Archpastoral Reflections - February 2008
We began this series of reflections on the topic of “renewal” with a reflection on the renewal of the heart. We now turn to examining the renewal of the spirit, which is the touchstone of our intellectual development as persons, of our fellowship with one another, and of our ability to be in genuine communion with God and His Truth. What precisely do we mean by “renewal” of the spirit?
This question is best answered by observing the characteristics which a person with a renewed spirit displays. We may first observe that a person who demonstrates a renewed spirit is one who exhibits clarity, purity, and piety in thinking. That is to say, a person who demonstrates a renewed spirit does not exhibit confused thinking. Rather, such a person’s thought is characterized by the disciplined and regimented manner of approaching abstract concepts and communicating them with elegant simplicity to others. A person who demonstrates a renewed spirit recognizes that his intellectual abilities are gifts from God, and, therefore, he is mindful of the dangers of being arrogant or prideful due to his intellectual abilities. Instead, he values humility and views a keen intellect as a gift that God provides to him not to advance himself, but to serve others.
Second, a person with a renewed spirit is someone who thinks and acts properly with others. He consciously remembers that relationships with others are to be treasured and valued. Such a person remembers that other human beings are never to be taken advantage of, abused, or neglected. For example, an employer with a renewed spirit does not treat his employees with indignity. A parent with a renewed spirit does not neglect his child. A team member with a renewed spirit does not take personal credit for work that he knows others are doing, but he rejoices for others in the collective results that emerge.
Third, a person with a renewed spirit functions properly in being with God. Such a person is able to balance the stress of work and life issues by knowing that God is a real and constant source of strength. He reaches out to God in prayer on a daily basis, and he is not afraid to raise the question of faith or to express his faith with others. He knows that God is active and omnipresent in all arenas of life, pouring forth his peace and serenity.
Finally, as we ponder these three attributes of a person with a renewed spirit, we also consider that the “renewal of the spirit,” unlike some activities such as the pursuit of an education or the building of one’s physical strength through exercise, is not the result of human-initiated activity alone. Rather, renewal of the spirit is only achievable through human effort combined with the action of the Holy Spirit. This is the significance of our baptism and chrismation, as affirmed by Saint Peter’s exhortation to the adults of Judea: "be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38).
Through our continued commitment of our lives in faith, the Holy Spirit provides us with a constant source of rejuvenation, dwells within us, allows us to grow as persons, to discover new ideas for the betterment of all humanity, and to enhance our growth as persons in the likeness of God. Thus, unlike other aspects of renewal, “renewal of the spirit” is not a condition that, once obtained, ceases its activity. Rather, it is a state of being that, by the power of the Holy Spirit, imparts to us an ongoing renewal, continually repairing all our human deficiencies, and propelling us to ever-increasing heights and potentials as we grow in our communion with God and His saving truth.
Archbishop of America