Pentecost 2017

Throughout the Easter season we have been walking with a mystic guide, namely the medieval German Dominican Meister Eckhart.  He did not exist in a vacuum nor did he become one of the greatest mystics in Catholic tradition apart from his times.  Eckhart was responding to a voracious God-hunger stirring in the hearts of the people of fourteenth-century Germany.  The Rhineland in Medieval times seems to have been a hotbed of mystical activity with different groups springing up both to study and to live the teachings of Jesus and the Christian mystics.  One movement was the Beguines, another was called the Friends of God.  In faith, we can say these popular and deeply mystical movements were driven by the Holy Spirit.  Eckhart responded to this Spirit by preaching.  He listened to the Spirit speaking through the everyday people of his time.  Clearly his message struck a spiritual nerve as he was the most popular preacher of his day.  His charism as preacher and spiritual teacher synced up with what the Spirit was doing in medieval Europe.

Meister Eckhart listened to and responded to the Holy Spirit in his historical context.  He discerned what the Spirit wanted for him personally and what the Spirit was doing in his era by looking at “the signs of the times” in medieval Europe.  This same Spirit is active today, opening up new vistas and creating new mystical and justice-oriented movements.   We, too, must listen to what the Spirit is saying to us personally – how we might use our charisms – and let the Spirit sync our gifts with the times.  There is a great need to discern what the Spirit is saying and doing in our own lives and in history.  Both are essentially connected.  The Spirit gives charisms to both groups and individuals.

A charism is a spiritual gift meant to strengthen, build up, deepen faith, increase justice, lead, serve, heal, or do whatever else the Spirit requires for the good of the church and the world.  In the second reading today, St. Paul writes, “To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.”  Everyone gets a charism for the good of everyone.  The church couldn’t exist without these charisms.  The Holy Spirit breathes life into the church by giving different spiritual gifts to each and every person, not just to priests and nuns.

How do we know what charism the Spirit has given us?  First, we look at what we enjoy and what skills or natural talents we possess.  Second, we can review some examples of charisms.  St. Paul lists some.  There is healing, preaching, teaching, administration, exhortation, and actions of mercy.  We might add gifts of music, art, writing, peacemaking, social work, and prophetically standing against injustice and oppression.  Finally, to determine our charism or spiritual gift, we can ask ourselves, how we want to serve the church and the world?  Where do we think the church and the world are hurting?  The Spirit calls us to the place where our deep desire meets the deep the needs of the church and world.

The Spirit is moving among the peoples of the earth seeking justice for the poor and the oppressed.  The Spirit is moving among those people seeking to end the destruction of our planet and restore ecological balance.  The Spirit is moving in the church as it experiences a contemplative awakening through prayer practices like Centering Prayer and Christian Meditation and groups like Contemplative Outreach led by Thomas Keating and the Center for Action and Contemplation led by Richard Rohr.  The Spirit uses the charisms of each person in these groups to build up the whole.

St. Paul says, “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit.”  The Holy Spirit brings us into communion with God the Father in Jesus Christ.  The Holy Spirit gathers all the peoples and creatures of the earth into communion.  Now, communion is not uniformity.  Too often the church stresses uniformity over communion, sameness over the subtler reality of diversity in unity.  The Holy Spirit creates diversity throughout the world – from penguins to starfish to lemurs to volcanic rock.  God’s Holy Spirit also brings all the multiple species and peoples into a unity, albeit a unity respecting each one’s uniqueness.  All that is required of us, beyond listening to and discerning the will of the Spirit, is to give ourselves over to the Spirit that we may experience this divine communion.  Then, the Holy Spirit will breathe a new life into our personal stories, one that involves healing, peace, freedom, and joy.  Then, we will be free to use our own charism for the good of the world and to the glory of God.