To begin this article, I’d like to pose a question that will sound silly, but which I mean seriously: Is the Holy Spirit more important to you than your smartphone?

You know, of course, the answer I will tell you is the right answer, and it’s probably important right away to establish that I am not against technology. I have a smartphone and a tablet that I probably use too much. I know that technology is a good and necessary tool. But for many of us, it has “morphed” from being a tool — at our service — to controlling us, taking over more and more of our attention, time and energy. Studies and the statistics they generate vary, but the research seems to point to an average use of digital and broadcast technology by American adults amounting to at least 8-10 hours per day.

We’ve all noticed what’s going on:

• Couples sitting across from each other at restaurants, staring not into each other’s eyes — or even at their food! — but at their phones;

• People texting while driving ... even despite all of the warnings against texting while driving;

• Our growing impatience. Waiting was never easy, but now we’re trained to turn immediately to tech devices as soon as there is even the slightest pause in our lives. Even the gas station pumps have TVs now, for crying out loud!

There is a sense in which all of this technology and media use fills us up. It fills our eyes with artificial light, our minds with superficial information, and our hearts with a desire to go back for another “five minutes” (yeah, right). But God tells us that He wants to fill us, to live in us, and that when we allow Him to do that, we will not be constantly restless, but will have peace.

There is a sense in which all of this technology and media use fills us up. It fills our eyes with artificial light, our minds with superficial information, and our hearts with a desire to go back for another “five minutes” (yeah, right). But God tells us that He wants to fill us, to live in us, and that when we allow Him to do that, we will not be constantly restless, but will have peace.

One of the great blessings of the priesthood is to hear people’s confessions and to offer them God’s forgiveness. People come to confession with all kinds of sins and problems, and while God is always happy to forgive our sins, people still leave confession with many of the same problems as they had when they walked in: bad health, challenging marriages and family situations, persistent temptations to sin, etc. So what difference does confession make?

The difference is that when you have received God’s forgiveness, you can be sure that you’ve become once again a fully fit dwelling place for God. The most important line in the Formula of Absolution is obviously, “I absolve you from your sins …”, but the rest of the formula is also very significant:

“God, the Father of mercies,
through the death and the resurrection of his Son
has reconciled the world to himself
and sent the Holy Spirit among us
for the forgiveness of sins;
through the ministry of the Church
may God give you pardon and peace…”

In the Profession of Faith we say together at every Mass, we describe the Holy Spirit as the “Lord and Giver of Life.” The Formula of Absolution tells us that the Holy Spirit has been sent “for the forgiveness of sins,” and it includes a prayer that “God give you pardon and peace” through the sacrament. So the Holy Spirit does no less than to bring the dead back to life in this sacrament.

This means that however challenging your life may be on the outside, God lives within you, and you are alive and well because of His presence within. The Holy Spirit is truly and fully God, so to have the Holy Spirit live within you is to have God within.

The Spirit first comes to live within us at baptism, and we receive a fuller outpouring of the Spirit into our hearts at confirmation. Maybe we don’t think a lot about those sacraments, because we received them at infancy and during adolescence — the latter being a time when many of us were not at our spiritual best. But baptism is the reason we became spiritually alive in the first place, and confirmation for us was what we celebrate this Sunday — our own personal Pentecost. In other words, the Holy Spirit has come upon each of you and upon me just as powerfully as He came upon our Blessed Mother and the apostles on the first Pentecost.

Your body has become a temple of the Holy Spirit, the dwelling place of God! You — with all of your faults, scars, and baggage — were made into something so good and pure that the all-perfect God can live in you and be pleased to do so.

And what difference does it make for us when we have the Holy Spirit? It’s essential that we understand the transformation from death to life the Spirit makes possible for us. On the one hand, if we don’t get the “death” part, we end up taking God’s gifts — and even God Himself! — for granted. We come to think it’s perfectly natural that God should love and come to live in people as wonderful and charming as we are. On the other hand, if we don’t get the “life” part, we despair, thinking only of death and darkness, of human misery and tragedy. We need to “get” the whole journey in order to “get” what God is doing in our lives.

