Oct 20, 2022 1265 Deacon Jim McFadden

The Secret to a Joyful Life

What is the way out of fear, anxiety, and depression?

Christians believe that God is three in One. We profess faith in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Behaviorally, however, we place our emphasis on the first two Persons of the Trinity—we pray the Our Father and believe He sent His Son, Jesus, for our salvation. And, while we recognize that the Holy Spirit is the divine “Lord and giver of Life,” we tend to forget the Spirit and don’t give Him the opportunity to give us Life! Let’s revisit the story of Pentecost and rediscover how the Holy Spirit can be the “Lord and giver of life” for us, because without the Spirit, our faith becomes a barren, joyless moralism.

The second chapter of Acts (vs. 1-11) describes the Apostles’ encounter with the Holy Spirit and how they behaved afterwards. Following fifty days of uncertainty, something big is about to happen. Jesus had entrusted His Mission to the Apostles the previous week, but are they ready to proclaim the risen Lord? Can they set aside their doubts and fears? The coming of the Holy Spirit changes everything. The disciples are no longer afraid. Before, they feared for their lives; now, they are ready to preach the Good News to all the nations with a zeal that cannot be suppressed. The Holy Spirit neither takes away all their difficulties nor the opposition of the religious establishment. But the Spirit endows them with a dynamism that enables them to proclaim the Good News to the ends of the earth.

How did this happen? The lives of the Apostles needed to be radically changed, and the gift of the Spirit is how that change occurred. In the Spirit, they encountered the third person of the Trinity—a real person, not just a force, but a person with whom we can be in relationship. While we know the Father as Creator, and the Son as Redeemer, we come to know the Spirit as Sanctifier, the one who makes us holy. It is the Holy Spirit that makes Jesus live within us.

While Jesus is no longer physically present among us, He remains within us through the Holy Spirit. And that Spirit brings peace—a peace that does not free us from problems and hardships, but enables us in our problems to find peace, to persevere, and to hope because we know we are not alone! Faith is not a problem-solving enterprise: when one problem goes away, another takes its place. But faith assures us that God is with us in our struggles, and that the love of God and the peace Jesus promised are ours for the asking.

In today’s frenzied world, super-charged by social media and our digital devices, we find ourselves pulled in a thousand directions, and sometimes we get burned out. Then we look for the quick fix, sometimes resorting to self-medication through alcohol or pill-popping, or one hedonistic thrill after another.

During such restlessness, Jesus enters our lives through the Holy Spirit and says, “Peace be with you!” Jesus throws us an anchor of hope. As Saint Paul says in his letter to the Romans, the Spirit keeps us from falling back into fear, for He makes us realize that we are beloved children of our heavenly Father (Romans 8:15).

The Holy Spirit is the Consoler, who brings the tender love of God into our hearts. Without the Spirit, our Catholic life unravels. Without the Spirit, Jesus is little more than an interesting historical figure, but with the Holy Spirit He is the risen Christ, a powerful, living presence in our lives here and now. Without the Spirit, Scripture is a dead document. But, with the Spirit, the Bible becomes the living Word of God, a word of life. The living God speaks to us and renews us through His Word. Christianity without the Spirit is joyless moralism; with the Spirit, our faith is life itself—a life we can live and share with others.

How can we invite the Holy Spirit into our hearts and souls? One way is by reciting a simple prayer: “Veni Sancte Spiritus” (“Come, Holy Spirit”). Another way to deepen your relationship with the Holy Spirit is to reflect upon the seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit, which we receive at Confirmation. Find a commentary on wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord, and strive to integrate these gifts into your everyday life.

A good way to know if you are living the gifts of the Spirit is to ask yourself if your life manifests the fruits of the Holy Spirit (found in Paul’s letter to the Galatians [5:22-23]). If love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are present in your life, then you know the Holy Spirit is at work!

Prayer: Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in us the fire of your divine love! Endow us with your gifts and make our lives fertile ground that produces an abundance of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. AMEN.


Deacon Jim McFadden

Deacon Jim McFadden ministers at the Saint John the Baptist Catholic Church in Folsom, California. He serves in adult faith formation, baptismal preparation, spiritual direction, and prison ministry.

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