Gentle Spirit of Love
7th August 2020
By Father Kevin Bates
Gentle Spirit of Love by Father Kevin Bates
“Jesus is best seen in lives of quiet service, acts of reconciliation, the seeking after justice, the feeding of the poor. He doesn’t draw attention to himself but simply breathes among and through us, his gentle Spirit of Love.”
It’s a truism that Jesus needs to be at the centre of our lives as people of Christian faith. No one really disagrees with this assertion, however, it’s another matter making it real.
In a complex, sophisticated society, we have many other matters that absorb our attention and energy. At the moment, uncertainty around the Covid-19 pandemic wrap around most of our conversations and decision-making. Our daily lives, relationships and work situations are all shaped by our need to stay healthy and safe.
Naturally, the welfare of our families and community occupies much of our time and energy. My life can easily become totally absorbed by my children or grand-children to the point where not much else matters. In this there are responsibilities we rightly carry, and also we run the risk of being obsessed with them, leaving little room for anyone or anything else.
Then there are the various causes that we take on, issues of social justice, the care for the poor, environmental issues, racial inequality, religious tolerance, unemployment, and the list goes on. All these worthy causes demand time, commitment both personal and financial, and each of them can become the central focus of our daily lives. In fact, we need people to be actively engaged on all these fronts in order for society to function well and justly.
We can build organizations around any one of these and devote our energies each day to them. They can easily become our life and determine the shape of our identity. The same applies to religious practice. We can become so devoted to our prayers and various rituals that they become the of our attention at the expense of other responsibilities we might have. Church can take over our lives as we take satisfaction from bombarding God with countless prayers.
The world is awash with spirituality of many , spiritual practices, techniques, courses and exercises. One’s own personal growth and peace may well be at the centre of these with all its obvious limitations. With all the cases mentioned above, we run the risk of having our own self at the centre of things. Our satisfaction, identity and sense of well-being can become what’s driving us.
Through the pursuit of any of these paths however, there is good to be found, sometimes great good. While ever our self and our own need to be needed or satisfied is driving our efforts there will be something missing and any satisfaction we enjoy will be temporary and unfinished. It’s only love that brings the human heart to completion and it is in Jesus that we find that love perfectly expressed and modelled for us.
Allowing Jesus into the heart of things to the point where love shapes our commitment to whatever cause we choose, offers us the way to the deepest of peace. Being in communion with him every day through prayer can become the engine room for all our projects. The energy and love he inspires in us means that we are focused always beyond ourselves. Our own needs take second place to those of the world around us and love rather than ego gets to shape who we are.
Having Jesus at the of things does not mean that we become overly religious, blaring out our religious convictions to all who pass by. Jesus is best seen in lives of quiet service, acts of reconciliation, the seeking after justice, the feeding of the poor. He doesn’t draw attention to himself but simply breathes among and through us, his gentle Spirit of Love.
There is great joy and freedom to be found in his presence, as our own survival here is not at stake, nor does our ego need feeding. He lives at the heart of the mission of each of us and at the heart of our mission as Church. It doesn’t cost us much to let him in!
Kevin Bates, SM is a Marist priest and parish priest of Hunters Hill Catholic Parish in Sydney. He is well known across Australia for his music and engaging with school and parish communities within the Catholic Church and in other churches. More info at www.kevinbates.com.au