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May 25 is the Sixth Sunday of Easter.
Sunday’s readings are a kind of Advent for the Holy Spirit. Pentecost is coming. The great Novena of the Church — nine days of prayer for the coming of the Holy Spirit — starts soon. There are not four Pentecost Advent candles to light, but the readings today do give us four lessons to learn about what to expect.
1. The Holy Spirit is necessary.
In the first reading, when Peter and John hear that there is a community that has only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. They immediately go to rectify the problem.
What would Peter and John think of you or me? Many Catholics are “Christomonistic” — our spirituality embraces only the Second Person of the Trinity. If we don’t have much of a place for the Holy Spirit in our own spiritual life, we should be just as determined to fix it as Peter and John were to fix the Christ-only community in Samaria.
2. The Holy Spirit needs a good home.
When Christmas approaches, there is much talk about preparing a place for Christ in our hearts. That’s important and true, but the need for that preparation is even more explicit at Pentecost time.
Paul lists the ways we can be ready to “be brought to life in the Spirit”: Die to your old way of doing things and rise as a Christian of good conduct who is ready to give reasons for your hope. Why not make it a summer project? Go to confession and add a summer practice: spiritual reading or a pilgrimage (look up a shrine near your vacation spot that you can visit).
3. The Holy Spirit wants you to love him. That means deeds, not words.
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments,” says Jesus.
There are aspects of the faith that are intellectual: We need to use our minds understand Christ’s coherence and relevance. There are elements of the faith that deal with our emotions: We should be moved by Scripture stories. But when Jesus in the Gospel mentions the Holy Spirit, he talks about the will: He wants our choices, not just our thoughts and feelings, to show our love.
The first rule of a life in the Holy Spirit is to acknowledge him not so much in prayers as with the kind of living prayer of our actions. What action of yours will say “I love you” to God today?
4. The Holy Spirit will stick by you.
When he hears from you through your actions, says Jesus, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always.” The Catechism defines advocate, or ad-vocatus, as “he who is called to one’s side.”
This is an incredible reality: In the Holy Spirit, God literally becomes your companion. The world cannot accept this, says Jesus, “because it neither sees nor knows him.” But we should know him, “because he remains with you, and will be in you.”
If you don’t see him in your life, ask God to show him to you. He is there, and Jesus promises that we should be able to tell. Hold him to that promise.
A version of this article appeared in the National Catholic Register.