We’ve been praying the Synod prayer each day at Mass. I’m drawn to the phrase: ‘May your Holy Spirit be powerfully at work among us.’ It reminds me of the prayer we used to say in preparation for the Second Vatican Council as a boy at Upholland in the Sixties. We prayed that the Holy Spirit would be with the Church ‘as on the day of Pentecost’. And so it proved to be.
How does the Holy Spirit work? Is it an ‘outside’ force which intervenes in history when invited? Or is the Holy Spirit the ever-present, life-giving pulse not only of the Church, but of creation? The Holy Spirit was around before the day of Pentecost. ‘God’s spirit hovered over the water’ long before human beings were around to ask him to ‘come down’. The Holy Spirit was the life-giving force that brought about creation in the first place.
That same Holy Spirit was also at work in Mary at the Annunciation and at the Baptism of Jesus. It was the Spirit of the Lord that led Jesus ‘to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and to the blind new sight, to set the downtrodden free.’ The same Spirit raised Jesus from the dead and the very same Spirit is invoked over the bread and wine ‘like the dewfall, so that they may become for us the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ’.
One of the phrases about the working of the Holy Spirit that I like best occurs in the reading from the Acts of the Apostles for Sunday 5 May: ‘We are witnesses to all of this, we and the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.’ It suggests a partnership.