Summary: The Holy Spirit acts in the human author of Scripture so that every word is inspired and true; the Holy Spirit also acts in the proclaimer and hearer so that the word can be efficatious in human life.
Monday of 2nd Week in Course 2012
Word and Spirit
The anointing of Saul as king of Israel was one of those pivotal moments in salvation history that set Israel on a whole new course, and not an altogether good one. We see Samuel, one of the great saints of the OT, filled with the Spirit and speaking the word of God to the people. But he was a light that was going out. Like Eli, Samuel had sons unworthy to carry on his work. The people felt a need for political and economic growth more than growth in the spirit. So they demanded a king. They got Saul, whose early days were characterized by an obedience to the Spirit of God, but who, time and time again, considered popularity more important than God’s will. In fact, here, in refusing to execute Agag, the sworn enemy of Israel, he set up a situation that centuries later led to Agag’s descendant, Haman, plotting and almost achieving genocide against the Jews.
Obedience to God is a greater thing than sacrificing a whole herd of cattle. But God did not get perfect obedience until the conceptions and lives of Mary and Her Son, Jesus. Mary loved discipline and obedience–in the words of today’s psalm–and not only kept God’s word in her heart, she carried him in her womb. She presented Him as the Bridegroom to the world, and stood under His cross as He breathed out His spirit to give birth to the Church in the persons of herself, John, and Mary Magdalene.
The Holy Father, at the request of the Synod of Bishops, tells us to be ever mindful of the persons St. Irenaeus called “the two hands of the Father.” These are the Son and the Holy Spirit, the agents of the Father’s self-communication. The Holy Spirit filled the life of Jesus–animated His human nature in ways that we, too, can be inspired.
As his mission draws to an end, according to the account of Saint John, Jesus himself clearly relates the giving of his life to the sending of the Spirit upon those who belong to him (cf. Jn 16:7). The Risen Jesus, bearing in his flesh the signs of the passion, then pours out the Spirit (cf. Jn 20:22), making his disciples sharers in his own mission (cf. Jn 20:21). The Holy Spirit was to teach the disciples all things and bring to their remembrance all that Christ had said (cf. Jn 14:26), since he, the Spirit of Truth (cf. Jn 15:26) will guide the disciples into all the truth (cf. Jn 16:13). Finally, in the Acts of the Apostles, we read that the Spirit descended on the Twelve gathered in prayer with Mary on the day of Pentecost (cf. 2:1-4), and impelled them to take up the mission of proclaiming to all peoples the Good News.
It is the Holy Spirit who is the ultimate author of Sacred Scripture, because the proximate cause, the human author, writes under the Holy Spirit’s guidance.
But that is not the end of the Spirit’s relationship with the Word of God in our hearts. We each receive the Holy Spirit at Baptism and Confirmation. It is the Holy Spirit who animates the bread and wine at Mass, so that they become the Body and Blood of Christ. That is the meaning of the epiclesis, the prayer to the Holy Spirit that accompanies the priest’s holding his hands horizontal over the bread and wine. The Holy Spirit works in the hearts of the believer so that the Word of God resonates in the heart and takes life in our daily work. The Holy Spirit also conforms our heart to the heart of Christ so that when we take communion, His spiritual life, His grace can transform us into His own image. We can become holy as Jesus is holy through the work of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Father emphasizes “the very significant witness to the relationship between the Holy Spirit and Scripture which we find in the texts of the liturgy.” In an ancient prayer said before the Liturgy of the Word, we find these words for the priest or deacon: “Send your Paraclete Spirit into our hearts and make us understand the Scriptures which he has inspired; and grant that I may interpret them worthily, so that the faithful assembled here may profit thereby”. “We cannot come to understand the meaning of the word unless we are open to the working of the Paraclete in the Church and in the hearts of believers.”