Finding the Spirit

God’s Spirit is at work in you when you develop in the full richness
of your personhood, just as it is when you make the most of all your gifts.

 JOURNEYING WITH YOUTH 

By Fr Ross Jones SJ, Rector of St Aloysius’ College, Milsons Point
 
Sundays post-Easter are jam-packed with some major feasts in the liturgical cycle – The Ascension, Pentecost, then Trinity Sunday and Corpus Christi. Thereafter we return again to “Ordinary Time”. On Sunday 19 May, we celebrated Pentecost on the Rozelle Campus with parents, staff and the boys. The remembrance of the coming of God’s Spirit upon the community, as Jesus promised. A Spirit of God’s Love-of-such-intensity that it becomes a Person. A member of the Trinity.

I shared the following thoughts with the Year Niners at their Mass: 
 
So what is this Spirit? Simply put, it is God’s grace, God’s presence and (if you like) God’s energy. When do we see God’s Spirit at work? You know as well as I do. Because you experience it daily. And I think you also know those situations when, sadly, we squeeze God’s Spirit out of our life, out of our daily routine, or out of our community. 
 
God’s Spirit is at work in you when you develop in the full richness of your personhood. When you make the most of all with which you have been gifted. God’s Spirit is a creative Spirit and is at work in your imagination, your dreaming, your sense of wonder, and in every engagement in music and art and composition. God’s Spirit is shaping your character when you bear responsibility to do good. 
 
The same Spirit breaks through the self-centredness of our lives in relation to other people. When we go out to them as “men for others”. The Spirit gifts us with hope-against-hope when challenges come our way. It is a steady influence which allows us to face the occasional shallowness and mindlessness of the daily rush and bustle with patience and with humour. It is a healing Spirit that helps us to build bridges when relationships are threatened. The healing Spirit is there when you have a falling-out with mates. It gives us courage to make amends. 
 
God’s Spirit teaches us to be silent rather than spread evil abroad. At the same time, it makes you bold to speak up when truth is at stake. God’s Spirit is tangible when you feel bonded with team-mates after a deserved win, and especially after a disappointing loss. When you feel rightly proud to belong to what we call this Aloys Family. “The spirit of Aloys”, you call it. 
 
Don’t be misled by the likes of the Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens of this world, those reductionists and rationalists who, in side-pocketing God, will tell you that all those experiences of God’s good Spirit are just a bunch of chemical transmitters and endorphins rattling round in your brains, controlling your behaviour. Not so. 
 
You are much more than complex machines and slaves to your genes. You are individually created and loved by God. Made in God’s image. Gifted and graced by God’s Spirit, which is alive in your hearts. A Spirit which acts when we give it space. 
 
You know, St Ignatius used to talk a lot about the work of the Spirit in our lives. Especially when speaking about choices in life, about ways of acting. He says, firstly, there are good Spirits speaking within us. They direct us towards what is good. First among them is God’s Holy Spirit. But they include also the same good Spirit speaking to us from those who know us best, and whom we trust. These are spirits worth listening to for our own good, our own fulfilment, and our own happiness. 
 
Then there is what Ignatius calls the Evil Spirit, which we sometimes call “the false voice”. That spirit leads us away from our true selves. It takes us down paths which are destructive of self and of others. They might be paths that at first seem alluring, exciting, novel or fashionable. But those voices come from the Evil Spirit. They are voices which come from some parts of social media that are so destructive, so false, that so cheapen human dignity, that are not worthy of you. There are also false spirits that sometimes come from your peers, pressuring you to the less-than-good, to make wrong choices. They can also come from within yourself and they invariably strike us at our weakest points, as Ignatius reminds us. Such false voices that might say, “Don’t try for this, you’ll just fail.” or “Don’t volunteer for that – it’s too demanding, or it’s just for nerds.” or “What would my mates say?” or “Nobody does that.” 
 
Pentecost Sunday reminds us that there is a Good Spirit abroad. Not just a feeling, but a Person. One of the Trinity. “Our Advocate”, Jesus called him. What is an advocate? An advocate is someone who stands by you, who speaks up for you, who points out your strengths (and reminds you of them). That is the voice to listen to. That’s the Spirit to nourish you. 
 
We live in this once-called “Great South Land of the Holy Spirit”. Let’s live in our nation, in our school community, and in our family, believing that still to be true. Sift the true Spirit from the false spirits in your lives. Remember who you are and what you want to become. 
 
Then partner with God’s Spirit to take you there. 

This article was originally published in a recent edition of ‘The Gonzagan’ newsletter for St Aloysius’ College, Milsons Point. 

Banner image by Borzywoj, Canva