Pentecost and The Gift of The Spirit: Be Transformed, Recreated, and Elevated Into Eternal Life
The gift of the Spirit constitutes in a real way an immediate entry into eternal life; for by virtue of the indwelling Spirit the Christian shares in God's own divine and eternal life.
"[God] gave himself to us through his Spirit. By the participation of the Spirit, we become communicants in the divine nature. . . . For this reason, those in whom the Spirit dwells are divinized" (St. Athanasius) Although it is true that the Holy Spirit can make his presence known through external signs and special gifts for the sake of unbelievers (1 Corinthians 12: 4-11), our personal Pentecost begins with the Sacrament of Baptism and is made deeper through the Sacrament of Confirmation.
What does this entirely new kind of life entail? It is life in the Spirit; a life in which we are re-created anew, given a new purpose and perspective, and thus are joined to an astonishingly beautiful destiny: through the supreme gift of the Spirit, a divine and human kiss of intimate love, we are swept up into the divine life of the Holy Trinity, become members of the divine family, and immediately enter in a real way into life eternal -- not later, not "some day," but now and in the present. Although this entry into heavenly life is, of course, not yet fully realized here on earth, we are nonetheless drawn, through the indwelling Spirit whose love permeates the soul with supernatural radiance and light, into eternal life.
Calling our attention to Vatican IIs Lumen Gentium, which states that the "promised restoration which we are awaiting has already begun in Christ" (48), Benot-Dominique de La Soujeole writes of the nature of Christian life on earth: "Eternal life has already begun. After death, at the definitive entry into God's glory, it is not another life that will begin; rather, we will find the fulfillment of the life given us to live here on earth" (Vatican II: Renewal Within Tradition 44).
There is what might be termed a caveat, however. As St. Cyril noted, we "have to give up our own life." In loving God for his own sake, it is necessary to abandon inappropriate love of self in favor of love of the highest and greatest Good: God. Here we give ourselves over, completely and forever, to the Spirit: he becomes our true love. The indwelling Spirit is then cherished as our sustenance and energy and very life-source. In such an attentive gaze of love, we "walk by the Spirit," which means we are cautious not to "gratify the desires of the flesh," since the Spirit and the flesh are opposed to each other (Gal. 5:16). St. Paul is not, of course, suggesting that the human body is anything less than good; on the contrary, it is good because God made it. But it is crucial to understand the desires of the flesh are often set against the Spirit (Gal. 5:17).
Further, St. Paul reminds us that those who belong to Christ "have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires" (Gal. 5:24). This is first understood in light of the sacrament of Baptism, in which Christians are incorporated into Christ and receive the gift of the Spirit, and therefore share in the saving death of Jesus. Yet there is another dimension to what Paul is saying: those who follow Christ and have received the gift of the Spirit are to make the flesh subordinate to the movements of the Spirit. That is, Christians are to "crucify" or put to death the disordered desires of the flesh which conflict with not only the divine impulses of the Spirit but with his infinite goodness and holiness as well.
It is crucial to analyze our familiarity with the war between flesh and Spirit. That is, have we walked on to the battlefield and taken up the sword? Or, on the other hand, does the field of battle remain an unknown land due to our constant lack of participation? If we have not answered the call to holiness, if we are unfamiliar with the difficulties involved in "crucifying" the flesh, perhaps we have refused to march on to the field. Perhaps, instead of taking up arms, we have fled from this serious and important engagement.
Practically speaking, what are some things Catholics and other Christians can do in order to foster greater control over the flesh, which is integral to a life of holiness? First, we must give ourselves over entirely to the Spirit and rely in hope on God. But that is not to suggest inaction or even prayer only. On the contrary, there are tasks set before us. It is crucial to enter fully into the womb of mother Church and lead a sacramental life in Christ, that we may receive the life-giving grace of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist. So important is receiving Christ's body, blood, soul and divinity in the Eucharist that our Savior himself said: "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you" (Jn 6:53).
It is a mistake to attempt to embark on a life of holiness while in disregard of the Church who Christ himself instituted as the sacrament of salvation, and in whose nourishing womb we receive the words of truth and the sacraments of life, for to knowingly do so is to some ...
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