FAITH AND CULTURE | Guidance in the Spirit

Resiliency is among the most laudable qualities of the human spirit. Throughout history, human beings have bounced back from all kinds of troubling and disastrous events. Wars and catastrophes from the past two centuries provide examples of how much the human condition has had to endure. There is hardly a time in recent history when people were free of pain, destruction and violence.

The picture is no less chaotic when we drill down to our own times and local realities. Today, our world appears to be entangled in a web of violence and devastation. Ours is an age of nuclear weapon concerns, cyberspace hackings, geopolitical disputes and localized acts of terror and senseless hate. We hear of people dying from starvation and thirst, people dying in the ocean and on our streets.

Even our ecosystem isn't exempt from such careless actions. Indeed, our very homes, streets and neighborhoods continue to be impoverished by careless disregard for God's creation and human life. Given this stark existence, it would be easy for anyone of us to simply give up, become immune or respond with cynicism. It would be easy to turn a blind eye to the social ills and cocoon ourselves in the comfort of illusions and small mindedness.

Yet, in faith we know that the world is precisely where we need to be fully alive, actively witnessing to the grace that abounds. The ordinary and extraordinary expressions of human struggles, brokenness, violence and sin that confront us are, in fact, not the last word. The love of God that has been poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit will ultimately show us the way and give us what we really need (Romans 5: 3-5; 20).

Far from causing us to flee from reality, our faith teaches us that active engagement in society and life is an essential component of Christian living. In the words of Pope Francis, let us be "a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty, because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security" ("Evangelii Gudium," 48).

Our resilience, then, is grounded in something bigger than human abilities and limits. Simply relying on what we know and do at any given moment only takes us so far. As St. Paul reminds us, our vision is limited: "For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part, then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known" (1 Corinthians 13:12).

Deep in our spirit, we know that the light we need to guide our way must come from above, for the Spirit of wisdom has the power to take us outward into dialogue and mission. The command to go out into the world has guided the Christian way throughout history (Matthew 28: 16-20). In it we have found the confidence, courage and grace to risk walking closely with others, especially the most vulnerable among us.

Over and over again, we have learned to trust in the presence of the Spirit of God, knowing full well that our missionary endeavors will yield a hundred fold. So, as we engage the world, let us hold tight to the boldness of the Spirit that would have us transform pain into joy, and brokenness into fullness of life.

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

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