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A-Z of Paul: Holy Spirit

Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Veni Sancte SpiritusOne thing that is very clear from the writings of Paul is that Christianity brings us a great freedom. As Paul says in his Letter to the Galatians ‘For freedom, Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery’ (Gal 5:1). Why then are we free? Well, we are free because of the Holy Spirit: slavery comes through living a life in the flesh, but freedom comes ‘because the Spirit of Christ dwells in [us]’ (Rom 8:9).

Paul’s ideas about the Holy Spirit and about the Church are closely linked. For Paul, the Church is the body of Christ, joined to Jesus as its head. And the power of the Holy Spirit is made manifest in a powerful way in the Church, precisely to build up the Church, to strengthen her unity while giving her all the gifts she needs, and to make her the witness to Christ that she is called to be.

The gifts that Paul speaks of are often known as charismata, or charisms, and are all ordered towards the service of others in the Church. In his first letter to the Corinthians, he gives an account of their diversity. They allow members of the Church to utter wisdom and knowledge, to heal, to work miracles, to prophesy, to discern, and so on. All these gifts are inspired by ‘one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills’ (1 Cor 12:11). Paul’s account of the working of the Holy Spirit shows us how important each member of the Church is in the work of Christ.

The Church now understands the concept of charisms in a wider sense, seeing them as the God given talents which help each of us to follow our calling, and to live out our vocation in the fullest way. The fact that all of us possess gifts that differ but are complementary shows us how the Holy Spirit works. We should never feel the need to compare ourselves with others, because the Holy Spirit is at work in all of us. At an individual level, the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives brings us to maturity as individual Christians. The Holy Spirit helps us to grow up in our faith, which in turn helps the whole community to be the mature Christians that we need to be, so that we reach our final goal, and draw others into the love of Christ.


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