How to Prepare Your Heart to Receive the Power of the Holy Spirit

by Fr Richard Heilman | November 13, 2017 2:18 AM

How then are we to prepare our restless hearts to receive the power of the Holy Spirit? Recall Jesus’ parable of the 10 virgins (Mt 25:1-12), five of whom were wise and five of whom were foolish. When the time came to meet the Bridegroom and go in to join the festivities, the foolish ones did not have enough oil for their lamps. They were forced to go get more oil while everyone else went in to “join the dance.”

Why has study after study shown that people of religious conviction are the happiest? For those who have yielded to a deeply devoted (semper fi) love relationship with Jesus, there is a distinctive serenity and joy about them. There seems to be an extra spring in their step and twinkle in their eye. Far from the boredom and misery of sloth, they radiate a supernatural love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, and gentleness (Fruit of the Holy Spirit, Gal 5:22-23). They are attracted to spiritual things. They have a resolve to lighten the burdens of others. They have a sense of purpose and mission. They seem to have discovered the way to “join the dance” of life. In the meantime, like the five foolish virgins, there are those who seem to be “on the outside looking in,” wondering what it takes to be invited to “the dance of life.”

Now, the Holy Spirit is often depicted as fire. Jesus said, “I have come to cast fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled” (Lk 12:49). When Pentecost arrived, the Holy Spirit appeared as tongues of fire that came and rested on the disciples (Acts 2:3). We know fire needs fuel to ignite, whether it’s kindling or, as in the parable of the 10 virgins, oil for a lamp. Spiritually speaking, the Holy Spirit will come to rest on those hearts that have provided the fuel for its fire.

So, what is the fuel we offer for the Holy Spirit’s fire?  The word “oil” provides a superb acronym to describe the necessary fuel for receiving the fire of the Holy Spirit: O.I.L. = Obedience In Love. Blessed Charles de Foucauld called obedience the “yardstick of love.” It’s a clear way we measure the fidelity and unselfishness of our hearts. Jesus said that His yoke is easy and His burden light (Mt 11:28-30) not because He would ask less of us, but because He knew that love renders suffering bearable and even joyful. St. Ignatius of Loyola said, “It is not hard to obey when we love the one whom we obey.”

Remember, it was Mary’s ‘fiat’ (‘yes’) that brought the Holy Spirit: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done unto me according to Thy word” (Lk 1:38). Because Mary submitted, the Holy Spirit came upon her, and she was filled with the life of God. Spiritually speaking, the same thing happens to us once we are ready to set aside our foolish pride and humbly offer our “yes” to God. And, just as Mary delivered a Savior into the world, we are called to bring this Divine Life we’ve received to all we encounter.

Obedience In Love (O.I.L.) is what Sacred Scripture refers to as “fear of the Lord” or holy fear. As distinct from servile fear (fear of punishment), holy fear is a fear of disappointing or being separated from the one you love. St. Francis de Sales wrote, “We must fear God out of love, not love Him out of fear.” It is like a son who loves his dad very much and fears disappointing him or damaging the relationship or being separated in any way. St. Paul wrote: “So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when He adopted you as His own children. Now we call Him, ‘Abba, Father’’’ (Rom 8:15).

Why did the Bridegroom say, “I do not know you” (Mt 25:12) to the foolish virgins who did not bother to bring enough oil? They represent those who are stuck in that kind of empty religiosity that avoids the extra effort, the sacrifice that is vital in any real love relationship. Instead, they neglect, take shortcuts, or avoid altogether the greater demands of obedient love. Trapped in spiritual sloth (indifference), there is no holy fear and therefore, they are content to keep God at an impersonal, manageable distance as they remain just a face in the crowd — a pew potato — a bench warmer who is content to be on the team but avoids the effort of getting in the game. “Faith means battles;” said St. Ambrose, “if there are no contests, it is because there are none who desire to contend.”

(This was this weekend’s homily, extracted from page 42 of the book I wrote entitled, “Church Militant Field Manual, Special Forces Training for the Life in Christ”[1])



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  1. “Church Militant Field Manual, Special Forces Training for the Life in Christ”:
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