November 4: Disoriented in the Spirit

The missionary, the evangelist, that Pope Francis is writing for needs a supernatural source of strength to continue in the mission. “Keeping our missionary fervour alive,” he writes, “calls for firm trust in the Holy Spirit, for it is he who ‘helps us in our weakness’ (Rom 8:26). But this generous trust has to be nourished, and so we need to invoke the Spirit constantly. He can heal whatever causes us to flag in the missionary endeavour.”

We find this passage in the section on the power of the Resurrection. Earlier, he had already written that nature itself reflects that “vital power,” in the way it renews itself. “Christ’s resurrection everywhere calls forth seeds of that new world; even if they are cut back, they grow again, for the resurrection is already secretly woven into the fabric of this history, for Jesus did not rise in vain.”

It is the Holy Spirit that does the weaving. Sometimes the interlacing of different threads can be dizzying. “It is true that this trust in the unseen can cause us to feel disoriented: it is like being plunged into the deep and not knowing what we will find. I myself have frequently experienced this. Yet there is no greater freedom than that of allowing oneself to be guided by the Holy Spirit, renouncing the attempt to plan and control everything to the last detail, and instead letting him enlighten, guide and direct us, leading us wherever he wills. The Holy Spirit knows well what is needed in every time and place. This is what it means to be mysteriously fruitful!”

At a time when the Pope’s emphasis on mercy and compassion has caused cultural conservatives to worry about drift and disorientation, this twofold confession is a forceful reminder: first, that Pope Francis has himself “frequently experienced” this plunging sensation, and second, that the Holy Spirit “knows well what is needed.”

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