When the Spirit Comes

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And when he [the Paraclete] comes he will expose the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you will see me no more; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

John 16: 8-11

In today’s gospel, Jesus points out to the disciples that they remain sorrowful at his telling them of his departure because his teaching and promise remains incomprehensible to them. He speaks throughout these chapters of John’s gospel about the meaning and significance of his departure as the way in which he shall be glorified and the Paraclete will be sent. The disciples, however, remain mired in the disillusionment concerning their own hopes for a power and glory that the world will recognize.

The sign of the Paraclete, of the presence of God in the world, is the exposing of “the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.” The disciples are despondent because their hopes and dreams seem to be dashed in the death and departure of Jesus. Jesus says that God’s judgment is precisely the opposite of their judgment. They are suffering because they are not yet “thinking” and “living” differently enough from the standards of their world.

In his dialogue with major superiors of religious communities, Pope Francis spoke of the purpose of religious life as witness to the possibility of “a different way of doing things, of acting, of living.” He then said: “It is possible to live differently in this world.” This is the witness of consecrated life, and of every life of faith.

The Church, therefore, must be attractive. Wake up the world! Be witnesses of a different way of doing things, of acting, of living! It is possible to live differently in this world. We are speaking of an eschatological outlook, of the values of the Kingdom incarnated here, on this earth. It is a question of leaving everything to follow the Lord. No, I do not want to say “radical.” Evangelical radicalness is not only for religious: it is demanded of all. But religious follow the Lord in a special way, in a prophetic way. It is this witness that I expect of you. Religious should be men and women who are able to wake the world up.

From what aspects of “the world” are we called to live differently? It is from its taken-for-granted perceptions and norms: from judging as the world judges, which means from “feeling” as the world feels. Our emotions are judgments we make pre-reflectively of the meanings of persons, events, and things. The way that we feel about things is the product of how we have been formed to feel about them. If we are to live differently in the world, we must allow the Spirit of God to reform not only our cognitive but also our affective lives. We must not only “think” differently, but we must also begin, within our capacities, to feel differently, to value differently, to seek different goals and ends from those valued by the world around us.

Jesus speaks to his disciples of the glory in what awaits him, but they cannot hear him because their own judgment of its meaning has closed their hearts and minds. The same is true of each of us. Our spirit is in communion with the Spirit of God, and yet our own preconceptions and misconceptions keep that Word from reaching our heats and minds. “The common, ordinary, unspectacular flow of everyday life” is always speaking a Word of God to us, but too often we are not present to that possibility because we are preoccupied by the powerful repetitions of our lifelong “habits of mind”.

Today is the 100th birthday of Brother Roger Schutz, Brother Roger of Taize. He was a person who recognized the communion of all believers in Christ. His heart and mind were not captive to the common sense views that differing doctrines, dogmas, practices marked out the boundaries among Christians. He did not need to “convert” to be at one with his Roman Catholic sisters and brothers, nor did they to be in communion with him. For, he knew, beyond all human distinction, that in Christ and in the Spirit all are already one. For him, the one life that all shared was known not through the hammering out of theological differences but in the experience of shared silence, prayer, and love for each other. He did not grieve the human-made separation of Christians but rather lived the God-given communion, and in his life and death he exposes our mistaken notions of sectarian righteousness and superiority..

Jesus Christ, Love of all loving, you were always in me and I did not know it.  You were there, and I kept on forgetting you.  You were in my heart of hearts and I was looking elsewhere.  Even when I remained far from you, you kept on waiting for me.  And the day is coming when I can tell you:  Risen Christ, you are my life:  I belong to Christ, I am Christ’s.

Brother Roger

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