Reflection May 31, 2020
by Cathy Coulter
We need a Pentecost in our world. We need the spirit of compassion and justice to rain down in tongues of flame and bring us to our senses and repentance with a changing of hearts and minds. Living in this time, in the news cycle from this week, can fill us with fear and make us wonder -- how, then shall we live? We are encouraged over and over to reach out in love. But today, my message will be to reach in with love. To first reach in to yourself. The Spirit will carry you to a place within, from which you can emerge healed and strengthened to be a force of love and change in the world.
I've been spending some time learning about the saint and mystic, Teresa of Avila, who lived in Spain 500 years ago. In midlife Teresa got serious about the spiritual journey after a mystical experience and she went on to become a spiritual powerhouse, writing books and reforming convents. She was smart and charismatic, and had to be to dodge the Spanish Inquisition of the time because she wrote and taught the revolutionary idea that people don't need the church or priests to be the go-between to God, but that everyone has direct access to the Holy One right in the middle of themselves. That message didn't go over so well with the church and priests who wanted to maintain power over the people.
Teresa wrote a book called The Interior Castle which describes the soul as a castle made of diamond or crystal, and in the very centre lives God, the Beloved, calling us. We already have it all, right within our souls, all that we were created to be, all the love and joy and communion that we were created to experience, but of course we can't always hear God's voice of love, or experience the joy because we are not awake to it. What prevents us from hearing this voice of love? It seems to be the traumas and hurts that have made us build walls and keep us distracted and doubting our own beauty and goodness. We have built these walls to shield our tender selves from hurt but it's these same walls that prevents me from seeing the giftedness that I am. God has created me and you so special, as it says in the reading from 1 Corinthians chapter 12, with each person necessary to the whole. When you realize the gift that is uniquely you, the sharing of that with the world is a beautiful thing.
Teresa was a big believer in the importance of self-knowledge. In fact, she says the three keys to travelling through our interior castle to the centre are self-knowledge, humility and contemplation. And that we can't do it ourselves. We rely on the power of the Holy Spirit who does the work. As it says in Corinthians, “No one can say "Jesus is Lord" except by the Holy Spirit [and the gifts that each one of us are given] are activated by one and the same Spirit.” All we have to do is begin to look within and the Spirit will carry us, like a river, when we allow ourselves to relax and flow with the current.
The Covid pandemic has shaken us all and turned the whole world upside down. Our day to day activities have changed. Many have more time on their hands, some are busier than ever. But everyone has likely had moments of questioning what is really important. What is it I really want in my life, if life never goes back to how it used to be when I was going through my days on automatic pilot? If you have more time or less time in your day, can you take a moment to stop and be quiet? Call upon the Holy Spirit that is promised us. Perhaps it won't arrive with tongues of flames but in a small whisper. What are you learning about yourself in these challenging times? Who is it that you truly are at your core? Can you remember the bright, beautiful curious child you were that explored the world and was drawn to certain things, things that still call to you today that give you a lift of joy? Are there writers or speakers or music that move you, that make you feel your true self stirring? Those are clues of the beautiful unique voice that you are.
I think of the reading from Acts: “Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. And how is it that we hear [them all], each of us, in our own native language?”
I think of each of us having a unique voice, or language, given to us as the Spirit of God chooses and when the Spirit moves within us, we all start speaking in these unique languages but everyone will be able to understand us as if we are speaking in their native tongue because we are all speaking from the source of ourselves, which is Love. Love, the Beloved, waiting there in the centre of your very soul, calling for you to spend time with God.
So celebrate your self today. The self that you uniquely are. Celebrate with humility that we have been given this great gift to be here, each beautiful one of us, and that we can be together sharing in each other's language.