A Gift Of God – The 5th Plenary Council of Australia

Listening to what the Spirit is saying

What is the mark of the Holy Spirit?… of God’s Spirit? In the gift of the Plenary Council, we have a blessed time to recognise this answer. This week we ask and listen: What is the Spirit saying to the Church in Australia?

These days are a time of genuine excitement! They are a wonderful opportunity, days, months and years which echo the promise of a God who has always called to his people. The Second Vatican Council reminded the world of how God “continues to converse” with his Body, the Church (Dei Verbum, 8). Through the graced instrument of the Plenary Council, the Church enters more intensely into this divine-human dialogue.

The Holy Spirit speaks to all the baptised, yet history shows, we can often hastily reply, sometimes over many years, or even lifetimes: ‘Ok… we’ve got it from here!’

We form our own ideas and paths, passionately, and sometimes becoming irascibly defendant of them.

Yet, I think now of Jesus’ encounter with the deaf man in Mark’s Gospel (7:31-37). And while unsure of he’s healing methods – putting his fingers into the man’s ears, spitting and touching the man’s tongue – Jesus’ actions reveal something intensely personal about the ways of God, the ways of his Holy Spirit, which can not be forgotten.

In this encounter, its not so much the fact that Jesus heals the man, but the way he chooses to heal. He could have simply spoken, as with Simon Peter’s mother in law, but he reaches out and touches. His presence is physical, gentle and intensely personal; even taking the man away from the crowd. God’s way, and the mark of his way, is gentleness, patience and clarity. 

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The same is true of God in all three Persons, Father, Son and Spirit. It is the way in which the Spirit speaks which confirms his presence.

Pope Francis is one who speaks the truth in charity, patiently, with no intention to tear down, in order to make his point, but build up – a sure mark of the Holy Spirit. 

Even when the Spirit speaks challenging truths which melt and mould us, it is marked by love and generosity, not agitation.

Being the Church for all, being Catholic (the word itself meaning universal), we need to listen to all… not just the squeaky wheel who shouts the longest and loudest, but the whole body; the wisdom of the young, the elderly, the single, the married, all equally.

All ‘wheels’ should get the oil, so to speak – the Oil of the Spirit.

The plenary is a meeting of Christ’s whole body, what Augustine’s calls Totus Chritus (the Whole Christ), indeed the word ‘plenary’ itself implies, all.

What an opportunity to pause and listen this coming week, as a complete Body. The Holy Spirit is guiding us, as active here and now as on the first day of Pentecost. He challenges us, melts us, moulds us, and fills us, but it is always the way in which he does so that manifests his presence – unity, patience and hope. One that builds up, and does not leave the other behind. 

Saint Paul guides us along the plenary path: ‘lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.’ Eph 4:1-6



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