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Five Spiritual Practices
"They devoted themselves to the apostles' teachings and fellowship, to the breaking of the bread
and the prayers." ACTS 2:42
"Love of God and love of neighbor are inseparable. They form a single commandment. We experience God's love from within, a love which, by its very nature, must then be shared with others." Pope Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est
In our spiritual searching, we think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, without any connection to others. Yet, we are always part of a larger community and our actions always affect others, whether we realize it, pay attention to those affects, or not. The essential meaning of the Greek word Koinonia is community, or fellowship, a spiritual worldview that is somewhat countercultural today. Koinonia is a practice of hospitality that recognizes our connection in Christ. When we truly open ourselves to the needs of others – even for a brief moment in helping a stranger – we are changed. Such radical hospitality is rooted (from the Latin radix) in the Gospel commandment that compels us to love God, and also to love our neighbor. (Mt. 22:36-40)
Our spiritual life requires the regular practice of seeking wisdom and understanding. The disciples called Jesus “Teacher” and we read in the scriptures that the early community devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching. Didache (Greek) names our desire to go deeper, to hear the inner voice that directs our heart. The WORD is revealed to us in many ways: through the scriptures, through the writings of the prophets and mystics, through the witness of holy men and women living as disciples in all ages, through experiences that teach us, through friends who offer insights, through moments of discovery, through suffering and difficult times, through reading, contemplation, meditation, and all types of prayer. Ultimately, the source is the same, for God’s WORD goes forth and does not return until it accomplishes in us what is intended.
Our spiritual life requires time for reflection and prayer, but sometimes we limit our understanding of prayer to what we say or do in a church, or in personal prayer. In fact, our whole being prays when we serve others. The first disciples understood Leiturgia (Greek) as service or worship – the “work of the people.” Prayer, then, is not only our petition, but our response to the covenant of God’s love. We need to pray ALL ways and ALWAYS in gratitude for the gift of life. Through prayer we become more aware of our life in the Body of Christ. As we become more conscious of our connectedness, we realize there are many situations in the world for which we cannot physically serve to make a difference. But we can pray – for those in the midst of suffering, illness, tragedy, violence, poverty, and so many other needs.
Our spiritual life helps us reconcile and embrace the fullness of our living. The Good News is not just good news, but all the stories of grace and blessing – the books being written in our very lives. We proclaim, Kerygma (Greek), Christ crucified and his being raised from the dead by the Father. That is the paschal mystery – we come to life by letting go. We must consider all as blessing, for nothing happens without God's concurrence. With the wisdom of years we come to a deeper understanding of how God walks with us – is concurrent – in all things great and small. Like the disciples making haste for Emmaus, we sometimes fail to recognize the Christ in strangers who accompany us on our journey. Along the way, we discover the fullness of blessing. Not all of us have been given the gift of preaching, but all of us share the responsibility to tell stories of God's abundant blessings.
The full understanding of the spiritual life comes when we believe that our unique gift is necessary for the Body of Christ. Diaconia (Greek) is our awareness of serving God by caring for our fellow creatures. Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman said it well: "God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission – I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next." Throughout our lives we discover our particular gifts and talents. Some of us are gifted in music, in art, or in science. Others are talented in organization, in physical ability or sport. Some of us are blessed with a sense of humor, with the ability to listen and give comfort, or in reconciling. When we use our God-given talents and abilities to the fullest, we give praise to the Giver of All Gifts. Miracles happen when people realize they have gifts in abundance that others need.
The Five Loaves
Miracles happen when we share with others the gifts we have in abundance.