He Thinks, Therefore I Am

Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? — 1 Corinthians 3:16

Yesterday morning I read St. Matthew’s account of the baptism of the Lord. Two things struck me. The first was that, in the Ignatius (Revised Standard Version) Bible I was reading, the translation is somewhat different from the New American version we hear at Mass (linked to above). The New American translation says, “[H]e saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove [and] coming upon him.” The Revised Standard translation says, “[H]e saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on him.”

The difference is small, but struck me as important, because alighting suggests the Holy Spirit came to rest on Jesus and remained with Him. This is reinforced by the first line of the next chapter, which begins just one verse later: “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”

See that? The Spirit is still with Him, leading Him.

The Holy Spirit doesn’t leave us, either. We talk sometimes about the indelible mark left on our souls by certain of the sacraments, which might leave us with the mistaken notion that God makes an impression on us but doesn’t stick around. But clearly the Spirit did not leave Jesus—in fact, in paragraph 695 of the Catechism, we learn that the Holy Spirit represents the very anointing that signifies Jesus as the Christ, or messiah: the anointed one of God. And He is covered completely by this anointing, as close as oil on skin: “The humanity the Son assumed was entirely anointed by the Holy Spirit” (CCC 695).

So the Spirit doesn’t descend upon Jesus then flutter away; instead the Spirit, as the very breath and love of God, envelops Him, guides Him, consoles Him, sustains Him. And so it is with us.

Why does this strike me as particularly important today? Because at times I feel guilty for taking up God’s time with my petty problems or enjoying the attention He lavishes on me when so many other people need Him, urgently, in their lives and struggles. But since the Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—is omnipresent and outside of time, God can be with me and everyone else at the same “time,” and I need not worry about taking Him away from others and their needs. Indeed, if it is God’s active will that sustains our very existence, I can rest assured (and humbled!) that I am literally always on His mind, even when He is not on mine.

He thinks, therefore I am.

And if He’s going to be with me anyway, it would be unfitting and ungrateful not to enjoy His company and learn from Him. Would He not chide me, like Martha, for remaining lost in my anxieties and duties and not choosing the better part: sitting at His feet and talking with Him?

We live in the age of the Holy Spirit, and we cannot reach Christ except through Him who anointed Jesus at His baptism. Like sacred oil on blessed skin, we feel this anointing Spirit when we touch Jesus—and, God willing, a bit of that Anointing rubs of on us. Each time that happens—through Baptism, Confirmation, the Eucharist, or the other sacraments—the Spirit alights yet again, and lingers.

God in heaven, keep me always aware of the intimate presence of your Holy Spirit and find peace in your constant attention and love. Thank you for being mindful of me. Amen.

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