Sunday, June 5, 2022
1 Corinthians 12:3-7, 12-13 or Romans 8:8-17
John 20:19-23 or John 14:15-16, 23-26
Today I live at a Milwaukee downtown parish. The 10-story office building next door has been empty for the past three or four years and mostly so even before that. A year ago, the current owners began the process of turning it into apartments for the nearby students from Milwaukee School of Engineering. So last summer, the clanging and banging began ricocheting as they gutted all 10 floors and removed all of the walls and duct work, sliding it down planks into gaping dumpsters eager to be fed. That has been followed by poured concrete being wheeled into the dim caverns during much of the winter months, and loads of cinder blocks most recently, and truckloads of sheetrock hoisted to the top floors. This morning, the beating of jackhammers resounds amid the early morning quiet. Thus far, there seems to be little to see as its windows and my windows gaze into one another’s worlds.
Someone clearly has a vision of what this building might be for the future, if for no other reason than that the former vision has outlived its time. Creating visions of what might be is Spirit-work, not only of buildings but of how we live our lives. At times, it may mean that what once was must be dismantled or even destroyed to make room for the new, though it can be difficult to know when that destruction is of the Spirit and when it is not. Not all destructions are good, though keeping things as they are simply because it has been so may sometimes impede growth and even love. We need to pay attention to the winds of the Spirit.
It all got me to thinking of how most of us have visions for our lives, and how, sometimes as we grow older and perhaps wiser, those visions find themselves being dismantled so that new visions might take shape, not unlike the building next door.
A while back, I found myself talking with some 20-somethings about whatever it is 20-somethings talk about with old retired priests. Somehow, the topic came up about whether it was all right to get drunk. They didn’t see anything wrong with that, they said, as long as one doesn’t drink and drive. That surprised me — it did — and I said so, and that I didn’t mean a few beers but rather drunk-drunk, as in doing something one wouldn’t otherwise do. They still thought it was OK, though with their caveat about drinking and driving. They clearly had a different vision of life than I have.
The point of all this is that somehow, as disciples of Jesus and over the course of our lives, one’s vision of life tends to be dismantled in us so that a vision ala Jesus might begin to take over. At least, that’s the idea of what our faith is about, sort of like the next-door building being reconfigured. It’s discovering that our younger visions of life outlive their time.
It is common these days for many folk to describe themselves as spiritual but not religious. Being spiritual, I suppose, implies having a spirituality, though I find myself musing over what goes into having a spirituality fed by God’s spirit. I think perhaps it’s about nurturing those qualities that define who we are in the inner core of our being, what we once called virtues. It’s about absorbing the lifestyle of Jesus, something that takes a lifetime of living, and then some, if we’re honest.
What I did, then, was to sit down and make a list of what some of those qualities might be. I came up with 20 of them, which surprised me that there could be so many, and probably too many to keep track of in one’s life. But it’s good to think about them once in a while, and about whether or not we really want to become that sort of person.
This is what I came up with: honesty, gentleness, patience, joy, civility, simplicity, mercy, compassion, peace, reverence, obedience, justice, courage, balance, humility, chastity, kindness, generosity, prayerfulness, the common good.
You might not think all of them are virtues, but then think what their opposites would be, and I suspect you’ll begin thinking that these 20 tend to reflect the life Jesus lived. In one way or another, they are some of what goes into having a spirituality, which is also about being Spirit-filled. You no doubt might add others.
It’s probably also a good thing not to be overwhelmed with guilt as one reads over this list. Most of us have a lifetime of trying to give them some legs, and even then we probably have to carry the task over into the next life.
Are there other virtues you would add to the idea of spirituality?
Which on the list surfaced later in your life?