May 2, 2011

Born of the Spirit

Jesus' conversation with Nicodemus in John 3 comes around as the gospel for today.

"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)

I can remember puzzling over these words when I was younger in the faith. I needed time; their meaning could only be revealed to me in the course of the journey. Over the years this passage has become so dear to me that now it's my current choice for the gospel at my funeral Mass.

I imagine that anyone whom God has invited into a devout life has asked the question of God, 'Why me?' Why do I have the grace of the mercy of this vocation, the gift of this invitation to consecrated life, the joy of the priesthood? As time goes on I have less and less of anything that could be called an answer to this question. The wind of the Spirit, I don't know where it came from.

Nor do I know where it's going. For the convert, God always remains something of an adventititous character; in the poverty of our spiritual vision He seems to have shown up at a certain moment with a freshness that doesn't seem to fade. The journey, analogously, retains its experimental character; it is a journey of discovery, of the rediscovery that makes itself present to us as revelation.

Where is the wind of the Spirit blowing? I don't know. I don't know how to diagnose the ills of the Church. I don't know what the Order is supposed to do next, and I don't know what I'm supposed to do with this degree that I'm working on, or if I will even be able to complete it. But this isn't the important thing. Jesus says, "you do not know...where it goes."

What matters is that we can hear the sound of the wind in the present moment. Jesus assures us of this; we can hear the sound that the Spirit makes. What else is this but prayer? What is prayer but the opening of the heart and mind so that the Spirit may breeze through and become the Breath of God breathing in us?

The Spirit blows where it wills, and I don't know where it came from or where it's going. But I don't need to know these things. All I need is to break open my selfish heart and let go of my distracted mind so that the wind of the Spirit might have a chance to breathe freely in me. If I can hear the sound of that happening, even if it be ever so obscure or faint, that's all I need.


mtjofmcap said...

I think you really hit the nail on the head here, Brother.

We can't possibly know "what to do" in this Church of ours.

Perhaps, as another friar we both know has said to me in the past, the Capuchin contribution -- beyond anything else -- to the conversations is prayer.

Unknown said...

you know, that's the first time I've encountered that in Scripture. It was a "whoa" moment for me. Awesome stuff!

It reminds me of St. Faustina's diary of Divine Mercy:

"O present moment, you belong to me, whole and entire.
I desire to use you as best I can.
And although I am weak and small,
You grant me the grace of your omnipotence."

The eternal present is something pretty awesome; yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift - that is why it is called the present.

The gift of the Holy Spirit, brother.

for narnia said...

this is such an inspiring post, Fr. C! an "open heart and mind," as you mention, is what it's about. personally, i find that living with as open a heart, mind & soul as possible, i enjoy the sweetness of the Lord in little things. just last week, instead of going home one evening after work (even though i wa tired), i went to a nearby church to hear a talk on "what Pentecost means for the Church today." i didn't give in to my fatigue, but remained open to going to the church. well, when i arrived at the church, as i got out of the car, i saw a white "dove-like" bird flying in the air and there was a beautiful rainbow in the sky, too. is that a surprise of the Holy Spirit or what? PAX! ~tara t~