In last chapter of “The Joy of the Gospel” Pope Francis wants to inspire us, to put us on to a spirituality that might carry us through the rough slog that being an apostle of evangelization can be. Inspire is a good word for this chapter and for this month when we celebrate Pentecost, since the Pope emphasizes the role of the Holy Spirit dwelling in our hearts. The Spirit inspires us to be images of God and sets us on fire with the desire to cooperate with the great work of God whose dream is for a world where all human beings live as images of God, in harmony with God, with one another and with the whole of creation. While Francis stresses the importance of prayer, of conversation with God as our creator and friend, to keep our zeal alive, he also makes clear that meeting other people with openness and affection and caring for those in need also is necessary to keep our zeal and joy alive. “To be evangelizers of souls, we need to develop a spiritual taste for being close to people’s lives and to discover that this is itself a source of greater joy. Mission is at once a passion for Jesus and a passion for his people.” He then writes that Jesus “wants to make use of us to get closer to his beloved people.”
Isn’t that an amazing statement? Jesus needs us now to get close to the people he loves. St. Teresa of Avila once said something like this: Jesus has no hands but ours, no hearts but ours, no lips but ours to reach those he loves. There is a profound truth here about the vulnerability of God. God cannot have what God wants without our cooperation. God has desired every human being into existence and wants every one of us to become a friend of God and a cooperator in the great work of the Kingdom. If we refuse, God’s dream is not realized. Every time we greet another human being with affection, feed the hungry, visit the sick or imprisoned, just say a kind word to a stranger, etc., we are helping God to bring about the Kingdom. It’s a challenging, awesome and very joyful calling, isn’t it, to be desired by God. By accepting the calling, we make God happy, and we discover what makes us most happy.
Come, Holy Spirit! Continue to inspire us and give us joy!
Fr. Bill Barry, SJ is a Spiritual Reflector for IVC New England. He entered the Society of Jesus in 1950 and was ordained in 1962. He earned a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Michigan in 1968. He has taught at the University of Michigan, Weston Jesuit School of Theology, and Boston College. Bill is the author or co-author of 20 books, including The Practice of Spiritual Direction, God and You, Finding God in All Things, Spiritual Direction and the Encounter with God, Who Do You Say I Am?, Contemplatives in Action, and A Friendship like No Other. For more on his writing please visit Loyola Press.