There are a number of places in Saint Paul’s writings where he refers to the Holy Spirit. It’s interesting to note that Saint Paul does not spend a lot of time trying to tell us who the Holy Spirit is, but what the Holy Spirit does in our lives. Many of the references to the Holy Spirit center upon the gifts that the Spirit brings to us. There are “varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:4). These gifts are as diverse as wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, working of miracles, prophecy, and the discernment of spirits (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:8-10).
This variety of gifts has been given to people not only for their own well-being, but “for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7). These gifts are meant to build up the Body of Christ, the Church and while these gifts are distinctive and unique they all “are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses” (1 Corinthians 12:11).
For Saint Paul, one of the greatest gifts that the Holy Spirit brings is the gift of wisdom. This wisdom comes not from the spirit of the world, but the Spirit “that is from God” (1 Corinthians 2:12). The Holy Spirit helps us to understand the gifts that He has bestowed upon us and enables us to interpret “spiritual things” (1 Corinthians 2:13). Not only does the Holy Spirit help us to interpret and understand His gifts, but He helps us to understand and comprehend the greatest of all gifts – Jesus Christ Himself. The Holy Spirit opens our eyes and ears and hearts, so that when we see Jesus Christ, we come to faith in Him. Saint Paul says that “no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3).
Saint Paul also talks about the fruits of the Holy Spirit. The fruits of the Holy Spirit are those things that result from His action in our lives – like the fragrance from a flower - they are tangible reminders that the Holy Spirit has been active. These fruits of the Holy Spirit include “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). The Holy Spirit also brings us the gift of true freedom, “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17).
Finally, Saint Paul speaks of being ‘sealed’ with the Holy Spirit. The Sacr`ment of Confirmation is, in a particular way, the sacrament of the Holy Spirit and the Church speaks of this seal which is ‘marked’ on one’s soul. This seal is the pledge of the Holy Spirit’s presence and the promise of His continued action in our lives. Saint Paul expresses it beautifully, in Christ “you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:13-14).
(This is a part of a series on St. Paul that will appear in the bulletin over the course of this year.)