FAITH AND CULTURE | Attentiveness in the Spirit

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Today, it seems almost impossible for anyone to stay engaged with things happening around us. Our eyes and minds drift from one thing to another in a matter of seconds. Whether on our smartphones and tablets or simply taking a stroll, we find it hard to dwell on things, especially if they are not intentionally designed to grab our attention.

The experience of actually taking the time to contemplate our surroundings doesn't fare well in busy schedules and hectic lifestyles. Both in the workplace and at home, we thrive on high energy and motion. At home, we want faster internet access; at work, we take pride at multitasking and getting things done ahead of schedule; and in our conversations, we often forget to listen to the other in our haste to formulate a rebuttal.

True, our human propensity to get things done has served us well; it's also true that being on auto-pilot and forgetting to abide and find time to be in the moment has unintended consequences. Our ability to taste and see the goodness around us has been impoverished and life is losing some of its luster. Taking time to appreciate or smell a flower, for example, seems rather trivial and insignificant.

It isn't uncommon to spend an inordinate amount of time on social media or surfing the internet without real focus or intent. We move our spirit indiscriminately with little regard for the moral value or spiritual content involved in the exchange. At times, we grow callous at the sheer scope of human tragedy confronting us in the world; and we don't always have the time to process the series of painful events that come our way.

In short, our ability to critically discern what needs our attention is faltering. For instance, human brokenness and suffering that should disturb our moral compass and spiritual life often goes unnoticed. We need to step back and slow down to reconnect with the spirit of life. Without this spiritual discernment, we can quickly turn compassion into indifference, and our engagement with the world into boredom.

As people of faith, we know that our response to the world isn't accidental or indifferent. As children of the light, we have been missioned to engage and dwell on things that really matter (1 Thessalonians 5:5). In the stillness and dwelling in the Lord, we're able to see the marvelous works God has done for us (Psalm 46:8-12). Far from being thrown into a meaningless existence, Scriptures reveal to us a life full of goodness, beauty and abundance: "Oh, see and taste the goodness of the Lord! Blessed is the one who finds shelter in Him!" (Psalm 34:8).

By turning our gaze to the Lord and dwelling in His Spirit, we discern more critically what God has done for us and what we're called to do. Our life in the Spirit is never a cheap escape or denial of reality, but the burning desire to embrace humanity at a deeper level. The Spirit of life has been entrusted to us in order that we may respond and engage the world in kind: "Do not quench the Spirit, do not despise the prophets' warning. Put everything to the test and hold fast to what is good. Avoid evil wherever it may be" (1 Thessalonians 5:19).

Perhaps more than ever, we need to remain attentive in the Spirit and put everything to the test. The difficult challenges we now face remind us not to lose sight of our faith, to seek shelter in the Lord, to hold fast to what is good, and to avoid evil. Let us be still and rest in confidence (Psalm 46:10).

Orozco is executive director of Intercultural and Interreligious Affairs for the Archdiocese of St. Louis. 

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