Today in the Pauline Family we celebrate the feast of Jesus, our Divine Master, our Way, Truth, and Life. Here is a reflection on how this devotion can only be lived in union with the Holy Spirit.
Toward the end of his life Yves Congar, OP, wrote: “If I were to draw but one conclusion from the whole of my work on the Holy Spirit, I would express it in these words: no Christology without pneumatology, and no pneumatology without Christology” (Word and Spirit, p. 1).
Our Founder, Blessed James Alberione, gave the Pauline Family a strong devotion to Jesus our Divine Master. Jesus defines himself as our Way, Truth, and Life (John 14:6). Congar’s idea made me realize that I needed to think more about how the Holy Spirit acts in relation to these three aspects of Jesus Master. This is so important because it is only through the Holy Spirit that we can live out our devotion to Jesus Master. But how?
Jesus, our Way
Jesus is our Way to the Father. Jesus came to earth not only to open the way, to show us that way, but also to be that way. He showed us how to live and established the New Law of the Gospel.
But what is that New Law? St Thomas responds to that question by saying, “The New Law is chiefly the grace itself of the Holy Spirit, which is given to those who believe in Christ.” (Summa, I-II, q. 106, a. 1).
The New Law Christ gave us, the Way to the Father, is the grace of the Holy Spirit. But what about everything written in the Gospels? Isn’t all that part of the New Law too? Yes, but in a secondary way. In fact, St Thomas goes on to make an astounding statement: “Even the letter of the Gospel kills unless the healing grace of faith is present within.” (q. 106, a. 3). What does Thomas mean? How could the letter of the Gospel kill? They’re the words of Jesus!
It comes down to the “healing grace of faith” that is present within us—through the Holy Spirit. By ourselves, on our own strength, we can’t live the Gospel teaching because it is above mere human ability. But we can live it, by the healing grace of faith that the Holy Spirit gives us. We can only follow Jesus Way if we are strengthened by the Holy Spirit.
Jesus, our Truth
As the Word, Jesus is Truth itself. He gave us a most sublime teaching. But to understand it we need the enlightenment that we receive from the Holy Spirit. At the Last Supper Jesus said, “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” (Jn 16:12-13).
In The Hiding Place, Corrie ten Boom tells a wonderful story about her father. Once when traveling on a train with him, she as a little girl asked him a question about adult matters. Her father asked her to try and lift a heavy case he had. She tried but couldn’t, for it was too heavy for her. He told her that he would be a poor father if he tried to make her carry things too hard for her to bear just then.
The apostles were like Corrie as a child; they couldn’t bear the things Jesus was telling them. Only later, when the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost, did they begin to understand and were filled with light. The Holy Spirit also enlightens us, so that we can begin to understand what Jesus Truth has taught us. We can’t think that we automatically understand it. We don’t. How often have we heard a Gospel passage read that we’ve heard countless times before, but are suddenly struck by a powerful insight? That’s the Holy Spirit who teaches us the truth.
Jesus, our Life
As our Life, Jesus pours grace into us and brings us into a deeper and deeper union with him. But again, this only happens with the grace of the Holy Spirit.
The Eucharist is the source of grace par excellence. In his encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia, St John Paul wrote about the connection between the Eucharist and the Holy Spirit:
Through our communion in his body and blood, Christ also grants us his Spirit. Saint Ephrem writes: “He called the bread his living body and he filled it with himself and his Spirit. . . . He who eats it with faith, eats Fire and Spirit. . . . Take and eat this, all of you, and eat with it the Holy Spirit. For it is truly my body and whoever eats it will have eternal life.” The Church implores this divine Gift, the source of every other gift, in the Eucharistic epiclesis. In the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom, for example, we find the prayer: “We beseech, implore and beg you: send your Holy Spirit upon us all and upon these gifts... that those who partake of them may be purified in soul, receive the forgiveness of their sins, and share in the Holy Spirit.” And in the Roman Missal the celebrant prays: “grant that we who are nourished by his body and blood may be filled with his Holy Spirit, and become one body, one spirit in Christ.” Thus by the gift of his body and blood Christ increases within us the gift of his Spirit, already poured out in Baptism and bestowed as a “seal” in the sacrament of Confirmation.
Much more could be said about this very rich topic. The above are only indications of how it could be developed. This prayer of Blessed James Alberione sums it up very well: “Jesus, live in us through the outpouring of your Holy Spirit.”