Discerning the Spirit

Last week, I was accosted by a evangelical Christian in the street. He asked me whether I had given my life to Jesus Christ. I have. He asked me if I spoke in tongues. I can, but choose not to. He asked me if I had made the necessary sacrifices for the Holy Spirit to come into my life? At this point I told him that I was poor, chaste and obedient for Christ which I thought was a decent push in that direction. Mind you, in talking of poverty I thought of my mother, who, on seeing Jesuit real estate for the first time said, "If this is poverty, I’d like to see how you guys live chastity - it all seems pretty loose and fast to me." The problem with our evangelical brothers and sisters is that they often think the Holy Spirit can be primarily reduced to external signs. We know, however, from the first Pentecost and from our own experience that the Spirit works in both unpredictable and ordinary ways. The Holy Spirit, sent to live with us, to continue to reveal God’s truth to us, to advocate for us and, in turn, to glorify us in Christ, seems to be make a specialty of being present in the unexpected. Some people wrongly claim that our time and place is the most wicked of all. I don’t minimize for a moment the evil by which we are seduced and the traffic of death over which our world trades, but if we have Pentecost faith we will keep focusing on what exciting things the Spirit is doing in our own day. It is often a case of keeping up with her, and following her lead. For most of us seeing the traces of the Holy Spirit often happens retrospectively. It is only when we look back we see how, even in difficult and trying times that her presence can be found in our lives. For most of us it is a challenge to keep discerning the Spirit’s presence. Poet Michael Moynahan, S.J., expresses it this way in his poem, God who’s hidden deep within, [God of Untold Tales, San Jose, Resource, 1979]: O Spirit of God/ who’s hidden/ Deep within the faces,/ Places, scattered thoughts,/ The strong and contradictory things/ That complicate and just confuse -/ The feelings of an aging heart,/ Draw near here now/ And counsel me. So many times/ I’ve longed and prayed/ Or looked for ways/ Of wading deeper/ into simple mystery... To love you/ Is no easy task./ It costs/ (but who keeps count?)/ too much at times./ Why must I constantly/ Court death/ And watch so many/ Golden thoughts and/ Sterling feelings/ Go up in smoke? Love means that I must/ Wander through the rubble/ Of my squandered dreams/ And in the fragile ashes/ Of painful burnt-out memories/ Find the tiny seeds/ Of new beginnings... God of every thought/ Lord of my heart’s desire,/ In my search for you/ I ask three things:/ Give my knowledge clarity/ Give my love intensity/ And let my journey/ Follow in your footsteps/ So that my service/ Can be patterned/ After yours. Richard Leonard, S.J.
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