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Father Muench Says...

Power and guidance of the Holy Spirit

May 4, 2016

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

Our Catholic Church’s liturgical year leads us through the Easter celebration of Christ’s Resurrection to the celebration of Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit.  The Scriptures tell us that the apostles were completely transformed by the Holy Spirit from fearful disciples into courageous, enthusiastic witnesses for Christ.  The Holy Spirit made disciples into dynamic missionaries.

I was ordained a priest at the hands of Bishop Navagh through the power of the Holy Spirit, just as the apostles received the Holy Spirit on that first Pentecost. That was a moment marked by such unforgettable signs as tongues of fire and a rush of wind.  This Holy Spirit touched my life in a special way through my priestly ordination.  There was no fire or wind but certainly the same challenge.  The Lord asked a dedication from me – a life of ministry.

As I look back today over those years since my ordination, I must admit that I recognize the power and call of the Holy Spirit in my life.  The influence of the Holy Spirit filled my life just as with the apostles with a readiness to be a witness to the Lord Jesus.

Each Pentecost has become a time for me to offer my gratitude to the Holy Spirit for the gift of my priesthood, for guiding and supporting me during the many parish assignments that I have had during my ministry as a priest.

I know only too well how God’s Holy Spirit guided my life as a parish.  There are so many times I was in the right place at the right time.  I have no doubt that the Holy Spirit touched my priesthood at those times.  There were innumerable times that the Holy Spirit gave me the right words – the right words to preach, to teach, to write.  I am certain many of my priest friends would agree with me that often the action of the Holy Spirit is a complete surprise.  It is a complete surprise as I come up with the ideas that I needed at that moment.  This is the Holy Spirit’s task and gift to me.  I am truly grateful.

I believe passionately in the Holy Spirit’s action in my life as a priest.  However, the Gospels also make it very clear that everyone’s Baptism brings the Holy Spirit into our lives.  St. John the Baptist tells us so.

John came with a ministry of Baptism.  He made it very clear that his Baptism was a Baptism of Repentance.  People would come to him prepared to dedicate themselves to renounce their sins and seek conversion to a new life in the Lord.  John says this to the people: “I baptize you in water for the sake of reform, but the one who will follow me is more powerful than I.  I am not even fit to carry his sandals.  He it is who will baptize you in the Holy Spirit and fire.” {Matt 3:11}   All who are baptized as Christians and Catholics are baptized in the Holy Spirit.

So, all of you – not just priests and bishops – are touched by the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit continues to work in everyone’s life, in the lifetime of all the baptized.  The Holy Spirit comes to guide us all, to lead us all. I hope that you recognize the times in your life – times when you noticed the Holy Spirit’s guidance and recognized the challenges when you did the right thing and said the right thing.

We all should have confidence in the Holy Spirit.  I know that the Spirit never forgets us.  Despite this there will be times when we are surprised by the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit will lead us and guide us when we least expect.  Often, the Holy Spirit’s love and support will be brought into our lives by another person who will be a surprise to us – a person who we least expect.

Finally, when we stay open in heart and mind, the Holy Spirit will be one with each one of us.  Jesus puts it this way: “the Holy Spirit will make his abode with us.” With the Spirit’s power and guidance, we will be the ones who bring the presence and the help of the Holy Spirit ourselves to someone else.  Such a moment will be a surprise to us but the Holy Spirit can and does work though us.

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