Sunday Reflection with Father Terry Tastard - 23 May 2010

We use the words spirit, spiritual, Spirit so easily and frequently.  But what could they mean?  What is this thing that we call the spirit?  The German theologian Karl Rahner once set out to trace where we can find evidence of the spirit.  His answer:  it is all around us.  But some of his examples might surprise you.  One of them, believe it or not, is boredom.  All of us have had the experience of being bored.  But, says Rahner, look again at what it means to be bored.  There is this mysterious restlessness within you, telling you that you can do better than this. It prompts you to use your energy in some useful and more stimulating way.  We also sense the spirit in the endless human quest for knowledge.  As Rahner puts it: ‘Every answer is always just the beginning of a new question.’  Experiences like these are evidence of our spiritual life.  It is our soul, the core of our being, the spark of life within us.  This is the unique ground of our being, and there is nothing else like in on earth.  It is how we are made by God, and here we are most open to the power and influence of God.

Each Pentecost we celebrate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the creative and inspiring presence of God.  This experience astonished the early Church.  The Spirit gave them a confidence and a power which could have come from nowhere else.  A small group of disciples, broken by the loss of their leader, are renewed by experiencing first his resurrection and then the power of the Spirit.

It is to each of our spirits that the Spirit comes to help us on our journey through life.  One of the ways the Holy Spirit makes itself known is through communication.  Difficulties in communication are endless, misunderstandings are easy.  The Spirit, as we hear in our first reading (Acts 2.1-11) enables the preaching of the gospel to be heard and received in many different languages and cultures.  The English theologian, John Taylor, called the Holy Spirit the Go-Between God.  This is the presence of God not only within but between people, weaving relationships, creating solidarity, overcoming those barriers which make it strangely difficult for us truly to hear and understand one another.

But that is not all.  There is sometimes an aspect of urgency to the work of the Spirit.  Sometimes our soul, our spirit, knows that we are stuck, but we have too much lethargy, or despair, or cynicism, to do anything about it.  Sometimes it is the work of the Spirit to drive us forward, to help us move out of that rut or away from that shelter, to engage with the world.  In the words of the Sequence that we use today, ‘Bend the stubborn heart and will, Melt the frozen, warm the chill, guide the steps that go astray.’  Just as our spirit will not leave us alone but wants us to reach higher, so the Spirit of God, working on each of our spirits, makes us want to try again.  And all this, not only for our own good, but for the good of the world which God made and loves and is still shaping through the Holy Spirit.

Fr Terry is Parish Priest at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Brook Green, west London.   His new book:  Ronald Knox and English Catholicism is published by Gracewing at £12.99 and is available on Amazon, on ICN's front page. To read Sr Gemma Simmonds' review on ICN see:

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