So whatever else we say of Him, we must say that the Holy Spirit is a Spirit of Unity. Father and Son give themselves completely to one another, and this movement of pure self-giving is mysteriously fruitful; their unity, their being-in-each-other is the Holy Spirit. The New Testament says both that “God is love” and also that the “love of God is the Holy Spirit”.
St Paul insists that there is only one gift that is supremely important – love. (1 Cor 13). Without it nothing else has any importance. But it is notoriously difficult to say what “love” is …..there are so many counterfeits. According to St Paul, the best criterion of love is unity. Where the Spirit truly is, there will always be a bearing of one another’s burdens – a bearing up, a building up, not a pulling down.
But where there are divisions, where there is bitterness and envy, there the Holy Spirit is certainly not found. Knowledge without love is certainly not his gift.
It is remarkable to note the strong accent which Paul places on joy. After love it is the first gift of the Holy Spirit mention (Gal,5). The Holy Spirit is a Spirit of Joy – the Spirit of the “Gospel” of Good News.
Here we have one of the basic criteria for distinguishing the Holy Spirit from other questionable “spirits”. Where there is absence of joy, where humour seems dead, the Holy Spirit – the Spirit of Jesus – is certainly not at work.
Joy is surely a sign of the grace of God. The person of joyful heart, the person who has suffered but who has not lost their joy cannot be far from the God of Jesus Christ, or from the Spirit of God which is a Spirit of eternal joy.