“Spirituality” is an unfortunate word. For many it can only mean something useless, far from real life. What good is it? What is of interest is what is concrete and practical, what is material, not what is spiritual.
Yet a person’s “spirit” is something that is valued in modern society, for it indicates what is the deepest and the most decisive in one’s life. The “spirit” is: the passion that drives a person; one’s ultimate inspiration; what infects others; what a person keeps putting in the world.
The spirit breathes life into our projects and undertakings, shapes our horizon of values and our hopes. As our spirit goes, so goes our spirituality. And so goes also our religion and our whole life.
The texts that the first Christians have left us show that they live their faith in Jesus Christ as a powerful “spiritual movement.” They feel that Jesus’ Spirit dwells in them. One is a Christian only to the extent that one has been baptized with this Spirit. Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. Moved by this Spirit, these Christians experience all of life in a whole new way.
The first thing to change radically is their experience of God. They no longer live with a spirit of slavery, weighed down by fear of God, but rather with a spirit of adoption, so that they feel they are sons and daughters who are loved unconditionally and without limit by a Father. Jesus’ Spirit makes them cry out in the depths of their hearts, “Abba, Father!” This experience is what primarily should be found in Jesus’ communities.
The way they live out their religion also changes. No longer do they feel they are captives to the law, to norms and precepts; rather they feel they are freed by love. Now they know what it is to live with a new spirit, listening to the call of love, and not living the old letter, given to fulfilling religious obligations. This is the climate we have to cultivate among all of us and to promote in our Christian communities if we want to live as Jesus does.
They also discover the true content of the worship given to God. What pleases the Father are not our loveless rituals, but rather our living in spirit and in truth. The Christians’ authentic spiritual worship is this life that is lived in the spirit of Jesus and in the truth of his Gospel.
We must never forget what Paul of Tarsus said to his communities: Do not quench the Spirit. A church that is stifled, devoid of Christ’s spirit, can neither live nor communicate his true Newness. It can neither taste nor spread his Good News. To take care of Christian spirituality is to revive our religion.
January 10, 2016
Baptism of the Lord (C)
Luke 3, 15-16. 21-22