Archbishop John Dew
In preparation for Pentecost last Sunday (May 27) I was reflecting on the last two lines of the reading we heard from St Paul to the Galatians (5:16-25), ‘You cannot belong to Christ Jesus unless you crucify all self-indulgent passion and desires. Since the Spirit is our life, let us be directed by the Spirit’ (24-25).
I was really reflecting on the whole reading, but for some reason those last lines challenged me in a new way to allow my life to be directed by the Spirit. It is a wonderful piece of scripture which asks us to choose the way of the Spirit or that of self-indulgence.
Rather than selfishness, self-indulgence means ‘going it alone’ without relying on the Spirit of God.
We know that we cannot, by ourselves, produce those fruits St Paul writes about. It is the Spirit of Jesus who nurtures in us love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, trustfulness and self-control. If we try to ‘go it alone’ we are doomed to failure, remember that Jesus also says, when talking about the vine and the branches, ‘apart from me you can do nothing.’
If we really want those fruits of the Spirit to be produced in our lives and to be led by the Spirit, we need times of peace and calm. I was reading recently about what has been described as the calmest place on earth. Scientists think they have pinpointed this very place. It might be thought of as the mother of all ‘getaways’, but don’t make plans to go there just yet.
The difficulty is that it’s not a gorgeous tropical island but an icy plateau in Antarctica. It is situated several hundred miles from the South Pole and carries the alluring and far from appealing name of Ridge A. The atmosphere is so still that stars don’t twinkle there. Its air is 100 times drier than the Sahara’s and its average winter temperature of -70°C makes it the coldest place on earth, too.
Ridge A may be the calmest and quietest place on earth, but the average person can’t go there. However, when we are looking for a calm refuge from life’s stress, we don’t have to budge from where we are. We find peace and calm in our hearts, or we don’t find it at all. If the Spirit is our life and if we let ourselves be directed by the Spirit of Jesus, we will find God’s gift of peace.
One of the surest things to disturb one’s peace of mind is a relationship gone sour – one where communication has ceased. Communicating well calms the heart. Note that the first effect of God’s Spirit coming upon the apostles is their new ability to communicate without barriers to all and sundry.
In less dramatic fashion this is true today, too. Nobody has much difficulty with understanding the language of goodness, kindness and love. A smile says the same thing in any language. It doesn’t need translation. Neither does a helping hand. They might seem like little things, but they are the things – the acts, the words, the smiles and kindness – which do make a difference and bring Jesus to the world around us. It’s not preachers that we need today to spread God’s word but ‘reachers’ – people who reach out to others whoever and wherever they are.
‘Since the Spirit is our life, let us be directed by the Spirit.’
I wish to express my deep and sincere gratitude to all those who responded to the initiative to pray for my intentions over the 24-hour period from 9am Saturday May 26 until 9am on Pentecost Sunday. Over this time as I prepared for different events in the cathedral I was both humbled and deeply appreciative when I saw how many people responded to the invitation to come and pray.
To those who took the initiative to organise this time of prayer, especially to Michael Woodnutt, and to all those who came to pray, please accept my sincere thanks. All those prayers are much appreciated and I wish to assure you that it does make an enormous difference to know that, as your archbishop, I am supported in prayer.
With prayerful thanks to you all.