April 09, 2013

MISSION MATTERS: How's the Weather?

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The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, 
but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes;
so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit. 
- John 3:8

In today's Gospel, Jesus tells Nicodemus and all of us about the work of the Spirit of God in our lives, using an ancient concept of how the Spirit works to explain God's direction in human history.

Throughout the Old Testament, the Spirit is seen in the way wind blows, Jesus suggests. Sometimes this Spirit is powerful enough to shake mountains and move boulders, but mostly God works in the world like a gentle breeze. (1 Kings 19:11-13)

If you have walked by the new Center for Global Citizenship with its many flags of many nations of the world, you will have noticed that at times the flags fly in one direction, and at other times they flutter in other directions. At times, some seem to be stretched taut, while others hang limp and calm. So seems the winds of a St. Louis spring, so seems the Spirit of God in our lives.

Like the winds on our campus, God's Spirit does not always fit our expectations. Like the winter winds in our faces, we feel the biting cold that much more, the Spirit of God seems sometimes to push us against the directions we think we want to move. At other times, the wind at our backs helps us move along with less effort. Like the wind, we cannot control the Spirit of God in our lives, though we try in many ways.

St. Ignatius of Loyola learned the way the Spirit of God can be used to steer a course to joy and personal freedom. He taught us that by being aware of how the Spirit directs each of us, we can learn that God is not trying to lead us to some place outside ourselves, but is nudging us to greater freedom in ourselves, a way of proceeding which is fundamentally where our happiness lies. By not trying to control the directions the Spirit of God moves us, but moving with His Spirit, we find ourselves, more often than not, more peaceful and joyful, more free. As we learn to experience the movement of the Spirit in our lives, we work with God's directions and walk less and less into the harsh wind.

As Ignatius taught us, the more we trust that God loves us enough to live and die for us in the past, we also know that He continues to want the best for us. With that knowledge then, the less we will try to control the Spirit of God; the more we can work to follow these gentle directions, to allow the Spirit of God to move and lead and direct and guide us. If we remember that God's plans for us are aimed at our ultimate happiness, our real freedom, then we can begin not to fight the direction of the Spirit, but allow it to give us direction. When we remember that God is in each of us, we can find that the will of God is not random, but has a purpose which is also part of each of us.

Let us pray that each of us may learn to sail better through our lives, that each of us will learn to use the breezes of the Spirit of God to direct us closer to Him ... closer to each other ... and ultimately closer to who we are in our being.

A. M. D. G.

D. Highberger, S.J.
P. Stark, S.J.

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