The experience of the outpouring of the Spirit : How do we prepare for it?
1. The Holy Spirit blows where He pleases. So what sense is there in preparing for such an event?
God has committed Himself in Jesus Christ. He told us that the Holy Spirit is always given to those who ask for Him. But we should not think of the reception of the Holy Spirit as something automatic! Everything will also depend on our interior dispositions. There are very superficial ways of asking for the Holy Spirit. For example, we might be driven by a search for the sensational in our lives.
The advantage of a preparation step is to help the person not only to ask for the Holy Spirit but to ask for it in an honest and sincere manner.
2. What is the right attitude to cultivate?
A real determination to be converted. If you ask for the experience of the effusion of the Spirit without wanting to change anything in your life, you are more hypocritical than in true prayer. When we receive the Holy Spirit, the best attitude is one of availability – ‘Lord, I want to surrender myself to your will regarding my life’. This involves really giving up anything that opposes God’s will. This is why, in a Catholic context, the step is normally accompanied by the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We can then say, with the greatest possible truth, ‘Lord, let your Holy Spirit Saint take possession of me and then do with me what you want’. It is an act of self-abandonment under the initiative of the Holy Spirit.
3. Is this a purely personal approach?
The experience of outpouring of the Holy Spirit and of God’s love is personal to me. Testimonies of such experiences abound from the beginning and throughout the history of the Church. But what is new in the context of the Charismatic Renewal and the new communities is that God gives us brothers and sisters who experience the same love for themselves. This is why the preparation for the experience of the effusion the Spirit is made with others and also with brothers and sisters who pray for us. Thus together we can move ever closer to the Lord and grow in love. This is what God wants for our times.
4. May we wish that every Christian experiences the experience of an outpouring of the Spirit?
Yes, since this is the normal deployment of the graces of baptism. It may be not be in the same form as that proposed in the new communities or in the Charismatic Renewal. But it is something to be desired for all.
5. So, why do some people experience it and not others?
We would rather say that some people have already experienced it – but others, not yet! In any normal Christian life, the experience of the outpouring of the Spirit is expected to occur in some form or other. It does not confer any superiority on some people over others.
6. Finally, ‘Do not be afraid of the Holy Spirit’?
If St. Paul says, “Do not quench the Spirit,” it means that this temptation exists. For the Holy Spirit leads us into a certain risk and into the unexpected. We can lose a lot in the way of charismatic gifts if we are afraid. When we consider the dynamics of risk, mistakes will certainly be made. But if we are part of the true Church, the necessary corrections will be made. It is better to take the risk, as long as we have exercised proper discernment, rather than wanting to wrap up everything in advance to make sure that there is nothing unexpected. If the unexpected is eliminated, the risk is that the Holy Spirit disappears at the same time.