'Discipleship' series: A mark of a disciple - Living in the Spirit
Think of a moment when you were sick right before you had to do something important - an exam, an interview, a flight, whatever. Think of that feeling of frustration. At the moment the Church is experiencing that. As a church we need to be OK and we want to be OK, but we're not.
Let's read these words said by Pope Francis:
'Dear brothers and sisters, being the Church, to be the People of God, in accordance with the Father’s great design of love, means to be the leaven of God in this humanity of ours. It means to proclaim and to bring the God’s salvation to this world of ours, so often led astray, in need of answers that give courage, hope and new vigour for the journey. May the Church be a place of God’s mercy and hope, where all feel welcomed, loved, forgiven and encouraged to live according to the good life of the Gospel. And to make others feel welcomed, loved, forgiven and encouraged, the Church must be with doors wide open so that all may enter. And we must go out through these doors and proclaim the Gospel.'
We, as a Church, are supposed to look like that, we as Church probably feel that we are like that; but I don't think people on the street would give Church this same description as Pope Francis. People describe the Church according to the context of the society we live in. Think about our society- its corruption, failed governments, homeless people, lonely people - everything. Now in a church that is called to be the love and hope of the earth, do these things make you feel like a failure?
So what's missing? Why are we getting it wrong when we technically have everything available to us? Why did the early church who had pretty much nothing, have so much?
We talk a lot about evangelism, spreading the Good News and brining people to God but really, unless we become Christ on earth no one is going to believe in our Saviour. What we need, and what is missing, is the spirit of God in our lives.
We need to be living in the Spirit! (title reference *da dum tsss*)
There are two main aspects that come with living in the Spirit : Spiritual birth and spiritual growth.
Experiencing a spiritual birth basically comes down to the difference between knowing God and knowing about God.
Having a deep and personal relationship with God changes everything. If we think we have a relationship with God because we go to Y4J once a week, or because we go to mass on Sundays we've got another thing coming.
The reality is that as humans we're all destined for death. Jesus, however, offers us new life. We don't have to take it; we can choose to refuse it and be destined to death. The choice between life and death however is there, God is there to give us a point to our life.
To experience something we need to experience it ourselves. If I tell you about a life changing experience I had you will know about it but you still wouldn't have experienced it for yourself.
We can't build a relationship with God off of someone elses spiritual birth. Spritual birth is a choice - a choice to say yes to God and a choice to give God a chance.
We can't grow in our spiritual life without the work of a counselor.
The Greek translation of a councelor is actually 'one called alongside to help'. A councelor is not someone who is there to pat your shoulder and comfort you in the tough times. A councelor is someone that walks with you.
Our councelor is the Holy Spirit.
With the help of the Spirit we must grow in four areas of our life:
1) Being More Christlike
When we speak of 'growing' we mean becoming more like Christ. If we don't strive for this then we're not really Christians. Being Christlike does not mean knowing absolutely everything but it means experiencing things. The more we hang out with Jesus the more we become like Him. In fact He doesn't want our actions, He wants us. We don't technically have to do anything because Jesus did it all for us and see that everyday in the eucharist.
Society nowadays makes us feel like we need to be giving off the perfect impression all the time and this need to build up walls translates into the Church. As Christians we must be perfect, we must have no weaknesses, we can never fall to our sin. In fact, God did in fact intend us to be whole and perfect in his image. We, however, are neither of these things but the good news is that God can heal us. The word 'salvation' actually comes from 'salos' which means health so our salvation literally comes from healing. We are flawed but we know what love looks like.
When we let God into the wounded places of our life we receive deep healing and our purpose as human becomes possible. We all try hard to hide our damage but the fact is that if we truly want to grow in the spirit we should know what's going on in the lives of our community members. If not for our sake than for the sake of others - so that our experieinces can help other people grow too.
Take a seconds to think about these three questions:
a) what's the damage in your life?
b) how many people know about it?
c) how many of those people are members of your community?
We need to actively take steps towards healing by letting our masks down, giving everything to God through confession, spiritual direction and personal prayer and sharing our damage with each other.
The Greek word for worship actually means 'coming towards a kiss'. Think of that moment - the excitement, the expectation...now try and see it in contrast to your relationship with God. The purpose of Christianity is to love our God with all our hearts. We should be as exctied to worship God as we would be when we're coming towards a kiss. When we worship God the Holy Spirit is able to move in us.
Worship is not a 'once a week' kind of thing. It's not simply those 6 songs we sing at the beginning of a meeting. Worship is a lifestyle; it is every day, all the time and in everything.
Generosity is a great mark of the Spirit's presence. The early church was built on foundations of generosity. They shared everything with each other - both physically and emotionally. This is what we should be doing.
- The annual income of the worlds 10 richest people is enough to end global poverty 4 times over.
- As the number of traumatic events experienced during childhood increases, the risk for the following health problems in adulthood increases: depression; alcoholism; drug abuse; suicide attempts; heart and liver diseases; pregnancy problems; high stress; uncontrollable anger; and family, financial, and job problems.
What are we doing about these things? Even on the family-scale of things?
Generosity goes a long way. Generosity is not giving the small change at the bottom of your purse to your church on Sunday, it's not even giving a crisp €10 bill. Generosity is a lifestyle. Generosity can be uncomfortable and genoristy is hard but generosity is where the Spirit is. If we are growing in the Spirit we need to be growing in generosity.
the point of all this is that we need to have a spiritual bith and after that we need to grow. We can't stay stuck in that one experience.
Jesus' call to his disciples is absolute.
You give all, or you give nothing. You want it all, or you want none of it.