Arm in Arm with the Spirit

This month’s Newsletter is dedicated to our Characteristic Dimensions, our four directions in ministry. They offer the guidelines and directives for our mission—God’s mission—which is enlivened by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit both enlivens and unites us to walk, and sometimes run, arm in arm with the Spirit.

Chief among these four dimensions, and at the core of the other three, is “Mission.” It is the ministry around which everything revolves. It is enlightened by the Word of God, the bible. It is focused on the world in which we live, on all that God created and loves. Through the spoken word in language and by every mediated form, it is building the world into God’s kingdom.

In and through all of this, mission in our SVD context means joining together in dialogue, practicing it, doing it, and constantly continuing it. It means letting the Spirit guide us by joining us together. This is our constant mode of being. It is a theological dialogue of contextual theology. It affects everything we are and do. It affects our own personal struggles and those of the peoples and nations we serve. In all of this we are joined with the Word. In our commitment to dialogue and Christ’s mission, we are working together in faith seeking understanding, and promoting our characteristic actions.

Such a mission puts as great demands on us as it did the apostles. Such a mission must be grounded on a constant renewal of our community life. Walking together in respect and trust is not a goal but a foundation. A commitment to sincere brotherly love is essential. This Christ-centered dialogue is a messy business but the only way to discover where the Spirit is at work. It needs to be there in every community. We need to bring it to our district meetings and province assemblies and chapters. It must be there in our zonal meetings. How can it flow out to the wider community if it is not first in us and through us?

When we do this, we can be assured that the Holy Spirit will guide us. The Spirit invites us to dance in perichoresis. This begins with a “dancing” community. Then the Holy Spirit invites us to take our first step in prophetic dialogue where our community dance invites in those in the wider community. When we pray, contemplate, and work together, we are able to see how the Holy Spirit is working in us. It enables us to do mission inter-gentes. It enables us to discover the simple presence of Wisdom in our lives, in other religions, and in our ministries. Then, we are prompted to share our belief and spirituality in dialogue. We find ways to image Christ in other cultures and new ways of using the internet and social media. We are able to imagine new ways to offer hope to those in despair. We are able to lift up the truth, unmask injustice and greed, and spread the Word that makes us “fools” for His love.

Over the past months Pope Francis has started a commission to prepare for the future Church. At its core is the open dialogue of Synodality, which will bring all groups together in the Holy Spirit. Mission is simply us joining the Spirits’ work. But it must respond to real issues. We get to know what these are by being together. When we are committed and rely on each other, when together we rely on the love of Christ, when we are rooted in the Word and practicing prophetic dialogue, then we can be confident that the Spirit is with us. Then we create our future. Our future as SVDs is in open dialogue. This is the key to our discerning God’s mission for our time. The key to a fertile group imagination under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Wisdom is in the community as a whole. Does the Spirit need help? Yes, in a way. It is simply that God cannot work alone – God is plurality in unity. God works in community and so must we. We must be united. So, let us walk arm in arm with the Holy Spirit.

– Jon Kirby SVD

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