Be Not Afraid Week 4: You are not alone
June 5, 2022
Have you ever heard someone say, “we’re not alone?” This statement could be comforting or frightening in different contexts. In scary movies, when they are in spooky house or graveyard, they may say to each other, “I don’t think we are alone.” Sometimes we hear that when the question is asked about life on other planets. But today we hear that really through Scripture. Jesus did not leave us alone. God did not leave us orphans. He gives us the Holy Spirit to be with us always.
It is easy to forget about the Holy Spirit and the importance of the Holy Spirit in the Catholic Church and our individual lives. Yet, the Holy Spirit was necessary for all of humanity from its very beginning, at the very start of creation.
In Genesis God blew His very own supernatural breath and life into the physical dust of the Earth to create the first human being.
In the original language of this Bible verse, the Hebrew word “ruah” was used to describe the breath of life. It is God’s very life in us, His “ruah,” that makes us human. In the creation narrative, animals were made from the dust of the Earth, but there was something extraordinary and unique about human beings. We have God’s very own life within us! We can think and are creative like God because we are made in God’s image and likeness. Most importantly, we were made by God and for God in a more significant way than the rest of His creation.
In the book of Job we read, “For the spirit of God made me, the breath of the Almighty keeps me alive”. These words were written thousands of years ago, they remain true to every human being until the end of time. Hundreds of years later, the following quote was attributed to St. Peter of Damian saying, “As the soul is the life of the body, so the Holy Spirit is the life of our souls.” Whether most people acknowledge it or not, we need the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit was not just present to humanity at the beginning of time, but the Holy Spirit remains with us and is necessary today. The Holy Spirit gave us life in the beginning and continues to provide us with life in every moment.
As Catholics living in the modern world, fear and rejection over beliefs is common and constant. We are not alone in feeling this way. More than 2,000 years ago, the apostles felt the very same way.
Though the apostles are remembered for their courage, even in the face of brutal martyrdoms (deaths due to their profession of faith), that courage was foreign to them at first. The apostles grew in boldness and virtue thanks to the Holy Spirit who gave them that courage.
Saint Cyril of Alexandria wrote, “Does this not show that the Spirit changes those in whom he comes to dwell and alters the whole pattern of their lives? With the Spirit within them it is quite natural for people who had been absorbed by the things of this world to become entirely other-worldly in outlook, and for cowards to become men of great courage. There can be no doubt that this is what happened to the disciples. The strength they received from the Spirit enabled them to hold firmly to the love of Christ, facing the violence of their persecutors unafraid. Very true, then, was our Savior’s saying that it was to their advantage for him to return to heaven: his return was the time appointed for the descent of the Holy Spirit.”
Before the revolutionary moment of Pentecost, where the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles and emboldened them, the apostles were terrified for their lives. They remained dormant even after Jesus commissioned them to make more disciples. Their fear was valid after their best friend, Jesus Christ, just endured the most severe punishment and cruelest death possible.
It is not a reach to think that they might have had second thoughts about sharing the Good News. We may have those second thoughts as well. We may ask ourselves: Is living fully for Christ worth risking everything, including our reputations, friendships, relationships, maybe even our very lives?
However, in their doubt, there was one moment that changed it all for them. This moment also changed everything for us, as it is one of the most pivotal and powerful moments in Church (and human) history: Pentecost.
Before ascending body and soul into heaven, Jesus promised His apostles that He would send an advocate to help them continue His mission in the world. Without the advocate, the apostles would have remained locked away from anyone who was not part of their Christ-centered community. Growing persecution and threats were being thrown toward the apostles because they were devout Jews who believed Jesus was the Messiah while many other Jews did not. The Holy Spirit was the advocate who came down upon the apostles in the upper room and inspired the apostles to move past their fears and towards their calling and mission to share the Gospel message.
The descent of the Holy Spirit on the apostles was not just a reminder that Jesus was always with them but made God’s power truly present with them. Now the third person of the Holy Trinity, the Holy Spirit, would always be within them and the Church. Instead of going to the Temple to build to an experience of God’s presence, God’s presence would also reign in God’s people, as they too became temples of the Holy Spirit.
Thanks to the fruits and power of the Holy Spirit working through the bold preaching of the apostles, over 3,000 people were converted and baptized on Pentecost day alone. From that moment on, Jesus’ disciples were able to spread the Gospel, which is why Pentecost is known as the birthday of the Church.
To remember this fantastic and revolutionary event, the Catholic Church celebrates Pentecost every year on the 50th day after Easter Sunday. The same Holy Spirit the early Church received on Pentecost continues to work, today, in the Church through all the Church’s sacraments and members.
Without the Holy Spirit, there would be no Church yesterday, today, or tomorrow. There is no doubt that the Holy Spirit was necessary for the early Church to continue sharing and spreading Christianity amid persecution and fear over 2,000 years ago. The same Holy Spirit is essential for us today, for the Church.
The Holy Spirit was the advocate that Christ promised the apostles and sent down on Pentecost. Still, the Holy Spirit is also the same advocate that He promises to us. Two synonyms for the word advocate are “champion” and “supporter.” The Holy Spirit is our “supporter” amid our modern-day persecutions and fears. The Holy Spirit is also our advocate who “champions” all the challenges we may face when living out our faith.
We can experience our own Pentecost, the same as they did 2000 years ago, when we intentionally prepare to let the Holy Spirit take root and grow in our hearts and our lives. When we do this, the Holy Spirit will purify our desires to live in the freedom we seek without fear and to live according to God’s will for our lives.
At times we may feel as though something is missing in our lives, but the reality is that we have this emptiness within us that only the Holy Spirit can fill. We are missing our recognition that God’s very life is within us, which has been there from the beginning. There is true freedom to live unapologetically as ourselves when we let the advocate (the Holy Spirit) shape us and guide us. We are all seeking freedom to be our true, authentic selves. Even during challenges, the Holy Spirit helps us embrace ourselves and be not afraid to be who God made us.
We are all seeking the Holy Spirit: the very Spirit and life of God that woke up the apostles at Pentecost and the Spirit of God that wants to wake us up today.
Let us call on the Holy Spirit to help us live with the same boldness and faithfulness as the apostles. Let us call on the Holy Spirit to help us in our spiritual battles and “champion” the battles we face both within ourselves and in the world. Be not afraid. You are not alone.