The Holy Spirit at Work in the Church – Part 1

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The Scripture teaches and the Church believes that the Holy Spirit is God, the third Person of the Blessed Trinity. We read in the Book of Acts that when Ananias and Sapphira held back money they said they would contribute, St. Peter told Ananias “Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit“, and then added, “You have not lied to men but to God[1]. Not only does this indicate that the Holy Spirit is God, but that he is a Person to whom one can lie, rather than some impersonal force. In John’s Gospel, Jesus taught an extremely rich understanding of the Holy Spirit within the life of the Trinity, saying “He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”[2] From this we understand that the Father gives everything he has to the Son, and the Son gives it all to the Holy Spirit, who shares with humans what our limited, finite minds can comprehend. While the same Holy Spirit did speak through the prophets in the Old Testament[3], as the Nicene Creed proclaims every week at Sunday Mass, this was only sporadic to a few individuals. Moses had prayed that all would prophesy[4], but that promise of the general outpouring of the Holy Spirit would find its fulfillment in Jesus Christ, as John the Baptist had said of him[5], as Jesus himself said immediately before his ascension into heaven[6], and as happened on Pentecost and has continued ever since.[7]

The role of the Holy Spirit continues in the Church in various ways, according to the New Testament.

1)  The Holy Spirit makes a Christian a member of the Body of Christ.  ”For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and all were made to drink of one Spirit.”[8]  The Spirit’s role in Baptism is announced by Jesus: “Unless one is born again of the water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”[9] And St. Paul, after having been baptized, shows that Baptism is where we drink of the Holy Spirit so he can unite us to Christ, making us members of the mystical Body of Christ.

2)  The gift of the Holy Spirit enables us to recognize and accept the Blessed Trinity.  While we affirm that our mind and will are clearly involved in the process of accepting membership in the Church, it is ultimately the Holy Spirit who takes the greater role in giving us faith in God.  Paul twice describes the Spirit’s role in being able to address God as Father: “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him[10]. The same role of the Holy Spirit makes faith in Jesus possible: “Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says ‘Jesus be cursed!’ and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit.”[11] Whenever we recite the Creed we should call upon the Holy Spirit to stir our minds and hearts to deeper commitment to the Father and the Son and to greater acceptance of all the truth that has been revealed by him.

3)  The Spirit leads the Church into all truth, as Jesus taught during his Last Supper discourse: “The Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”[12] Later in the same discourse he said, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak“.[13] Jesus understood quite well that his apostles did not yet comprehend all that he had to teach them, but later, when the Father would bestow the Holy Spirit upon them through Jesus, the Holy Spirit would teach them ever greater fullness of truth what he had already revealed. For this reason, the Church holds councils where the mysteries of revelation are more fully understood and explained, especially after various false teachers, such as Sabellius and Arius.  The work of these councils is not a search for new revelations, but the deepened understanding of the truth Christ has already revealed.

St. Paul quoted the prophet Isaiah[14] in his first letter to the Corinthians when he describes, “what God has prepared for those who love him,” and he explains that “God has revealed [this] to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.[15]  He further explains this with an analogy:    “For what person knows a man’s thoughts except the spirit of the man which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is from God, that we might understand the gifts bestowed on us by God.  And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who possess the Spirit.”[16]  The understanding of God’s truth is given by the Holy Spirit, and the ability to teach it to others is also given by the Spirit. Jesus taught that the Holy Spirit will help each individual express these truths, particularly in times of persecution: “When they deliver you up, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”[17]

Not only is the Church’s magisterium guided by the Holy Spirit in teaching and explaining the full meaning of the truths of the faith, but the individual Christian will be led into God’s truth at the proper times so as to explain the faith to others, even when they oppose the faith.


Come back tomorrow for Part 2 of The Holy Spirit’s Work in the Church.  Fr. Mitch will present 3 additional ways the Spirit is working in and through the Church for our good!

[1] Acts 5:3-4

[2] John 16:14-15

[3] Num 11:17,25; 24:2; 1 Sam. 10:10; 19:20, 23; 2 Chr. 15:1

[4] Num 11:29

[5] Matt. 3:11; Luke 3:16

[6] Acts 1:4-5

[7] Acts 2:1-4; 4:8; 31; 6:3,5; 7:55; 9:17; 10:45-46; 11:22-24; 13:9, 52; 19:1-7

[8] 1 Cor. 12:13

[9] John 3:5

[10]Rom. 8:15-17 (see also Gal. 4:6-7)

[11] 1 Corinthians 12:3

[12] John 14:26

[13] John 16:13

[14] Isaiah 64:4 (see the Septuagint version)

[15] 1 Corinthians 2:9-10

[16] 1 Corinthians 2:11-13

[17] Matthew 10:19-20

Fr. Mitch Pacwa, S.J.

About Fr. Mitch Pacwa, S.J.

Father Mitch Pacwa, S.J. is a respected Scripture Scholar, Author, and popular EWTN Television and Radio Host, as well as the founder and President of IGNATIUS PRODUCTIONS - a teaching and media apostolate. He received his B.A. in Philosophy and Theology from the University of Detroit, summa cum laude. He was ordained a Jesuit Catholic priest in 1976 with the Society of Jesus and then continued his studies. He received his Master of Divinity and S.T.B. from the Jesuit School of Theology of Loyola University, magna cum laude. At Vanderbilt University, he received his Master of Arts, Ph.D. in Old Testament. He has taught at the high school, university, and seminary levels. He has lectured at hundreds of conferences and churches around the world and is best known for his appearances on EWTN - The Global Catholic Television Network He is fluent in twelve languages and has a unique understanding of the peoples and cultures of the Middle East and is respected for his knowledge on Islam and the Qur'an. Father Pacwa serves as Senior Fellow of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology and has led thousands of pilgrims to holy sites around the world. He is also has the privilege of being bi-ritual, which means he can also celebrate the Maronite Mass of the Eastern Catholic Church.