FAITH AND CULTURE | Listening in the Spirit

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In recent times, social conflict has become more pronounced and it's driving much of our human ethos both locally and globally. A glance at the news quickly illustrates the extent of the opposition and division in our world. Ancient quarrels and international divisions linger and find little resolution. At the same time, emerging global struggles aggravate and augment a broken humanity.

Similarly, in our local reality, we're often confronted by ongoing strife and discord. Our nation seems stuck in a state of polarity that finds little value in striving for common ground. The language and practice of compromise, collaboration and dialogue seldom takes the center stage. We witness behavior that exposes deep suspicion between groups and a relentless effort to remain entrenched in all kinds of antagonisms.

Rather than make room for a rich diversity of voices we often fall prey to the illusion of self-aggrandizement or arrogance that results from our self-imposed isolationism — reaching across the divide seems futile to many. We resist the spirit of truth that is around us and close ourselves to the possibility of experiencing a genuine encounter with people who are different and have much to offer us.

Often lacking in our dispositions and actions is an ability to be docile and attentive to the goodness that comes from others, especially from those with whom we don't consider part of our group. Listening in the spirit of civility, inclusion and truth can be difficult in a society that appears to be driven by division and conflict, but more is demanded of Christ's followers.

For us Christians, our assessment of the world's troubles and our place in it is never void of our appreciation and striving for the virtue of solidarity, which teaches us to think and act in terms of community. Deep in our faith conviction is the understanding that amidst the human brokenness we can find the work of the Spirit of God — guiding us and showing us the way forward in new ways that bring about communion and trust.

Furthermore, our mindset should connect us to the Spirit of God, calling us to view who we are through a much more creative and hopeful optic that leads to greater unity (1 Corinthians 2:16). In Christian terms, we're in need of an ongoing conversion or docility to the Spirit of truth. As stated in "Evangelii Gaudium" ("The Joy of the Gospel"), "what the Holy Spirit mobilizes is not an unruly activism, but above all, an attentiveness which considers the other 'in a certain sense as one with ourselves.' This loving attentiveness is the beginning of a true concern for their person which inspires me effectively to see their good" (#199).

Through attentive listening in the Spirit and by encountering one another more closely, our needed conversion finds solid grounding. By turning to the Spirit of God first, we then turn to others in trust and dialogue, moving beyond discord and social conflict.

Even as we contemplate extreme brokenness, darkness and sin in our world, we trust that the Spirit of God still hovers over the abyss, gifting us with the needed dispositions and actions that preserve unity and peace: "I therefore, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintained the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Ephesians 4:1-3).

Orozco is executive director of intercultural and interreligious affairs for the Archdiocese of St. Louis. 

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