himself through our feelings. But how do we know that our sense of the Holy Ghost is not just wishful thinking or a product of an overactive emotion?


The fact of the matter is that people can whip themselves up into frenzies and claim it to be the Holy Spirit. In many cases, it is really just a product of mass hysteria. Is that what happens to the Apostles?

Well, clearly not. There are certainly high emotion and unbridled elation. But there are also tongues of fire. And there are tongues of men. There is order amid the chaos - indeed, more order than chaos. The Apostles speak and they speak to be understood beyond the confines of Jerusalem. Moreover, they speak of the wonderful works of God. It isn't babble. Nor is it just the unrelenting use of platitudes. What they speak is substantial, true and intended to be heard by all who want to listen.

Of course, there will be those Scrooges who don't listen and, without further thought, accuse the Apostles of downing too many shots of tequila. Our Lord tells us that the World is deaf to the Holy Ghost. Indeed, St Paul tells us that the will of our flesh is in direct opposition to the will of the Holy Spirit. 

So how do we know the Holy Spirit?


We do not know the Spirit in ourselves only. We are fallen and need to learn to listen again. Our feelings are not reliable for us to say "this is the Holy Spirit moving in me!" The Holy Spirit is God and God is One. This means that, if we feel the Holy Spirit moving within us, then He moves us in accordance with what God has always said and done. In that sense, He will say nothing new because He will always be consistent with what Our Lord Jesus says and does. He will always be consistent with what the Father says and does. The same Spirit that moves us now is the same Spirit that moves the Apostles two thousand years ago.

The Holy Spirit moves us only as part of the Church and in a way that the Church recognises. He will not contradict what has already been revealed to us but He will clarify it. His effects may be felt but they will not be feelings alone. The Holy Spirit will allow His movements to be tested against Scripture, Tradition and Reason because these come from Him, too.

We receive the Holy Spirit at our Baptism and our growth in the same Spirit is strengthened through Confirmation. Indeed, we can be sure of the presence of the Holy Ghost through the Sacraments. The Sacraments give us grace and grace is the active presence of God with us and in us. They are His promise to us. Denial of the sacraments is a denial of the work of the Holy Spirit in God's Church.


Let us all be clear. We can see the Holy Spirit at work if we live our lives as part of the Living Church. There are still signs and wonders. People still do speak in tongues but they speak to be understood. There are still miracles - light anomalies at the consecration of Bishops, improbable coincidences, stigmata and prophecy - but they happen within the Church and for the Church and for the greater glory of God. The world will explain them away but the Church will know.

You may feel Him moving, but how do you know the Holy Spirit?

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