A Reflection: Fr. Mathias on Baptism in the Holy Spirit

We were blessed to have Fr. Mathias Thelen join us at Flourish this year as our keynote speaker–what a gift! He gave a moving talk on the Holy Spirit, which included personal testimony, a scriptural explanation of the baptism in the Holy Spirit, and various practical and inspiring points about what it looks like to live in the power of the Holy Spirit, followed, of course, by praying for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. I encourage you to listen to Fr. Mathias’ talk, as my reflection is simply about a couple points that struck me. You may be moved by other points that I don’t mention at all. Here’s what struck me:

  1. One of the primary fruits of baptism in the Holy Spirit is an experience of God as a loving Father, an experience we need but cannot gain by power of the will.

Knowing God as Father is so critical for a Christian. After all, when Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he taught them to call God “Father.” However, Fr. Mathias mentioned something that may have seemed like a side-note, but I think it is crucial as we strive to live as Christians-fully-alive: We cannot call God “Father” by willing it. We are able to get many things in life by sheer will-power, and we may try to apply this principle to the spiritual life, but it doesn’t work! Paul explains to the Galatians: “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Gal 4:6). 

As Fr. Mathias pointed out, many of us have father wounds. Perhaps we had an emotionally absent father or an angry and oppressive father. So, for many of us, when we hear about God as a loving Father, we might literally have no category for that…what does that even mean?! And we can’t create that category for ourselves or create that experience for ourselves. It is something we need so desperately, yet cannot get by grasping. It is a gift of the Holy Spirit. So, like children who make sure everyone knows what they want for their birthday or for Christmas, let us cry out to God for this gift of baptism in the Holy Spirit and the experience of knowing Him as a good and loving Father. Let Him know that you want this gift! And Jesus assures us: “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13).

     2. The baptism in the Holy Spirit is not a one-time experience. 

For those of us who have been baptized in the Holy Spirit, we likely have a particular experience we remember (e.g. Fr. Mathias’ experience was at a youth retreat as a teenager, as was mine.) It is possible that, over time, we have not lived in the fullness of this gift. We need more. I love how Fr. Mathias put it: We leak! We need to be immersed and re-immersed in the love of God by the power of the Holy Spirit. There are particular fruits (mentioned by Fr. Mathias) of this gift of baptism in the Holy Spirit (such as knowing God as a loving Father, knowing and living as though Jesus is Lord, a desire to spread the Gospel).  As I look at my own life, I see that sometimes I live according to the gift of the Holy Spirit and these fruits are alive, and at other times, I become distracted, I try to control things, I sin. It is consoling to know that this gift the Holy Spirit gives, of reproducing the life of Jesus in me, is a gift He wants to be fully alive in me at all times. The Father knows that we leak: let us ask for more! Come, Holy Spirit!

By Clare Schiller


You can listen to Fr. Mathias’ talk on your podcast app. Listen here!