Pentecost: Fear of the Spirit, Part 4

Part four of Karl Rahner’s Homily, which I began earlier this week.

If, then, all are asked if they are not afraid of the spirit, this does not mean striving after the golden mean with the secret intention of smoothing everything out so that all remains as before and each one sticks to his opinion and attitude. The prayer to the Holy Spirit, the appeal to leave everything to him, means rather a readiness to admit into the life the incalculable, the new that becomes old, the old becoming new’ it often means having no clearly worked out answer in the concrete situation, but with a secret confidence on which adequate reflection is impossible, leaving the existing and enduring question itself to count as the answer; it means continuing, because the past provides enough reason for hope, but in fact only for hope.

The word of the Holy Spirit does not provide prescriptions which we merely need to carry out. It commands boldness, experiment, decision, which cannot be justified by general principles (the law and the letter). The word of the Holy Spirit is the question to each individual in his irreplaceable uniqueness as to whether he has the courage to venture, to experiment, to endure the opposition of the great mass (whether traditionalist or progressive); whether he trusts in something which in the last resort cannot be rationally proved, but which is of course supremely rational wisdom–that is, in the Holy Spirit.

With this courage everyone in the church must do his own part, even though at first sight he is not in agreement with what the other does for his part. Each must do this conscious of the fact that her gift and her mission are different from the Spirit’s gift to others. But if the unity of the Spirit in the variety of his gifts is to be maintained, there are in fact many gifts. An antagonism, a dispute, among these gifts in the church simply cannot be avoided. For if these gifts were unambiguously and palpably already reconciled for us, there would be no need of a Holy Spirit who is of himself this unity; and, because not comprehensible and controllable by us, this unity escapes us.

This duty exist for us only if we blast open what the Spirit has given us for our own — so that we do this and not something else — in the loving hope that all these gifts are one, even though we cannot see into and control this unity, even though we must bear witness to our faith in this incomprehensible unity in terms of the sort of unity that we ourselves can achieve in humility and a willingness to adapt ourselves.

But how this courage in regard to our own gift of the Holy Spirit and the will for the unity of gifts in the church can coexist at the same time is in the very last resort once again not a question to be solved by the principles of systematic reasoning, but the gift of the Holy Spirit who gives himself to us in a way that does not place Him under our control. We should have no fear of this Spirit, we should admit him, each of us being critical in regard to ourselves. Then the Spirit’s improvisation, which we call the church, is more likely to succeed than seeking to form the church only according to the principles which we have taken under our own control.

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About smkelly8

writer, teacher, movie lover, traveler, reader View all posts by smkelly8

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