Works of the Holy Ghost (2016)
Fr. Martin Fuchs´s sermon on 15th May 2016 in Prague, Czech republic
When the centurion Cornelius sent for Saint Peter, the Holy Scripture says: “...the Holy Ghost fell on all them that heard the word. And the faithful of the circumcision, who came with Peter, were astonished, for that the grace of the Holy Ghost was poured out upon the Gentiles also. For they heard them speaking with tongues, and magnifying God. Then Peter answered: Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, who have received the Holy Ghost, as well as we? And he commended them to be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.“ (Act of Apostles 10:44-48)
When we read this passage of the Holy Scripture, we might have the impression that these people received confirmation, i. e. the Holy Ghost, even before baptism. Is this possible? Is not the order of the sacraments following: holy baptism, holy confession, Holy Communion, holy confirmation...? Wouldn´t be a sacrament which follows baptism in listing invalid without baptism? Yes, it is so.
In principle, God can grant every sacrament's grace even without the sacrament. The apostles certainly had not been baptized before the Last Supper and yet they received ordination and Holy Communion in a valid manner. The same way God could give the grace of confirmation without the sacrament of confirmation.
But here it refers to a charismatic grace, an unusual gift of grace of the Holy Ghost, i. e. grace which God confers in order to lead others to the true religion. There are more unusual gifts of grace: the gift of stigmatization, of working wonders, of languages, of bilocation, of levitation, of discernment of hearts and others.
Even a person not being in a state of sanctifying grace may have this gift of grace, i. e. even the unbaptized Gentiles in today's lecture. In the New Testament it is the High priest Caiaphas who has it. He said: “...it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.“ (John 11:50)
Although he was firmly determined to hand Jesus over to death at that time and thus living in a grave sin, he had a special gift of prophecy, being the High priest.
Like a Pope who possesses the grace of infallibility if he complies with certain requirements, the High priest of the Old Testament had certain charismata. This is why Saint John puts special emphasis on it: “And this he spoke... being the High priest of that year.“
If the pope retires, he loses the grace of infallibility, as this is connected to the papal office.
It seems that the Gentiles in the passage of the Holy Scripture, which I quoted at the beginning, had been baptized after having received the Holy Ghost and that they were confirmed sometime later.
Let us now have a look at the works of the Holy Ghost:
His first work is the apostles. He came down on them at Pentecost and changed them completely!
Until then they were ignorant, slow of mind, so that they hardly understood the most common allegories even in their mother tongue. And suddenly they spoke all the languages of the world and remembered everything that the Lord had told them before. They understood the deepest mysteries and they were educated as if they had been studying for years. Until then they were fainthearted like weak children; they did not have the slightest bravery which however they needed, being the apostles.
Did not they all run away from enemies of Jesus on the Mount of Olives? Did not one of them deny the Saviour out of fear? Did they not stay behind closed doors even after the Resurrection out of fear of Jews? But now they bravely confronted Jews and Gentiles, kings and princes; they did not fear humiliation and mockery, neither whips nor bitter death.
They had been selfish and vain before, just concerned about their own honour, but then they forgot their own self and worked for the honour of God and for the salvation of souls. They were equipped with important gifts of grace: they worked wonders, even greater ones than Christ himself had worked.
A second work of the Holy Ghost is the Church of Christ – the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church which continues Christ's redemptive work and thus produces fruits of holiness. This is certified by every veritable canonization.
Being an institution of salvation, Church preserves its members from error; it teaches and protects the truth. This is why in times of crisis there were always men who stood up and faced the storm:
Saint Athanasius against the Arians, Saint Dominic against the Albigensians, Saint Catherine of Siena in the time of the great papal schism, Saint Ignatius, Saint Pius V, Saint Charles Borromeo, Saint Philipp Neri and Saint Theresa of Avila in the time of the reformation...
The Church always defends the truth, yes, it has to defend the truth, even if it may mean big losses. Thus millions of men were separated from the Catholic Church due to the doctrine that the Holy Ghost emanates from the Father and the Son. Millions of Russians and Greeks pretended and still pretend that the Holy Ghost emanates from the Father alone.
Such a difference seems to be small and unimportant to a careless man but it is essential to the Church of Christ and so she prefers to part with millions of disciples instead of giving up this doctrine. It is remarkable that the Greeks who had not accepted this doctrine of the Holy Ghost and had rebelled against the Catholic Church, were submitted to the yoke of the Turks, in whose hands Constantinople is still today and fell to them just on Pentecost of the year 1453.
Saint Thomas says: “The Holy Ghost emanates from the Father and the Son like the warmth emanates from the sun and the ray.“
There is another truth: Christ has two wills. “Because I came down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him that sent me.“ (John 6:38)
“Father... not my will, but thine be done.“ (Luke 22:42)
For some this may be unnecessary speculation, but it is the truth revealed by God and presented by the Church. Jesus Christ has two natures, a divine one and a human one, and each of these natures has its will. Of course these wills of Christ are united outwardly in such a way that is seems that he has only one will.
During the 16th century millions of English Catholics fell away to the Anglican sect. If the pope Clemens VII declared invalid the valid marriage of Henry VIII, this would probably not happened. But the truth - the indissolubility of marriage – had to be defended! Many died defending this Catholic doctrine, among others Saint John Fisher and Saint Thomas More.
We ourselves are a third work of the Holy Ghost. Saint Paul wrote to Christians of Corinth:
“Know you not, that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?“(1 Cor 3:16)
If we are in a state of grace at this moment – and I hope we are – the Holy Spirit lives in us, like the Lord in the tabernacle. Then He is with us with his seven gifts. Saint Vincent Ferrer says that if we could see a soul free from sins, we would be so delighted by its beauty that we would renounce to eat and drink for a hundred years.
And if we lose the sanctifying grace, we may regain it by a good holy confession. The two forces of our souls – reason and will – will be enlightened and invigorated by the gifts of the Holy Ghost.
Very often the Holy Ghost makes use of the helping grace, for example by external reasons, persons, sermons and books! Saint Ignatius was touched by God's grace when reading the legend of a saint, Saint Francis Borgia when looking at the cadaver of the empress Isabel, Saint Fidelis of Sigmaringen by a lawsuit, Saint Francis of Assisi by a sermon, Saint Andrew Corsini by a dream of his mother.
One cannot see without light and cannot recognize the truth without the Holy Ghost's grace.
Sometimes the Holy Ghost warns us not to do this or that; sometimes he incites us: “Go to the Holy Mass! Visit this sick person and admonish him to have confidence in God and in prayer!”
The Holy Ghost continues Christ's work: in his apostles, in the Catholic Church, in us. Let us be grateful to him and let us listen to his voice. Amen.