Friday Focus: The Power of the Holy Spirit
When we flip a switch and light fills a room, few, if any of us, contemplate the awesome, unseen power of electrons coursing through filaments to produce that light. We don’t give a thought to the massive power grid of transformers, cables and boosters that surrounds us and makes modern life possible. The generators that turn carbon and sunlight, wind and water into electric energy are over the horizon; out of sight, out of mind. To most folks, the power grid on which we are totally dependent remains a complete mystery that only comes to mind if there is a blackout.
This week John introduces us to heaven’s hidden power system … The Trinity. With the indulgence of St. Augustine, Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla, let’s try to put this analogy to work. According to John: God is love. This simple declarative is the Christian equivalent of: E=mc2. It captures the complete essence of Divinity. John does not say that God loves or that God has love. Rather, he says flat out that: God is love. It is God’s irreducible, sub-atomic structure. Love is both God’s mass and God’s energy. Love is God in total.
The Father is the generator, the source of all love. Jesus, his beloved Son, is the recipient and transmitter of love. And the Holy Spirit is the alternating current that resonates and facilitates the mutual love of Father and Son. And by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are the myriad of filaments that shine God’s love in the world. As Tesla would prove with electrical systems, the alternating current of love is infinitely more powerful than a cramped, one-way, direct current. St. Augustine wrote that: the Father and Son breathe their mutual love back and forth and this shared love is expressed in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Confused? You’re not alone. John Wesley confessed that: “Bring me a worm that can comprehend a man and then I will show you a man that can comprehend the Triune God.” And yet we have the existence of the Trinity on the very best authority. Father, Son and Holy Spirit make their first appearance together at the Baptism of Jesus in the first chapter of John. There are then literally scores of entries throughout the New Testament linking the divinity of the Father and the Son. While there are also ample references to the Holy Spirit, his presence and role are usually far less familiar even to devout Christians.
Perhaps the role of the Holy Spirit is best described in his title: The Paraclete, literally: the helper, protector, comforter. In Acts and the Epistles there are repeated references to the power of the Holy Spirit to fulfill the role of the Paraclete… to help us, to protect us, to comfort us.
There is a magnificent symmetry to the Trinity. The love of the Father puts the universe in motion and creates all life. The love of Christ comes in human form for our redemption. And, as promised, Jesus returns to the Father, leaving the love of God to help, protect and comfort us through the power of the Holy Spirit. And so we pray for that awesome, unseen power to surge through the wiring of our souls and fill us with light. In the words of St. Augustine: “O Holy Spirit, descend plentifully into my heart. Enlighten the dark corners of this neglected dwelling and scatter there thy cheerful beams.” Alleluia!