In these times of scandal in the institution, great uncertainty in the world, and loss of confidence in our spiritual and political leaders there is a temptation to give up. In recent days in our forum a number of people have called for perseverence and solidarity amongst the grass roots. Today's lead commentary from Kevin Murphy sits well with this call. This is "a back to the fundamentals—back to Jesus" call for us to find solidarity in our communion with one another and with Jesus and his core insights. It's a call to let the Spirit of God guide us through these times. As Kevin concludes: "Even if it is sometimes difficult to live with the life of the Spirit of God within official church structures, we all have the freedom and right and responsibility to welcome the Spirit of God into our personal lives."
I have the impression that people, like myself, are silently asking: Surely there has to be some evidence that our faith is valid and beneficial?
With that question in the back of my mind, I happened to read the scripture passage in the Prayer of the Church last Thursday morning (Prayer during the Day, before noon, psalter Week 4, Thursday) and the following words caught my attention:
We know that God lives in us by the Spirit he has given us. [1John 3:24]
That scripture passage offers a response to my question.
Then in the lectionary gospel for the same day, Thursday, Week 20 in Ordinary Time, I read:
When the king came in to look at the guests he noticed one man who was not wearing a wedding garment, and said to him, 'How did you get in here, my friend, without a wedding garment?' And the man was silent. Then the king said to the attendants, 'Bind him hand and foot and throw him out into the dark, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth'. [Matthew 22:11-12]
My pondering has led me to make the following reflection...
Perhaps the wedding garment referred to in the parable can be symbolic of the Spirit of God that is required if we are to be a participant in the banquet of eternal life.
We look to Jesus Christ as the one who mediates the Spirit of God to us. We call ourselves Christians — people who live in the company of Jesus Christ. It is he who takes the initiative in this regard, inviting us to be aware of his friendly presence.
Jesus Christ now embodies in his new form of presence the transformation process to new life in which we begin to share, even consciously now, by faith, as we experience the reality of a Spirit-enhanced life.
The gospel stories indicate that Jesus was particularly fond of meals he could enjoy with others. Meal times can still be for us powerful reminders that Jesus is anxious to enter our lives. Listen, I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me. [Rev. 3:20]
Communion in the formal liturgy, the Mass, is a highly ritualised official church community meal. But all meals, any and every meal, whatever the food and drink, whether alone or with others, can be an opportunity for us to become aware of the presence of Jesus in communion. There is no need to say any special words, though we all might develop our own favourite little prayers and rituals to remind us of the meaning our meals can have.
We can consciously and deliberately open our minds and hearts for Jesus Christ to be with us, to be in communion with us, allowing us to be in communion with him, as we eat and drink, listen and think, talk or sing, laugh or cry. He becomes more involved in our lives, sharing with us his understanding, his vision, his wisdom, his healing, his love, his life, his Spirit: his transformation process.
Saint Paul says that people of the Spirit enjoy love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control [Galatians 5:23-24]. To the extent that we open our minds and hearts to live with and enjoy these gifts, we are united with the Spirit and reality of God. These gifts, these fruits of the Spirit, these qualities in our lives are indicators of the reality of a mysterious God in whom we live and move and have our being. These life-qualities do not prove there is a God in a scientific way, but they are authentic indicators which support our faith.
The effectiveness-level of our communion will be indicated by the growth in our living with the gifts of the Spirit.
If these fruits of the Spirit are not becoming more evident in our lives, and in the lives of our faith communities, probably there is something defective in our participation in the opportunities for communion with Jesus Christ in his transformation process that come our way.
Many negative attitudes serve to hinder the effectiveness of the Spirit in our lives. Basic negative attitudes are lust for power over others, lust for wealth, and lust for prestige and glory.
To the extent that it is corrupt, the human organisation of the Catholic Church is allowing, even promoting these negative attitudes.
A person with the Spirit of God as shared by Jesus, will regard such lusts with sadness, if not contempt. Jesus was sometimes very scathing in his criticism of such lusts in much of the religious establishment of his day.
Even if it is sometimes difficult to live with the life of the Spirit of God within official church structures, we all have the freedom and right and responsibility to welcome the Spirit of God into our personal lives. Find friends with a similar faith conviction, because all of us need to receive support from others and to offer them our support in living faith.
By the way, Laurence Freeman, the Catholic Benedictine monk who explains and promotes Christian Meditation, will be featured in the ABC Radio National Encounter program this week [LINK].
Kevin Murphy, Ballarat. Thanks for reading to the end.
What are your thoughts on this commentary?
©2010Fr Kevin Murphy