In our look at the ways you are loved by God, we’ve seen that you are loved by a perfect Father who always wanted you here, and by His Son, Jesus, who died so that you might know hope (and hope!). We’ll conclude this week with some thoughts on the ways in which we are loved by the Third Person of the Trinity – the Holy Spirit.
For many people when we talk about the Holy Spirit two thoughts may come to mind: first, that the Holy Spirit is one person of the Holy Trinity; and second, that the Holy Spirit sounds a lot like the force from Star Wars.
This comparison of the Holy Spirit to the force in Star Wars is understandable. After all, we have similar catchphrases (May the force be with you/ the Lord be with you!) When George Lucas was writing Star Wars, he leaned heavily on many different world religions. This is why Obi-Wan Kenobi explains to Luke (Episode IV) that the force is as “an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds the galaxy together” (Buddhism). We also hear throughout Star Wars about the different ways that the light and dark side of the force must balance with each other (Taoism). For Christians, when we hear about the way in which those able to tap into the force can do things others cannot do and the ways in which the Jedi learn to trust the guidance of the force, we can’t help but thinking about the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit (or the ways in which the Apostles were transformed and emboldened by the experience of Pentecost.)
It’s a flawed comparison, because the Christian imagery is blended with those of other religions, and especially because the Holy Spirit is not an impersonal energy field, but a person. That being said, Star Wars can be a good starting point in helping us to better understand the Holy Spirit (Marc Barnes wrote a fantastic article earlier this year on the ways in which Rogue One expressed a healthy view of the force and our faith, and Fr. Mike Mireau wrote and spoke numerous times about Star Wars and religion.)
For this reflection on the love of God, the key idea we need to embrace is that the Holy Spirit is a person. In the same way as the Father is a person and Jesus is a person, so too is the Holy Spirit a person. By coming to know the Holy Spirit, we come to know God in a particular and unique way. When I wrote about the love of God the Father, I cited a story where a father promised his son that no matter what happened, he would always be there. At the end of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus makes the same promise, declaring that “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
One of the ways in which Jesus fulfils this promise is the Holy Spirit.
Christians believe that at the moment of Baptism, we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit and that by this gift, God comes to live inside of us. What’s He doing there? Well, when Jesus explains the Holy Spirit to His disciples (John 14:16, 14:26, 15:26, 16:1-14), He uses a greek term, paraclete, which means “advocate” or “counselor”. In Jesus’ time, a paraclete was someone who would speak or interpret on behalf of someone else (a lawyer would be a good example of this.) This means that the Holy Spirit makes His home in our hearts, speaking to us on behalf of both the Father and the Son. This is the reason that we Christians dare to believe that we can come to know God and His will for our lives: the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, is present to us at each moment of the day. Part of our task is to tune in and listen to what He is saying (this is prayer).
There’s also another consequence of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us: it means that God loves us so much that He never leaves us alone. God is present to us on our best days, on our worst days, and on every day in between. This means that on your first day of high school or in a new job, He is there. On the day you audition for a play and try out for a sports team, He is there. On the day in which you get news of a death or an illness in the family, He is there. On the day you work up the courage to ask someone out, He is there – and on the day that someone has asked you out, and you have to try to find the words to let someone down easy, He is there too. On the day you make what seems like the biggest mistake of your life, God is there. On the day that you wish you were anywhere but the place you are right now, He’s there too. In each of these moments, it is He who speaks to you the truth that you are loved, you are willed, and you are necessary; and that no matter where you go or what you do, that you should have hope.
God loves you – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And I pray if you’ve read these three posts, you’ve come to see that “God loves you” is at the heart of all we are as Christians.