It’s essential that we understand the transformation from death to life the Spirit makes possible for us. On the one hand, if we don’t get the “death” part, we end up taking God’s gifts — and even God Himself! — for granted. We come to think it’s perfectly natural that God should love and come to live in people as wonderful and charming as we are. On the other hand, if we don’t get the “life” part, we despair, thinking only of death and darkness, of human misery and tragedy.

To give some background, here’s a bit of what we see the Holy Spirit doing in Scripture (emphasis added):

• In the Book of Genesis, at the Creation of the world, we read (1:1-3) — “In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth — and the earth was without form or shape, with darkness over the abyss and a mighty wind sweeping over the waters — Then God said: Let there be light, and there was light.” This “mighty wind” is God’s Spirit.

• In Genesis 2:7 we read — “… then the LORD God formed the man out of the dust of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” I don’t think I need to tell you what the “breath of life” is.

• In Genesis 8:1 and 8:11 — A “great wind” sweeps over the earth, causing the waters to subside; The dove is a sign to Noah after the flood had ended (cause and sign of new life for mankind).

• In the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel, chapter 37, we have Ezekiel’s “dry bones” vision —

“Then he said to me: ‘Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man! Say to the breath: Thus says the Lord GOD: From the four winds come, O breath, and breathe into these slain that they may come to life.’ I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath entered them; they came to life and stood on their feet, a vast army. He said to me: ‘Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel! They are saying, “Our bones are dried up, our hope is lost, and we are cut off.” Therefore, prophesy and say to them: “Thus says the Lord GOD: Look! I am going to open your graves; I will make you come up out of your graves, my people, and bring you back to the land of Israel. You shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and make you come up out of them, my people! I will put my spirit in you that you may come to life, and I will settle you in your land.” Then you shall know that I am the LORD. I have spoken; I will do it—oracle of the LORD’” (Ezekiel 37:9-14).

• In Psalm 104, we read: “If you take away their breath, they perish and return to their dust. When you send forth your spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth.”

• Jesus tells us in John 6:63: “It is the spirit that gives life.”

• St. Paul teaches in Romans 8:11—“If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit that dwells in you.”

• And in today’s first reading and Gospel, we see that the Holy Spirit is critical to the new life the apostles lead. Their transformation is nothing short of an experience of spiritual death and resurrection — death, in their infidelity to Our Lord; resurrection, in the new life they so clearly live as evangelists, apostles, and finally martyrs.

So what does this mean for our lives? What do we need to do in order to keep moving away from the death of sin and into the life of God? Here are four steps you can take beginning right now:

  1. Desire it. This sounds obvious, but this first stage is often overlooked. We should hunger and thirst for God, but often we allow the Holy Spirit to become dormant in us through our disinterest or apathy.
  2. Pray for it. Again, praying is a pretty obvious suggestion, but how often do we actually ask for a greater outpouring of the Holy Spirit?
  3. Surrender to the Spirit. Be careful what you wish for! To ask for the Holy Spirit is to ask God to take control of your life. We must yield to the Spirit’s influence. God will not force us.
  4. Follow through. We have to live this new life, actively, as disciples of Jesus. Our lives must be different, and we must be intentional about living in this different way every day, until the day our lives in this world are over and God brings us into the life that never ends.

This is what it means to “have it where it counts,” and this is what we celebrate on this feast of Pentecost. The Body and Blood of Jesus, received in Holy Communion, strengthens us so that we might be ready to receive a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit and live according to the Spirit’s direction, living the only life truly worthy of the name.

Fr. Charles Fox is a priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit currently assigned to the theology faculty of Sacred Heart Major Seminary. He is also a weekend associate pastor at St. Therese of Lisieux Parish in Shelby Township and chaplain and a board member of St. Paul Evangelization Institute, headquartered in Warren.