«Spirituality» is an unfortunate word. For many it can only signify something useless, far from real life. What good is it? What we’re interested in is what’s concrete and practical, material things, not spiritual ones.
However the «spirit» of a person is something valuable in modern society, since it indicates what’s deepest and most decisive in that person’s life: the passion that enlivens us, our basic inspiration, what spreads to others, what a person goes about putting forth in the world.
The spirit breathes in our projects and our commitments, it shapes our horizon of values and of our hopes. As our spirit goes, so goes our spirituality. And so goes our religion and our whole life too.
The passages that the first Christians have left us show that they live their faith in Jesus Christ as a powerful «spiritual movement». They feel themselves possessed by Jesus’ Spirit. One only becomes Christian when that person has been baptized with that Spirit. «The one who doesn’t have the Spirit of Christ doesn’t belong to Christ». Moved by that Spirit, they live everything in a whole new way.
The first thing to radically change is their experience of God. They no longer live with a «spirit of slaves», beaten down by fear of God, but with a «spirit of sons and daughters» who feel themselves loved unconditionally and without limit by a Father. Jesus’ Spirit shouts out within them from the bottom of their heart: Abba, Father! This experience is the main one everyone should meet in the communities of Jesus.
Their way of living out their religion changes also. No longer do they feel themselves «prisoners of the law», of norms and precepts, but freed by love. Now they know what it is to live with «a new spirit», listening to the call of love, and not living «the old letter», worried about fulfilling religious obligations. This is the climate that we all need to be careful of above all, and ought to promote in our Christian communities if we want to live as Jesus does.
They also discover the true content of the worship owed to God. What pleases the Father aren’t rituals empty of love, but ones that we live «in spirit and in truth». The authentic «spiritual worship» of Christians is their life lived out through Jesus’ spirit and through the truth of the Gospel.
We must never forget what Paul of Tarsus said to his communities: «Don’t stifle the Spirit». A church stifled, empty of Christ’s spirit, can’t live or share his true Newness. It can’t taste or spread his Good News. Taking care of Christian spirituality is reviving our religion.
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf