W HEN THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH COMES HE WILL BEAR WITNESS TO ME. Our Lord follows up this consoling promise with the commission to the apostles to bear witness to him in turn. He adds that this witness will have to be made in a hostile environment. They will be slandered, rejected, persecuted, even killed. He states explicitly that he gives them this warning so that they will not be shaken in their confidence when they encounter such opposition. History tells us that his followers took these words to heart and that with the strength imparted by the Spirit they were all able to carry out their mission effectively and to remain faithful to death.
All of us need to recur to these words of our Lord from time to time so that we conform our attitudes and our thinking to its message. Inevitable when we meet with opposition, disfavor, criticism even rejection as we strive to the best of our powers to live according to the Gospel we feel deeply the injustice of life. How can persons of good will fail to understand our intentions? Why is it that people reject our best efforts when they are clearly made in view of their own good? Why do those for whom I have put myself out most prove ungrateful or even turn against me? None of us can escape such feelings once we set out in earnest to serve our Lord actively.
Active charity means taking risks, going out to others, extending our self when opportunity presents itself for doing good. Such efforts are sometimes a source of joy at the favorable even generous response given to them. But often enough we find we are misunderstood and criticized, or that our efforts are treated as an intrusion, or a cause for annoyance. There seems to be a countless variety of reasons why we are rebuffed by persons who had seemed likely to benefit from our attempts to be useful to them.
Each such occasion presents us with an opportunity to grow in trust that the Lord will bring good out of our failure and such suffering as it produces. It is also an opportunity to grow in self knowledge and humility. Often enough it is some defect of our own, such as a lack of tact or prudence or some over hasty manner that contributes something to the poor reception we are given. This only adds to our chagrin. Unless we react to such un-pleasantness with a strong faith and strive to turn it to account as a lesson in patience and humility we can begin to withdraw into our self, and become self-protective in an effort to spare our injured sensibility in the future. If we yield to the temptation to allow feel-ings of bitterness to take root in our spirit, we will be inclined to avoid all such risks in the future.
Matters do not stop there. Resentment, once admitted into the soul, gnaws at the thoughts, and readily devises excuses for not cooperating with others. Specious reasons for avoiding the fulfillment of duties deceive no one but the subject himself. Hurt feel-ings and resentments make one adept at distancing oneself from those who have a right to expect a friendly interaction in the course of daily encounters. Even friendly efforts from concerned brothers and associates meet with rationalizations or outright rebuff, and are treated as unwelcome intrusions. The dynamic of such repressed resentment works gradually to weave a protective cocoon about the person who cherishes this corrosive sentiment. The result is the establishment and maintenance of an emotional isolation. An accompanying hypersensitity to any imagined slight or offence makes the alienation seem a justified response to being misunderstood and unappreciated. After a time no one feels free to approach for fear of stirring up the smoldering fire. Authorities hesitate to make even reasonable demands upon them lest they meet with more excuses or some emotional outburst that make matters worse. How much isolation is created in families and com-munities by such hidden resentments! How greatly some persons exercise an emotional tyranny over those they live with by their displays of hypersensitivity! What could be more foreign to the disciple of Christ than yielding to the temptations of resentment and the sorry satisfactions of temper tantrums! None of us is immune to such temptations on occasion. May the Lord grant we never yield to their seductions.
We have the promise of the Paraclete, the Consoler, the Spirit of truth given by Jesus precisely to enable us to overcome fears and bitterness in the face of rejection and even of persecution. Rather than being shocked or surprised and still less bitter, we are told by our Lord to rejoice, for we are offered an opportunity for suffering for and with the Lord Jesus. Unless we work at such an attitude in the relatively minor disappointments and criticisms that we meet with in our daily dealings with others we can hardly expect to be led by the Spirit into the realm of truth when we take delight in the mysteries of God's love and wisdom. Let us resolve, as we take the words of today's Gospel to heart, to dedicate our best efforts each day to recognizing our resistance to the sharing in the humiliation and the cross of Jesus. Once we see clearly with the eyes of faith we are positioned to collaborate with this consoling Spirit sent to lead us in the way of lowliness and of a strong, spiritual love. May the Lord Jesus who lived and taught this way of truth and charity strengthen us in this resolve as we receive him in communion at the Eucharist we now offer, to the glory of God, our loving Father.
Abbot John Eudes Bamberger
© Abbey of the Genesee
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