Discerning the Way

Mar 24, 2013 | Field Notes

Last week I was able to animate a conversation on engaged spirituality at one of Vancouver’s community centre. It was, as one participant recognized, a rare event for we so seldom find the topic of spirituality discussed in such places. It is, of course, common that spirituality be talked about in churches, schools, colleges and universities, and retreat centres. But, rarely do we find venues in the workplace or in community centres for such a topic. The organizers are to be congratulated for arranging the evening.

One of the things that impressed me about the evening was the curiosity of those who took part. Perhaps they were simply intrigued by the topic of engaged spirituality. Certainly, their questions and attentiveness revealed their inquiring hearts. I came away from the evening confirmed in my sense that there is a hunger for the spiritual in our world. The ways in which this hunger is understood and fed are many and this is as it should be. The challenge is to follow a way that is appropriate for our times.

In order to discern an appropriate way I find it important to pay attention. Paying attention includes listening to my heart; listening to the stories of others; and listening to the needs of our age, which include the socio-economic, political, and environmental areas of life. All these areas of life are connected. If I forget one area I limit my spiritual breadth. But, if I pay attention, if I listen with love to the wide spectrum of concerns, then I find myself drawn towards a healthy approach to life.

This is why I like the way of engaged spirituality for it balances the inner and the outer, the contemplative and the active, the personal and the social dimensions of life. It calls me to embrace the whole and not simply a part. It calls me move forward toward the whole and not to be satisfied with only a piece. In my understanding, this pull forward is the pull towards the fullness of life.

In the Christian community we find ourselves in Holy Week, the week in which we commemorate the journey of Jesus into Jerusalem, to his death, and to his resurrection. It is a journey from being concerned with only a partial life to being concerned with the whole of life. It is an invitation to allow the personal, the relational, and the structural dimensions of life to be gathered together within what is called the Paschal Mystery of life and death. There is something very human about this journey. In the midst of everyday life it is worth discerning where I am on this journey through life.

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