Session 5: The Holy Spirit and the Church

Resources for participants

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

5A:

  • Have you ever had a moment of inspiration or some kind of spiritual experience?
  • What helps you to find peace or rest in your life?
  • What do you do when you need to make an important decision?
  • What other ideas or questions strike you from this part of the film?

5B:

  • What have been your best experiences of community or family?
  • Can you describe your ideal community?
  • Which person has been the biggest influence on your life and why?
  • What other ideas or questions strike you from this part of the film?

5C:

  • Have you ever gone to a religious service of any kind? What signs and symbols do you remember?
  • What is your impression of Christians and Christianity?
  • What do you think about the idea that we can connect to God through worship and community?
  • What other ideas or questions strike you from this part of the film?

 

READINGS FROM THE YOUCAT FOR THIS SESSION

If you are using the YouCat with your Sycamore group, please click here for general advice about the YouCat and how to use the readings. Here are the readings that go with this week’s Sycamore session:

  • #113 to #128 – the Holy Spirit and the Church [9 pages]

NB the numbers (#) refer to paragraph numbers in the YouCat and not to page numbers. The number in [square brackets] at the end tells you roughly how long this passage is in terms of the pages you need to read (excluding picture pages).

 

LONGER READINGS FROM THE CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

If you have more time, and if you want to go deeper into the topic of this session, you can follow up by exploring the longer Catechism of the Catholic Church. See the standard online version here, and a digital “flip-book” edition here. Here are the readings that go with this week’s Sycamore session:

NB the numbers (#) refer to paragraph numbers in the Catechism and not to page numbers. Click on the links themselves to read the paragraphs in the online version.

 

KEY IDEAS FROM THE FILM

5A – How the Holy Spirit can change your life

After Jesus had risen from the dead and ascended to heaven, the disciples were together in Jerusalem, with Mary the mother of Jesus. And on the day of Pentecost a sound came from heaven like the rush of a violent wind. Something like fire appeared in the room and the flames seemed to rest on each of them. They were filled with the Holy Spirit, who gave them the miraculous ability to speak to people of all nations in their own languages.

This is the Holy Spirit. The breath of God who forgives our sins, revives our souls, and gives us a share in God’s own life. A divine fire that sweeps through our lives, turning everything upside down, burning away all that is unworthy or impure, and giving us light, energy, confidence and power.

The Holy Spirit is the love of God, sent to us from the Father, by his Son Jesus. This is why Christians speak about the Holy Trinity, because the one eternal God is a communion of three Divine Persons – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

The gift of the Holy Spirit is so precious because he transforms us from the inside. He takes the broken pieces of our lives and makes something new from them. God is working in our lives. The biblical word for this is grace.

The grace of the Holy Spirit helps us to pray. He gives us the gifts of faith, hope, love; of wisdom, courage, joy, kindness. He gives us many other spiritual gifts that we need, to live a life that is truly worthwhile and a life that will be a gift to others.

5B – No one gets into heaven alone

You’ve probably heard the phrase: It takes a village to raise a child. It’s about all the different ways that a community can help someone to grow.

And I’d tweak this slightly to say: It takes a church to raise a Christian. Christians are part of an amazing community of faith. No one gets into heaven alone.

I think of the network of Christian communities around the globe united in faith and friendship. And then I think of these communities stretching back through time, back to Jesus Christ himself.

The Christian faith has been passed on from one generation to the next. There is a golden thread that runs through history, a chain of continuity, that gives us a direct connection with Jesus Christ and the community he founded, the new family that he gathered together.

This is the deepest meaning of the Church. It’s a sign of the unity and peace God wants to give all people through Jesus Christ; and a way for us to share in that peace. It looks and feels a bit different today. But it is the Church of the Bible, the Church of the Apostles. The faith we profess today is fundamentally the same.

This is very practical too. We can’t live the Christian faith alone. We need friends, neighbours, teachers, shepherds. I need the help of a community of faith. I need the help of God’s Church. And this speaks to a deep need within us for community and belonging.

5C – Why we need signs, symbols and sacraments?

Christians believe that God took flesh and walked among us. And he continues to use visible signs to share his life with us. In the Christian tradition these visible signs are called sacraments.

The seven sacraments are at the heart of biblical faith: baptism, confirmation, the eucharist; marriage and ordination; confession and the anointing of the sick. They are given to us by Jesus himself. But they are not just signs: they have an effect; they give us the grace of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus is not like a friend who shares photos of himself via social media and never comes to visit. He is someone who stands in the doorway, steps across the threshold, and wraps us in his embrace. This is part of the meaning of the sacraments: Jesus Christ touching and transforming our lives today.

There are many different Christian signs and symbols beyond the sacraments too. And if you walk into any Christian church around the world, at almost any point in history, you will nearly always find the same key symbols.

There will be a central space for the community to meet and pray; a pool of water for the celebration of baptism; a stand or pulpit where the Bible is read; a place for the priest who leads the service; and an altar on which the gifts of bread and wine are placed for the Sunday Eucharist.

It’s all about connection. These symbols are not a substitute for Christ: they connect us with Christ. They point to him and help our communities to be shaped by him.

Now the writer GK Chesterton once said: “Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in your garage makes you a car”. We are saved by a living faith. And the sacraments and all the external symbols of Christianity are ineffective without faith. But when they are celebrated with faith, they deepen that faith and bring it to fulfilment.