“The wind blows where it pleases; you can hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone who is born of the spirit.” – John 3:8
This season of Pentecost, let’s remind ourselves that nothing is more important than experiencing the grace and beauty of the Holy Spirit of the Risen Christ, who breathes on us every day afresh.
Listen again to St John Paul II’s encouraging and prophetic words about how the Spirit has been so present in our ancient land. His words spoke so powerfully to the indigenous people at Alice Springs in 1986:
“For thousands of years you have lived in this land and fashioned a culture that endures to this day. And during all this time, the spirit of God has been with you. Your ‘Dreaming’, which influences your lives so strongly that, no matter what happens, you remain forever people of your culture, is your only way of touching the mystery of God’s spirit in you and in creation. You must keep your striving for God and hold on to it in your lives.”
Sadly, in our sceptical and pragmatic Australian culture, we can, however, become agnostic about the Holy Spirit.
Many of us often neglect or fear the life of the Holy Spirit. But if there is a God, then certainly experiencing the grace of the Holy Spirit is the only realism.
That is why I treasure J.V. Taylor’s book on the Holy Spirit, The Go-Between God. It is the best book I have ever read on the Holy Spirit. For Taylor, the Spirit is literally the ‘Go-Between God’, the bond between the Father and the Son, and the One through whom they are present to us.
Taylor makes the Spirit come alive through describing how the Holy Spirit works in the ‘nitty-gritty’ of personal relationships in daily life. The Spirit does this by helping people to see other individuals as entirely ‘other’ from them; by helping people to realise that the other persons they encounter see the world through entirely different lenses shaped by their own experiences.
Drawing heavily on Martin Buber’s I and Thou, Taylor’s main point is that the Holy Spirit primarily works as a ‘go-between’. In other words, when individuals meet and converse, the Spirit is not merely ‘in’ each of the individuals but is his own personality working between them.
Taylor explains: “To live in prayer, therefore, is to live in the Spirit; and to live in the Spirit is to live in Christ … to live in Christ is to live in prayer. Prayer is not something you do; it is a style of living.”
A ‘style of living’ that Taylor illustrates in one ordinary but very beautiful experience of the Holy Spirit.
He describes a West Indian woman in London, who in her flat had just received the news that her husband had been killed in a street accident. She sat in the corner of the sofa, paralysed. Nobody could get near to her; it was as if she were in a trance. And then the teacher of one of her children came in, saw the situation in a moment and sat down beside her, and put her arm across her shoulders and held her tightly. The white face was pressed to the brown one. And as the intolerable pain of this seeped through to the visitor, her tears began to fall, onto their hands clasped in the woman’s lap. This went on until the grieving woman herself began to weep, and their tears were mingled, and the healing began.
Taylor’s comments: “That is the embrace of God. That is his kiss of life. That is the embrace of his mission with our intercession. And the Holy Spirit is the force in the straining muscles of an arm; the Holy Spirit is in the thin film of perspiration between a white cheek and a brown one. The Holy Spirit is in those mingled tears falling onto those clasped hands. He is as close and as unobtrusive as that, and as irresistibly strong.”
The Holy Spirit, then, is the invisible third party who stands between me and the other, making us mutually aware. The Spirit opens our eyes to Christ and also opens our eyes to our brothers and sisters in Christ—especially the poor.
More than ever, inside and outside the Church, we all need to be on the lookout for the presence of this ‘Go-Between God’.
Come Holy Spirit!
Br Mark O’Connor FMS is the Vicar for Communications in the Diocese of Parramatta.
This article was originally published in the 2022 Ordinary Time | Winter 2022 edition of the Catholic Outlook Magazine. You can pick up your copy of the magazine in parishes, schools and offices across the Diocese of Parramatta now or you can read the digital version here.