Indeed, much can be understood in terms of the Holy Spirit’s presence or absence, or perhaps more accurately to the degree that the Holy Spirit is present in a person’s life.
In the First Reading (Acts 2:1-11) the Holy Spirit is portrayed as fire (a heart on fire for the mission of the Church) and wind (a blustery wind for the mission of the Church).
In today’s Gospel (John 20:19-23) the Holy Spirit is portrayed as the breath of the risen Jesus. Think about the meaning of breath – it’s our life. So the breath of the risen Jesus is the very life of God and when he breathes on them he is giving them his own life, the life he shares with God.
The purpose of religion is to reach this point – the point where it’s possible for us to share the Divine Life, the point where God can breathe his supernatural life into our natural life, the Divine into the human. I use supernatural deliberately because we’ve almost lost the experience of grace as a supernatural reality – thus everything’s mundane! The early Church Fathers described this process as Divinization.
Some weeks ago I spotted a number of people towards the back of the Church… they had completely disengaged and were deep in conversation. There’s no great mystery as to why we disengage at Mass or why we’re bored at Mass. It’s because a spirit other than the Holy Spirit dominates our lives – often it’s nothing more than our own spirit.
Where the Holy Spirit is absent (or just simply in short supply) religion is the most boring thing on earth!
Where the Holy Spirit is absent prayer is boring – worse, it’s sheer torture! A person in whom the Holy Spirit is absent finds prayer torturous, they resist, object; they want to run a mile! And with good reason; one spirit is fighting the other…
Finally, in our time religion is almost a bad word! Religion cut loose from the Holy Spirit causes huge problems (think of Ireland in the past). Religion without the Holy Spirit easily becomes tyranny. If you ask a person in whom the Holy Spirit is absent to practice religion they’ll experience it as a kind of tyranny!
Without the Holy Spirit religion easily becomes a kind of tyranny where there is little or no charity, little or no generosity, no joy, no gentleness, no peace, no faithfulness, no patience, no modesty, no kindness, no self-control, no goodness and no chastity!
The Holy Spirit changes everything. Come, Holy Spirit. Veni, Sancte Spiritus.